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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
19 August 2013
At the outset, let me express my sincere congratulations to Argentina for its assumption of the presidency of the Security Council, and thank Ambassador Susana Ruiz Cerutti for holding this debate on the very important occasion of World Humanitarian Day. I would also like to thank H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, and Ms. Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ms. Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights, Dr. Philip Spoerri, Director for International Law and Cooperation, ICRC for their respective briefings. Japan concurs and associates itself with the statement to be delivered by Switzerland on behalf of the Group of Friends on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.
Given that today is World Humanitarian Day, I would like to focus on the humanitarian aspects of the issues highlighted in the concept note prepared by Argentina.
Ten years ago today, the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad claimed 22 precious lives. Today, the operational environment for humanitarian assistance has not been improved and, rather it has, on the contrary, become even more difficult. A large number of humanitarian personnel are working at grave personal risk. In addition to journalists, who were the focus of the open debate last month, humanitarian and medical personnel are among those civilians to be protected in armed conflict. It is of grave concern that these personnel, who contribute to saving the lives of thousands of affected people, are faced with increasing danger.
In addition to attacks made directly against them, humanitarian personnel also experience difficulties accessing people in need of assistance. In particular, ‘arbitrary denial’ of humanitarian access, as pointed out in the latest report of the Secretary-General, is a great concern. Denial or obstruction of rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access puts the lives of affected people at risk, and parties to conflict must bear in mind the consequences of such actions.
These issues are related to the question of how to ensure accountability among parties to conflict. The international community has built various mechanisms, including fact-finding commissions, international tribunals and the International Criminal Court in order to ensure accountability. Furthermore, the Security Council in its resolution 1894 reiterated ‘its willingness to respond to situations of armed conflict where civilians are being targeted or humanitarian assistance to civilians is being deliberately obstructed, including through the consideration of appropriate measures at the Security Council’s disposal in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.’
In reality, however; the protection of civilians in armed conflict is becoming increasingly difficult in inverse proportion to the development of those very same norms and mechanisms. We must not only build tools to enforce accountability, but also analyze fundamental factors by which humanitarian assistance in armed conflict becomes perceived as adversarial by parties to conflict. In order to do so, we need to hear voices from the field where access is negotiated and humanitarian operations are launched, and discuss how norms and principles of civilian protection can be realistically met.
We hope that the next report of the Secretary-General, which is due in November this year, will also address such fundamental issues in protecting civilians in armed conflict.
I thank you, Madam President.