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EU at the UN

The EU's commitment to effective multilateralism, with the UN at its core, is a central element of its external action. As a UN observer with enhanced status, the EU delegation coordinates with its 28 Member States to speak with one voice. The EU also works closely with the UN secretariat and its agencies, funds & programmes, partnering on a range of global issues and challenges.

Mr. President,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The Candidate Countries, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro and the EFTA country, Iceland, member of the European Economic Area, align themselves with this statement.

Mr. President,

I thank you for the opportunity to debate once again this profoundly important issue and I wish also to extend our appreciation to Under-Secretary-General Mr. Jan Egeland for his compelling and informative briefing this morning, in particular with respect to the necessity to ensure sustained humanitarian access to civilians in need.

The European Union remains fully committed to enhancing the protection of civilians in armed conflict. In particular, the EU welcomes the attention paid by the Security Council to the situation of children affected by armed conflict, an issue on which the European Union has recently adopted specific policy guidelines.

Regular dialogue on the protection of civilians in such circumstances is only one element of this process. As the Secretary-General has reminded us in his recent report, there is strong evidence that civilians continue to bear the brunt of armed conflicts as in the very different types of conflicts in Sudan, the Côte d’Ivoire, Iraq and Nepal. And this is clearly not an exhaustive list.

Mr. President,

The European Union fully subscribes to the Ten-Point Platform on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict presented to the Security Council in December 2003 by the Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs. It provides us all with a clear and vital blueprint for future action in this arena. It is imperative that the commitments contained therein are delivered on as a matter of urgency. We agree with the view articulated by the Secretary-General that fundamental human rights are the basis of international moral order which nations must respect, especially in times of war and fear. We also underscore our agreement with the Secretary-General’s observation that the promotion and protection of human rights must be central to an effective strategy to counter-terrorism.

In his report, the Secretary-General looks at the progress that has been made in the protection of civilians since his last report issued eighteen months ago. This is followed by a careful identification of those areas where there are continuing shortfalls. In this regard, the EU remains strongly convinced that the Fourth Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict represents a fundamental legal framework within which these problems need to be addressed.

The EU welcomes the stronger protection focus in more recent peacekeeping mandates. This is a tangible display of the importance which the Security Council attaches to this issue. The swifter deployment of peacekeeping troops is, in addition, a highly welcome development. The EU would like to take this opportunity to commend the initiative taken by ECOWAS to deploy rapidly a Mission in Liberia in August 2003. For its part, the EU was pleased to be able to deploy forces to Ituri in the Democratic Republic of Congo in May 2003, which facilitated the stabilization of the position on the ground.

Mr. President,

The significance of the regional dimension of the protection of civilians is one that has been increasingly recognized by the Security Council on such issues as DDRR and the cross-border movement of refugees, combatants and small arms. Regional organizations themselves have also recognized their own key role by taking concrete steps. In this regard, the EU welcomes in particular the decision of the African Union to appoint a Special Representative for the protection of civilians in armed conflict. ECOWAS and the OSCE have also taken positive measures. In this connection, we have been pleased to be in a position to deploy a rapid reaction force in Ituri and to participate in UNMIL in Liberia.

Mr. President,

The European Union calls upon all States and parties to armed conflict to respect and ensure full compliance with international humanitarian law, as well as to respect the neutrality, independence and impartiality of humanitarian operations. The EU is concerned at the increased risks the United Nations and associated civilian personnel are facing on the ground. We reiterate the great importance we attach to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, and to the expansion of the scope of the legal protection under this Convention.

In his report, the Secretary-General states that efforts to deter war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and to break the prevailing culture of impunity in situations of armed conflict, have been boosted by the establishment of the International Criminal Court and the jurisprudence of other international tribunals. We strongly concur with this assessment. In this regard, we also wish to signal our strong support for the recent decision by the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. The European Union in addition strongly endorses the suggestion made by the Secretary-General that the Security Council could consider referrals to the Prosecutor of the ICC for investigation under Article 13 (b) of the Rome Statute, where the national jurisdiction is unwilling or unable to act.

While excessive focus on punishment for past crimes may be counterproductive in a national reconciliation process, impunity, as the Secretary-General observes, can be an even more dangerous recipe for sliding back into conflict. In the same vein, and as we have observed on a number of occasions in the past, the EU agrees strongly that while amnesties may provide an important measure for dealing with lesser crimes, they must never be granted for serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Together with the Secretary-General, we too urge Member States that have not yet done so to ratify or accede to the Rome Statute as well as to the treaties of international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law and to take all appropriate measures to implement fully these treaties within national systems including ensuring proper investigation and prosecution of any violations of the relevant rules.

Mr. President,

The EU has long had a particular concern regarding the sexual exploitation and abuse of women and children in armed conflict. In spite of efforts to address this abhorrent practice, reports indicate that it continues unabated in certain countries. We condemn the continued recruitment of children and their use as soldiers in many conflicts around the world; we are concerned about the impact of armed conflict on all children affected by it, whether or not they are combatants. We agree with the assessment of the Secretary-General that the planning and implementation of all peace support operations must factor in the need to respond to sexual and gender-based violence. The EU also welcomes the promulgation in October 2003 of the Secretary-General’s Bulletin on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. On a related issue, the EU would also wish to encourage the Security Council to support measures aimed at ensuring that women and children affected by armed conflict are involved in and benefit equitably from all DDRR processes

Mr. President,

The prolongation of conflict situations due to the unhindered proliferation of small arms and light weapons also remains a source of real preoccupation, in particular given the disproportionate impact that this proliferation has on innocent civilian lives. Here again, coordination of efforts on a regional level at least has the potential to make significant inroads into this continuing widespread syndrome. As the Secretary-General has noted, the issue of small arms proliferation has been taken up in West Africa by UNAMSIL, UNMIL and UNOCI. But these are relatively modest steps and the EU encourages all Member States to work with the interagency mechanism, the UN Coordinating Action on Small Arms (CASA), in addition to undertaking other necessary measures at a national level.

Mr. President,

The protection of civilians in armed conflict has become an increasingly complex challenge. But this complexity cannot be allowed in any way to diminish our resolve or impair our collective efforts to effectively address this horrific state of affairs. The European Union will continue to play a strong and active part in this process.

Thank you, Mr. President.


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