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Security Cl: focuss on civilians in armed conflict

Security Council urged to keep focus on civilians in armed conflict

With much of the world's attention focused on Iraq, the United Nations Security Council must remain vigilant to the plight of civilians caught in the cross-fire of armed conflict in other parts of the world, particularly with fighting raging across the African continent and tensions smouldering in other hot spots, a senior UN relief official warned today.

While much attention had been focused on the hardships faced by the Iraqi people, in other countries, "sadly, this year we have witnessed some of the more horrendous acts of violence carried out against civilians," Kenzo Oshima, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said in an open briefing to the 15-nation Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

"The plight of civilians in armed conflict remains a considerable and grave problem in many other parts of the world," Mr. Oshima said, stressing the value of Council missions to areas of conflict over the past year in bringing international attention to situations where the lives of civilians had been at the utmost risk. "The recent Council mission to Central Africa provided a considerable impetus for addressing protection issues and I hope the upcoming mission to West Africa will do the same."

In the meantime, on Côte d'Ivoire, Mr. Oshima said the practical results of the Council's increased engagement in civilian protection issues have been enshrined in its latest resolution, which not only mandated peacekeeping forces on the ground to ensure the safety of local populations, but recognized the paramount importance of protecting civilians when they were being deliberately targeted by conflict parties who were seemingly indifferent to their own obligations for civilian protection.

Outlining the progress since Secretary-General Kofi Annan's 2001 report on civilians in armed conflict, Mr. Oshima reminded the Council that the emphasis had been to make the "culture of protection" a practical reality. "As you yourselves, have noted, this is the time to move from words to action," he noted.

The culture of protection, he said, "urges us to put the individuals in need of protection at the centre of our efforts. It is the millions of voiceless that require our attention and commitment; it is the father who is too powerless to protect his family from brutal attacks; the mother who has no access to medical care and is helpless to save her sick child…the teenage girl who has been brutally raped and may never fully recover from the internal injuries she has suffered."

Mr. Oshima said that the Aide Memoire adopted last year by the Council had proved an important tool in establishing a stronger common base of analysis and assessment on key protection of civilian requirements and responses within the United Nations system as a whole. It had also been used as a practical tool in the field to develop an active collaborative framework for civilian protection in countries such as Burundi, Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Immediate international intervention is required to stabilize the security situations, allow humanitarian agencies to assist the vulnerable and thus prevent a further deterioration in that most desperate of humanitarian situations," he stressed.


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