by Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine Sergiy Kyslytsya
at the UN Security Council open debate on protection of civilians in the context of peacekeeping operations
(10 June 2016)
I wish to thank you, Mr. President, for the timely initiative and opportunity to have a fruitful discussion here today on such an important aspect of peacekeeping activities as protection of civilians. Ukraine, as an active troop contributing country and a country where a foreign-led armed conflict is raging, views the issue of protection of civilians as the most important task of peacekeeping operations.
Civilians continue to constitute the vast majority of casualties in situations of armed conflict around the globe. It is appalling that, according to the UNHCR, unprecedented 59.5 million people around the world have been forced from home as a result of conflict, violence and persecution. Among them are nearly 20 million refugees, over a half of whom are under the age of 18. Humanitarian needs are at record levels, and more than 80 per cent of the United Nations humanitarian funding is directed at conflict response.
The plight of civilians in conflict is grave, and much more needs to be done for their protection.
According to the outcomes of three most recent comprehensive reviews of peace operations, peacebuilding architecture and the implementation of the Council’s resolution 1325, the United Nations nowadays has to play a proactive role in prevention of outbreak, resurgence or continuity of armed conflict.
Therefore, preventive diplomacy represents an underutilized tool that the Council should deploy more actively to ensure sustaining peace. It requires a proper engagement at the earliest stages of emerging conflicts. For instance, we see the need to expand the Council’s highly positive experience of visiting missions, gained during this year in Africa, to all parts of the world, where situations warrant the Council’s involvement on the ground.
As a non-permanent member of the Council, Ukraine knows first-hand that sometimes the Security Council cannot react promptly to threats to civilian population because the absence of host-country’s consent stands in the way of a rapid deployment of a peacekeeping mission. However, it is hard to explain the Council’s inaction in response to a direct request to host a UN mission, whose presence on the ground would provide additional protection to civilians and contribute to stopping the violence.
Our calls for a Council’s action on such a request from Ukraine, where civilian population continues to suffer from foreign military aggression, were not heeded. Russia-led illegal armed groups, with direct support of the Russian regular military forces, continue to wage war in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine with dire consequences for civilians residing there.
According to the UN OHCHR reports on the situation in Ukraine, “civilians have paid the greatest price for this conflict”. Since 2014 OHCHR recorded 9,371 people killed and 21,532 injured in the conflict area in eastern Ukraine. Up to 2,000 civilians have been killed in armed hostilities, mostly as a result of indiscriminate shelling of populated areas from various artillery systems.
In a situation where the Council finds itself blocked in discharging its direct responsibilities, Ukraine is compelled to use other possibilities at the regional level to establish an international armed presence in the occupied territories in order to protect civilians and to ensure full implementation of the Minsk Agreements.
I would like to use this forum to call on the occupying power to implement the respective provisions of the Minsk Agreements.
Just a few weeks ago, we marked the International Peacekeeper’s Day. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all blue helmets who, risking their lives, bring peace and stability to people in different parts of the world.
Since its inception, UN peace operations have proved to be an adaptive instrument and a flagship activity of our Organization. At the same time, protection of civilians has become an obvious objective for the United Nations peacekeeping operations, and success of a peacekeeping mission is often judged by its ability to protect civilians.
Ukraine, as a state-contributor to the UN peace operations, has recognized the Kigali Principles and again committed itself to the policy that protection of civilians as an overarching goal of the UN peacekeeping.
We strongly believe that peacekeeping operations authorized by the Security Council have to be provided with robust mandates for civilian protection. Every uniformed personnel, who witnesses violence against a civilian, should have no hesitation to do everything possible to stop it.
We share the view that the United Nations should build and enhance its strategic partnership with regional organizations and work alongside with them, sharing its unique experience in peacekeeping activities. We welcome close cooperation and partnership of the UN with the European Union and the African Union.
As we clearly see from the Council’s last month interaction with the African Union, this regional organization has its own vision and approach to the issues of regional peace and security. The AU has also become one of the key partners of the United Nations in conducting peace operations on the African Continent. We share the view that common purpose between the UN and AU should be established throughout the whole process of peacekeeping activity, with protection of civilians as an integral part of these efforts.
We see potential in establishing a closer UN interaction with the OSCE as well. In this regard, we would welcome UN initiatives aimed at contributing to the OSCE peace activities on the ground, especially when missions of the regional organization are deployed in unsecure environment.
It is a generally recognized approach that those responsible for war crimes, violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights are to be held accountable. Therefore, a peace achieved by the parties of the conflict should not mean in any way impunity of those perpetrators of atrocities against civilian population. All victims of crimes deserve justice and nothing else.
I thank you, Mr. President.