Peacekeeping operations: ICRC statement to the United Nations, 2010
United Nations, General Assembly, 65th session, Fourth Committee, Item 53 of the agenda, statement by the ICRC, New York, 25 October 2010.
Comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects
Protecting individuals and communities during armed conflicts and other situations of violence is both a priority and a challenge, not only for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other humanitarian actors, but also for the international community at large.
Civilians are often stranded in areas plagued by armed conflict or where violence is mounting. Fearing for their safety and dignity, they look for protection. Peacekeeping missions are increasingly regarded by the international community as an important means of ensuring that civilians are protected.
Members of the populations affected believe that peacekeeping forces should be able to bring them effective physical protection. Peacekeepers are often expected to secure access for civilians to essential services and to preserve their livelihood. Peacekeeping forces can indeed play an essential role in improving the situation of those affected by armed conflicts and other situations of violence.
The protection of civilians lies at the core of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and pervades many of its provisions. It is especially reflected in the IHL principle that civilians must be spared from the effects of hostilities.
There can be no doubt that actions undertaken by the United Nations aimed at protecting civilians in contexts where peacekeeping operations are deployed benefit those affected by armed conflicts. These actions are consistent with the obligation to respect and ensure respect for IHL as stipulated by Article 1 common to the Geneva Conventions of 1949. The collective aspiration to protect civilians through peacekeeping operations is an encouraging development for making common Article 1 more operational. Indeed, humanitarian actors acting alone cannot fully ensure the protection of civilians, especially when that involves physical protection.
The ICRC works with governments worldwide on including IHL in the doctrine, training curriculum and operating procedures of armed forces and police. It also supports States in incorporating IHL into their national legislation, working with the legal experts of governments in an effort to prevent violations and to put an end to impunity.
States are primarily responsible for protecting individuals within their jurisdiction. The international community is more aware than ever of the dangers to which victims of armed conflicts are exposed when the laws that protect them are ignored. The ICRC thus continues to follow with interest the increasing importance, in peacekeeping-related activities, of providing protection for civilians, including the United Nations' recent efforts to make it part of peacekeeping mandates.
The ICRC would however like to underline that the distinct roles of the various actors involved in protection must be understood and respected, especially when they operate under one umbrella. Military, police, political and civilian components of a peacekeeping mission all have different roles when it comes to protection. Concerned populations, but also the authorities, the security forces and the armed groups must be able to distinguish between those different roles. This distinction is vital for independent humanitarian actors, such as the ICRC.
The ICRC always maintains a neutral, independent, impartial and strictly humanitarian approach to victims in all the countries in which it works. Consequently, the ICRC cannot be part of any integrated approach, whether in a UN or other structure. That said, the ICRC maintains regular and constructive dialogue with all stakeholders that have a direct or indirect influence in the area of protecting civilians.
The ICRC has, over the years, developed constructive relations with peacekeeping missions deployed in contexts where it is active. Our delegations reach out to Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs) in their own capitals to train and brief peacekeeping troops before they leave. The ICRC has recently also started working with Police Contributing Countries (PCCs) on training the personnel they plan to send on peacekeeping missions.
Here in New York, an institutional dialogue and regular contacts link the ICRC to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and increasingly, with TCCs and PCCs. We prize these contacts and consider them an invaluable channel for sharing views and experiences on IHL and humanitarian action.
The ICRC renews its commitment to dialogue and cooperation with TCCs, PCCs, DPKO, and the Department For Field Support (DFS) as well as with peacekeepers worldwide. Both the ICRC and peacekeepers, with their distinct mandates, serve the interests of communities and individuals affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence.
Thank you, Mr Chairman