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Statement by the Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, at the Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

Mr. President,

Italy aligns itself with the statement delivered by the European Union and by the Group of Friends of Protection of Civilians and wishes to add the following remarks in its national capacity.

Today’s initiative is timely and we praise Uruguay for having organized it. The indiscriminate attacks against civilians, along with the images of death and starvation we have seen, are a stark reminder that we need to strengthen our efforts and hold true to our responsibility to protect, honoring the principles enshrined in international humanitarian law, human rights and refugee law.
Deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructures, such as schools and hospitals, are on the rise and further efforts should be made to prevent them. To this end, Italy endorsed the Safe School Declaration on the use of schools by armed forces and non-State armed groups in contravention of applicable international law. Reliable and sustained humanitarian access remains a key challenge in many armed conflicts. The number of refugees and internally displaced persons has reached record levels. Impunity for violations remains high. These are the challenges we are up against, which call for a renewed and strengthened commitment to better protect civilians in armed conflict.

Against this background, Italy welcomes the recent thematic report by the Secretary-General and the adoption, under the UK Security Council Presidency, of a presidential statement reaffirming the Council’s commitment to this cause and looks forward to the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit as a platform to reinforce our collective engagement.

Allow me to highlight a few points. First, compliance and accountability as violations and impunity are all too often connected. It is important that this Council systematically remind parties to a conflict of their obligations under international humanitarian law, human rights and refugee law and systematically condemn violations of the existing norms. With the highest number of refugees since World War II, let me stress the particular need to ensure full protection for people fleeing conflict. Italy strongly supports proposals to strengthen compliance with international humanitarian law, including through a forum where States can engage in a non-politicized and voluntary dialogue on IHL compliance in a more systematic manner.

Moreover, as Vice President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC, I stress the importance of the Court as an essential institution for the international community to strengthen the message that there can be no impunity. We believe that this Council should have a forum where international criminal justice and accountability issues can be regularly and more broadly discussed, bearing in mind the different sensitivities at hand, providing inputs that can assist genuine domestic efforts in addressing the problem.

Secondly, humanitarian access and needs. In coordination with the Emergency Relief Coordinator, it is important that the Council systematically remind parties to a conflict of their obligations to guarantee rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access and condemn its arbitrary denial without fail. This is crucial to delivering emergency relief supplies for purely humanitarian purposes. In this context, it is also important to empower local communities and civil society, which have a primary role in delivering aid and advocating for humanitarian values. When considering humanitarian needs, we must remember that women, children and people with disabilities most often bear the brunt of armed conflict and thus we must never lose sight of their specific needs. Allow me, in this context, to recall Italy’s most recent contribution to the World Food Program, approved last week, for the delivery of essential food items to the besieged population of Syria, including the town of Madaya.

Thirdly, peacekeeping operations. Italy welcomes the recommendations contained in the HIPPO report on the protection of civilians and recognizes that this is a mission-wide task. To fulfill it, many non-military tools are available, including strong political advocacy, credible reporting, and liaison with local communities. Training prior to deployment is essential, including on issues of sexual exploitation and abuse. Italy is fully supportive of the UN’s zero-tolerance policy in this regard.

Lastly, prevention. Not only is it the right choice, but it is also the smart choice. Negotiated political solutions to conflicts; the implementation of the 2030 Agenda to tackle root causes; the preventive power of justice; a renewed focus on prevention and mediation by strengthening, also in terms of financial resources, UN capacities are the best way to guarantee an effective protection of civilians. I thus stress the importance of early warning mechanisms, such as the Framework of Analysis of the Office of the UN Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect, the Human Rights Up Front Initiative and the role of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and welcome continued reporting to the Council on these issues.

Mr. President,

In conclusion, I wish to recall the adoption – upon the initiative of the Government of Rwanda – of the Kigali Principles. Italy is among the inaugural subscribers to this voluntary set of principles, establishing that an effective protection of civilians in peacekeeping requires properly trained troops, adequate equipment, and strong political commitment. We are confident that a greater number of troop and police contributing countries will subscribe to these principles and implement them.

Thank you, Mr. President.