General Assembly Security Council

UNSC open debate on “protection of civilians in armed conflict”

(25 May 2021)


India statement by Ambassador K. Nagaraj Naidu

Deputy Permanent Representative

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Mr. President,


Let me begin by thanking you and your delegation for organizing this Open Debate. We thank the briefers for their valuable inputs and perspectives.


2. It is indeed disconcerting that civilians continue to be the primary victims of armed conflict.


3. There can be no substitute for national efforts in creating an environment where civilians are secure. While peacekeepers implementing Security Council mandates and humanitarian organizations delivering much needed aid have an important role to play, the onus of responsibility for protecting civilians lies fundamentally with national governments.


4. We cannot ignore the adverse impacts of terror attacks in today’s debate on protection of civilians. Terrorists and terror entities have significantly enhanced their capabilities by gaining access to new and emerging technologies which present us with new threats, including for civilian populations.


5. Over the last two decades, the agenda of protection of civilians has significantly expanded, particularly as a result of changes in the conduct of hostilities and increase in intra-state conflict situations. The Security Council, during the same period, has also adopted many resolutions and Presidential statements to strengthen the international community’s resolve and focus on protection of civilians in armed conflict situations.  However, given today’s global state of the protection of civilians in armed conflicts, it is obvious that the implementation of these instruments is not matching expectations.


6. In this regard, I would like to submit the following for Council’s consideration:


i. Respect for principles of the UN Charter, including sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States, should remain the basis for all actions taken by the Council for the protection of civilians. A decision to intervene, if politically motivated, runs the risk of being counter-productive and therefore, needs to be avoided. Furthermore, any intervention must be proportionate to the threat, must involve the use of appropriate methods, and be based on credible and verified threat perception.


ii. The efforts of the Council and of the international community should be directed at assisting national authorities in developing capabilities and capacities to protect civilians.


iii. Ensuring accountability for serious violations remains one of the challenges in strengthening the protection of civilians. The UN should support the countries in conflict situations in enhancing their national accountability mechanisms to end impunity for serious violations of international humanitarian law.


vi. The Council’s intervention should prefer the provisions of Chapter VI of the Charter to those of Chapter VII. Use of force should indeed be the measure of last resort when all diplomatic and political efforts fail to protect civilians.


v. Peacekeeping is one of the key instruments available to UN in discharging its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. Today, majority of the UN peacekeeping missions include protection of civilians as one of their mandates. It is imperative that expectations from peacekeeping missions remain realistic and take into consideration the multiple resource constraints under which they function.


vi. The actions of the Council and international community should facilitate an engagement between warring factions in a conflict situation in a nationally owned and inclusive political process. This inclusive approach to national reconciliation, anchored in state sovereignty, is the only way to move forward and ensure the protection of civilians in an effective, pragmatic and enduring manner.


vii. The Council must avoid politicization of humanitarian work and that of humanitarian actors involved in the conflict. The fundamental principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence should guide the work of humanitarian agencies and organisations.


7. To conclude, Mr. President, my delegation will continue to work closely with the international community in our concerted efforts to alleviate the sufferings of civilians in situations of armed conflict.


I thank you.