Statement by Ambassador Masood Khan, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations at the Security Council thematic debate on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict New York (19 August, 2013)

Madam President, Your Excellency Ms. Susan Ruiz Cerutti

We deeply appreciate that you are presiding over the Council's session today.

We thank Argentina for organizing this open debate on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict. The third debate in the Council this year on this subject underlines the overarching importance of protection of civilians.

We are grateful for the very insightful briefings given today by the UN Secretary General, Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, High Commissioner for Human Rights and ICRC Director.

The concise concept paper circulated by Ambassador Marita Perceval and her team identifies priority issues of compliance, access and accountability and guides our discussion today.

Madam President,

As we meet here today, wars and conflicts continue to unfold before our eyes //and the vast majority of their victims are civilians facing random or targeted death, grievous injury and massive displacement.

The Secretary General has rightly pointed out that despite established norms and laws, “the abysmal state of the protection of civilians in armed conflicts has changed little”. ////

It is imperative to translate normative standards into concrete actions on ground.

This Council has done its job in urging all parties to armed conflict to comply with their obligations to protect civilians and abide by international humanitarian law, human rights law and refugee law.

Compliance with these laws is sporadic at best or none at all. Defiance of the international humanitarian law is rampant. There are obstacles to legitimate humanitarian access to affected populations. Accountability is weak and in most cases nonexistent.

Madam President,

Pakistan strongly condemns all attacks against civilians in situations of armed conflict, especially the use of gender-based violence as a tactic of war.

The principles of distinction and proportionality must be observed in all circumstances.

We endorse the Secretary General's views that these principles also apply to the use of new technologies, including armed drones. We support High Commissioner Navi Pillay's call made today for clarifying the legal basis of armed drones strikes. We believe that such strikes violate international humanitarian law; and therefore should be stopped. Negotiations in this regard must be intensified.

Special measures must be taken to protect vulnerable groups such as women, children, refugees, and internally displaced persons.

Protection must also be ensured for humanitarian actors, including medical professionals, associated personnel, as well as journalists , students, and teachers.

The Security Council must continue to address protection of civilians in armed conflicts as a key priority. There should be no impunity and there should be no exceptions.

The Security Council and international tribunals have successfully addressed some of these concerns in a number of situations and taken targeted measures against violators. Because of its proven value, the Council should persevere in this approach in an objective, impartial and non-politicized manner.

Protection of civilians, though part of many UN Peacekeeping mandates, is the primary responsibility of States.

Pakistan, as one of the top troop contributors, has proudly performed the task of protecting civilians in different parts of the world including in existing Missions in the DRC, Darfur, Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia.

Based on our first hand experience, we reiterate our demand that Peacekeeping Missions should be given adequate resources and operational tools to implement their mandates, especially in regard to reporting and intelligence capabilities, as well as protection of women and children.

Madam President,

Before concluding I would like to make the following observations:

All parties to conflict must remove obstacles to ensure swift provision of legitimate humanitarian assistance to affected populations.

The interaction between humanitarian actors and parties to armed conflict should conform to the principles of IHL within the framework of the host country agreements.

The term of protection of civilians should be used with utmost precision to avoid giving recognition or legitimacy to terrorist groups or criminal gangs.

The clear distinction between the established norm of protection of civilians and the evolving concept of responsibility to protect should be maintained.

Madam President,

The cause of protection of civilians is best served by preventing the outbreak of armed conflicts, by addressing the root causes, and by pursuing peaceful settlement of disputes and conflict resolution. This approach leads towards sustainable peace.

The ceremony held today to remember those who laid down their lives in service of pace reminds us that new and more effective measures should be taken to ensure safety and security of UN personnel, peacekeepers and humanitarian actors.

I thank you, Madam President