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Remarks by Ambassador Li Baodong, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations, at the Security Council Open Debate on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

2012/06/25
 

I want to thank Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his statement and for his report to the Security Council. I have listened attentively to the statements made by Under-Secretary-General Valerie Amos, Assistant Secretary-General Ivan Šimonović and Mr. Philip Spoerri on behalf of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Civilians suffer the most in war and bear the brunt of its scourge. Innocent civilians caught in armed conflict, especially women and children, must receive effective protection. In recent years we have witnessed frequent outbreaks of regional conflicts and turmoil, which pose increasing challenges for the protection of civilians in armed conflict. The practice of the Security Council of assigning mandates on the protection of civilians has triggered enormous controversies and prompted deep reflection by the international community. I should like to focus on the following four points.

First, all parties to the conflict must spare no effort in protecting civilians. In the event of an armed conflict, the primary responsibility to protect civilians from violence and the scourge of war lies with national Governments. At the same time, all parties involved in conflict and other relevant domestic and foreign actors are also in duty bound to abide by international humanitarian law and other relevant provisions of international law, and to fulfill their responsibilities in the protection of civilians. The actions of one party to the conflict in violation of international law should under no circumstances constitute an excuse for any other party to breach its obligations under such law. The report of the Secretary-General makes reference to the use of drones and other challenges in the protection of civilians, all of which deserve our focused attention.

Secondly, in the process of fulfilling the duty of protecting civilians, the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations must be upheld, especially the principles of respect for national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity as well as that of non-interference in internal affairs. Operations involving the protection of civilians must be authorized by the Security Council and carried out in an orderly manner under the auspices of the United Nations. No party should arbitrarily interpret Security Council resolutions; no actions overstepping Council mandates should be allowed. The protection of civilians is humanitarian in nature and should not be exploited to serve political motives or objectives, including regime change. The rigorous and effective monitoring of the implementation of Security Council resolutions has become an important task that must be accomplished urgently.

Thirdly, the authorization of the use of force in the protection of civilians must be approached with extreme caution. China believes in the political and peaceful resolution of disputes, as military intervention often proves counterproductive. There are serious shortcomings in such interventions, such as ill-defined responsibilities, unclear authorizations and lack of ex post facto accountability. Rather than resolving conflicts and protecting lives, military intervention adds fuel to the fire and exacerbates humanitarian crises.

Last but not least, the practice of selectivity and double standards must be abandoned. Many Member States have long been urging the Security Council to uphold the principles of fairness and impartiality and pay equal attention to all items on the Council's agenda relating to the protection of civilians, including the situations in the Gaza Strip, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. China endorses such views. Adopting a practice of selectivity or double standards would only harm the role and authority of the Security Council.

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