Thank you, Mr. President.
Italy aligns itself with the statements made by the European Union, and by Switzerland on behalf of the Group of Friends of the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflicts, and wishes to add a few remarks in a national capacity.
The stakes of this debate could not be higher. The news we hear from several conflict areas is appalling. The involvement of defenseless civilians in armed conflicts seems to have become the rule rather than the exception. Civilians are victims of senseless violence. Neither children nor other vulnerable groups are spared in Syria, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. Massacres that have an ethnic, religious, or political motivation. Our first duty is therefore to state loud and clear that there can be no justification for these acts and that those responsible, be them individuals or governments, can be held accountable. The condemnation of the international community and of the UN must be unanimous and unequivocal.
The responsibility to protect belongs primarily to States. This is a consolidated principle of international law from which we cannot waver. But there are far too many situations in the real world where this principle simply does not work because States are too weak or somehow unable to deliver. This is where the United Nations needs to grab a hold of the reins, which it can only do if its members allow it to. Take, for example, the fact that some 75 thousand civilians, mostly women and children, are being sheltered in the UNMISS camp in Juba. I wonder whether this information is taken into account by the people who so easily criticize this organization and dismiss its work to mitigate the troubles of this world.
But the protection of civilians in armed conflicts is a relatively new task for the United Nations and its peacekeeping missions. It is a mandate that Italy supports, in the firm belief that, as the world organization, we have a duty to oppose the folly that too often invades the behavior of human beings. But it is a mandate that requires appropriate tools and fresh thinking about the relation between peacekeeping and humanitarian actions.
First and foremost, it requires the unity of peoples and nations on the action needed, at least at the humanitarian level. When humanitarian aid is necessary and humanitarian access is requested, we need to think solely about those who are suffering and join forces to provide them with relief.
Second, Mr. President, Italy welcomes the most recent developments in peacekeeping operations, notably the introduction of modern technology. The Unmanned Aerial Systems currently used by MONUSCO, already seem to have significantly improved the situation on the ground and enabled the mission to deliver on its mandate to protect civilians. They have also strengthened the security of the peacekeepers themselves. Without ignoring the precautions these tools require, we strongly encourage the Department of Peacekeeping Operation to continue on this path and explore the possibilities offered by modern technology, for the protection of civilians. Even in the most inaccessible and secluded areas, new instruments can help us to identify at-risk groups of civilians, deliver aid, and prevent attacks against them.
Third, it is essential that the Council strengthen coherence in making recourse to the International Criminal Court and helping the Court to fulfill its mandate, also by ensuring appropriate follow up to Security Council referrals. The effective protection of civilians depends on a culture of accountability in all conflict scenarios. And to strengthen the protection of civilians we must make sure the perpetrators of crimes realize that the Council is serious about enforcing individual responsibility for crimes under international law.
Allow me to conclude with a word about the safety of journalists. It is commendable that the Security Council took up this question in an open debate last December. Thanks to journalists we know when the world’s worst brutalities are taking place. We must remain vigilant on this issue. Protecting a free press means protecting free speech, and a free press is what most threatens the perpetrators of crimes against defenseless civilians.
Thank you, Mr. President.