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Remarks by Ambassador Zhang Jun at Security Council Open Debate on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict: Wars in Cities - Protection of Civilians in Urban Settings

2022-01-25 12:00

Mr. President,

First of all, I'd like to thank Norway for the initiative to hold this open debate, and welcome Your Excellency Prime Minister Støre presiding over this meeting. We look forward to the adoption of the presidential statement on the protection of civilians in the context of urban warfare. I also thank Secretary-General Guterres and ICRC President Peter Maurer for their briefings.

Cities are where population, economy, science and technology and civil infrastructure are concentrated. They are the epitome of human civilization. Wars and conflicts in cities often cause more devastating damage and more serious humanitarian consequences. In Palestine, the blockade has turned Gaza into the world’s largest open air prison that sees unspeakable civilian sufferings from siege and war. In Afghanistan, more than 20 years of war has left cities in ruins, and displaced over 9 million people. In Syria and Libya, foreign military intervention and imposed democratic transformation triggered wars that lasted a decade. Civilians and infrastructure were mercilessly bombarded, reducing the once prosperous cities into ruins. These humanitarian tragedies are happening right around us. The international community should give great attention to, pursue accountability and seek redress for the related acts, and uphold global equity and justice. Meanwhile, we should persevere in pursuing political settlement of disputes and ensuring that all parties to conflict act in accordance with international law and better protect the rights and interests of civilians.

Ceasefire is the first step of a political solution. The Secretary-General issued an urgent appeal for global ceasefire in March 2020. Yet up till now, we still see ongoing armed conflict of various forms in many parts of the world. Last month, UNGA unanimously adopted the Olympic Truce resolution for the Beijing Winter Olympics. 173 countries co-sponsored the resolution, which has once again reflected the international political consensus that all parties to conflict should cease hostilities. The Beijing Winter Olympics is around the corner. Both GA President Shahid and Secretary-General Guterres are calling on all countries to abide by the Olympic Truce resolution. China also strongly calls on all countries and parties to conflict to earnestly follow the tradition of truce and the GA resolution, seize the opportunity of the Beijing Winter Olympics to bridge differences through dialogue, and replace confrontation with cooperation, thus demonstrating the firm resolve of the international community to achieve peace, unity, and solidarity together for a shared future.

Eliminating the root causes of conflict is the fundamental way to achieve lasting peace. War represents a systemic risk for civilians. To eliminate this risk, we must focus on the root causes and take a holistic approach. We should persist in promoting peace through development and alleviating absolute poverty that causes conflict through sustainable development. China put forward the Global Development Initiative and took the lead in setting up the Group of Friends with a view to forging strong synergy for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and addressing the root causes of conflict. To resolve disputes peacefully, the Council should join forces with the Secretary-General, his Special Envoys and Special Representatives in stepping up mediation and good offices on hotspot issues and de-escalating tensions. We should also coordinate peacebuilding efforts, help post-conflict countries and regions rebuild, restore the rule of law, justice and order, and embark on a virtuous circle of peaceful development.

The countries concerned bear the primary responsibility for protecting civilians. The international community should respect the sovereignty of these countries, heed their views, and help strengthen their capacity to protect civilians and provide basic services in light of their national conditions. Humanitarian assistance to these countries should be more relevant and aligned to their needs. Politicizing aid should be avoided. At present, Afghanistan is witnessing a humanitarian situation more serious than anywhere else in the world. Nearly half of Afghans are facing extreme hunger. 97% of the population may fall below the poverty line and these population are mostly urban. The UN has launched so far the largest aid program for a single country, while the overseas assets belonging to the Afghan people are still frozen. We call on the countries concerned to immediately lift the economic blockade and unilateral sanctions against Afghanistan and other countries, undertake concrete actions to fulfill their obligations under international law, especially international humanitarian law.

I thank you, Mr. President.

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