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Statement by Ambassador Ma Zhaoxu at Security Council Meeting on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict


Mr. President,

China commends Poland’s initiative to convene this open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. We welcome Minister for Foreign Affairs Czaputowicz to New York to preside over this meeting. I would like to thank Secretary-General António Guterres, Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross Yves Daccord and the NGO representative Ms. Hanaa Edwar, for their briefings.

Civilians bear the brunt of war in armed conflict. At present, the international security situation remains grim. In some regions, armed conflict continues to cause heavy civilian casualties. Local medical personnel are attacked and medical facilities are destroyed on an ongoing basis. The international community is gravely concerned about this situation. The parties concerned should adopt pragmatic and effective measures to ensure the safety of civilians in conflict. I would like to highlight the following points.

First, we must address both the symptoms and the underlying causes, strengthen prevention and ensure the protection of civilians by tackling the root causes of conflict. Effectively preventing armed conflict offers the best protection for civilians. The Security Council, which lies at the heart of the collective security mechanism, should genuinely fulfill its important responsibility of maintaining international peace and security, actively encourage preventive diplomacy and facilitate the settlement of conflict through political means so that civilians can be spared the scourge of war. The international community should take concrete actions to solve the underlying problems that give rise to conflict. All countries should raise awareness of the fact that we are in a community with a shared future of humankind; we advocate the philosophy of global governance characterized by extensive consultations, joint contributions and shared benefits; and work hard to create a peaceful and stable international environment.

Second, the Governments of the countries and the parties to a conflict must live up to their responsibilities to protect civilians. Governments have the primary responsibility for protecting their civilians. The international community can provide constructive assistance, but it cannot replace the role of the Government of the country concerned. All parties to any conflict should respect international humanitarian law, implement the Council’s resolutions on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, fulfill their obligations to protect civilians and ensure humanitarian access. Any act in armed conflict that, among other things, threatens or attacks civilians in violation of international humanitarian law should be investigated and punished by the country concerned according to law.

Third, UN peacekeeping operations must work strictly within the parameters of the Council’s mandate in fulfilling their responsibility to protect civilians. The mandate of peacekeeping operations to protect civilians is no substitute for the responsibilities and obligations of the Government of the country concerned and of the parties to the conflict. When drawing up a mandate for a peacekeeping operation, the Council should holistically take into account a whole raft of factors, including the context and needs of the host country and the capacity and conditions of the peacekeeping mission, so as to ensure that the mandate is clearly articulated, realistic and feasible. Missions should formulate clear strategies and action plans in light of the situations on the ground, strengthen internal coordination and ensure the effective implementation of the mandate. Regional and subregional organizations, such as the African Union, have unique local advantages and special roles to play, which should be fully leveraged to generate synergy with UN peacekeeping operations, strengthen information sharing and policy communication and help the host countries better protect their civilians.

Fourth, humanitarian operations should respect the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and the United Nations humanitarian assistance guidelines. Humanitarian assistance agencies and medical personnel have been saving lives in armed conflict. We pay tribute to their work. Humanitarian operations should remain neutral, objective and impartial, fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of host countries and highlight their humanitarian nature and professionalism, so as to win the understanding and trust of all parties and avoid becoming part of the conflict. That also helps secure the safety of humanitarian workers and medical personnel and facilities in conflict areas. The UN should fully play its coordinating role, maintain communication with all parties to conflict, strengthen guidance for humanitarian workers and create conditions for timely and safe humanitarian access to ensure the effective implementation of humanitarian relief operations.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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