November 2010 Monthly Forecast


Protection of Civilians

Expected Council Action
In November, the Council is expecting a report from the Secretary-General and is scheduled to hold its biannual open debate on protection of civilians in armed conflict. The debate is expected to feature a briefing by the new Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos and possibly also by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay as well as the Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Yves Daccord. A presidential statement is also expected.

(For a more detailed analysis of the Council’s recent work on protection of civilians both thematically and in country-specific situations, please see our upcoming third Cross-Cutting Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.)

Key Recent Developments
The Council’s previous debate on protection of civilians, in July 2010, featured briefings by the Secretary-General, then-Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes and Pillay.

The Secretary-General emphasised the importance of sustained political support by the Council to ensure implementation of peacekeeping mandates. He also stressed the need for a stronger common understanding of what protection of civilians entails in practice. With reference to Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Secretary-General warned against the premature termination of peacekeeping missions and said benchmarks on protection of civilians should be achieved before the withdrawal of peacekeepers. He also highlighted accountability as a key challenge, specifically mentioning Sri Lanka and Guinea.

Holmes expressed concern that little had improved on the ground, highlighting in particular the situation for internally displaced persons. He reiterated his call for the Council to respect and promote engagement with non-state armed groups to improve their compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law. Other issues he addressed included protection mandates in peacekeeping operations, humanitarian access and the effects of explosive weapons on civilians. He said more research was needed on these effects and urged the Council to begin a dialogue “on ways to tackle this emerging issue.” Finally, Holmes urged the Council to take a “robust approach” to accountability issues and also floated the idea of establishing a permanent mechanism in the UN system to conduct inquiries into serious allegations of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law more or less automatically to prevent issues from being politicised.

Pillay also emphasised accountability as a key issue for protecting civilians. She argued that the establishment of commissions of inquiry was “amongst the most significant actions taken by the Council for the protection of civilians” and called for more frequent use of such mechanisms.

Also relevant to the protection of civilians agenda was a Council debate on 29 June on promoting and strengthening the rule of law in the maintenance of international peace and security. In a presidential statement emphasising its commitment to mediation and the peaceful settlement of disputes, the Council recognised respect for international humanitarian law as an essential component of the rule of law in conflict situations and reaffirmed that the protection of civilians should be included in any conflict resolution strategy. It also called for all parties to armed conflict to respect international law applicable to civilians, stressed the importance of fighting impunity and expressed its willingness to act in this regard.

On 26 October the Council held an open debate on women, peace and security to mark the tenth anniversasry of resolution 1325. It adopted a presidential statement in which i.a. it strongly condemned all violations of applicable international law committed against women and girls and expressed its intention to uphold accountability for such crimes. It also supported “taking forward, including by relevant UN entities”, the set of indicators proposed by the Secretary-General to track implementation of resolution 1325.

The Council’s informal expert group on protection of civilians has met three times since the July debate. It discussed the mandate renewals for the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur and the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq in July and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan in September.

On 1 August 2010 the Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force. As of 26 October, 43 countries had ratified the Convention.

On 19 August 2010, the 2005 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Safety of UN and Associated Personnel entered into force.

Key Issues
At this stage, a key issue for the Council is whether there has been satisfactory progress in implementing the operative requests of resolution 1894, such as:

Another key question is the new issues raised by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and others, such as the impact on civilians of explosive weapons or compensation to civilian victims of conflict and the Secretary-General’s earlier proposal to consider issues related to 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, such as the informal expert group on protection, and whether these can be improved.

Underlying Issues
How to translate thematic principles into actions on the ground remains an underlying issue for all of the Council’s work on protection of civilians. The five key challenges identified in the Secretary-General’s last protection report (enhancing compliance with international humanitarian law, including by non-state armed groups, making more effective use of peacekeeping, improving humanitarian access and strengthening accountability for violators of international humanitarian law) remain key underlying issues also for the Council.

Immediate options for the Council include:

Council and Wider Dynamics
At press time Council members expected that a presidential statement would be adopted at the debate in November, but no draft had yet been circulated.

Council dynamics have not changed. Differences still remain on the general approach to protection issues. These tend to be more pronounced at the country-specific than at the thematic level. China and Russia emphasise, in particular, respect for national sovereignty and are reluctant to authorise accountability measures. China still does not participate in the informal expert group on protection. Its main concern seems to be that its participation would open the way for attempts to formalise the group along the lines of the Council’s working group on children and armed conflict.

Council members seem generally satisfied with progress on implementation of resolution 1894.

The UK is the lead country in the Council on protection of civilians and chairs the informal expert group.

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/1325 (31 October 2000) was the first resolution on women, peace and security.

Selected Presidential Statements

  • S/PRST/2010/22 (26 October 2010) was on women, peace and security.
  • S/PRST/2010/11 (29 June 2010) was on justice and the rule of law and asked the Secretary-General to provide a follow-up report within 12 months to take stock of the progress made on recommendations from the 2004 Secretary-General’s report.
  • 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/2010/498 (28 September 2010) was a report on women, peace and security, including a revised set of indicators to track implementation of resolution 1325.
  • S/2009/277 (29 May 2009) was the seventh (and latest) report on protection of civilians.

Latest Council Meeting Record

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