news News

The most effective way to protect civilians is to prevent conflicts and to end them
by UN News, OCHA, MSF, Unicef, agencies
12:56pm 5th Mar, 2018
22 May 2018
Report of the Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
With more than 128 million people worldwide requiring immediate humanitarian aid, mostly due to war and violence, the United Nations Secretary-General has urged the international community to do more to protect civilians caught in conflict.
António Guterres made the appeal during a UN Security Council meeting, where he presented a report recommending ways governments can step up action.
He noted that last year, hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed or injured in countries affected by conflict: Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen.
“The most effective way to protect civilians is to prevent conflicts and to end them,” Mr. Guterres told the Council. “This is why conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding are, and will remain, the highest priorities for the United Nations.”
Also briefing the Council, Yves Daccord, Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), echoed another concern expressed by the UN chief: attacks against medical facilities and personnel.
He said that in the two years since the Council adopted a resolution on this subject, the ICRC has recorded more than 1,200 incidents in 16 countries, with health workers killed, hospitals bombed or looted, and medical supplies destroyed or prevented from crossing front lines.
“The gap between words and actions is very dramatic. It is imperative that all states, not only parties to conflicts, uphold international commitments and make the protection of healthcare a national priority.”
António Guterres: In my previous report, I underlined that the most effective way to protect civilians is to prevent the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of armed conflict.
Where we cannot prevent or resolve conflict, we must strengthen the protection of civilians. In doing so, we also contribute to the foundations for future peace.
In my previous report, I identified three protection priorities: enhance respect for international humanitarian and human rights law and promote good practice by parties to conflict; protect the humanitarian and medical mission and accord priority to the protection of civilians in United Nations peace operations; and prevent forced displacement and pursue durable solutions for refugees and internally displaced persons. In the present report, I review progress made in relation to those priorities, with a focus on enhancing respect for international law and promoting good practice.
Section II contains a review of the global state of the protection of civilians in armed conflict during the period from 1 January to 31 December 2017. It reveals a state of unrelenting horror and suffering affecting millions of women, children and men across all conflicts.
Civilians are routinely killed or maimed, and civilian objects damaged or destroyed, in targeted or indiscriminate attacks that frequently involve the widespread use of explosive weapons.
Civilians are forced from their homes to meet a perilous fate, while countless others are missing. Humanitarian and medical personnel are frequently targeted and killed or prevented from responding to those in need.
Meanwhile, conflict-driven food insecurity and the potential for famine leave millions of lives in the balance. All this, and the decimation of entire towns and cities and the once-vibrant communities and societies that were their lifeblood, undermine the prospects for peace and stability and the restoration of hope and opportunity for the future.
The state of the protection of civilians is bleak, and the need for action to address it is urgent.
As conflict becomes increasingly urbanized, with the potential to affect tens of millions of people, ensuring the effective implementation of international humanitarian and human rights law is of paramount importance.
The targeting of or failure to protect civilians cannot go unchallenged. The Security Council and Member States can ill afford to abdicate their responsibilities in the face of widespread violations and allow political differences to prevent or undermine concerted action to address and prevent violations. The stakes for civilians — and for international peace and security — are simply too high.
Member States have an instrumental role to advance respect for international humanitarian and human rights law, to end and prevent the spillover and recurrence of armed conflict.
There are practical steps that can be taken by parties to conflict and Member States to respect and ensure respect for the law and enhance the protection of civilians.
I recommend that Member States establish clear institutional authorities and responsibilities for the protection of civilians; and that they support and facilitate expanded efforts to engage non-State armed groups to enter into action plans and develop codes of conduct, operational policy and other tools to ensure effective protection and accountability.
Such actions would constitute an advance towards more effective implementation of the law and protection of civilians. At the same time, I recognize the continuing need for heightened advocacy and a concerted effort to ensure accountability for serious violations.
30 June 2018
UN chief ‘deeply alarmed’ over military offensive in south-west Syria. (UN News)
Expressing “deep alarm” over increased hostilities in southwestern Syria and its “devastating” toll on civilians, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called for an immediate cessation of the military operations.
Mr. Guterres called on all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights laws, protect civilians and facilitate safe, unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access.
“All stakeholders must immediately stop attacks directed against medical and educational facilities and put in place security conditions for UN cross-border humanitarian deliveries to resume without further delay,” he said.
The UN chief also recalled that the south-west area of Syria is part of the July 2017 de-escalation agreement between Jordan, Russia and the United States, and called on its guarantors to uphold their commitments.
The Secretary-General also urged the international community “to unite to put an end to this expanding conflict,” which risks further de-stabilizing the region and worsening the deep humanitarian crisis in Syria and neighboring states.
He also called on all concerned to focus on moving the political process forward building on the recent consultations in Geneva. Into its eighth year, the conflict in Syria continues to exact a terrible toll on the country’s civilians.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), over 13 million people across the war-torn country are in need of humanitarian assistance, including close to 3 million people in need trapped in besieged and hard-to-reach areas, where they are exposed to grave protection threats.
Over half of the population has been forced from their homes, and many people have been displaced multiple times. Children and youth comprise more than half of the displaced, as well as half of those in need of humanitarian assistance.
3 May 2018
The fighting in Syria “is not over” and neither is the “marathon of suffering” for millions of people in the war-torn country, said Jan Egeland, UN Special Envoy for Syria, speaking to journalists.
“It’s not over, and that’s what I fear, people think it’s over,” he said, amid reports that “tens of thousands of people” from Rural Damascus were preparing to evacuate to Idlib in the north-west of the country.
“We’ve still only 23 per cent of humanitarian programmes funded and we’re now in May,” Mr Egeland said, warning that there was “no cash …available to humanitarian actors” as “desperate, exhausted people arrive now every day in Idlib. There is no money for the operations.”
He called on countries not to slow down their support “before this marathon of suffering is over.”
Mr. Egeland’s comments come amid ongoing aid-access challenges, in many areas of Syria, linked to mass displacement and acute needs caused by more than seven years of war.
One year ago, well over four million people lived in so-called hard-to-reach locations where aid access was extremely unreliable, and hundreds of thousands more were trapped by surrounding forces.
Today, two million people remain in hard-to-reach areas in Syria and thousands still live in besieged locations; but the apparent progress in terms of numbers, is deceptive, the UN Special Advisor explained:
“It is a good thing that people are not any longer living massively in besieged areas, and that much fewer people live in hard-to-reach areas. But when this comes at the cost of horrific battles in heavily populated areas, and when it comes because of agreements made by a small group of military people and politicians, too often humanitarian concerns and the protection concerns for the civilian population is lost.”
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), displacement in some parts of Syria is as high as it was at the beginning of the crisis.
OCHA’s records indicate that for every person who returns home voluntarily, another three people are newly displaced.
Mr. Egeland said his “worry number one” was Idlib, which is already home to more than two million people.
“They are living out in the open, they are living in congested displacement camps…crammed in collective centres,” he said. “They arrive at 2am, you know, sort of every night now, just to find that they can hardly get a bed anywhere offered by completely overwhelmed humanitarian actors. So we cannot have a war in Idlib,” he implored.
4 March 2018
Statement by Panos Moumtzis, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, on Implementation of UN Resolution 2401 calling for a one month humanitarian ceasefire. (OCHA)
I remain deeply concerned for the safety and protection of millions of civilians across Syria, one week after the UN Security Council voted in favour of Resolution 2401, calling for a one-month cessation of hostilities across the war-ravaged country.
Not only has this not happened, in some cases the violence has escalated, particularly for the close to 400,000 men, women and children of East Ghouta. Instead of a much needed reprieve, we continue to see more fighting, more death, and more disturbing reports of hunger and hospitals being bombed. This collective punishment of civilians is simply unacceptable.
Since 18 February, close to 600 people have reportedly been killed in air and ground-based strikes on the besieged enclave, while over 2,000 people have been injured. At the same time, ground-based strikes and mortar shelling from eastern Ghouta have killed and injured scores of civilians in neighbouring Damascus.
To the north in Idleb, fighting continues to kill and injure civilians, destroy civilian infrastructure, and result in large population movements. Since December, some 385,000 people have been displaced, many of them multiple times.
Thousands of ordinary Syrians, many with just the clothes on their backs, now live in make-shift camps or out in the open, while formal camps remain overwhelmed.
At the same time, we continue to receive disturbing reports out of Afrin of civilian deaths and injuries, and restrictions on civilian movement as a result of ongoing military operations. Those who risk moving continue to be stopped at exit points by local authorities in Afrin, preventing them from accessing safer areas. I remain deeply concerned about tens of thousands of people stranded in Rukban in south-eastern Syria. We continue to seek the necessary agreements for convoys of life-saving assistance to them.
The UN and humanitarian partners stand ready to assist the 13.1 million of people in need inside Syria, but cannot do it alone. We certainly cannot do this while the fighting continues.
I continue to call on all parties to the conflict to facilitate unconditional, unimpeded, and sustained access to all people in need throughout the country, particularly for the close to 3 million people in hard-to-reach and besieged areas, and to take all measures to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, including schools and medical facilities, as well as allow for the urgent medical evacuation of those in need, as required by international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
Last Saturday, the UN Security Council voted unanimously in favour of Resolution 2401 and an end to the human suffering of the Syrian people. It cannot be ignored. It was a call for action. I reiterate that call today. We must act now to save lives.. The United Nations calls on all parties to facilitate unconditional, unimpeded, and sustained access to all people in need throughout the country.
March 2018
Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa:
"Last Saturday, the UN Security Council Resolution- unanimously adopted nearly a week ago- created an opportunity for hundreds of thousands of children to finally get respite from the brutal and unabated violence they have been living through.. We thought this was a window for UNICEF and other aid partners to deliver urgent and lifesaving assistance to children in need wherever they are inside the country.
"For many mothers and fathers in Syria, they thought this is “survival for my children”, thinking that their severely malnourished children and those who needed urgent medical assistance could get just that: treatment and aid, a very basic right.
"But as the days went by, these hopes turned into illusions, the windows shut abruptly in our faces. "Because, for children in Syria, nothing has changed, nothing.. Violence in fact continued in several places across the country, escalating in some and flaring up in others. Violence is ongoing in Idlib, Afrin, in Deir-ez-Zor, in Damascus, in parts of Aleppo and in East Ghouta with reports of children killed and injured.
"The war on children inside Syria is not stopping…. Syria remains one of the most dangerous places to be a child.
"Our teams on the ground in Syria and in neighbouring countries are working round the clock.. We are ready with life-saving supplies including medicines, nutrition supplements for malnourished children, paediatric and midwifery kits, winter clothes for children, hygiene kits and other basic commodities.
"These supplies are meant to deploy to Afrin, Idlib, East Ghouta, Dera’a and other besieged and hard-to-reach areas – some of which we have not been able to reach for months on end. This is where nearly 2 million children live, mostly deprived of their basic rights and of getting assistance.
"The first two months of this year have been especially bloody for children. We have received reports of over 1,000 children who were killed and seriously injured only since the year began.. it’s a stark reminder that the war on children in Syria has got to stop and has got to stop now.
"And while we focus on the situation inside Syria, let us not forget that Syria’s neighbouring countries have born the brunt of the war. There are over 2.6 million children living as refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.. Some have never been to Syria, they are war children deprived of their home country.
"Poverty and dwindling financial means are making it almost impossible for families to get by in these countries. In a recent study that UNICEF Jordan conducted, more than 85% of refugees outside the camps- in host communities- live in poverty struggling to meet their basic needs including providing education for their children.
Finally, our call, UNICEF’s call on behalf of millions of Syrian children. UNICEF calls -once again- on those fighting on the ground inside Syria and all those who have influence over them to put their arms down and stop the war on children".
* Agenda for Humanity: Respect the Rules of War:
* Report of the UN Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict:

Visit the related web page
Next (more recent) news item
Next (older) news item