I would like to join with previous speakers in thanking Minister Kim Sung-Hwan for his timely initiative to discuss the crucial issue of the protection of civilians in armed conflict. This is a question of vital importance that the Security Council should address on a fixed timetable to keep international attention focussed. Violence against civilians, often including women and children, by government forces or various types of armed groups is a tragic reminder of the absolute importance of protecting them.
I also wish to express great appreciation to the Secretary-General for his intervention and thank the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, and the ICRC Director for International Law and Cooperation, Philip Spoerri, for their very important contributions.
Italy fully endorses the statements that will be made by the EU Delegation and the “Group of Friends of Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflicts.” In a national capacity, we wish to focus on a few aspects of ensuring effective protection of civilians by peacekeeping missions and briefly touch on the issues of humanitarian access, safety of humanitarian staff and accountability.
UN Peacekeeping operations have a significant impact on enhancing protection of the civilian population. Effective PoC mandate implementation requires not only resources and capabilities, but also training, prevention, interaction with local communities, political will, communication.
– Training. It is crucial for all uniformed personnel deployed on missions with a protection mandate to receive pre-deployment training with specific PoC modules. The UN has distributed excellent specialized materials, which we encourage all training organizations to adopt as the basis for their courses. This is particularly important for police officers and FPUs. These UN guidelines have already been adopted by training institutes such as the Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units (CoESPU) located in Vicenza, Italy. I take this opportunity to highlight that, without underestimating the importance of in-mission training, Italy has always stressed the need for effective pre-deployment training including in this matter, considering that, from day one, peacekeepers are exposed to critical protection challenges and must be ready to face them immediately. This is particularly compelling when it comes to child protection, which is why we support a specific child protection project with DPKO and other relevant UN agencies.
– Prevention is one of the most important aspects of protecting civilians, and situational awareness is essential to preventive action. Missions must therefore use all possible assets to enhance situational awareness, including the unarmed surveillance capability provided by unmanned aerial systems (UAS), which are also vital to deterrence. Early detection is fundamental to timely and effective preventive intervention. Italy thus welcomes the Council’s recent decision to authorize the deployment of UAS in DRC.
– Engaging with local communities. Developing and sustaining a dialogue with the local populace is essential to understanding the full range of threats that civilians face and their particular vulnerability. It is also essential to managing the expectations of the civilian population, which are sometimes unrealistic because they exceed the capabilities or mandate of the mission.
– Political will. Protection mandates and specific rules of engagement are not enough. PoC is a whole-mission effort in w
hich every component -from the leadership, to the military, police and civilians– must share the will to implement protection mandates. Civilian populations expect protection from the blue helmets, regardless of the tasks officially assigned to the individual components of a mission. The credibility of the entire UN system is at stake.
– Communication. There are two sides of communication that need to be highlighted: 1) how to tell the peacekeeping story better; 2) acknowledging the media’s role in reporting violence against civilians.
1) Why should we tell the peacekeeping story better? Because too often it simply denounces the failures of UN peacekeeping and rarely if ever highlights its successes. However, peacekeeping does work and it is a success story that we must learn to tell more effectively if we truly want the world public opinion to believe more firmly in the UN’s ability to protect civilians and bring national governments to make the necessary human and financial resources available to the United Nations.
2) When the media reports the violence committed against civilians in the world, it keeps the international community’s attention focused on the issue and brings us face-to-face with our responsibilities and our moral conscience. It is the journalists who, on the front lines, strive to ensure that the world does not turn a blind eye to these tragedies, paying an extremely high price for their commitment. Social media has also been a powerful means of communication, bringing violence against civilians to global awareness. To these men and women, among the civilians most exposed to the risk of violence, goes our sincerest gratitude.
I conclude by offering a few words on humanitarian access, safety of humanitarian staff and accountability. Italy shares the concern over the severity and prevalence of constraints on humanitarian access, as well as the frequency and gravity of attacks on humanitarian staff and in particular on medical personnel. We must promote a culture of protection, ensuring that even the most reticent understand that free access must always be guaranteed to humanitarian assistance, that the very same people who are on the ground to assist other human beings should never themselves become the targets of attacks. Let us not forget, lastly, that in all cases of violence against civilians the Security Council has the crucial task of ensuring appropriate monitoring for the assessment of responsibilities and, when warranted, refer to the International Criminal Court.
Thank you very much