Statement by Ambassador Flynn at the UNSC Briefing on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
Statement16 July 2021
I would like to thank France for convening this important and timely event. I also wish to thank Deputy Secretary-General Mohammed, Director General Mardini and Ms. Grosjean for their insightful briefings. And welcome participation of Ministers today.
As members of this Council, we bear a unique responsibility. We are entrusted by the Charter with maintaining international peace and security, and must in that context promote and ensure respect for international humanitarian law (IHL), which serves to protect the humanitarian space. And we heard from briefers this morning how important it is we do this. We need to match words with action
I wish to focus on three points today, informed by the first-hand experience of Ireland’s partners on the ground, whose work we salute and whose courage we admire.
First, the physical safety and security of humanitarian actors in the field and the need to ensure accountability for serious violations of IHL. Humanitarians seek to provide care and dignity to those who need it most. They must be respected and protected.
The targeting of medical facilities and humanitarian workers in airstrikes on the Al-Atareb hospital in northern Syria, as well as attacks in Afghanistan and elsewhere are totally unacceptable. During seven months we have been on this Council, Ireland has consistently used our voice to call for accountability for violations of IHL and human rights committed in the midst of conflict.
Ireland was appalled by the recent brutal murder of three humanitarian staff from the medical humanitarian organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Tigray. We call for an independent investigation to be carried out and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
History has taught us, as others have said this morning, that, when we fail to ensure accountability, a culture of impunity can spread from one conflict to the next. We know also that women and girls are disproportionally impacted and struggle to receive justice. Yet it is clear that, from Yemen to Syria to the DRC, we continue to tolerate such impunity. When this Council is informed of serious violations we must seek to ensure accountability.
I would like once again to reiterate Ireland’s support for the Humanitarian Call to Action - led by France and Germany – which aims to strengthen accountability for those who would attack medical and humanitarian workers in the course of their work.
As a troop and police contributing country, Ireland recognises that UN peacekeeping operations play a major role in the protection of civilians, including humanitarian workers.
As peacekeeping missions prepare to transition, this Council must ensure that clear, people-centred approaches, coordinated with humanitarian actors, are in place to protect conflict-affected civilians and the humanitarian space.
My second point relates to the unique challenges faced by humanitarian actors working in their own countries. Local medical and humanitarian staff, notably women, are often at the forefront of humanitarian responses. We see this today across the globe, in the Central African Republic, Yemen and in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. Local partners are often under intense pressure to save lives, and take on disproportionate risks to deliver humanitarian assistance.
Local actors’ insights and connections to the communities they serve bring significant advantages. But they can face greater pressure from local authorities, community members and security forces than their international colleagues. These heightened challenges must be factored into planning for the security of all staff. The humanitarian prerogative to respond quickly must not result in these humanitarians bearing the greatest burden of risk.
In addition, every effort must be made to ensure that often unjustifiable bureaucratic restrictions - such as visa delays - do not hinder the scale-up of an international presence in response to complex emergencies.
My third point relates to the impact counter terrorism measures, can have on humanitarian action as a whole.
There is now a greater awareness of the extent to which these measures can limit humanitarian access, criminalise the delivery of assistance, or curtail the ability of NGOs to finance humanitarian operations in areas under the control of sanctioned individuals and entities, including designated terrorist groups. Ireland supports efforts to promote dialogue between donors, regulators, banks and international NGOS, while UN bodies working on countering terrorism should engage systematically with humanitarian actors.
The Security Council also has a role to play in improving the protections for humanitarian actors in UN counter-terrorism and sanctions regimes, by including designation criteria sanctioning those that obstruct or harm humanitarian activity and actors, and providing for appropriate exemptions in sanctions regimes for humanitarian work.
A common understanding between all stakeholders, based on the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, will be essential to finding solutions and moving forward.
To conclude, I would like to reaffirm that Ireland’s commitment to principled humanitarian space, action and access will not waver. Humanitarians can always rely on us for support.
I Thank you.