Statement by Ambassador Vitaly I. Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, during the Security Council meeting on protection of civilians in armed conflictJune 10, 2016
We are happy to welcome you, Mr. Minister, presiding as the President of the Security Council. We would like to thank the Secretary-General and the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross for their briefings. The statement of the President of the Central African Republic is particularly important for the Security Council in the context of our discussion on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
The theme of the protection of civilians is extremely important for the Security Council. This is the third time this year that we are having a general discussion on that topic. In the meantime, the number of problems in that area is not diminishing, while recently the attention of the United Nations and the international community has been drawn to new worrisome phenomena.
The need for the protection of civilians is a most direct and important consequence of conflicts. We are convinced that in order to remedy the unfavourable situation with regard to the protection of civilians, it is important to move away from selective and unilateral approaches and focus on violations of international humanitarian law. We need strict compliance with human rights standards and the full implementation of the relevant Security Council decisions by all parties to armed conflicts. However, the political resolution of conflicts is the only effective way to eliminate threats to civilians. Its promotion is the most important function of the Security Council.
The primary responsibility for ensuring the protection of civilians lies with the parties to a conflict. At the same time, in the difficult conditions of an acute crisis, the host country is not always able to carry out those functions. In that connection, most of the peacekeeping missions endorsed by the Security Council have a mandate to protect civilians, to assist national efforts. That is one of the key aspects of peacekeeping operations. We believe that the actions of peacekeepers should be holistic and involve close cooperation among the military, police and civilian components, in coordination with national authorities, local communities and relevant humanitarian organizations.
When speaking of the protection of civilians by United Nations Blue Helmets, we have to underscore the main principles of peacekeeping: the consent of parties, impartiality and the non-use of force except in self-defence or in implementing the mandate approved by the Security Council. These conditions, unfortunately, have recently been considered by some countries as almost a hindrance to carrying out the missions of their mandates. And yet we think that these principles are what guarantees the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations.
In today’s conditions, when we have mostly internal conflicts, civilians are in particularly vulnerable situations, associated with sides in a conflict. In some cases, it is difficult to separate them from the combatants. In this context, it is particularly important to establish contacts with the sides and to make clear the impartiality of peacekeepers. At the same time, host States must not only take the primary responsibility in protecting their populations; they must also provide all necessary support for peacekeeping missions deployed in their territory. There is no doubt that the protection of civilians should be a priority, but no less a priority should be the security of peacekeepers.
We think it is very important, in developing the mandates of peacekeeping missions, that Council members realize how dangerous it is to link the task of protecting civilians with conducting offensive counterterrorist operations. These specific tasks can be dealt with only by specially trained and equipped national security forces. We welcome to the corresponding conclusions in the report of the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (S/2015/446), which was supported by the members of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations.
United Nations peacekeepers, in carrying out their duties, deservedly enjoy the respect and trust of the civilian population. That is why their actions and behaviours should be exemplary in every way. It is essential to take all measures to prevent any kind of violation, including sexual abuse. Resolution 2272 (2016), on sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping operations, clearly states that measures to prevent and combat that phenomenon apply to all missions deployed with the endorsement of the Security Council.
Incidents of serious law-breaking and acts of violence by foreign contingents, including those of a sexual nature, are identified with increasing frequency. Troop-contributing countries have full responsibility for punishing their peacekeepers. Disciplinary action is not enough when it comes to criminal violations. We also think that when national peacekeeping contingents operating under the mandate of the Security Council commit sexual exploitation or abuse, it is unacceptable to release them from responsibility. If we are speaking of a zero-tolerance policy on this issue, the standards for combating such violations should be the same for everyone.
I have one further comment. In his statement, the representative of Ukraine rebuked the Security Council for supposedly not reacting to its initiative seeking the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping operation in his country. I wish to note for the record that the Security Council never received such a proposal. Obviously, the Council is not obligated to react to periodic public statements by Ukrainian officials that are mainly publicity stunts and are aimed at diverting attention from Kyiv’s non-compliance with the Minsk agreements.
Ukraine should stop its daily shelling of civilian targets in Donbass, which has led to the destruction of vital infrastructure and the death of civilians. Also, Ukraine should enact laws on the special status of Donbass and on amnesty. It should establish a dialogue with the representatives of Donetsk and Luhansk, as provided for in the Minsk agreements. That will be the best form of peacekeeping.