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Statement by Ambassador Wang Yingfan, Permanent Representative of China to the UN, on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
(23 April 2001)

2001/04/23


Mr. President,

At the outset, I wish to thank the Secretary-General for his report. I also want to express my appreciation to Deputy Secretary-General Frechette and Madam Robinson for their respective statements. In some regions of the world, there are still ongoing armed conflicts, causing enormous sufferings to millions of civilians, especially women and children. It has therefore become a wide concern in the whole international community as to how to find practical and effective solutions to this issue. In this regard, I would like to make the following comments.

First, the Security Council shoulders the important task of maintaining international peace and security, therefore, it should attach importance to the issue of protection of civilians in armed conflict. As far as the Council is concerned, the most fundamental and effective means for the protection of civilians in armed conflict is conflict prevention or seeking earliest possible solutions if conflicts do take place. In this connection, further detailed studies on some of the recommendations in the Secretary-General's reports could be conducted, with a view of seeking appropriate and pragmatic solutions. The Security Council, in its discussions on relevant contents of the Brahimi report, may also explore ways to better integrate peacekeeping efforts with the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Bearing in mind their respective mandates, with an objective and practical attitude, the relevant UN bodies could play their due roles in an coordinated and concerted manner.

Second, the primary responsibility for the protection of civilians lies with the governments concerned, while efforts by the international community are also crucial. Apart from the UN, regional and inter-governmental organizations are also playing an increasingly important role. The UN therefore needs to strengthen the coordination with them. Nowadays, more and more NGOs have been actively joining in humanitarian efforts in many regions of conflicts. The positive role played by NGOs and those civil societies in regions or countries concerned, deserve commendation and encouragement. At the same time, activities of the large number of NGOs also need to be properly regulated and guided, so as to make the collective efforts of the international community more rational, coherent and effective.

Third, it is relatively easy to reach consensus when discussing the issue in general terms. In addressing specific issues, however, the situation sometimes is much more complex and difficulties and obstacles could be remarkably huge. For example, the Security Council has failed to promptly adopt necessary measures concerning the protection of civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories. And similar cases are plenty on the African Continent. In the cases like Mano River or the Great Lakes region, the lack of political will is often a formidable obstacle for prompt action and the prevention of humanitarian crises. In Kosovo as well as the entire Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the task of protecting civilians in certain aspects is still very difficult. Especially, the large-scale military action against the FRY two years ago has inflicted serious damages on the economic and social life of its civilians and as a result, its national economy has fallen years back. In this context, an objective review responsible to history on the protection of civilians, needs to be carried out. Moreover, another well known fact is that protracted sanctions have caused enormous harms to civilians. Although some of these civilians are no longer under the scourge of war, their humanitarian sufferings remind us that their urgent need for protection cannot be neglected.

Lastly, we hope that the two reports of the Secretary-General and current discussions will serve to deepen our understanding of this issue, and contribute to discarding the views and positions that are not in consistence with the purposes and principles of the Charter and against the will of the majority of UN Member States, so that the UN and its Security Council will be able to live up to the high expectations of the international community on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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