H.E. Ambassador Koichi Haraguchi
Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations
On the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
14 June 2004
Let me commend you for your leadership in convening this open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. I also appreciate the efforts that have been made by the Secretariat in this area, including the ten-point platform it has announced and the round-table discussions it has held. As the concrete examples in the report of the Secretary-General make clear, the causes, parties, and forms of armed conflict which threatens the safety of civilians vary widely. First of all, we are witnessing today an increasing number of internal conflicts caused by a variety of factors, rather than traditional warfare between states. The activities of international criminal organizations or terrorists also threaten the life of civilians. But whether they should also be considered as armed conflict is a subject of controversy. Armed conflicts -- or more neutrally, situations that pose threats to civilians -- are thus very divergent. When we are to engage in negotiations for humanitarian purposes with a party that threatens the safety of civilians, elements that we will have to take into consideration are totally different between a case in which the party concerned is an anti-government organization which has substantial control over a certain portion of the territory and a case in which it is what we refer to as a terrorist organization. I believe, therefore, rather than wasting too much time trying to establish general, abstract rules that can be applicable to the protection of civilians under any types of armed conflict, it would probably be a more practical and appropriate approach to identify and collect best practices that have proved to be effective in protecting civilians under specific armed conflict.
I hope that the Security Council will give due consideration to such an approach and discuss the matter on the basis of the role it is supposed to play and the capacity it has to do so. The Security Council is an organ which has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. We have to admit frankly, however, that it cannot cope with all the situations in which life and safety of civilians are threatened. Effective protection of civilians under armed conflict requires collaboration between the Council and other organs such as the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council in New York. It is also important for the Council to collaborate with all the relevant international organizations active in the field. The Secretary-General repeatedly states in his report on the necessity of the regional approach and the importance of the role the regional organizations can play in the protection of civilians. Japan shares with his view.
I would now like to comment on the ten-point platform in Secretary-General's report. Due to time constraints, however, I shall limit my comments to the four specific points in which Japan is particularly interested.
I do not have a wonder drug to offer to ensure the security of humanitarian personnel. At least, it is necessary, however, for the international community to reaffirm its united support for humanitarian assistance activities and strongly condemn any attack that threatens the security of humanitarian personnel. We should also reaffirm such basic principles as impartiality and independence, which humanitarian personnel must observe so that they would not be regarded as agents of a certain member of the international community. As far as legal measures are concerned, Japan supports the idea of expanding the scope of the Convention on the Safety of the United Nations and Associated Personnel.
Second, due to uncontrolled circulation of small arms and light weapons, the harm that is being done to civilians in armed conflict has become markedly severer. Stricter controls are very much needed. In 2001, the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons (Programme of Action on SALW) was adopted. We believe that not only raising awareness of small arms issues in the international community but also real actions in the affected areas are very much needed. It is therefore crucial for the international community to strive towards the steady implementation of the Programme of Action. Japan also considers it necessary to strengthen the Security Council's monitoring of breaches of arms embargoes. We therefore welcome that a group to monitor the arms embargo on Somalia was established in January. We hope that the Security Council will consider establishing new groups of the similar nature as necessary as well as strengthening the works of those already in operation. Japan also supports the strengthened efforts which are being made by the Department of Disarmament Affairs, including the Coordinating Action on Small Arms. The Security Council should also engage in an exchange of views with the Department of Disarmament and make a full use of its expertise. For its part, with a view to consolidating peace, Japan is implementing projects which link the collection of small arms and light weapons with development in Cambodia and other countries. We believe they are effective in removing the incentive to keep possessing such weapons.
Third, the reintegration of refugees and internally displaced persons is an important element in the protection of civilians in armed conflict. For them, safe return is only the first step towards reintegration. In order to avoid a situation in which such persons are obliged to become refugees and internally displaced persons once again and in order to achieve a durable solution, efforts must be made to ensure that they are accepted as integral members of a local community and play a role in its reconstruction. Thus, a seamless transition from humanitarian assistance to reconstruction is extremely important. Japan accordingly welcomes the holding of an ECOSOC event on transition.
Fourth, Japan attaches great importance to disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation (DDRR) from the standpoint of consolidation of peace, and understands the important linkage between such peace-building activities and peacekeeping operations. However, peacekeeping activities should not be expanded without limitation in the name of peace-building. Peace-building is to lead to reconstruction and development. It requires expertise which is different from that required for peacekeeping. It is desirable that the authority of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General should be of coordination nature.
In its final section, the Secretary-General's report touches on the relationship between the protection of civilians and peace processes. It is also very important to make efforts to prevent the outbreak of armed conflict or its recurrence in order to secure effective protection of civilians. In this connection, Japan has stressed the importance of human security, which promotes the protection and empowerment of individuals through assistance, such as the Trust Fund for Human Security. A cease-fire agreement is but a first step towards a lasting peace. A society impoverished by armed conflict remains in a precarious state. It stands at the crossroads between peace and national rebirth, on the one hand, and a return to armed conflict, on the other. Under such circumstances, promoting human security enables such a society to move to the road toward peace and robust national reconstruction. Japan therefore hopes that the concept of human security will be further mainstreamed in the United Nations system.