Protection of Civilians Week
27 May – 1 June 2020
In 1999, the UN Security Council added the protection of civilians in armed conflict (PoC) to its agenda, thereby formally recognizing PoC as a matter of international peace and security. Resolution 1265 – the Council’s first resolution on PoC – set the parameters of what remains today the building blocks of the PoC agenda:
- Enhancing compliance with applicable international law and relevant Council decisions in the conduct of hostilities
- Facilitating access to humanitarian assistance
- Protecting forcibly displaced persons, women and children
- Providing protection through UN peace operations
- Responding to violations through targeted measures and the promotion of accountability.
From 1999 to 2019, the Council adopted more than 100 thematic resolutions, many of which addressed PoC-related concerns, and reflected the importance of PoC to Member States and matters of the UN Security Council. As Lloyd Axworthy, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada and President of the Security Council during its first open debate on PoC in February 1999, said: “Promoting the protection of civilians in armed conflict is no sideshow to the Council’s mandate for ensuring international peace and security; it is central to it. The ultimate aim of the Council’s work is to safeguard the security of the world’s people, not just the States in which they live.”
Security Council’s Open High-Level Videoteleconference (VTC)
Wednesday, 27 May 2020
The Security Council’s Open High-Level VTC was presided over by the H.E. Mr. Sven Jürgenson, the Permanent Representative of Estonia to the United Nations. H.E. Ms. Kersti Kaljulaid, the President of the Republic of Estonia, delivered the statement for Estonia.
The following speakers briefed the Security Council:
H.E. Ms. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Nobel Peace Laureate, member of the Elders
The Open VTC provided an opportunity for the Security Council and the wider UN membership to consider the annual report of the UN Secretary-General on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict (S/2020/366). It offered an opportunity for an exchange on the current state of the protection of civilians in armed conflict; on enhancing compliance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law and accountability for violations; and on concrete steps for the implementation of the protection of civilians agenda by the Member States, the UN system and civil society, including in the context of new challenges and developments, among them the COVID-19 pandemic.
The delivery of the statements of the briefers and Council members was webcast live and archived on UN Web TV.
List of Side Events
Thursday, 28 May 2020
9 a.m. – 10.30 a.m.
Persons with Disabilities in Armed Conflict: Inclusive protection perspectives: Poland, United Kingdom, UNMAS (Webinar via Microsoft Teams)
This virtual side event, which coincided with the UN Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians, focused on the disproportionate challenges facing persons with disabilities in humanitarian, conflict and post-conflict settings. Chaired by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Ms. Catalina Devandas Aguilar, this discussion shared insights from speakers and panellists from the Governments of Poland and the United Kingdom, the European Union, UNMAS, Humanity & Inclusion (H.I.), the International Disability Alliance (IDA) and others.
11 a.m. – 12.30 p.m.
Safeguarding Civilians during a Pandemic: The repercussions of COVID-19 on the protection agenda: United Kingdom, OCHA, Canada, IPI, Estonia, Niger (Webinar via Zoom)
The online event provided an opportunity to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on civilians affected by conflict and humanitarian crisis, as well as the repercussions of the subsequent public health measures adopted to mitigate its propagation on protection activities and humanitarian assistance. Panellists analysed how COVID-19 and containment strategies have amplified existing vulnerabilities of civilian populations caught in conflict and humanitarian crises, and raised new protection challenges for humanitarian workers, peacekeepers and human rights defenders. Touching on specific country contexts, they discussed how protection activities have been adjusted in the field to continue fulfilling critical functions, respond to emerging needs and support public health efforts, including by taking into consideration the gender dimension of the crisis.
1.15 p.m. – 2.30 p.m.
Protecting Education from Attack: Scope, impact and response: GCPEA, Norway, Argentina, Nigeria, Qatar, Spain, Uruguay (Webinar via Zoom)
The Permanent Missions of Norway, Argentina, Nigeria, Qatar, Spain and Uruguay, together with the Global Coalition to Protection Education from Attack (GCPEA), had the honour to invite you to a virtual event to examine the latest data on attacks on education and to mark the Fifth Anniversary of the Safe Schools Declaration. The event highlighted the global scope and impact of attacks on education by presenting findings from the upcoming 2020 edition of GCPEA’s flagship report, Education under Attack.
Friday, 29 May 2020
8 a.m. – 9.30 a.m.
Key to Peace, Key to Protection: Women peacekeepers in action: Canada, Ghana, Zambia (Virtual Meeting via Zoom)
The Permanent Missions of Canada, Ghana and Zambia to the United Nations convened this virtual high-level event that pushed the conversation about women in peace operations forward. A dynamic panel highlighted the diverse roles and responsibilities that women peacekeepers play in missions, including at leadership levels. Panellists also highlighted how women peacekeepers contribute to the range of mandated objectives, including the protection of civilians, promotion of human rights, and community engagement. The panel discussion highlighted the diverse experiences and perspectives of the panellists, while focusing on the valuable contributions that women peacekeepers make while on mission.
1 p.m. – 2.30 p.m.
Protecting the Environment Is Protecting Civilians: PAX, UNEP, OCHA, Environmental Peacebuilding Association, Switzerland (Webinar via Zoom)
The panel and following interactive discussion presented an important opportunity for: (1) A discussion and exchange among global experts and policymakers on the linkages between PERAC and PoC, incorporating ongoing conflict monitoring and research conducted by civil society and academics to support a better understanding of the conflict-environment nexus, and promoting current political and operational work undertaken by Member States and the UN on this topic. (2) Participants further explored and identified opportunities for all relevant stakeholders to improve coordination in order to better prevent, minimize and mitigate environmental damage and associated civilian harm, both in military conduct, humanitarian response and post-conflict reconstruction.
3 p.m. – 4.30 p.m.
Pledging to Protect Civilians in Peacekeeping Operations: Lessons from the implementation of the Kigali Principles: Ireland, Rwanda, Uruguay, IPI (Webinar via Zoom)
The policy forum was part of Protection of Civilians (PoC) Week and was held virtually on the margins of the UN Security Council Open Debate on PoC. It provided an opportunity to discuss the impact of the Kigali principles since their adoption at the High-Level International Conference on PoC in Kigali five years ago. Panellists examined the extent to which troop- and police-contributing countries have incorporated the 18 principles into their efforts to enhance the delivery of PoC mandates. In particular, panellists presented on how these countries, in coordination with the UN, have adapted training, demonstrated enhanced operational readiness, strengthened PoC-related performance, and established accountability mechanisms to better protect civilians.
Monday, 1 June 2020
10 a.m. – 11.45 a.m.
Training for the Protection of Civilians: Assessing the challenges and best practices of contributions to UN peacekeeping training: PAX, Netherlands (Webinar via Zoom)
In an effort to encourage a frank and free-flowing exchange of ideas, the event was held under Chatham House Rules. The discussion was not recorded. The virtual panel and following interactive segment presented an important opportunity for discussion and exchange among training experts, practitioners and policymakers on current challenges in making PoC more practical in trainings, including: (1) Deepening understanding of realities in training and sharing best practices for how to improve the impact of training on the PoC capacities of UN peacekeeping operations at the national and international levels; (2) Exploring how comprehensive training packages can contribute to the combined impact of all peacekeepers (military, police and civilian) at the tactical level in UN peacekeeping operations; (3) Identifying opportunities and recommended actions on how to adjust comprehensive training packages to local realities; and (4) Developing an expanded network to assess and consult on how to better deal with challenges to training for PoC in peacekeeping.