People's Stories Peace

Civil Society Call for Action to Protect Civilians
by Non Government agencies, UN News, ICRC
In the more than 20 years of consideration and prioritization of the protection of civilians in armed conflict by the UN Security Council, significant progress has been made in building an international normative civilian protection framework.
However, compliance with the laws and norms that safeguard civilians has deteriorated along with the safety and security of civilians caught in armed conflict. Conflicts of today continue to have devastating impacts on civilians, critical civilian infrastructure, protection,livelihoods, education, health systems, and food and watersecurity, particularly when explosive weapons are used in populated areas.
As the world faces the unprecedented challenge of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, those living in conflict-affected countries are among the most vulnerable and at risk from the devastating consequences of the disease. They live in countries such as Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria,and Yemen, with weakened or decimated health infrastructure, where those working to help them are targets of attack and where humanitarian access is challenging.
Constraints placed on peacekeeping operations, severe restrictions on rights and freedoms, and devastating socio-economic impacts may contribute to political destabilization, exacerbate existing armed conflicts, or lead to the emergence of new protection risks for civilians.
There is a limited window of opportunity to effectively respond to this crisis and demonstrate global solidarity. Now more than ever the UN Security Council, Member States, and the UN System must take urgent, bold and practical steps to respond to the challenges that remain to the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
We call on UN Member States to consider and support the following four key recommendations in advance of the coming UN Security Council Open Debate on the protection of civilians:
1 . Reaffirm your commitment to the protection of civilians and to promoting and implementing international humanitarian law and other applicable legal and policy frameworks and call on parties to armed conflict to do the same. Call to end impunity, notably by holding perpetrators to account, especially on every deliberate attack on healthcare and education facilities, and support international independent investigative and prosecution mechanisms.
The greatest advance in protection of civilians can and should come from parties to conflict upholding their obligations under international humanitarian law and other applicable frameworks;
2. Demonstrate leadership by articulating the practical steps and financial decisions taken to promote protection of civilians. Make bold, forward-looking political and financial commitments to translate laws and norms that safeguard civilians in conflict zones into practice.
Accord peacekeeping operations with protection of civilians mandates, adequate financial resources and staffing to carry out protection tasks, including senior protection advisors, uniformed and civilian gender advisors, women protection advisors, child protection advisors, and community liaison assistants and language assistants. Prioritize investment in and support to women-led organizations given the disproportionate impact of conflict on women and girls and the dearth of women in leadership roles.
Support the development of an international political declaration to strengthen the protection of civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Harm to civilians can be prevented if countries and armed actors take concrete steps to prioritize protection.
The UN Secretary-General has called for action at the national level, including: first, by developing national policy frameworks on the protection of civilians; second, by maintaining a principled and sustained engagement with humanitarian organizations and non-state armed group to negotiate safe and timely humanitarian access and to promote compliance; and third, by ensuring accountability for violations.These recommendations remain as relevant and urgent as ever.
Moreover, the Declaration of Shared Commitments on UN Peacekeeping Operations includes a number of commitments that, if implemented, can help peacekeeping perations better protect civilians.
Finally, the call for action made by 22 civil society organizations last year ahead of the Open Debate on protection of civilians provides a comprehensive set of practical recommendations to improve implementation and better protect civilians. A roadmap is available. It is now up to the Member States, the UN, and civil society to take action and lead the way translating the laws and norms safeguarding civilians into practice.
3. Commit to a robust and sustained dialogue with civil society on the protection of civilians beyond the yearly debate. Greater outreach to women and girls in conflict-affected areas is needed to encourage and enable their full, equal and meaningful participation in decisions that will impact their lives and communities.
Sustained political will and continuous discussion on good practices and remaining challenges is needed to move the agenda forward thematically, particularly in country-specific contexts.
Civil society organizations are key to helping civilians protect themselves, including through unarmed approaches. Civil society organizations are also essential to the systematic collection of information and data regarding threats to civilians and civilian harm incidents, including grave violations against children, enabling more efficient and effective solutions to the protection of civilians in conflict.
Civil society organizations work at global, national and local levels with communities affected by conflict and are uniquely positioned to connect stakeholders across all levels.It is critical that the voices of those they serve, including women, girls and boys, persons with disabilities, the displaced, and those most marginalized, are elevated and heard at the global level, particularly during these trying times.
4. Support all efforts by the UN Secretary-General and the UN System to prevent, respond to and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 particularly in countries experiencing armed conflict, including the Secretary-General’s call for global ceasefire.
The threat posed by the global coronavirus pandemic to countries ravaged by armed conflict, and its disproportionate impact on women, girls and boys, calls for immediate and resolute action by the international community, especially by parties to armed conflict. Conflict-affected nations will be severely impeded in preparing and responding to COVID-19 if fighting continues.
In the short term, the biggest loss of life may come from an erosion of humanitarian access continuity of programming. It is therefore critical that states and all parties to conflict use this opportunity to reaffirm the core humanitarian principles and recommit to facilitating safe and timely access to humanitarian assistance and protection to affected civilians.
This includes removing restrictions on movement for health and humanitarian workers, barriers for humanitarian supply chains, disproportionate responses by security forces, unreasonable bureaucratic impediments, and counter-terrorism provisions that unduly hinder the provision of principled humanitarian assistance.
It also includes ensuring that a robust gender analysis underpins all aspects of COVID-19 responses, so that instead of exacerbating harmful social norms or exposing women and girls to even higher levels of gender-based violence, we use the pandemic as an opportunity to rebuild more equal, inclusive and resilient communities.
Moving forward, governments must also ensure that security forces exercise restraint in the enforcement of COVID-19 related measures and adhere to domestic and international law so as to not exacerbate the suffering of civilians.
# Endorsing Organizations:
Action Against Hunger; Airwars; CARE; Center for Civilians in Conflict; Childfund Alliance; FIDH; Global Centrefor the Responsibility to Protect; Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack; Humanity & Inclusion – Handicap International; The International Network on Explosive Weapons; International Rescue Committee; NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security; Nonviolent Peaceforce; Oxfam; Pax; Plan International; Refugees International; Save the Children; War Child; Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict; Women’s Refugee Council; World Vision International
* See also: Joint Statement: 22 NGOs Call for Action to Strengthen the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict (May 2019):

Visit the related web page

Famine is bearing down on Yemen
by United Nation News, agencies
Mar. 2021
The international response to Monday’s High-Level Pledging Event on Yemen has been described as “disappointing” by the UN chief, announcing that pledges totalled less than last year’s humanitarian response, and a billion dollars less than the figure raised in 2019.
Despite that, millions of Yemenis desperately need more aid to survive, with some $1.7 billion pledged by the end of the morning – falling short of the appeal when the conference began, for $3.85 billion.
“Cutting aid is a death sentence”, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said after the event concluded. “The best that can be said about today is that it represents a down payment”.
Thanking those who did pledge generously, he urged others to reconsider what they can do to “help stave off the worst famine the world has seen in decades”. 
“In the end, the only path to peace is through an immediate, nationwide ceasefire and a set of confidence-building measures, followed by an inclusive, Yemeni-led political process under United Nations auspices, and supported by the international community. There is no other solution”, Mr. Guterres spelled out.
“The United Nations will continue to stand in solidarity with the starving people of Yemen”.  
Famine ‘bearing down’
Speaking earlier at the conference to help lift the spectre of starvation looming over 16 million people, the UN chief warned, “famine is bearing down on Yemen”, adding that it’s “impossible to overstate the severity of the suffering”.
He painted a grim picture of more than 20 million Yemenis in desperate need of assistance and protection – especially women and children.
Around two-thirds are suffering food shortages, healthcare or other lifesaving support, while some four million have been forced from their homes, with hundreds of thousands of others under threat.
Around 50,000 are already starving in famine-like conditions, with some 16 million at risk of hunger this year – with the most acute cases in conflict-affected areas.
“The risk of large-scale famine has never been more acute”, spelled out the UN chief. “The race is on, if we want to prevent hunger and starvation from taking millions of lives”.
The Secretary-General said that last year, the conflict killed or injured more than 2,000 civilians, devastated the economy and crushed public services.
And noting that barely half of Yemen’s health facilities are fully functional, he pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic as “one more deadly threat in a country facing such severe health challenges”.
Against the backdrop that children are starving and nearly half of those under age five are facing acute malnutrition – suffering wasting, depression and exhaustion – Mr. Guterres called childhood in Yemen “a special kind of hell”.
He warned that 400,000 children face severe acute malnutrition and could die without urgent treatment and noted starving children are even more vulnerable to preventable diseases like cholera, diphtheria and measles.
Sick and injured children are turned away by overwhelmed health facilities that lack the drugs or equipment to treat them.
“Every ten minutes, a child dies a needless death from diseases”, he lamented. “And every day, Yemeni children are killed or maimed in the conflict”.And long after the guns fall silent, they will continue to pay a high price with many never fulfilling their physical and mental potential. “This war is swallowing up a whole generation of Yemenis”, he said. “It has to stop”.
Stressing that “there is no military solution”, the UN chief upheld that all actions must be driven by a peaceful resolution to the conflict. He detailed that an immediate, nationwide ceasefire and a set of confidence-building measures, followed by an inclusive, Yemeni-led political process under UN auspices, supported by the international community was “the only path to peace”.
“The people of Yemen have articulated what they want: lifesaving support from the world; peaceful political participation; accountable governance; equal citizenship and economic justice”, he said.
Flagging that this was the fifth high-level humanitarian pledging event for Yemen, he maintained “the bitter truth” that there would be a sixth one next year, “unless the war ends”.
“We must create and seize every opportunity to save lives, stave off a mass famine, and forge a path to peace”, said the Secretary-General.
Situation never worse
Last year’s humanitarian funding fell to half of what was needed and half of what was received the year before. The country’s currency has collapsed and overseas remittances dried up with the pandemic, he said, and humanitarian organizations have reduced or closed their programmes, creating a humanitarian situation that “has never been worse”.
“The impact has been brutal”, he stated, adding that any reduction in aid is “a death sentence for entire families”.
UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock said that more money for Yemen’s aid operation was “the fastest, most efficient way to prevent a famine” and would also “help create the conditions for lasting peace”.
UN Resident Coordinator David Gressly said that if the world chooses not to help today “or not help enough”, the misery will continue to grow.
“Time is not on our side” to avoid a likely unprecedented famine he said, urging everyone to “take the current opportunity and run with it”.
Due to severe funding shortages and possible reproductive health facility closures – compounded by rising risks posed by COVID-19 and looming famine – the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) emphasized that more than 100,000 could die from pregnancy and childbirth complications. 
“If lifesaving reproductive health and protection services stop, it will be catastrophic for women and girls in Yemen, placing them at even greater risk”, said Natalia Kanem, UNFPA Executive Director. “Funding is urgently needed to save lives and to keep facilities open to protect the health, safety and dignity of women and adolescent girls”.
World Food Programme (WFP) chief David Beasley highlighted that a lack of funding will have a catastrophic impact on Yemen’s children, and called on partners to step up and help prevent this silent emergency.
The head of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Henrietta Fore, said that hundreds of thousands of Yemeni children could die without urgent treatment, pushing for “urgent action to reverse this catastrophe”.


View more stories

Submit a Story Search by keyword and country Guestbook