Open Debate on Protection of Civilans in armed conflict
(New York, May 27, 2008)
Statement by Ambassador Claudia Blum, Permanent Representative of Colombia
Allow me at the outset to congratulate you for your work as President of the Security Council during the month of May.
I would also like to thank Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mr. John Holmes, for his briefing, and for his intense work since he assumed his position. The topic of today's debate is particularly relevant, not only for the Security Council, but also for all Member States of the United Nations, and for this reason we appreciate the convening of this debate.
The decrease in the violence indicators in Colombia continues to be subject of wide recognition. At the same time, and especially in some regions of the country, some threats subsist, affecting some sectors of the population and preventing them from enjoying their rights. The actions by illegal armed groups, drug trafficking and terrorism are at the core of the negative factors that attempt against the rights, personal freedom and property of those citizens. As it was pointed out by Under Secretary General Holmes, these groups continue to perpetrate infractions against civilians, including, mass displacements.
For the Government of Colombia, the protection of civilians and the strict compliance with international humanitarian law, and other international relevant norms, are absolute priority objectives. My Government rejects any action against civil population, as it violates those norms.
Freedom and human rights can be fully realized when order, security, and the rule of law are guaranteed. The Government of Colombia, guided by that principle, and by its democratic security policy perseveres in its effort to protect all its citizens and guarantee the enjoyment of their rights.
The results achieved in the five years of implementation of the democratic security policy in Colombia, have generated a virtuous circle in which security contributes to the increase of the level of confidence in the country, fosters private and social investment, which in turn contributes to the improvement of the conditions of the population and their security. Compared to the situation in the year 2002, in the year 2007 there was a substantial decrease in areas such as homicides, which was reduced in more than a 40 percent, the homicide of union members, which decreased in a 92 percent, and extortive kidnapping, with a decrease higher than 86 percent.
More then 46 thousand people have demobilized from illegal armed groups, individually or collectively. Through the special program for the protection of union members, human rights activists, and other threatened persons, some 9.500 persons have received protection. As of January 2008, none of the union members, who are under protection, and who are about a 20.7 percent of the total of persons in this program, had been a victim of violence.
In the year 2007, the number of new cases of persons displaced by violence remained under 60 percent, compared to the figures of 2002. 82 percent of all households included in the registry of displaced persons have received humanitarian emergency assistance, and more than 38 thousand families have received State support in the process of return or resettlement. The program supporting the population affected by displacement applies a holistic support strategy to families, through the backing of income generation activities and socio-economic stabilization.
The Government of Colombia is guided by the essential premise that the primary responsibility for protecting civilians rests with the State. In turn, every State may resort to international support when it is deemed necessary. In that context, the United Nations, and in general, the international community have a role of support to the national protection efforts. For humanitarian assistance to result trustable and predictable, it must be carried out in conformity with the United Nations Charter, as well as the principles in it enshrined.
During the debate that took place in the month of November 2007, my delegation expressed some viewpoints on the recommendations contained in the report of the Secretary General. Among them the creation of a Working Group of the Security Council on this issue.
We are of the opinion that the existing institutional structures are sufficient for the United Nations to tackle the issues concerning protection of civilians in an adequate and effective manner. Rather than creating new entities, the work must be aimed at supporting the efforts that are conducted to protect the civil population in specific situations and taking into account the specific conditions in each case.
It is equally necessary to maintain an adequate level of cooperation between the Security Council and other relevant organs of the United Nations. Such coordination is all the more productive when the Council operates within the limits of its competence. We must support, in this perspective, the efforts aimed at improving the operational and legal framework of the United Nations to protect civilians, as well as the General Assembly as the idoneous organ to adopt policy guidelines in the humanitarian field.
The protection of civilians is a noble objective in line with the common denominator of human values within our Organization. The action in this field must, consequently, transcend particular interests and be legitimized as a strictly humanitarian work. Only in this manner the assistance to the civil population can be effective and fully accomplished.
I thank you very much.