What's In Blue

Posted Thu 28 Aug 2014

Adoption of Resolution on the Protection of Humanitarian Personnel

Tomorrow (29 August), the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution on the protection of humanitarian personnel. The resolution is a follow-up to the 19 August open briefing with Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, ICRC President Peter Maurer and Masood Karokhail, director and co-founder of the Afghan non-governmental organisation, The Liaison Office, to mark World Humanitarian Day. During this meeting, the UK announced that it would propose a new draft resolution on how the Council can better protect humanitarian workers. At press time the negotiated text was under silence until 9 a.m. tomorrow morning (29 August). It appears that Russia asked for an extension of the initial silence procedure deadline from 11 am today to 9 am tomorrow morning to have more time to consult with capital, but the expectation at press time was that silence would not be broken and that an adoption was still possible at some point tomorrow.

The proposed draft builds in particular on resolution 1502 on the protection of UN personnel, associated personnel and humanitarian personnel in conflict zones, adopted in 2003 in the aftermath of an attack on the UN compound in Iraq in 2003. It also contains agreed language from other Council resolutions such as resolutions 2164 (on Mali) and 2171 (on conflict prevention) and General Assembly resolution 68/101 (on safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of UN personnel).

In its operative part, the draft strongly condemns all forms of violence and intimidation against those participating in humanitarian operations, urges states to ensure accountability for crimes against such personnel, reaffirms the obligation of all parties involved in an armed conflict to comply fully with the rules and principles of international law relating to the protection of humanitarian personnel and calls for full unimpeded access to all people in need of humanitarian assistance and for relevant parties to make available all necessary facilities for humanitarian operations. It also requests the Secretary-General to include information regarding the safety and security of humanitarian workers, such as the number of violent attacks and measures taken to ensure accountability, in all his reports on country-specific situations and other relevant reports and to present recommendations on how to strengthen their protection.
Additionally, similarly to resolution 1502, the text expresses the Council’s determination to take a number of steps to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian personnel. These include requesting the Secretary-General to ensure the inclusion of key provisions of the Convention on the Safety of UN and Associated Personnel in all status-of-forces, status-of-missions and host country agreements between the UN and those countries; encouraging the Secretary-General to bring to the attention of the Council situations where humanitarian assistance is hindered as a consequence of violence against humanitarian workers and issuing a so-called “declaration of exceptional risk” as defined in the Convention on the Safety of UN and Associated Personnel relating to personnel participating in a UN operation other than a peacekeeping mission and also inviting the Secretary-General to advise the Council when in his opinion such a declaration is warranted.

In addition to these steps already outlined in resolution 1502, the Council expresses its determination to ensure that the mandates of relevant peacekeeping operations can contribute to the creation of a secure environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and calls on all states to consider becoming parties to the Convention on the Safety of UN and Associated Personnel and its optional protocol.

It appears that the dynamics in the negotiations have been positive and that Council members are generally pleased with the text currently under silence. Main differences during the three rounds of negotiations seemed to be in the areas of accountability for violence committed against humanitarian personnel and host country consent for humanitarian operations.

On the issue of accountability, the draft text contains additional language compared with resolution 1502 on the need to fight impunity, including two separate references to the International Criminal Court and the fact that an intentional attack against humanitarian personnel is considered a war crime under the Rome Statute. While some members had pushed for the inclusion of a clearer reference to the responsibilities of the Council in this area, based in particular on the presidential statement on the protection of civilians adopted on 12 February 2013 (S/PRST/2013/2), this met with some resistance and the text under silence instead reiterates relevant agreed language from resolution 2171 on conflict prevention adopted on 21 August.

With regard to the role of the host country, China in particular wanted to add language emphasising the importance of host country consent, including a separate paragraph on the obligations of all humanitarian and UN and associated personnel to respect the laws of the country in which they operate and to act in an impartial way. In the end it seems this paragraph did not make it into the text under silence as other Council members argued that these concerns were already covered by other provisions in the text.

Additionally, it seems there was some discussion over whether to include a reference to the role of UN peacekeeping operations in ensuring a secure environment for the delivery of humanitarian aid, with Russia requesting its deletion. As a compromise, the current text, which is based on language from resolution 2164 adopted on 25 June extending the mandate of the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, makes clear that such assistance should only be provided “where appropriate and on a case-by-case basis”.

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