Thank you for giving the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) the floor.
During the past year, the United Nations continued to carry out operations aimed at contributing to peace and security in the world. At times under difficult circumstances, peace-keeping operations seek to accomplish tasks such as supervising cease-fire agreements, maintaining law and order and consolidating peace.
In numerous contexts, members of United Nations missions are interlocutors with whom the ICRC maintains a privileged dialogue. Indeed, issues such as security, the respective tasks of our institutions and the humanitarian situation are all the more reason why close consultation between the ICRC and United Nations forces is highly desirable. The ICRC wishes such exchanges of views to be as effective as possible, because an improved cooperation is what will best serve the interest of victims of violence.
At the operational level, this means that direct and bilateral dialogue is sought with blue helmets'leadership. For example, in the temporary security zone where the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) is deployed, the ICRC provided legal and practical support to UN forces with regard to the mortal remains of soldiers who had fallen between the front lines. The ICRC also acted as a neutral intermediary during the repatriation, across this zone, of prisoners of war and civilians.
In East Timor, such consultation opened the way, inter alia, for the ICRC to manage the central hospital of Dili, prior to the transfer of this responsibility to the Transitional Administration established by the Security Council. In order to facilitate ICRC's mission, a headquarters agreement was also concluded with the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor. (UNTAET).
While a constructive dialogue is necessary, it must, in order to be effective, respect the fundamentally different perspectives between political or military efforts and humanitarian action. ICRC's action is, by its very nature, non-coercive and thus depends on the consent of all parties involved. Accordingly, it is essential that they all perceive the ICRC as a neutral and independent entity, strictly impartial with respect to victims of violence. Failing such perception, the security of its staff and its access to populations in need risk being gravely compromised.
Cooperation between the United Nations and the ICRC has developed considerably in order to promote respect for international humanitarian law. This is all the more important since, in some cases, United Nations operations are deployed in countries where conflicts still rage, and it has happened in the past that United Nations troops have been involved in armed confrontations.
It is therefore of paramount importance that the rules of humanitarian law be known and scrupulously adhered to. To this end, the ICRC has organized, on numerous occasions, training sessions in humanitarian law for peace-keeping troops, either before their departure or after their deployment in the field. For example, at the request of the UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), ICRC recently initiated a series of sessions on humanitarian law for United Nations observers. Similarly, such sessions have been organized for contingents of the ECOMOG regional peace-keeping force. All these training events are frequently renewed in order to take troop rotations into account.
ICRC delegates will also be participating in the new t raining module developed by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the Department of Peace-keeping Operations, which relates to the needs of women and children affected by armed conflicts. In this regard, we hope that the study recently published by the ICRC on women in war will usefully contribute to the reflections.
These encounters are opportunities both to recall the essential rules of humanitarian law and to explain the fundamental principles at the heart of ICRC's action - humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence - and to reinforce the mutual respect between our institutions. They also provide the opportunity to present the mandate and activities of National Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies, which exist in practically every country where United Nations forces are present.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, allow me to express ICRC's satisfaction for having been invited to share its comments on the draft rules of engagement, and its hope to further contribute to an improved respect for humanitarian law in the future.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.