November 2009 Monthly Forecast

Posted 2 November 2009
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THEMATIC ISSUES

Protection of Civilians

Expected Council Action
In November the Council is expected to hold an open debate on protection of civilians in armed conflict. (It normally takes up this issue twice a year; the last debate was on 26 June.) The foreign minister of Austria, which holds the Council presidency for the month, is expected to chair the meeting.

The debate will mark the 10th anniversary of the Council’s first thematic decision on protection of civilians. A number of other Council members are likely to be represented at ministerial level. The Secretary-General and the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, are expected to speak.

The debate is likely to be preceded by an Arria formula meeting hosted by the UK.

Adoption of a new thematic resolution on protection of civilians is a possibility. At press time a draft was still under negotiation.

For a more detailed analysis of the Council’s recent involvement and action on protection of civilians both thematically and in country-specific situations, please see our Second Cross-Cutting Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, which was published on 30 October.

Key Recent Developments
The Council’s last open debate focused on the May report of the Secretary-General. It concluded that despite significant achievements in the normative protection framework resulting from ten years of Council involvement, the situation for civilians had not improved. It identified five key challenges:

  • Enhancing compliance with international humanitarian law, in particular in the conduct of hostilities.
  • Enhancing compliance by non-state armed groups.
  • Making more effective use of UN peacekeeping and other relevant missions in protection of civilians.
  • Improving humanitarian access.
  • Enhancing accountability for violators of international humanitarian law.

In his briefing, Holmes stressed in particular that much greater efforts were needed to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law and accountability for violations of the law, and he called on the Council to act. He said OCHA would consult with member states on how to take the report’s recommendations forward, as well as any additional proposals that members might make, and present the results of these consultations at the forthcoming open debate.

Following the June meeting, there has been a particular focus on issues relating to implementation of protection mandates in UN missions. This is part of a wider debate within the UN system on new peacekeeping challenges resulting from the scale and complexity of current UN operations.

In July conclusions and recommendations of an internal review conducted by the UN department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the Department of Field Support (DFS) entitled “New Horizon” were presented in a non-paper. This provided an assessment of key challenges confronting UN peacekeeping. Protection of civilians was identified as one of three cross-cutting peacekeeping tasks presenting particular challenges. (The other two were robust operations and peacebuilding.)

The non-paper concluded that the UN should take the lead in developing a clear and comprehensive concept, as well as appropriate guidance for the implementation of civilian protection mandates by identifying the required capacities, equipment and training. This work is likely to draw on findings of the independent study on implementation of protection mandates jointly commissioned by DPKO and OCHA which are anticipated at the beginning of November. Expectations are that these findings will provide new insights on how to improve protection.

Following a 5 August open debate on UN peacekeeping, the Council adopted a presidential statement which identified areas where further discussion was needed to improve the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations. It recognised that further work on civilian protection mandates was necessary, including in the General Assembly’s Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C34). Implementation of protection mandates has also been discussed in the Council’s Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations under the chairmanship of Japan. Discussions have focused on the gap between mission mandates and implementation.

There have also been important developments relevant to protection of civilians under the topics of children and armed conflict and women, peace and security. On 4 August the Council adopted its first thematic resolution since 2005 on children and armed conflict. It expanded the criteria for inclusion on the Secretary-General’s list of violators in his reports on children and armed conflict to include killing and maiming and/or rape and other sexual violence against children. It also included a request for enhanced communication between the Working Group and relevant Council sanctions committees and reaffirmed the Council’s intention to take action against persistent violators.

On 30 September the Council adopted a new resolution on sexual violence as a follow-up to resolution 1820. It requested the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Representative to provide leadership and strengthen UN coordination of action on sexual violence in armed conflict and to ensure more systematic reporting on sexual violence to the Council. It also affirmed that it would include specific provisions on sexual violence in UN peacekeeping mandates, and requested annual reports on implementation of resolution 1820.

On 5 October the Council adopted a resolution on women, peace and security which strongly condemned violations of international law committed against women and girls both in situations of conflict and post-conflict and reaffirmed resolution 1325 of 2000 (the first resolution to specifically address the impact of conflict on women). It also requested the Secretary-General to ensure that all country reports to the Council provide information on the impact of situations of armed conflict on women and girls.

The informal Council expert group on protection of civilians, which first convened last January, has continued to meet in connection with renewal of UN mandates with a protection dimension. Since June the group has discussed the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). China has not participated in any of the meetings.

Key Issues
While it seems generally agreed that ten years of Council involvement in protection of civilians as a thematic issue have yielded substantial results in establishing a normative framework, a key issue is ensuring that Council decisions translate into results on the ground in specific cases. This includes in particular issues related to early preventive action, Council action during conflict, compliance and subsequent accountability, including in relation to humanitarian access.

A related issue is the question of whether and how to engage with non-state armed groups to enhance compliance, as suggested by the Secretary-General.

Another key issue is the implementation of peacekeeping protection mandates and the need for clear guidance and adequate resources. Recent developments, in particular the joint OCHA/DPKO independent study on implementation of protection mandates, seem to have created expectations that some progress may be possible. A related issue is what role the Council should play, bearing in mind the interests and responsibilities of other key stakeholders, including the C34, troop-contributing countries and the Secretariat.

A further important issue is whether the Council can improve working methods to address protection issues more effectively and monitor compliance. Possible means include using the informal expert group on protection of civilians more ambitiously, addressing urgent new issues as they develop without the need for a formal agenda item, requesting more detailed and systematic reporting from the Secretary-General on protection issues in all country reports, and further developing reporting on access constraints. (His latest protection report included, for the first time, an annex on humanitarian access constraints.)

Options
The main option for the Council in November is to adopt a new thematic resolution on protection of civilians. In addition to reaffirming previous decisions on civilian protection, it could include some of the following elements:

  • signalling a stronger focus on compliance with international law by stressing the Council’s determination to take action against violations, including those related to humanitarian access, through the use of targeted sanctions, establishment of commissions of inquiry, referral of situations to the ICC and other measures;
  • bearing in mind that it has already adopted binding resolutions requiring all states to adopt national legislation for the prosecution of terrorist acts, to apply the same policy in respect of protection of civilians, requiring all states to adopt national legislation for the prosecution of individuals responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and considering the establishment of an associated Council body to assist states with capacity-building; and
  • encouraging engagement with non-state armed groups as a means to enhance their compliance with international humanitarian law.

In terms of peacekeeping missions, options could include:

  • expressing support for current initiatives to establish guidance for protection mandates in peacekeeping missions and stressing the importance of dialogue with key stakeholders;
  • reaffirming the importance of clear, credible and achievable peacekeeping mandates that are matched with necessary resources and capacities; and
  • requesting UN peacekeeping operations to systematically establish mission-wide protection strategies when relevant.

In terms of the Secretariat, options could include:

  • reaffirming the importance of the aide-mémoire on protection of civilians and requesting the Secretariat to keep it regularly updated;
  • requesting more systematic, consistent and detailed reporting on protection issues in the Secretary-General’s country reports, including on humanitarian access and on protection strategies and implementation of protection mandates in peacekeeping missions; and
  • requesting the Secretary-General, when it becomes clear that a conflict anywhere is likely to present grave risks to civilians, to present to the Council immediately an assessment of the risks in terms of application of the norms that the Council has approved relating to protection of civilians.

Finally, on other aspects options also include:

  • welcoming the establishment of the informal expert group on protection of civilians;
  • inviting the High Commissioner for Human Rights to brief the Council on protection issues on a regular basis;
  • welcoming efforts towards an international Arms Trade Treaty as a measure to stop the flow of illicit arms fuelling conflict; and
  • requesting the next thematic report of the Secretary-General to more systematically review implementation of Council decisions.

Council and Wider Dynamics
Austria has highlighted the thematic debate as a key element of its presidency. Preparations started early with an informal retreat at the Austrian resort of Alpbach in August. This ambassadorial-level gathering included Council members and other key countries, as well as high-level UN officials to discuss ways to improve effectiveness and accountability in relation to protection of civilians. Austria has also consulted widely on a possible outcome. Some had suggested that aiming for a new resolution would be risky considering the Council’s difficulty in reaching agreement on resolution 1674, but there now seems to be wide support for this option. The 10th anniversary appears to have created momentum for new action.

Current negotiations on the draft resolution have, however, revealed some long-existing divisions among Council members including about issues related to compliance and accountability, humanitarian access, protection mandates in UN peacekeeping operations, and reporting requirements. China and Russia seem cautious about proposed new language while European and Latin American members favour a more ambitious outcome. References to the ICC are also leading to complex discussions.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1889 (5 October 2009) reaffirmed previous decisions on women, peace and security and requested the Secretary-General inter alia to ensure that all country reports to the Council provide information on the impact of situations of armed conflict on women and girls.
  • S/RES/1888(30 September 2009) requested the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Representative to provide leadership and strengthen UN coordination of action on sexual violence in armed conflict and to ensure more systematic reporting on sexual violence to the Council, and decided to include specific provisions on sexual violence in UN peacekeeping mandates.
  • S/RES/1882 (4 August 2009) expanded the criteria for inclusion on the Secretary-General’s list of violators in his reports on children and armed conflict beyond the recruitment of children to include the killing and maiming of children and/or rape and other sexual violence against children.
  • S/RES/1820 (19 June 2008) called for enhanced action on sexual violence.
  • S/RES/1674 (28 April 2006) reaffirmed inter alia the responsibility to protect as formulated in the World Summit Outcome Document (A/RES/60/1) and expressed the Council’s intention to ensure that protection is clearly outlined in peacekeeping mandates and priority given to its implementation.
  • S/RES/1325 (31 October 2000) was the resolution on women, peace and security, in particular expressing the Council’s willingness to incorporate a gender perspective into peacekeeping missions, calling on all parties to protect women and girls from gender-based violence and to put an end to impunity for such crimes.
  • S/RES/1265 (17 September 1999) and 1296 (19 April 2000) expressed the Council’s willingness to take measures to ensure protection of civilians in armed conflict and to consider how peacekeeping mandates might better address the negative impact of conflict on civilians.

Selected Security Council Presidential Statements

  • S/PRST/2009/24 (5 August 2009) identified areas where further discussion was needed to improve the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations and recognised inter alia that further debate on protection of civilians mandates was necessary, including in the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations.
  • S/PRST/2009/1 (14 January 2009) reaffirmed previous decisions on protection of civilians and contained an updated aide-mémoire.

Selected Reports of the Secretary-General

  • S/2009/277 (29 May 2009) was the seventh (and latest) report.
  • S/1999/957 (8 September 1999) was the landmark first report on the issue.

Latest Council Meeting Record

Other

  • A/63/19 (24 March 2009) was the Report of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations and its Working Group from the 2009 substantive session.

Additional Useful Resources

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