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Remarks by Ambassador Zhang Jun at Security Council VTC Open Debate on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

2021-05-25 05:20

I would like to thank USG Lowcock, President Maurer, and Dr. Nemat for their briefings. The situation reflected in the Secretary General's report and what you briefed us is worrisome and thought-provoking. I would like to pay tribute to those humanitarian workers, especially medical personnel, who contributed selflessly in the flames of war. They undertake a lofty job, and should be fully respected and protected.

China pays great attention to the issue of protection of civilians in armed conflict, and supports the international community to strengthen efforts to address the root causes of conflicts, advance political settlement of conflicts and disputes, and ensure all the parties to conflict effectively abide by international law and in particular international humanitarian law, and resolutions of the Security Council be effectively implemented. Therefore, China has put protection of civilians in armed conflict as one of the priorities of the Council’s work for this month.

Civilians bear the brunt of the armed conflict. Women, children, refugees, displaced persons and other vulnerable groups are going through worse tragedies. International humanitarian law has pulled provisions on the protection of civilians and the Security Council has adopted many resolutions and presidential statements in recent years under the agenda item of PoC. It has been five years since the adoption of resolution 2286 on the protection of medical personnel and facilities. However, to date, the provisions contained in international humanitarian law and Council resolutions are yet to be effectively implemented. The COVID-19 pandemic has also posed further challenges to the protection of civilians. Reality shows that the international community still has a long way to go on PoC.

A recent example is the escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which has resulted in more than 200 civilian deaths, including women and children, displacement of tens of thousands of people, and severe damage of schools and medical facilities. Even the one and only COVID-19 testing lab in the Gaza Strip was hit by airstrikes and rendered inoperable. In Afghanistan, as foreign troops began to withdraw, the security situation deteriorated and attacks continued. In the first quarter this year, 573 civilians were killed, and 1210 injured, many of whom are women and children. The number of casualties increased by 29%, compared with the same period last year. This is a microcosm of the current state of PoC around the world. China is deeply concerned and urges all relevant parties to earnestly abide by international humanitarian law, implement the relevant Council resolutions, fully protect civilians, and provide safe and unhindered access to humanitarian relief operations.

Numerous painful experiences have shown that in the face of violence and conflict, even the most vigorous measures are not enough to protect civilians and civilian facilities from harm. Only by preventing and resolving conflicts can we provide the best protection for civilians. The Council must fulfill its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, and be committed to addressing root causes and political resolution of conflicts, so as to bring hope to civilians. To address the root causes of conflict, we must take integrated measures, fully implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, help countries in conflict achieve poverty reduction goals as soon as possible, strengthen education and health care, enhance people's well-being and consolidate the foundation for peace. To resolve conflicts politically, it is necessary to defuse hot hotspot issues through dialogue, good offices and consultations. All parties to the conflict are urged to respond to the global ceasefire initiative, immediately cease hostilities and advance peace process through political negotiations.

According to the Charter of the United Nations and the international law, the PoC responsibility lies first and foremost with the governments concerned. In implementing Security Council resolutions, full consideration should be given to the characteristics and specific circumstances of each conflict situation, and the sovereignty and legitimate concerns of the countries in question should be respected. The international community should provide humanitarian development and reconstruction assistance to the countries concerned and help these countries strengthen capacity building. Humanitarian actions should be carried out in line with the principles of impartiality neutrality, objectivity, and independence, maintaining its humanitarian nature and avoiding politicization.

For many years, through South-South cooperation, the Belt and Road initiative as well as other channels including the UN Peace and Development Fund, China has funded many projects to help developing countries, including countries in conflict, strengthen infrastructure building, improve people's livelihood and protect civilians. In response to the urgent humanitarian needs of some countries in conflict, China has timely extended a helping hand and provided large amounts of food, medical equipment, and COVID-19 vaccines to countries such as Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, and Somalia. Looking ahead, China will continue working with the international community to address the root causes of conflicts and help countries in conflict enhance their capacity for independent development and protection of civilians.

Thank you all.

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