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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.

Mme President,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The countries of Central and Eastern Europe associated with the European Union – Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the associated countries – Cyprus, Malta, and Turkey, as well as the EFTA country of the European Economic Area, Iceland, align themselves with this statement.

I would like to start by congratulating you, Mme President, for taking up the Presidency of this Council for the month of December.

Furthermore, Mme President, I would like to thank the Secretary-General and the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr. Oshima for introducing the Secretary-General’s report. His statement and the report itself provide good insights into the challenges facing us when trying to address how to protect civilians in armed conflict.

Mme President,

The European Union welcomes the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s report. Together with the recommendations in the two previous reports they provide a good basis for further action. The “Roadmap” will provide a solid basis for further development of the concept of Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.

The European Union welcomes the recent initiatives taken by the Security Council as well as other UN bodies to discuss the issue regarding the protection of civilians in armed conflict in relevant fora, such as the Security Council’s workshop on the Mano River Union in July. As stated by the Secretary-General in his report, the effective protection of civilians is critical for making peace processes succeed. The issue must remain at the top of our agenda.

Mme President,

During the 1st World War, 95 percent of the victims were soldiers. In the wars of the 21st Century this is no longer the case. Today civilians – most often women and children – rather than combatants are the casualties of conflicts. We should therefore be aware of the particular danger to which women and children are exposed, when discussing how to protect civilians in armed conflict.

Recent discussions on the follow-up of Security Council Resolution 1325 have shown that we need to strengthen efforts to ensure gender mainstreaming in peacekeeping operations and post-conflict reconstruction. The insights that women can provide are not always utilized to their fullest. Equal participation of women in our peace keeping and peace building efforts could help to ensure that the special vulnerabilities of women are taken into account. Furthermore, women can play an important role in brokering durable peace through their participation in peace operations and negotiations.

It is a cruel fact that armed conflicts affect a large number of children in many parts of the World. Many of them are uprooted from their homes, maimed or killed. Others are orphaned, abused and exploited. Protecting children in times of conflict is therefore crucial – both to alleviate suffering and to ensure the future generations of the countries concerned. The EU welcomes the efforts of the Secretary-General, and the Council itself, to respect the need for protecting children when formulating the mandates for UN peacekeeping and peace-building operations. Including child protection staff in peacekeeping and peace-building operations is a promising new element in these efforts – as well as the effort to strengthen the expertise available for these operations in the areas of human rights and humanitarian and refugee law.

According to the Secretary-General 31 million people – or more than the populations of all of the Nordic countries combined – have been uprooted and displaced by conflict during the last decade. Many do not get a chance to return to their homes before a new violent conflict erupts. We need to ensure special protection for these internally displaced persons (IDP’s) – particularly in times of armed conflict.

It is encouraging that an increasing number of states, UN Organizations as well as regional and non-governmental organizations are making use of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement to strengthen the legal framework on the protection of internally displaced persons. We encourage all states and organizations to ensure a coherent implementation of these guiding principles. We furthermore welcome the Agenda for Protection recently presented by the UNHCR and look forward to cooperate on its implementation.

Mme President,

Combatants mixing with refugees and IDP’s are a serious threat to the security of civilians in armed conflict. The European Union therefore fully supports the Secretary-General’s recommendation that Governments should make use of the Aide Memoire adopted by the Security Council 15 March 2002 and UNHCR’s Agenda for Protection in situations where combatants and civilians are intermingled. This will ensure that international legal standards are observed when governments respond to perceived security threats. UNHCRs cooperation with the national authorities on separating combatants and civilians in DRC and Sierra Leone constitutes an important example on how to try to ensure that civilians are not dragged into zones of fighting.

Helping civilians in armed conflict is an essential part of our humanitarian efforts – but it can deprive humanitarian workers of their lives. On November 22 a UN worker, Iain Hook was the latest victim. Mr. Hook was shot while trying to evacuate civilians and UN staff from a UN compound in the Jenin refugee camp. This deeply worrying incident not only was a tragedy for Iain Hook’s family, it also draws our attention once again to the urgent need to ensure security and protection of aid-workers and humanitarian personnel at all times. Only then can we guarantee full access to civilians during conflict. In this context we appeal to all states to become parties to the Convention on the Safety of UN and Associated Personnel of 1994 and we support the ongoing efforts to improve the implementation of the convention.

Mme President,

Ensuring the protection of civilians, means securing that the danger of conflict is removed in the long run. In this regard one of the first priorities must be a comprehensive disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) program to ensure that former combatants are disarmed and reintegrated into society. The European Union commends the efforts made by the United Nations as well as its funds and programs in this area.

The international community must ensure the prosecution of perpetrators of human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law. The European Union recognizes and respects the untiring and impartial efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross as guardian of International Humanitarian Law to uphold the universally recognized rules of protection of civilians in armed conflict. We strongly support the work of the international tribunals for the prosecution of genocide and other grave crimes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, just as we remain strong supporters of the International Criminal Court.

In closing Mme President, I would like to reiterate the European Union’s unfaltering commitment to protect civilians in armed conflict. We stand ready to assist the Security Council and the United Nations System in ensuring this goal.

Thank you, Mme President.

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