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Permanent Mission of Greece to the United Nations arrow Newsarrow Open Debate on the Protection of civilians in armed conflict Security Council, February 12, 2014 Statement delivered by P.R. Ambassador Mr. M. Spinellis

Open Debate on the Protection of civilians in armed conflict Security Council, February 12, 2014 Statement delivered by P.R. Ambassador Mr. M. Spinellis

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Open Debate on the Protection of civilians in armed conflict Security Council, February 12, 2014 Statement delivered by P.R. Ambassador Mr. M. Spinellis

Open Debate on the Protection of civilians in armed conflict
Security Council, February 12, 2014

Madame President,

First if all I would like to thank the Lithuanian Presidency for organizing this timely and important debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. I welcome the remarks made by Ms. Valerie Amos Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs on this issue. I also welcome the briefings made by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Committee of the Red Cross. My delegation aligns itself with the statement delivered earlier by the European Union.

My delegation welcomes the Presidential Statement and the focus it has to the updated Aide Memoire drafted by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) which stresses the role of the peacekeeping missions in the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

More often than not, civilians constitute the major bulk of the victims of armed conflicts around the world. Although, at normative level, significant progress has been made to enhance the protection of civilians over the last decade, the same progress has not been reflected on the ground. Security Council Resolutions and Secretary’s General reports, though unanimously adopted and endorsed by Member States, lack the required implementation on the field. A more efficient and better-coordinated protection effort is needed in order for the necessary level of protection to be reached.

As the Secretary General mentioned in his latest report “the current state of the protection of civilians leaves little room for optimism”. Enhancing protection of civilians in armed conflict is one of the core responsibilities of the United Nations Security Council, and although the main responsibility lies in the hands of parties involved in the conflict, the protection of human dignity along with the consolidation of human rights is the responsibility of all member states. As the same report notes, the use of new weapons’ technologies is a new threat to civilians in armed conflict and, at the same time, it raises questions over the compliance of these weapons with international human rights law and international humanitarian law rules of distinction, proportionality and precautions. However, this same technology is capable to offer civilian casualty tracking and recording, while contributing to ease the civilians’ suffering and pain and bring perpetrators to justice. Humanitarian access and relevant corridors, whenever feasible, should always remain unimpeded, any attack on humanitarian work should be condemned by SC and Member States, and accountability of those actions should be equally ensured.

On another note, attacks against journalists and media personnel that are covering armed conflicts continue to rise. As the SG report describes, since March 2011, 84 journalists have been killed in Syria and 108 in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2006. Local journalists count for the majority of victims, and female journalists are routinely targeted. These attacks, often deadly, are also creating an intimidating environment that restrains the free flow of ideas and information. Combating impunity will undoubtedly decrease the deaths including journalists and others, working under dangerous conditions.

The adoption of Resolution A/RES/68/163 on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, the request to the Secretary General to present a report on its implementation and the establishment of an International Day to end Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, are some of the steps that we have recently achieved towards the protection of journalists.

Moreover, the role of journalists in conflicts is further expanding as they remain in the field from the very beginning till the end of peacebuilding and peacekeeping operations. The heartbeat of local societies can be heard not only through UN Missions, communication and awareness channels, but also through journalists who convey the civilians’ message and their need for protection, safety and security, while reporting human rights violations, sexual abuse, gender inequality and discrimination. Besides, journalists' role in reporting on conflict is dependent on their ability to conduct independent and fair coverage of all sides. However, with a changing media landscape that relies increasingly on freelancers, internet journalists and social media, conflict journalists and their work are becoming progressively more vulnerable.

My delegation shares the view that protection of civilians should include, in all its aspects, the component of the protection of journalists, in an effort to introduce this dimension to peacekeeping and peace-building stages, through a comprehensive approach, where training plays a crucial role.

Training is a fundamental pillar and Greece is contributing to this effort, through supporting training initiatives to develop safety and security for civilians, peacekeepers and UN staff in the field.

In this vein, we also welcome the presentation provided for the protection of civilians for the Special Committee C-34 and we note the given attention and sensitivity of the Special Committee to the issue of protection of civilians.

The protection of civilians remains a serious challenge to the international community but we cannot allow ourselves to fail.

Thank you.

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