22 June 2012
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Security Council to convene thirteenth open debate on the
Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
On 25 June 2012, the Security Council will hold its thirteenth open debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict (POC). The protection of civilians has been a thematic issue on the Security Council’s agenda since 1999, with a particular focus on the duties of states and the role of the Security Council in addressing the needs of vulnerable populations including refugees, internally displaced persons, women and children. On 28 April 2006, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1674 on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, which contains the first official Security Council reference to the Responsibility to Protect. On 11 November 2009, during the eighth debate on the POC, the Council adopted Resolution 1894, wherein Member States expressed a continued commitment to RtoP. Since the Council’s first open-debate held in 2006, semi-annual open debates on the protection of civilians and the Security Council’s response to armed conflict have become a regular follow-up to the resolutions on POC, and have served as a forum for States to reaffirm their support for RtoP.
The POC agenda and the Responsibility to Protect, while closely linked, are distinct concepts. Where POC has traditionally covered a variety of issues including improving humanitarian access, and strengthening compliance with and accountability for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, the RtoP applies only in cases where populations are threatened by genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing regardless of whether or not the situation can be characterized as an armed conflict. The Responsibility to Protect is not synonymous with military intervention as the norm is founded on the prevention of mass atrocities and provides a broad spectrum of tools to prevent and respond to imminent threats or ongoing crimes. Member States must therefore not conflate the Responsibility to Protect or the Protection of Civilians agenda with military intervention. ICRtoP encourages Member States to reflect on the accurate definitions of the RtoP and POC concepts and refrain from conflating these two agendas. For additional background information on POC and RtoP, read the policy brief from the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.
During the upcoming debate on 25 June, Security Council Members will have the opportunity to discuss the normative framework of POC as well as elaborate on tools and challenges for protection as seen in recent country cases. Council Members will reflect on the Report of the Secretary-General on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict which, in addition to including an overview of the current state of civilian protection, provides recommendations on five ongoing challenges, namely, enhanced compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law; consistent and effective engagement with non-state armed groups in order to improve compliance with the law; strengthened protection by UN peacekeeping and other missions; improved humanitarian access; and enhanced accountability. Council Members may also take the opportunity to discuss the concept note, “Responsibility while protecting: elements for the development and promotion of a concept”, introduced to the Security Council by the government of Brazil at the twelfth open debate on POC held in November 2011. “Responsibility while protecting” (RwP) largely seeks to address concerns related to the use of force, and places the emphasis of protection on prevention. RwP states that the international community must exhaust all peaceful means to protect populations before coercive measures are considered, that the use of force must be mandated proportionally and judiciously and inflict as little violence and instability as possible, and that enhanced measures are needed to monitor the implementation of Security Council resolutions. Member States and other UN, regional and civil society representatives took the opportunity of an informal dialogue on 21 February 2012 to expand on the value added of and recurring concerns with the concept, and may continue this discussion during the next POC debate.
Please see the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect’s Policy Brief The Relationship Between the Responsibility to Protect and the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict .
Please see Security Council Report’s Cross Cutting Report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.
The ICRtoP will monitor the open debate to publish a summary of the meeting, compile delivered statements, and provide excerpts of interventions that reflect on the Responsibility to Protect.