2003 Statement


H.E. Mr. Koichi Haraguchi

Permanent Representative of Japan

On the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

9 December 2003

Mr. President,

I would like to welcome the decision of the Security Council to convene this open debate on the issue of the protection of civilians in armed conflict, which is of great concern to all Member States. I wish to commend the Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for its work in updating the Aide Memoire as well as the Roadmap on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict. Let me also take advantage of this opportunity to welcome the Press Statement by the President of the Security Council issued yesterday on the condemnation of the attacks in Iraq on foreign and Iraqi nationals and international and coalition personnel, including two Japanese fellow diplomats.

Japan shares the conviction that under any circumstances, civilians should be protected from becoming targets of deliberate attacks. Attacks on vulnerable civilians who have no means of defending themselves, especially children and women, are disgraceful, barbaric, and cowardly acts. They also destroy the basic fabric of society, generate enmity and mutual distrust and irreparably harm any opportunity for rehabilitating post-conflict communities. Every attack to civilians must be strongly condemned and the perpetrator brought to justice in accordance with international law.

Protecting civilians in armed conflicts is also an area where human security approach is indispensable. As the Report of the Commission on Human Security points out, human security should be placed on the security agenda and humanitarian action should be strengthened; these are two important policies to be enhanced. Japan is determined to cooperate closely with various stakeholders to promote human security in this field.

Mr. President,

The Aide Memoire is an important tool; it helps to guide us in our consideration of protection issues. Threats to civilians are so diverse and complex that we may find it difficult to focus our efforts. However, we must not fall into confusion in the face of seemingly complicated situations. Let me try to draw a clearer picture of the challenges and tasks we face with respect to the protection of civilians by discussing the sources, types, and duration of threats to civilians in armed conflict.

First, on the sources of threats and how to address them: In recent days, while the number of armed conflicts taking the form of traditional wars between sovereign states is down, we have witnessed an alarming increase in armed conflicts within national borders or sometimes across national borders between governments and rebel groups or among non-State parties. These armed conflicts often take place over bitter enmities based on such factors as tribal, ethnic, or religious differences. In such cases, hostility is usually extremely intense, and a large number of civilians tend to fall victim. Protecting civilians in the midst of armed conflicts under these circumstances requires the engagement of these groups that have taken up arms. In many cases, it is only possible for neutral players such as the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General or the Emergency Relief Coordinator to accomplish this. These are among the few agents in a position to communicate directly with armed groups to remind them of the necessity of protecting civilians and of their direct responsibility under international humanitarian law for doing so.

Sometimes, such involvement is looked upon with suspicion as interference in internal affairs. However, it should not be viewed as a challenge to national sovereignty, especially when national authorities have failed or have a limited capacity to protect civilians. In reality, such a direct dialogue should be seen as the efforts to complement national sovereignty.

Second, let me turn to the types of threats that exist. It is not sufficient to simply protect civilians from physical harm. Their human dignity must also be protected. Vulnerable civilians can not recover their dignity if they are left in extremely poor conditions as a result of armed conflict. They need to engage in their livelihoods free from fear of extreme poverty, starvation, or deadly disease. They need to be empowered to become constructive actors in their communities. Humanitarian and rehabilitation assistance plays an important role in addressing such needs. Without proper arrangements to secure access to needy people and ensure the safety of aid workers, however, aid workers are unable to perform their vital roles. Thus it is vital, through the concerted efforts of the international community including a direct dialogue with armed groups, to ensure these ends. It would be worthwhile to redouble our efforts to discuss the expansion of the scope of protection, under a clear definition, of the existing Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel.

Third, on the duration of threats, we must bear in mind that civilians often continue to be in danger even after major battles have ended. We should not be misled by the rather artificial demarcation between conflict and post-conflict situations. It is often the case that the so-called post-conflict situations remain precarious and there is a great possibility that they will revert to the conflict situations without deliberate measures and attention. The restoration of social stability is indispensable to the lasting protection of civilians. To that end, collecting and destroying firearms widely circulated throughout a society, demobilizing ex-combatants and then reintegrating and rehabilitating them into society as normal civilians?what is called the DDRR process?are of the utmost importance. Reconstruction of an impartial and dependable police force and other law enforcement systems is indispensable, too. Furthermore, it is also important to put an end to impunity for those responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian, human rights, and criminal law in order to achieve real national reconciliation and rebirth.

Mr. President,

The protection of civilians in armed conflict is a task that various organs of the United Nations system must address in close coordination and cooperation among themselves as well as with Member States and NGOs. In this context, it might be worthwhile for the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council to convene a joint meeting to address the issue. Coordination among the relevant departments of the Secretariat should also be strengthened and continuously reviewed. We welcome in this context what has been done to improve coordination between DPKO and OCHA to better reflect the points made in the Aide Memoire. Due attention should be paid to the Aide Memoire at every stage of planning a response to a complex emergency situation.

The protection of civilians in armed conflict is not a new agenda item but as the Road Map demonstrates, there are still many tasks to be carried out. We must not forget that most civilian casualties have occurred in the course of emergencies that have been prolonged but have failed to attract much international attention. Japan welcomes further discussion, which will help us to better position ourselves to meet the wide range of challenges we face in addressing the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

Thank you, Mr. President.