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10th Summer Course on International Humanitarian Law

Sergei Ordzhonikidze

9 juillet 2010
10th Summer Course on International Humanitarian Law

Welcome remarks by Mr. Sergei A. Ordzhonikidze
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva
10th Summer Course on International Humanitarian Law (IIHL)

Palais des Nations, Room XXV
Friday, 9 July 2010, at 11 a.m.

Dear Professor Veuthey:
Dear Participants:
Dear Friends:

It is always a pleasure to welcome you – the Summer Course participants – here at the Palais des Nations, and I appreciate this opportunity to continue our good tradition of coming together during the Geneva part of the your programme. I was very engaged in international humanitarian law while working in the Legal Department in my national foreign service. For me, this is a welcome opportunity to revisit some of those themes. I hope that you have learned about the main United Nations activities in Geneva during the guided tour that we have arranged for you, and you have also enjoyed the rich history and legacy embodied in the Palais des Nations.

I know that you have studied methodically the historical development of international humanitarian law. Today, I would like to update you on the key recent developments in the following three areas: protection of civilians, children and armed conflict, and the issue of women, peace and security.

Area I: protection of civilians

The 1949 Geneva Conventions and subsequent protocols set out some protection norms, which identify the rights of civilians and the obligations of combatants in armed conflict. The Security Council’s involvement in the protection of civilians as a thematic issue during the past 10 years has yielded substantial results in reinforcing this normative framework.

Related ongoing discussions at the Council include:

° Compliance with international humanitarian law and relevant human rights law, accountability for violations and humanitarian access
° Role of United Nations peacekeeping operations or other United Nations mandated missions
° Protection of specific groups
° Impact of small arms, and
° Regional cooperation

As of today, the Council has made 5 main thematic decisions on the protection of civilians, including resolutions 1265 (1999), 1296 (2000), 1502 (2003), 1674 (2006) and 1738 (2006) and 8 presidential statements.

In promoting protection of civilians, the Council can pursue the following possible courses of actions:

° First, the Council can use its Chapter VI powers to try to prevent or limit the outbreak of armed conflict through mediation and other initiatives
° Second, it can develop middle ground using its Chapter V, VI and VIII powers to influence parties to conflict in country-specific situations to observe protection norms
° Third, the Council can use its Chapter VII powers to mandate either UN peacekeeping missions or regional organizations or groups of member states to take measures including the use of force to protect civilians

The many varied types of humanitarian interventions taken by the Council influence general norms and implicate the rules of international humanitarian law, such as customary international humanitarian law.

More specifically, to hold parties accountable for violations of international humanitarian law, the Council can impose targeted measures, establish commissions of inquiry, authorize ad hoc tribunals or refer situations to the International Criminal Court. For example, the Council recently expanded sanctions targeting violations of international humanitarian law by including violations against women and obstruction of humanitarian assistance as one of the designation criteria.

On 11 November 2009, the Council marked the 10th anniversary of its involvement in this issue by adopting resolution 1894, which includes new provisions on humanitarian access, protection mandates in peacekeeping missions and the need for monitoring and reporting.

In promoting humanitarian access, the Council expressed its intention to

° Call on parties to armed conflict to facilitate passage of relief consignments, equipment and personnel
° Mandate missions to assist in creating conditions for humanitarian access
° 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

° Requests the Secretary-General to develop, in close consultation with member states and other actors, an operational concept on protection
° Requests the Secretary-General to ensure that United Nations operations with protection mandates conduct mission-wide planning, pre-deployment training and senior leadership training on protection
° Requests the Secretary-General to ensure that all peacekeeping operations with protection mandates incorporate protection strategies into the overall mission implementation plans

On monitoring and reporting, the resolution

° 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 on protection-related incidents and actions taken by parties
° Requests the Secretary-General to develop guidance for United Nations operations and other relevant missions on protection reporting, to streamline such reporting that would enhance the Council’s monitoring and oversight

Other related developments include the establishment of an informal expert group on protection of civilians, which has provided a new avenue for the Secretariat to provide more comprehensive information on protection challenges.

In March 2010, the General Assembly’s Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations took up several key elements from resolution 1894, which

° 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
° Recognized the importance of improving planning processes and developing training modules

Area II: children and armed conflict

The impact of war on children has been a significant thematic focus for the Security Council since 1999. Up to date, the Council has adopted 7 resolutions, each one containing progressively more concrete provisions to protect children. The inclusion of child protection principles in Council decisions in specific cases is making an impact.

The groundbreaking resolution 1612 (2005) created the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. It also authorized the establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism, which was first specified by the Secretary-General in his report (S/2005/72) to focus on 6 grave violations against children:

° Recruiting and use of child soldiers
° Killing and maiming of children
° Rape and other grave sexual violence against children
° Attacks on schools and hospitals
° Abduction of children; and
° Denial of humanitarian access to children

Naming and shaming parties involved in the recruitment of children through including them in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s report has been an effective tool in putting pressure on them to stop recruitment and release children. The Security Council recently expanded the criteria for listing parties as violators in the Secretary-General’s report on the subject.

The above resolutions and the structures set up by the Council have greatly reinforced the normative framework, and established a practical role for the Council to address this issue substantively.

On 16 June 2010, the Council discussed the Secretary-General’s latest report on children and armed conflict. 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.

Area III: women, peace and security

The landmark Security Council Resolution 1325 recognizes that sustainable peace cannot be achieved without the full and equal participation of women. An alarming number of women and girls fall victim to sexual violence in conflict. With Resolution 1820, the Security Council demanded the immediate and complete cessation by all parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence against civilians, which marked an important step forward in confronting this widespread and systematic violence against women and girls.

On 2 February 2010, the Secretary-General appointed Margot Wallström as his Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. One of her responsibilities will be to coordinate implementation of the 4 UN Security Council resolutions that specifically address the impact of war on women and women’s necessary role in peace-building.

In April 2010, the Secretary-General proposed to the Security Council a set of indicators to track implementation of resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, including indicators on prevention, protection, relief and recovery.

On 27 April 2010, the Council in a presidential statement expressed its support for the new Special Representative and requested the Secretary-General to continue work on a comprehensive set of indicators to be presented to the Council in time for the 10th anniversary of resolution 1325 this October.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I hope these recent developments that relate to international humanitarian law will provide you with an additional perspective to place or apply your knowledge of international humanitarian law in the context of the work of the United Nations. I’d like to end this seminar by posing some questions to you:

° Engagement with non-state armed groups is an issue critical to strengthening compliance with the normative framework and ensuring humanitarian access. I trust that your next Seminar at the GCSP will provide you with more details on related ongoing discussions. But how can we improve their compliance with international humanitarian law?
° Whether and how can the Council’s own working methods and tools at its disposal be reinforced to ensure better monitoring and effective action in humanitarian interventions?
° How can we ensure greater consistency in the Council’s application of targeted sanctions against violators of international humanitarian law?
° How can we improve humanitarian access and strengthen accountability for violators of international humanitarian law?
° What we can do to make more effective use of United Nations peacekeeping and other relevant missions in protection of civilians?

The United Nations tackles the most pressing, interrelated and complex problems around the globe. What you see here today only offers glimpse of the complexity and scope of our collective challenges. Any solutions to tackle any of these varied challenges would require collective commitment and actions. Each and every one of us can play a part to confront them. The United Nations look forward to working together with young people like you towards addressing them. You have the power to impact the world, and you can create the change that you want to see, including advancing international humanitarian law.

I thank you for your visit and time.

This speech is part of a curated selection from various official events and is posted as prepared.