Statement by H.E. Mr. Ahmed Sareer,

Permanent Representative of the Republic of Maldives to the United Nations

at the United Nations Security Council

Open debate on the protecting civilians in the context of peacekeeping operations

New York, 10 June 2016


Mr. President,

Let me begin by expressing our gratitude to the French Presidency of the Security Council for convening this high-level open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, which has become one of the most critical humanitarian challenges for the Council. This debate is particularly timely following the recent General Assembly Thematic Debate on UN, Peace and Security and the World Humanitarian Summit.

We would also like to thank the Secretary-General for his report on this issue last month, which comprehensively examines the key issues at hand, and provides a useful starting point for today's dialogue.

Mr. President,

Although governments and parties bear the primary responsibility for the protection of civilians in armed conflict, it is evident that United Nations peacekeeping operations have had, and will continue to have a role in the protection of civilians in armed conflict. To further enhance this role, the Security Council and the respective Member States must make the protection of civilians a clear priority in determining the scopes and mandates of peacekeeping missions, while respecting the primacy of the host Government. They must set out clear and comprehensive guidelines to identify threats to civilians according to the local context, along with respective response strategies, and also ensure that adequate staff is deployed to implement these mandates effectively.

The peacekeeping operations should also work closely with the local communities and governments in the conflict affected zones to monitor and assess their performance in fulfilling their mandates. In order to facilitate this, mechanisms for community outreach can be formulated in order to establish networks within local communities. These can be built on lessons learnt from past experiences in coordination between peacekeeping operations and communities, which were highlighted in the report of the Secretary General.

As a country that has recently signed the agreement with the UN with the intention of contributing to the noble objective of peacekeeping, the Maldives recognizes the importance of providing training to personnel on the protection of civilians. These priorities should be integrated into their basic training on a national level, as well as preparation for the specific missions through the UN. The principles of International Human Rights Law and Humanitarian law should also be an integral part of their national training to ensure that these are adhered to at all times.

It is also essential to monitor and assess the actions of peacekeepers to ensure that they are upholding the mandate assigned to them. In this regard, we welcome development of new indicators to better evaluate the performance of such mandates and enhance efficiency of peacekeeping operations as recommended in the report of the Secretary General.

Mr. President,

In the context of the protection of civilians, it is important to consider the protection of civilian infrastructure.  Too often we observe, civilian buildings in zones of conflict are being targeted with alarming regularity, especially schools and medical facilities. Not only do such attacks result in the tragic loss of lives, they also infringe the basic human rights of civilians: they deprive civilians of the sources of their livelihood, impede access to basic material needs, and severely impair the provision of educational and health services.

The all-too-common result is the creation of a broken society. In the aftermath of armed conflict, civilians are confronted with the stark realities of destroyed homes and infrastructure, limited opportunities for gainful employment, a generation of youth without access to a functional educational system, the spread of preventable disease in the absence of adequate health care, and the widespread destruction of cultural heritage.

These present what are often almost insurmountable challenges to a meaningful recovery from conflict, leading to continued weakness in social, political, and economic institutions. Such weakness creates a breeding ground for future hostility, and leads to a potentially self-perpetuating cycle of conflict. It is therefore critical that we devise a robust framework for the protection of civilians, and to assist in the rapid reconstruction and rehabilitation of societies in zones of conflict.

Mr. President,

As the events of the last year have sadly shown us, the protection of civilians in armed conflict is an issue, where much work remains to be done to satisfactorily achieve this goal. We applaud the work of the Security Council towards this end, and we believe that the recommendations from the Secretary General as well as constructive input from this debate, when implemented, will make a meaningful impact in furthering the protection of civilians and the recovery of societies during and after armed conflict.

Thank you.