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Statement by Ambassador Liu Zhenmin at the Security Council's Open Debate on "Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict"

2006-06-28 00:00

I wish at the outset to thank Under-Secretary-General Egeland for his briefing. We appreciate the enormous efforts made by the United Nations agencies over the years in the field of the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

In recent years, the Security Council has paid increasing attention to the protection of civilians, and many resolutions and presidential statements have been adopted on that theme. A legal framework on the issue has been established that sets out specific requirements with regard to the actions of the parties concerned. The recently adopted Security Council resolution 1674 (2006) sets out the latest provisions guiding activities in this field. However, against the backdrop of a harsh reality, such achievements on paper are far from sufficient. It is imperative that they be implemented. Here, I would like to briefly emphasize the following points.

First, efforts to protect civilians in armed conflict must not deviate from the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter and the provisions of relevant international law. The primary responsibility to protect civilians lies, first, with the Governments concerned. The international community and other parties, while providing support and assistance, should not undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the countries concerned. Humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations have often provided assistance in extremely dangerous conditions and should be highly commended. However, at the same time, they should strictly abide by the principles of justice, neutrality, objectivity and independence in their activities in order to avoid becoming involved in internal disputes and complicating the security situation and the political process on the ground.

Secondly, the Security Council, when it carries out its primary responsibility to maintain international peace and security, should strengthen its efforts to prevent or resolve armed conflict and address the issue of protecting civilians by addressing the root causes. Civilians, particularly those belonging to vulnerable groups, always bear the brunt of conflict. When faced with a sudden eruption of violence and conflict, they have no guarantee of safety or dignity. In addition, it is difficult to ensure that remedial measures are immediately effective. It is only by addressing the root causes of armed conflicts that we can create better living conditions for civilians. The recently established Peacebuilding Commission can play a special role in that area.

Thirdly, resolution 1674 (2006) reaffirmed a principle expressed in the outcome document of last year's summit (General Assembly resolution 60/1): the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. China believes that that is not the same as the simple concept of the responsibility to protect, about which many countries continue to have concerns. The outcome document elaborated extensively on that concept. In-depth discussion of the issue should continue in the General Assembly so that differing opinions can be heard and doubts cleared up. In that role, the Security Council cannot and should not replace the General Assembly.

Finally, we hope that our work on the protection of civilians in armed conflict will be based on resolutions such as resolution 1674 (2006), take into account the specific characteristics and circumstances of each conflict and seek to gradually achieve fruitful results in the implementation of those resolutions on the ground.

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