People's Stories Justice


Sudan’s warring parties must commit to an immediate cease-fire, end attacks on civilians
by UN News, OCHA, UNICEF, OHCHR, agencies
Sudan
 
18 June 2024
 
‘Nowhere is safe’ for civilians as Sudan war descends further into chaos. (UN News)
 
There are now almost 9.5 million forcibly displaced in Sudan – 7.3 million internally (IDPs) and 1.9 million in neighbouring countries. 18 million people are acutely food insecure and five million are facing starvation.
 
The situation is particularly worrying in and around El Fasher, the provincial capital of North Darfur. The now-besieged city had a pre-war population of about 1.5 million, as well as sheltering a further 800,000 IDPs.
 
It is now under relentless bombardment and aerial attacks and atrocities against civilians are being committed along ethnic lines, Martha Pobee, UN Assistant Secretary-General at the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, told ambassadors at the UN Security Council.
 
“Civilians are in the line of fire. Nowhere is safe for them,” she said. She called for an immediate ceasefire and de-escalation in line with Security Council resolution 2736 adopted last week. “A ceasefire in El Fasher is needed now to prevent further atrocities, protect critical infrastructure, and alleviate civilian suffering … the parties must heed this call without delay.”
 
Ms. Pobee also noted escalation in fighting in other parts of Sudan, including Greater Khartoum, the Kordofan regions and Gezira state, where RSF members reportedly killed 100 civilians in an attack on a village on 5 June.
 
“Without swift action, Sudan risks becoming engulfed in more ethnic violence and fragment even further,” she warned. “The risk of a conflict spillover remains high.”
 
Mohamed Chande Othman, Chair of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) for the Sudan: “We have received credible accounts of indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian objects, including through airstrikes and shelling in heavily populated residential areas, as well as ground attacks against civilians in their homes and villages”.
 
The FFM is also investigating other attacks against civilians across Sudan, including the mass killings in El Geneina and in Ardamata, of members of the Masalit community, between April and November of last year.
 
Mr. Othman underscored the human rights and humanitarian situation in Sudan cannot improve without an immediate ceasefire. Despite repeated appeals by the international community, the fighting persists, he added, stressing that commanders must instruct their forces to abide by international humanitarian law, protect civilians and ensure punishment for violations.
 
At the same time, warring parties must not attack humanitarian workers, obstruct aid delivery and allow unfettered access to the millions of civilians in need in every part of Sudan. “The people of the Sudan are crying for help to restore their dignity and rights. They need our support".
 
Briefing the Security Council Edem Wosornu, Director, Operations and Advocacy for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA):
 
"In less than four months, this is the sixth time we have briefed this Council on the humanitarian emergency in Sudan. The 12th time since the conflict broke out in April 2023. Each time, we have warned about the relentless deterioration of conditions for people in most parts of the country. Today, I regret to inform you that Sudan continues to spiral into chaos.
 
I will touch on four points: (1) the horrific toll of the conflict on civilians in El Fasher and other conflict hotspots across the country; (2) the worsening humanitarian crisis; (3) the current status of humanitarian access and funding for the aid operation; and lastly the desperate need to stop the fighting.
 
Fourteen months of conflict have created a nightmare for civilians in Sudan – with the people of El Fasher at the epicentre today.
 
Amid unrelenting violence and suffering, the lives of 800,000 people – of women, children, men, the elderly and people with disabilities – these lives hang in the balance.
 
Bombing and shelling continue in densely populated areas, causing widespread and long-term harm to civilians and severely disrupting the essential services they very much depend on. Many Member States noted the devastating effects of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas during this Council’s annual debate on the protection of civilians just four weeks ago.
 
According to Medecins Sans Frontieres, more than 1,300 people have been injured between 25 May and 6 June in El Fasher. Those who can flee the city have done so. At least 130,000 people have been displaced since 1st April, mainly south to other parts of Darfur and west into Chad – where resources and basic services are already extremely stretched and, in some contexts, non-existent.
 
The deplorable assault on the Southern Hospital on 8th June, which forced patients and staff to flee for their lives. The hospital was looted and no longer functioning. Its closure will profoundly impact people’s access to life-saving medical care. Our colleagues from the World Health Organization note that the Southern Hospital was the only facility with surgical capacity in El Fasher. The other health facilities in the city that are still functional are now stretched beyond capacity.
 
This is a recent example of the destruction of health care in Sudan, where over 80 per cent of hospitals and clinics are now not functioning in some of the worst affected areas.
 
What we are witnessing in El Fasher is the result of unrestrained and indiscriminate violence with little regard for the tremendous misery and suffering caused. Without decisive action now, we risk seeing a repeat of the well-documented atrocities perpetrated in Ag Geneina between late April and early November last year.
 
Over the past six weeks, we have repeatedly called for civilians to be protected and for this ferocious violence to stop. This Council did the same last week Thursday in Security Council Resolution 2736. These calls must not be ignored.
 
We urge this Council to do everything possible – and to use all means at its disposal – to push for the implementation of the resolution and to stop this lethal tragedy from unfolding further. Sadly, the violence in El Fasher is just the tip of the iceberg.
 
Four hundred and thirty days days into this conflict, the level of human suffering in Sudan is intolerable.
 
You have seen the statements by the UN Secretary-General and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the attack by the Rapid Support Forces in Wad Al-Noura village, in Aj Jazirah State, on 5th June. This horrific attack killed more than 100 people – among them dozens of children.
 
Indiscriminate bombing continues to blight the daily lives of millions of people in Darfur, Kordofan, Khartoum and Aj Jazirah states, killing, injuring, maiming civilians, and damaging much of the remaining infrastructure.
 
Conflict-related sexual violence remains rampant. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has received reports of women and girls being raped and subjected to other forms of gender-based violence as they leave their homes in search of a basic commodity: food. According to reports from local women-led organizations, suicide rates among survivors are rising and access to gender-based violence services is shrinking.
 
According to the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict, grave violations against children in Sudan have increased by a staggering 480 per cent – from around 300 violations in 2022 to over 1,700 in 2023. Humanitarian workers are not being spared from the violence. These horrific trends of violence must stop.
 
International humanitarian law demands that parties take all feasible precautions to protect civilians during hostilities. It also strictly prohibits sexual violence and any inhuman treatment. This is not optional. And ultimately, those who violate the rules of war must be held to account.
 
In addition to the direct toll on civilians, the conflict is also deepening humanitarian needs across the country. Famine is imminent. Almost 5 million people face emergency levels of food insecurity (IPC level 4 in the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification). Nine in ten of these people are in conflict-affected areas in Darfur, Kordofan, Aj Jazirah and Khartoum states. Over 2 million people in 41 hunger hotspots are at high risk of slipping into catastrophic hunger in the coming weeks.
 
Women report having to watch their children starve because they cannot feed them. Basic services are collapsing in conflict-affected areas – including healthcare, and water and sanitation systems.
 
Pregnant women are at heightened risk of acute malnutrition. According to UN Women, 7,000 new mothers could die in the next few months if they don’t get access to food and healthcare. Across Sudan, women are dying because of complications during pregnancy or childbirth.
 
If farmers do not immediately receive the seeds they need for the planting season, the food security situation will worsen further. As we have warned this Council before, the countdown is real. We have just a few weeks to deliver lifesaving supplies before the rainy season starts and road conditions significantly worsen. Those of us who have lived in Darfur understand that the wadis become rivers and access is simply impossible.
 
Despite some recent improvements, humanitarian operations in Sudan continue to face serious challenges. In conflict hotspots, insecurity, lootings, and sustained access obstructions paralyzed aid operations during the first four months of the year.
 
We do acknowledge and appreciate measures by the Sudanese authorities over the past six weeks to facilitate humanitarian operations.
 
If we are to avert massive loss of life, the facilitation we have seen over the past month and a half needs to be sustained and expanded.
 
We need to significantly scale up movements in the weeks ahead. We need continued rapid clearances and continued permission to move supplies directly to their final destinations.
 
Given the severity of the humanitarian situation and the urgency of humanitarian needs, we must be able to use the safest, most direct routes. This is especially important as we approach the rainy season, as some routes will become far less accessible or even impassable.
 
Six months into the year, the humanitarian appeal is woefully underfunded. We have received $441 million in contributions – unfortunately only 16 per cent of our total $2.7 billion requirement. We are in a race against time to avert massive loss of life in this unprecedented protection and food security crisis in Sudan. Every day that we wait for funding to come, more lives are at risk.
 
As you have heard in my statement today – and in our 11 other statements over the past 14 months – we have three asks. To protect civilians and the infrastructure they need for survival; to ensure unimpeded, sustained and expanded humanitarian access to people in need; and increased funding for the aid operation.
 
But let me be clear. The ultimate ask is for this horrific conflict to stop. This was the main demand from the women, the men and the children I met in Port Sudan six weeks ago. They want their lives back. I once again urge the Security Council, and all Member States, to do everything in their power to bring this war, and its untold suffering, to an end.
 
http://www.unocha.org/news/ocha-urges-security-council-act-sudan-humanitarian-crisis http://news.un.org/en/story/2024/06/1151151 http://reliefweb.int/report/sudan/sudan-ingo-forum-calls-end-bloodshed-el-fasher http://interagencystandingcommittee.org/inter-agency-standing-committee/statement-principals-inter-agency-standing-committee-no-time-lose-famine-stalks-millions-sudan-amid http://www.unhcr.org/news/press-releases/unhcr-s-grandi-warns-sudan-carnage-will-force-millions-more-flee http://www.theguardian.com/world/article/2024/jun/17/we-need-the-world-to-wake-up-sudan-facing-worlds-deadliest-famine-in-40-years
 
12 June 2024
 
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk has expressed grave alarm at the escalating violence in El-Fasher, in Darfur, where hostilities between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces – backed by their respective allied armed groups – are having such a devastating toll on civilians.
 
He called on the warring parties to ensure the protection of civilians – as is their obligation under international human rights law and international humanitarian law and to immediately facilitate comprehensive access to humanitarian aid in all areas under their control.
 
Fighting in El-Fasher, where more than 1.8 million residents and internally displaced people are currently encircled and at imminent risk of famine, is having a catastrophic impact on civilians with disastrous humanitarian consequences.
 
The ongoing clashes in and around El Fasher are severely undermining humanitarian operations to support the civilian population.
 
In Sudan, at least 5 million people are also teetering on the brink of starvation. Communities in more than 40 hunger hotspots are at high risk of slipping into famine in the coming month, including in war-torn parts of Aj Jazirah, Darfur, Khartoum and Kordofan.
 
Intense fighting, unacceptable restrictions and meagre funding are preventing aid workers from delivering food, water, seeds, health care and other lifesaving assistance at anywhere near the scale necessary to prevent mass starvation.
 
The Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) Karim Khan is urging victim groups, civil society organizations, national authorities, and international partners to engage with his Office and provide evidence and material relating to the ongoing atrocities being inflicted on civilians in the unfolding crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan, amid the ongoing war between rival military forces that erupted last April.
 
The ICC has an ongoing active investigation into the situation in Darfur, which began in 2005, and “the terrible events in West Darfur, including El Geneina, in 2023” are among key investigative priorities.
 
Mr. Khan voiced extreme concern about allegations of widespread international crimes being committed in El Fasher, capital of North Darfur state, and surrounding areas. His Office is compiling information on a daily basis from Darfur which “seems to disclose an organized, systematic and a profound attack on human dignity”, he said.
 
Evidence collected to date “seems to show credible, repeated expanding continuous allegations of attacks against the civilian population, in particular, attacks directed against camps for internally displaced persons,” he continued.
 
“It seems to show the widespread, prevalent use of rape and other forms of sexual violence. It seems to disclose consistently the shelling of civilian areas, the looting of properties and attacks against hospitals.”
 
Mr. Khan said his Office is asking for evidence in relation to these profound allegations of international crimes that are increasingly emerging and cannot be ignored,” he said.
 
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has received harrowing reports of children being killed and many injured amidst the escalating violence in El Fasher.
 
“Thousands of children, including those living in large displacement camps, are trapped in the middle of the increased fighting and are not able to reach safety”. “UNICEF urges all parties to immediately deescalate the situation, allow the safe and voluntary movement of civilians, and ensure the protection of civilians, including children and women, and civilian objects.”
 
Sudanese refugees arriving in Chad speak of appalling stories of women raped in front of their children and of children murdered in front of their mothers.
 
The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect: "During the morning of 5 June, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) reportedly killed more than 100 civilians, including at least 55 children, during an attack on Wad al-Noura in Sudan’s Al Jazeera State. Other sources report that at least 180 civilians were killed and dozens more injured. Information gathered by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights indicates that the RSF used weapons with wide-area effects, including artillery shells.
 
Photos have circulated on social media showing dozens of bodies draped in cloth and laid out for burial at the town’s public square. UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan Clementine Nkweta-Salami emphasized, “Even by the tragic standards of Sudan’s conflict, the images emerging from Wad Al-Noura are heartbreaking.”
 
"The RSF have also utilized the conflict to launch a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing and large-scale attacks targeting non-Arab communities, possibly amounting to the crime of genocide". On 5 June, following weeks of escalating violence in El Fasher, the last remaining SAF stronghold in Darfur, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Alice Nderitu stated, “it is unquestionable that risk factors and indicators for genocide and related crimes are present, and the risks are increasing.”
 
On 7 June UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed deep concern about the immense suffering of the Sudanese population, stressing, “it is high time for all parties to silence their guns across Sudan and commit to a path towards sustainable peace for the Sudanese people.”
 
http://news.un.org/en/story/2024/06/1151031 http://news.un.org/en/story/2024/06/1150941 http://www.unicef.org/press-releases/sudans-children-trapped-critical-malnutrition-crisis-warn-un-agencies http://www.unicef.org/mena/topics/sudan http://www.globalr2p.org/resources/statement-by-special-adviser-on-the-prevention-of-genocide-on-the-situation-in-sudan-2/ http://www.globalr2p.org/publications/atrocity-alert-no-399/ http://www.ohchr.org/en/statements/2024/06/turk-profoundly-shocked-killings-sudans-wad-al-nawara http://www.ohchr.org/en/press-briefing-notes/2024/05/sudan-un-human-rights-chief-horrified-escalating-violence-el-fasher http://www.unocha.org/news/sudans-humanitarian-coordinator-calls-immediate-ceasefire-al-fasher-safeguard-civilians http://news.un.org/en/story/2024/05/1149641
 
Apr. 2024
 
Sudan’s warring parties must commit to an immediate cease-fire, end attacks on civilians and ensure unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance for millions of people in desperate need of aid, the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Sudan said today, as the deadly conflict edges into its second year.
 
Fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces has killed thousands of civilians since it began on 15 April 2023. Over six million people have been displaced internally, while almost two million refugees have fled to neighbouring countries. Nearly 24 million people are in need of aid, with 18 million suffering crisis levels of food insecurity, according to the UN.
 
“It’s beyond time for this devastating war to stop,” said Mohamed Chande Othman, chair of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission for the Sudan. “The warring parties must bring an immediate end to all violence, including sexual and gender-based violence, and hold the perpetrators of serious human rights violations accountable for their acts.”
 
“Sudan’s warring parties are legally obligated to protect civilians, but they have shown little regard for doing so,” Othman said. “We are now investigating alarming reports of repeated attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and schools.”
 
The Fact-Finding Mission said attacks on aid convoys and infrastructure have been reported in what appear to be clear violations of international humanitarian law.
 
“Aid agencies are persevering even though there have been attacks and looting of humanitarian convoys, personnel and warehouses,” said Mona Rishmawi, an expert member of the Mission.
 
“We are also investigating the deliberate blocking of humanitarian assistance destined for civilians living in areas controlled by the opposite side,” Rishmawi said. “The parties to the conflict must ensure and facilitate safe, free and unimpeded humanitarian access to civilian populations in grave need.”
 
Food security analysts have warned of a serious risk of famine, in particular in parts of the Darfur region. Cereal harvests have dropped by almost half compared to last year, and the price of grain has already doubled or tripled in war-affected areas, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.
 
“If rural populations cannot safely remain on their land to plant their crops or tend to their livestock, we will see a catastrophe,” said expert member Joy Ezeilo.
 
The Fact-Finding Mission noted the upcoming International Humanitarian Conference for Sudan and its Neighbours, which is due to be held in Paris on 15 April. The Mission hopes that the massive shortfall in donor funding, which has so far only covered six percent of the estimated 2.7 billion US dollars needed to address the crisis, will soon be addressed.
 
Noting that Sudan’s warring parties have failed to heed the UN Security Council’s call for a cessation of hostilities during the month of Ramadan, the Fact-Finding Mission’s experts called for an immediate ceasefire and urged them to commit to a comprehensive peace process.
 
The experts also urged UN Member States to exert their influence on the warring parties to stop the fighting and immediately restore peace, justice and democracy in Sudan.
 
“The Sudanese people have endured enough,” Othman said. “The warring parties must find a path for peace and respect for human rights in Sudan.”
 
http://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2024/04/sudan-conflict-enters-its-second-year-un-fact-finding-mission-says-warring http://tinyurl.com/ymcn7smx http://webtv.un.org/en/asset/k16/k16aomc94a http://reliefweb.int/report/sudan/conflict-and-hunger-sudan-ngo-call-action http://www.rescue.org/press-release/its-too-late-humanitarian-organisations-urge-participants-paris-conference-sudan-and http://www.ifrc.org/press-release/international-red-cross-and-red-crescent-movement-urges-support-conflict-victims-we http://www.nrc.no/news/2024/april/a-catastrophic-year-for-sudan/ http://www.msf.org/sudan-needs-are-growing-day-response-deeply-inadequate
 
http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/latest/sudan-witnessing-life-and-death-emergency-massive-scale http://www.savethechildren.net/news/sudans-year-war-one-two-children-line-fire http://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2024/03/sudan-conflict-24-million-children-exposed-year-brutality-and-rights http://www.care-international.org/resources/because-they-are-women-how-sudan-conflict-has-created-war-women-and-girls http://www.solidarites.org/en/live-from-the-field/sudan-definition-of-an-impending-famine/ http://reliefweb.int/report/sudan/sudan-humanitarian-update-25-march-2024-enar http://response.reliefweb.int/sudan
 
* UN Security Council session: Protection of civilians in armed conflict - Sudan Food Security Crisis (20/3/24): http://webtv.un.org/en/asset/k17/k17g7e6gqe http://www.wfp.org/news/remarks-delivered-carl-skau-wfp-deputy-executive-director-and-chief-operating-officer-security http://www.fao.org/newsroom/detail/sudan-fao-issues-stark-warning-over-deeply-concerning-scale-of-hunger/en http://www.unocha.org/news/ocha-warns-security-council-sudan-will-soon-be-worlds-worst-hunger-crisis http://www.nrc.no/news/2024/march/nrc-statement-following-un-security-council-session-on-conflict-induced-hunger-in-sudan
 
Feb. 2024
 
World confronts an ‘ugly and inescapable truth’ in Darfur, by Karim Khan - Prosecutor, International Criminal Court (ICC)
 
The international community’s failure to execute warrants issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and subsequent lack of accountability are fuelling the violence stemming from the war between rival militaries in Sudan, ICC Prosecutor told the UN Security Council on Monday.
 
Prosecutor Karim Khan emphasized the “ugly and inescapable truth” that failure to act now is not only a damning verdict on the present but will subject future generations to a similar fate. “It cannot be a case of ‘play, rewind, and repeat’,” he warned.
 
A clear assessment by his office indicated the presence of “grounds to believe” that Rome Statute crimes – genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity – are being committed by both the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) along with affiliated groups.
 
“We need to do more”, he stressed, urging Sudan to comply in good faith with Security Council resolutions, cooperate with and provide requested information to his office, and allow investigators in the country.
 
In March 2005, the Security Council referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC Prosecutor for investigations into allegations of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
 
During that time, the region was engulfed in a brutal war involving the military-led government, the Janjaweed militia, and rebel groups, resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands of civilian lives and the displacement of millions more from their homes in a campaign marked by ethnic cleansing against non-Arabs.
 
In July last year, Mr. Khan announced an investigation into fresh allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur against the backdrop of the ongoing war between SAF and RSF forces and their affiliated groups.
 
Situation ‘dire by any metric’.
 
Speaking to ambassadors via video link from N'Djamena, the capital of Chad, Mr. Khan described the situation as “dire by any metric”.
 
Since the conflict’s onset in April 2023, over 7.1 million Sudanese civilians have been displaced, with 1.5 million forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries.
 
Chad, in particular, hosts more than 540,000 Sudanese refugees, a number expected to rise to 910,000 by the end of 2024.
 
“One in three of the population in the affected parts of Chad are refugees.. they are arriving at a rate faster than Chad, faster than the United Nations can respond,” Mr. Khan said, with many showing signs of serious injury and trauma.
 
Refugees themselves have provided chilling testimony describing sexual violence against Darfuri women and girls, brutal killings, and racially motivated crimes.
 
Mr. Khan warned ambassadors that the crisis in Darfur was deepening, with the war impacting whole swathes of the continent: from Libya on the Mediterranean to Sub-Saharan Africa, and from Sudan’s Red Sea coast to the Atlantic.
 
“We see a number of areas where conflicts seem to be triumphing against rule of law and deafening out the voices of the most vulnerable people,” he said.
 
Stressing that judicial orders and court judgements alone cannot solve the problem, the ICC prosecutor urged the international community to devise innovative solutions to address the “catastrophe” in Darfur and prevent the violence from spreading further.
 
Mr. Khan urged Council members not to lose sight of the individual human stories behind the statistics of those affected by brutal crimes and war.
 
“These are individuals whose lives have been torn apart, each of whom has a story of woe and of suffering,” he said, emphasizing the collective responsibility of the Security Council, the United Nations, Member States, regional organizations and the ICC “to live up to our promises that we have repeatedly made.”
 
http://news.un.org/en/story/2024/01/1146012 http://news.un.org/en/story/2024/03/1148051 http://reliefweb.int/report/sudan/bearing-witness-atrocities-and-looming-hunger-darfur-report-informed-darfur-refugees-eastern-chad http://www.reuters.com/world/africa/ethnic-killings-one-sudan-city-left-up-15000-dead-un-report-2024-01-19/ http://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2024/02/sudan-horrific-violations-and-abuses-fighting-spreads-report http://www.hrw.org/news/2024/05/09/sudan-ethnic-cleansing-west-darfur http://www.hrw.org/report/2024/05/09/massalit-will-not-come-home/ethnic-cleansing-and-crimes-against-humanity-el http://www.justsecurity.org/95500/darfur-genocide-demands-international-action-accountability http://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2024/02/sudan-25-million-people-dire-humanitarian-need-say-un-experts http://www.hrw.org/news/2024/03/15/sudan-urgent-action-needed-hunger-crisis http://www.unicef.org/press-releases/statement-unicef-executive-director-catherine-russell-children-sudan-risk-famine


 


In too many conflicts, civilians continue to suffer unacceptable harm
by UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
 
21 May 2024
 
Briefing to the United Nations Security Council on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict by Joyce Msuya, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator on behalf of Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator:
 
"This year, we mark 25 years since the UN Security Council added the protection of civilians to its agenda. We also mark the 75th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, a cornerstone of international humanitarian law aimed at protecting victims of armed conflict.
 
It is an important moment to reflect on the state of the protection of civilians in armed conflict. And to look at action needed to ensure international humanitarian law and the decisions of this Council are upheld and that civilians are safeguarded from harm.
 
Mr. President, it is with regret that I report to you that the situation of civilians in armed conflict in 2023 was resoundingly dire. It was a year in which we saw the horrors of the 7 October attack by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups on Israel and the intense Israeli military response in Gaza that resulted in death, destruction and suffering at a pace and scale unprecedented in the recent past.
 
About 75 per cent of Gaza’s population has been forcibly displaced. A man-made famine is looming. Thousands of children have been killed and injured in what UNICEF colleagues have called a “war on children.” An estimated 130 people remain hostage, with ongoing concerns for their humane treatment.
 
In April 2023, we saw the eruption of similarly brutal conflict in Sudan, in which tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and injured. Millions of people have been displaced, acute food insecurity has soared and there have been reports of horrific attacks and inhuman treatment.
 
Conflicts continued to have a grave and lasting impact on civilians in many other places, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Nigeria, the Sahel, Somalia, Syria, and Ukraine.
 
The United Nations alone has recorded tens of thousands of civilian deaths in armed conflict over the last year. The use of explosive weapons in populated areas had devastating impacts on civilians across numerous conflicts.
 
In Sudan and Ukraine for instance, United Nations sources indicate that the use of explosive weapons in populated areas was the leading cause of civilian casualties.
 
Across all conflicts, civilians accounted for 90 per cent of those killed and injured when explosive weapons were used in populated areas.
 
Civilians were also severely affected by widespread damage and destruction to critical infrastructure. This disrupted the provision of electricity, water and health care to millions of people.
 
Across 21 conflicts, more than 2,300 incidents of violence and other forms of interference against medical workers, facilities, equipment, transport and patients were recorded.
 
Forced displacement also remained a defining feature of armed conflicts. By mid-year, a record-breaking 110 million people globally were in a situation of displacement due to conflict, persecution, violence and human rights violations or abuses. Sixty per cent were internally displaced.
 
And conflict was the major driver of staggeringly high levels of hunger. Across 19 conflict-affected countries or territories, 117 million people experienced crisis levels of acute food insecurity or higher.
 
In the middle of this, the efforts of the humanitarian community to support and provide for the needs of civilians was severely compromised by widespread constraints on access.
 
Besides active hostilities and logistical challenges, chief among these were the parties’ bureaucratic impediments and an unconscionable number of attacks harming humanitarian workers.
 
In 14 conflicts in 2023, not counting the Occupied Palestinian Territory, 91 humanitarian workers were tragically killed, 120 wounded and 53 abducted. In Gaza alone, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East lost 142 staff members in the violence between October and December.
 
I want to take this opportunity to extend my sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of all civilians, including humanitarian workers, killed in conflict this year.
 
Mr. President, the harm and suffering caused to civilians in 2023 signals an alarming lack of compliance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
 
It also indicates that the Council’s protection of civilians resolutions of the last 25 years remain largely unheeded. We must redouble efforts to strengthen compliance by parties to conflict with these obligations.
 
This includes third States taking responsibility for ensuring respect for the rules of war. This entails political dialogue, training and dissemination of policies, and withholding arms transfers where there is a clear risk that arms will be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law.
 
And whilst some progress was made in 2023, we must continue to strengthen accountability for violations. This must include upholding the independence and impartiality of the International Criminal Court.
 
Mr. President – as the Secretary-General sets out in his report – the reality is that much of the civilian harm we see in today’s conflicts is occurring even when parties claim to be acting in compliance with the law.
 
It is time to complement existing measures by adopting a more holistic approach – one that considers the perspective of civilians and takes into account the complex, cumulative and long-term nature of the full range of civilian harm in conflict.
 
We have already seen some important waypoints on this journey. The Political Declaration on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas and the 2015 Safe Schools Declaration are both good examples of ways that States can commit to the greater protection of civilians in armed conflict, complementing their compliance with international humanitarian law. We urge all States to endorse these instruments and implement them in full.
 
We urge them to follow the steps taken by some national and regional authorities in developing and adopting proactive protection of civilians policies, aimed at better understanding and mitigating civilian harm.
 
And we need States, parties to conflict, UN actors, international and civil society organizations to reflect on how we can further develop and implement the full protection of civilians approach.
 
Security Council-mandated United Nations peace operations have protected and saved countless civilian lives. Security Council resolutions on the protection of medical care in armed conflict and on conflict and hunger have given important focus and urgency to these issues. Yet in too many conflicts, civilians continue to suffer unacceptable harm.
 
The Security Council and Member States must demand and ensure compliance with international humanitarian law, international human rights law and the Council’s resolutions.
 
And, if it is to have any real meaning for the millions of civilians affected by conflict, it is time to go above and beyond compliance: to strive for the full protection of civilians against the full range of harms they are suffering on our watch.
 
http://www.unocha.org/news/un-deputy-relief-chief-appeals-security-council-full-protection-civilians http://reliefweb.int/report/world/2024-statement-members-ngo-working-group-protection-civilians http://www.icrc.org/en/document/icrc-president-people-caught-in-armed-conflict-need-actions-not-words http://news.un.org/en/story/2024/05/1150051 http://www.undocs.org/S/2024/385 http://www.unocha.org/events/protection-civilians-week-2024 http://reliefweb.int/report/world/security-council-adopts-resolution-calling-states-respect-protect-united-nations-humanitarian-personnel-accordance-international-law http://www.unocha.org/latest/news-and-stories


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