What's In Blue

Posted Wed 25 Nov 2015

Council to Adopt Presidential Statement on the Protection of Civilians

Today (25 November) the Council plans to adopt a presidential statement on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. The initial draft was circulated to members last Thursday (19 November) and one round of negotiations was held on the following day (20 November). While an initial silence period was broken by Russia on Monday (23 November), the draft passed through a second silence period yesterday.

The draft presidential statement recognises the contribution of the updated Aide Memoire, a document designed to facilitate the Council’s consideration of protection of civilians’ language in country-specific situations. This marks the sixth edition of the Aide Memoire, since it was first adopted by the Council in March 2002 (S/PRST/2002/6).

The final text requests the Secretary-General to submit his next report on the protection of civilians to the Council by 15 May 2016 and to submit future reports every 12 months thereafter. This represents a departure from previous practice, which has been for a report on this issue to be submitted to the Council every 18 months.

Furthermore, the final draft requests that these reports be formally considered by the Council each year within the same General Assembly session. Thus, a report submitted in May would need to be considered before the September opening of the General-Assembly each year. This request comes during a year in which the Secretary-General’s most recent report on the protection of civilians (S/2015/453), which was released on 18 June, has yet to be taken up by the Council.

While the negotiations were not difficult, there were nonetheless disagreements on a number of issues that required compromise. Language underscoring that the protection of civilians is a core issue on the Council’s agenda was amended to indicate that it is “one of the core issues” on its agenda. This was apparently an accommodation to China.

Perhaps the most controversial issue was how to characterise the Council’s response to the updated Aide Memoire. A number of members had wanted the Council to recall that it had “adopted” the Aide Memoire in 2002, and indeed, the term “adopted” was used in an early version of the draft. However, Russia and Venezuela indicated discomfort with this language. Russia indicated that it had reservations about the revised Aide Memoire, referring to language in the document on small arms, the ICC and sanctions. As a compromise, the final version of the draft presidential statement “recognises the contribution of the updated Aide Memoire.”

Another issue on which there were different perspectives was how to refer to the 18 June report of the Secretary-General on the protection of civilians. While the initial draft “welcome[d]” the report, Russia indicated that it did not agree with some of the recommendations in the report. As a result, the language in the final version of the draft was somewhat less complimentary, stating that the Council “takes note of with appreciation” the report.