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Statement by H.E. Ambassador Kazuyoshi Umemoto
Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations
At the Open Debate of the United Nations Security Council
On the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
12 February 2014
At the outset, let me express my sincere congratulations to Lithuania on its assumption of the presidency of the Security Council, and thank Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite for holding this debate. I would also like to thank Ms. Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr. Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Ms. Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Mr. Yves Daccord, the Director-General of ICRC, for their respective briefings.
Japan concurs and associates itself with the statement delivered by Switzerland on behalf of the Group of Friends on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict. In my statement, I would like to focus on the most urgent and humanitarian aspects of the issues highlighted in the concept note prepared by Lithuania.
The lives of countless civilians are in deadly peril in such places as Syria, Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, the Sudan, and Yemen. In contexts such as these, ensuring safe, timely and unimpeded delivery of humanitarian goods, equipment and humanitarian workers is of the utmost necessity, and is essential to the effectiveness of the humanitarian assistance itself. However, in these regions, the efforts of humanitarian workers to reach people in need of assistance and protection are extremely hampered.
The issue of humanitarian access is right in front of us. According to the latest Report of Secretary General, between May 2012 and August 2013, 134 humanitarian workers were killed, 172 were wounded and 149 were abducted. Kidnapping of humanitarian workers are reported to have quadrupled over the past 10 years. Such attacks against humanitarian workers are really deplorable, and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.
It is indeed regrettable that Governments or non-governmental military groups frequently obstruct, delay or prevent UN humanitarian operations in an arbitrary manner within the territories they control. The serious impact of those cases on civilians requires continued and urgent attention of the Security Council to act in a visible and concrete way in order to protect humanitarian workers, ensure humanitarian access, and ameliorate situations of civilians in armed conflict.
Another issue which requires Security Council’s immediate attention is the use of “improvised explosive devices” (IED) in populated areas. According to the SG report, in 2012, more than 34,700 people were killed or injured by explosive weapons; some 60 percent of these casualties were caused by improvised explosive devices. Who would not be dismayed by these numbers? The Security Council must make utmost efforts to decrease this lamentable number by looking into the issue seriously, including hearing voices from the field where civilians are faced with the real threat of these weapons.
While welcoming and recognizing the need to discuss normative and institutional mechanisms to solve these issues, let me stress once again that ongoing crises on the ground around the world require the international community, particularly the Security Council, to take immediate actions and measures to improve the situation in any possible way. Although international community has built various mechanisms in order to protect civilians in armed conflict, it is difficult in reality to successfully implement them. We must not only build mechanism tools, but also analyze underlying factors that hamper smooth implementation of such mechanism so that we can ensure effective functioning of these mechanisms.
I thank you.