July 2010 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 July 2010
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Protection of Civilians

Expected Council Action
The biannual open Council debate on protection of civilians initially expected in June is now scheduled for early July. It will feature a briefing by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes. As this will be Holmes’ last briefing on protection of civilians before leaving his post in July, he is expected to offer some reflections on his tenure. A possible focus of the progress debate will be the implementation of the most recent thematic Council decision on the issue (resolution 1894). No outcome is expected. The Secretary-General’s next report on protection of civilians is due in November.

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, of 30 October 2009.

Key Recent Developments
At the open debate on 11 November 2009, the Council marked the tenth anniversary of the Council’s involvement in this issue by adopting resolution 1894, the first thematic resolution on protection of civilians since resolution 1674 of 2006.

Resolution 1894 reaffirms the Council’s commitment to the protection of civilians while focusing in particular on humanitarian access, protection mandates in peacekeeping missions and the need for monitoring and reporting. It contains several new provisions. On humanitarian access, the Council reaffirms its role in promoting humanitarian access and expresses its intention to:

  • call on parties to armed conflict to facilitate passage of relief consignments, equipment and personnel, and mandate missions to assist in creating conditions for humanitarian access; and
  • consistently condemn all violence against humanitarian personnel and call on parties to comply with obligations to protect such personnel, as well as humanitarian consignments.

On peacekeeping, the resolution reflects several of the key findings and recommendations of the independent study jointly commissioned by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) on implementation of protection mandates, officially released on 6 November 2009. The resolution:

  • recognises the need to take into account the protection needs of civilians in an early phase of the drafting of mandates, engage with countries concerned and consult with the Secretariat and troop and police contributing countries (TCCs and PCCs);
  • requests the Secretary-General to develop, in close consultation with member states and other actors, an operational concept on protection and to report back on progress;
  • requests the Secretary-General to ensure that UN operations with protection mandates conduct mission-wide planning, pre-deployment training and senior leadership training on protection, and requests TCCs and PCCs to ensure appropriate training;
  • requests the Secretary-General to ensure that all peacekeeping operations with protection mandates incorporate protection strategies into the overall mission implementation plans; and
  • reaffirms its practice of requiring benchmarks to measure and review progress in the implementation of mandates and stresses the importance of including protection indicators in such benchmarks.

On monitoring and reporting, the resolution:

  • emphasises the importance of addressing compliance issues in country- specific situations and of receiving timely, objective, accurate and reliable information;
  • invites the Secretary-General to continue systematic monitoring and analysis of constraints on humanitarian access and to include observations and recommendations both in briefings and country-specific reports;
  • requests the Secretary-General to include in his next report on protection of civilians a best practice guide of measures taken by current peacekeeping operations to protect civilians;
  • requests the Secretary-General to include in his reports on country-specific situations more comprehensive and detailed information relating to protection of civilians, including on protection-related incidents and actions taken by parties; and
  • requests the Secretary-General to develop guidance for UN operations and other relevant missions on protection reporting with a view to streamlining such reporting and enhancing the Council’s monitoring and oversight.

In his briefing following the adoption of the resolution, Holmes highlighted engagement with non-state armed groups as an issue critical to strengthening compliance with the normative framework and ensuring humanitarian access. He also called for greater consistency in the Council’s application of targeted sanctions against violators of international humanitarian law and addressed key issues related to protection of civilians mandates in peacekeeping operations.

For the first time since 2002, the High Commissioner for Human Rights was represented in the debate. A statement by High Commissioner Navanethem Pillay was delivered by her deputy, Kyung-wha Kang. It stressed in particular the importance of stronger political will to take timely action and called on the Council to ensure accountability and combat impunity for violators of international law. It also highlighted specific issues relating to the situations in Gaza, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur and Afghanistan.

The Council debate was preceded by an Arria formula meeting on 5 November hosted by the UK on “Ten years of engagement in the protection of civilians: the view from the field.”

Protection of civilians was among key issues discussed at the 2010 session of the General Assembly’s Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C-34) from 22 February to 19 March. The final report from the Committee took up several key elements from resolution 1894. It asked the Secretary-General to outline resource and capability requirements for implementation of protection mandates, requested peacekeeping missions to develop comprehensive protection strategies and the Secretariat to develop a strategic framework for such strategies and recognised the importance of improving planning processes and developing training modules.

There were also several important developments relating to the issues of women, peace and security and of children and armed conflict. On 2 February the Secretary-General appointed Margot Wallström as his Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. In April the Council received a proposal from the Secretary-General on a set of indicators to track implementation of resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, including indicators on prevention, protection, relief and recovery. The Council adopted a presidential statement on 27 April expressing its support for the new Special Representative and requesting the Secretary-General to continue work on a comprehensive set of indicators to be presented to the Council in time for the tenth anniversary of resolution 1325 in October.

On 16 June the Council discussed the Secretary-General’s latest report on children and armed conflict in an open debate. It adopted a presidential statement reiterating its strong condemnation of violations against children and called for a strengthening of the monitoring and reporting mechanism for children and armed conflict. It reaffirmed its readiness to take action against those responsible for violations and called on the Special Representative and the working group on children and armed conflict to share information with relevant sanctions committees.

Key Issues
How to translate rhetoric and decisions into actions on the ground remains an overriding issue for the Council. A related issue is whether the necessary political will exists to take timely action.

The five challenges identified by the Secretary-General in his last report remain valid. These included enhancing compliance with international humanitarian law, including by non-state armed groups, making more effective use of UN peacekeeping and other relevant missions in protection of civilians, improving humanitarian access and strengthening accountability for violators of international humanitarian law.

In more practical terms, a key issue is ensuring implementation of resolution 1894 as it addresses all of these challenges.

A related issue is whether the Council should take up the Secretary-General’s proposal to discuss possible additional measures to improve compliance with international humanitarian law by non-state armed groups.

A further issue is the Council’s own working methods and tools at its disposal and whether these can be developed to ensure better monitoring and effective action.

Possible options for the Council include:

  • closely monitoring implementation of resolution 1894 to ensure that the intentions expressed are consistently carried out by the Council in country-specific decisions and that requests to other actors are acted upon;
  • organising an Arria formula meeting on issues relating to compliance by non-state armed groups with international humanitarian law as previously proposed by the Secretary-General;
  • inviting the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in addition to OCHA, to regularly brief the Council on protection of civilians issues;
  • taking action in country-specific situations to strengthen compliance by, among other things, making full use of established sanctions regimes and considering additional measures; and
  • continuing to develop the informal expert group on protection of civilians as an important tool to address protection of civilians concerns.

Council Dynamics
It seems generally agreed among Council members that there has been a positive momentum on protection of civilians over the last year both at the thematic level, including in the context of peacekeeping reform, and in country-specific situations.

However, some Council members, in particular elected members, are concerned about what they see as political selectivity in the Council’s response to protection issues. There is also disappointment over the Council’s handling of Chad’s request earlier this year for the withdrawal of the UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad, whose main task is the protection of civilians, and real concern about its implications for other peacekeeping missions. (The Council decided in May to terminate the mission by the end of this year.)

While most members consider the informal working group to be a very useful tool, there seems to be limited appetite for developing it further at this stage. Many members emphasise, however, that it would be useful for geographic experts to participate in the meetings alongside thematic experts on a more consistent basis, as this is currently not the case. China still does not participate, mostly, it seems, to prevent any attempts at formalising the group.

As for the implementation of resolution 1894, Council members seem pleased with progress on issues related to peacekeeping. On other issues, however, many consider it too early to assess implementation but expect Holmes to provide a preliminary review in his briefing.

There is considerable scepticism among Council members about the added value of further Council involvement in the issue of engagement with non-state actors. It seems that OCHA has been promoting the idea of an Arria formula meeting on this issue to be held before the upcoming debate but has found little support among Council members. Such a meeting is therefore unlikely to take place at this stage.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1894 (11 November 2009) reaffirmed the Council’s commitment to the protection of civilians while focusing on compliance, humanitarian access, protection of civilians in peacekeeping missions and enhanced monitoring and reporting.
  • S/RES/1889 (5 October 2009) reaffirmed previous decisions on women, peace and security and requested the Secretary-General inter alia to submit for the Council’s consideration a set of indicators for tracking implementation of resolution 1325.
  • S/RES/1888 (30 September 2009) on sexual violence, requested the Secretary-General inter alia to appoint a Special Representative on sexual violence in armed conflict.
  • S/RES/1882 (4 August 2009) was the latest resolution on children and armed conflict, which expanded the trigger for inclusion in the Secretary-General’s annexes to include killing, maiming and sexual violence.
  • S/RES/1674 (28 April 2006), S/RES/1265 (17 September 1999) and S/RES/1296 (19 April 2000) were the first thematic resolutions on protection of civilians.
  • S/RES/1325 (31 October 2000) was the first resolution on women, peace and security.

Selected Presidential Statements

  • S/PRST/2010/10 (16 June 2010) was on children and armed conflict.
  • S/PRST/2010/8 (27 April 2010) welcomed the appointment of Margot Wallström as Special Representative for Sexual Violence and asked the Secretary-General to continue working on indicators to measure progress on resolution 1325.
  • S/PRST/2010/2 (12 February 2010) was a statement on transition and exit strategies for UN peacekeeping operations that recalled the importance of protection of civilians throughout the life cycle of such operations and other relevant missions in line with resolution 1894.
  • S/PRST/2009/1 (14 January 2009) reaffirmed previous decisions on protection of civilians and contained an updated aide-mémoire.

Selected Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2010/181 (13 April 2010) was the latest report on children and armed conflict.
  • S/2010/173 (6 April 2010) was a report on women, peace and security, proposing a set of indicators to track implementation of resolution 1325 in line with resolution 1889.
  • S/2009/277 (29 May 2009) was the seventh (and latest) report on protection of civilians.
  • S/1999/957 (8 September 1999) was the landmark first report on protection of civilians.

Latest Council Meeting Record


  • A/64/19 (24 March 2010) was the Report of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations and its Working Group from the 2010 substantive session.

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