We thank the Chinese Presidency for organizing today’s open debate. My delegation aligns itself with the statement made by Switzerland on behalf of the Group of Friends on ‘Protection of Civilians (PoC).’
Indeed, the sufferings of people caught up in armed conflicts have exacerbated due to COVID-19 pandemic. On one hand, the restrictions in movement and other pandemic related measures reduced the ability of the humanitarian actors and the medical professionals to respond to the needs in many conflict settings, on the other hand, the process for peaceful resolution of conflicts have also been negatively impacted. This calls for renewed commitment from the international community, the Security Council in particular, for the protection of civilians.
We thank the Secretary General (SG) for his informative report, which presents a vivid picture of the continued sufferings of civilians due to armed conflicts and urban warfare, and related phenomena, such as, acute hunger and forced displacement, especially during the year 2020. We also thank him for his practical and timely recommendations.
We appreciate his continued emphasis on accountability for non-compliance of international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL), and other recommendations, such as, withholding arms transfer from where there is a clear risk that these will be used to commit serious violations of IHL or IHRL. We also agree with SG that we need to take measures to break the cycle between conflict and food insecurity, including by finding political solutions to conflict and addressing multiple drivers of acute food insecurity.
Bangladesh promotes protection of civilians from a principled position. The haunting memory of genocide committed against our people during our War of Liberation in 1971 inspired Bangladesh to commit itself to protection of civilians. We are a party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions and its Additional Protocols, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on Children in Armed Conflict, among others, and almost all the major disarmament instruments.
Our peacekeepers are our primary agents in various conflict affected countries, where they fulfil their duties with utmost dedication. In spite of the growing and complex protection challenges in the operating environments, compounded by the pandemic, our peacekeepers have been discharging their PoC mandates, often at the cost of their lives. In 2020 alone, Bangladesh lost 12 individuals in the line of their duties for world peace.
Last year, following the Secretary General’s Call for Global Ceasefire, Bangladesh along with several other member States issued a joint statement supporting the call. It was endorsed by 180 member states, and we are happy to see the call being reflected in the Security Council resolutions.
We however, continue to express our concern at the limited application of the ceasefire call in certain parts of the world, including in Myanmar. As reflected in the report of the Secretary General, humanitarian access has been hindered in Myanmar due to continued restrictions. There have been also attacks against healthcare personnel resulting in deaths in Myanmar during the reporting period.
The failure to protect civilians in armed conflict undermines the very purpose of the United Nations as a multilateral organization. We must renew our political commitments and redouble our efforts to ensure better protection of civilians, including those who are the most vulnerable.
Let me share some of our thoughts in this regard:
First, States should take primary responsibility to protect civilians within their territories, including during armed conflict. It is important to promote respect for the IHL, irrespective of sides. Developing national policy frameworks, such as, becoming party to IHL instruments and incorporating IHL norms in the national laws is critical in this regard. International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (ICRC) has been playing an important role in supporting Member States in this regard, which should be complemented by other stakeholders as well.
Second: PoC mandates in peacekeeping settings need to be fully supported by viable strategies, capacities, adequate resources, and coordinated efforts by all actors on the ground. New developments and trends make this more imperative. The UN country team and peacekeeping missions should further develop their capabilities for early warning signs, situational awareness, evidence-based reporting of facts, and work more closely with host Governments and other stakeholders to deter possible escalation of violence.
Third: Unhindered and safe passage of relevant humanitarian personnel and supplies to civilians in need must be ensured by all parties in armed conflicts. Medical facilities, educational institutions, especially schools, and places of worship should be left out of harm’s way during violence and conflicts. The governments have particular responsibility to ensure safety of the humanitarian actors, and to safeguard key civilian infrastructures that are critical for delivery of essential services.
Fourth: States should establish appropriate legislative and institutional arrangements to fulfill their disarmament commitments including those related to conventional weapons like landmines and other explosive devices. Such lethal weapons with indiscriminate killing capacities and impacting large areas must not be used against civilians. Those who commit such violations must be held accountable.
Fifth, Violence against women and children in armed conflicts continue to remain growing phenomenon which must be ended through collective action. Bangladesh has been historically associated with the adoption of the Security Council resolution 1325 as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. We believe that uniformed female personnel can play a pivotal role in protecting women from violence and support them in crisis. We therefore actively champion the WPS agenda. In the same vein, we see merit in redoubling our efforts to promote YPS agenda for advancing POC mandates in vulnerable settings.
Lastly, ensuring accountability and justice for serious violations of IHL and IHRL is crucial for enhancing their compliance, and for denying a culture of impunity for the commission of atrocity crimes against civilians. The Security Council should make appropriate use of the tools at its disposal to this effect, including through duly considered options for imposing sanctions and referrals to international criminal justice mechanisms.
I thank you.