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Consiglio di Sicurezza – Dibattito Aperto su “Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflicts”

Discorso pronunciato dall’Italia al Dibattito Aperto del Consiglio di Sicurezza su “Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflicts”. — 

Mr. President,

Italy welcomes this annual Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict. It aligns itself with the statement of the European Union and is pleased to join the statement of the Group of Friends of Protection of Civilians, submitted by Switzerland. We would also like to highlight a few points in our national capacity.

This year’s thematic report by the Secretary-General is a stark reminder that we need to strengthen our efforts and hold true to our responsibility to implement the fundamental principles of the international humanitarian law: humanity, the distinction between civilians and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives, proportionality and military necessity.

As confirmed in the report, civilians suffering is exacerbated when conflict and a global pandemic overlap. In these challenging times, the most vulnerable subjects – women, children, persons with disabilities, elderly and displaced persons, – account for the vast majority of the civilians adversely affected by armed conflict and are more exposed to the effects of the pandemic.

Within this context, it is as crucial as ever to protect healthcare facilities and medical personnel and to ensure unimpeded, fast and safe access to people living in conflict settings, in order to provide them with adequate medical assistance. Currently, as affirmed in the newly adopted UNSC resolutions 2565 and 2573, health infrastructures are not only indispensable providers of primary health care services: they are also key pillars of the vaccination campaign and irreplaceable tools to improve the resilience and preparedness of the national health systems.

However, five years after the consensual adoption of Resolution 2286 on the protection of medical personnel and facilities in armed conflicts – which Italy co-sponsored – attacks on hospitals, frontline doctors and humanitarian convoys continue unabated.

Peacekeepers can play a crucial role in protecting both these infrastructures and the concerned civilian populations. Italy appreciates the strong commitment of the Security Council to promote the protection of civilians as one of the priorities of peacekeeping mandates, with special regard to the most vulnerable categories. We also support an enhanced role of the UN Police personnel in protecting civilians within peacekeeping mandates and advocate for a stronger presence of women among the peacekeeping ranks. Italy strongly believes in the benefits provided by the presence of well-integrated women personnel, which can have a significantly positive impact on the pursuit of peace and the protection of civilians.

Another crucial factor in the protection of civilians is accountability. Italy is committed to protect and promote the international humanitarian law, in particular the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977, and to implement the principle of accountability for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in situations of armed conflict. In this perspective, we reaffirm our strong support to international justice and accountability mechanisms, including the work and the independent role of the International Criminal Court.

Where conflicts are still ravaging, even war must have its own rules. In this spirit, alongside the respect of the entire existing normative framework, Italy supports the draft of a political declaration aimed at protecting the civilian population from explosive weapons in densely populated areas.

Another important topic underlined in the Secretary-General’s report, is the impact of COVID-19 and its related restrictive measures on children’s access to education, healthcare and social services. School closures have had and continue to have a detrimental effect on millions of children worldwide, increasing the risk of child marriage, adolescent pregnancies, sexual exploitation and abuse and recruitment into armed groups. These violations can also have long-lasting impact on children physical and psychological development and undermine their ability to actively shape their future.

Italy is strongly engaged in raising awareness and promoting action to combat all forms of violations against children. On the occasion of the 33rd International Conference of the Red Cross and the Crescent (in 2019), Italy presented an open pledge to call on all actors to undertake all the appropriate and necessary actions to reduce the impact of wars on the life of children. Since then, we are sparing no efforts in implementing it. This includes promoting the widest possible support to the Safe Schools Declaration, in order to mitigate, to the maximum possible extent, the consequences of armed conflicts on education, students, education personnel and school infrastructures.

In conclusion, Italy wishes to reaffirm its strong support for the Call of the UN Secretary-General for a Global Ceasefire and urge all conflict parties to lay down their weapons and not to target civilians, in particular healthcare facilities, schools and related personnel.

Thank you.