Open debate on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
(New York, November 11, 2009)
Statement by Ambassador Claudia Blum, Permanent Representative of Colombia
Allow me at the outset to congratulate you and the delegation of Austria, for your work in the Presidency of the Security Council during the month of November. Your presence, mister Minister, and the initiative to convene this debate, highlight the importance of the subject matter of this meeting.
Likewise, I would like to thank the Secretary-General, the United Nations, the Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, and the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights for their informative presentations.
Ten years after the Security Council began to address the issue of the "protection of civilians in conflict", the contribution of this organ has been significant. The adoption of four resolutions and several presidential statements, as well as the Aide-Memoire agreed upon as a guide for the protection of civilians, are notorious advances.
This session of the Council ,therefore, represents a useful opportunity to evaluate this advance and explore additional alternatives that contribute to the protection of the civilian population from situations of conflict or violence.
Through its democratic security policy, the Government of Colombia has achieved the consolidation of actions to reinforce and guarantee the Rule of Law in all the national territory. The implementation of this policy has allowed creating solid conditions for the protection of Colombians and for them to enjoy their rights.
Thanks to this effort, the criminality and violence indicators have been reduced to levels not experienced in many years. In the year 2002, the country did not have police protection in great areas of its territory. The presence of the National Police and the Military Forces has reflected in a drastic downfall of the violence indicators. Since that year, homicides have been reduced in a 44%, extortive kidnappings in an 88%, the number of victims in massacres in a 96%, and terrorist attacks in a 79%. Today, the homicide figures are the lowest in the last 22 years. Extortive kidnappings have reached its lowest level in the last decades.
The demobilization of more than 52 thousand men that were armed, also reflects the effectiveness of this policy. Each day, there are more people demobilized, than there are captured, and more captured than there are casualties. The State pursues, above all, the defense of life and has as its fundamental objective to ensure better conditions for all civilian population.
Colombia is guided by the basic premise that the primary responsibility on the protection of civilians rests on each State. And each State, in turn, may turn to the international cooperation mechanisms, according to its priorities. In this context, it corresponds to the United Nations and the International Community a role of support towards the national efforts of protection.
That primary responsibility and the role of the States are particularly relevant in the case of humanitarian assistance in their territories. My country recognizes, in that regard, the importance of cooperation and the facilitation of access to humanitarian organizations, in accordance with the applicable international law. Humanitarian assistance, in order to be reliable and predictable, must be carried out in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and in conformity with the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.
As it was pointed out in the concept paper circulated to the Council, the compliance of the obligations towards civilians by non-State armed actors, is one aspect of particular relevance. In this area, a perspective that encompasses the particular issues in each case, and the specific circumstances of each situation, becomes indispensable.
Any initiative on this topic must bear in mind the central role of governments and the applicable laws at the national level. In a context of cooperation, the action should, firstly, aim at demanding from non-State armed actors to cease their violent actions against civilians.
Annually, hundreds of civilian victims, men, women, children, in different parts of the world, see their rights violated, as well as their life conditions, by the use of antipersonnel mines.
Colombia has the honour to host the Second Review Conference of the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-personnel Mines, which will take place in the city of Cartagena from November 29 to December 4 of the present year.
The Action Plan to be adopted in Cartagena is an opportunity to make of the strengthening and development of the Convention a common purpose between the Governments, the international organizations and the civil society. The achieved goals and the challenges that persist in the application of the Ottawa Convention shall encourage the international community to persist with the higher goal of reaching a "World free of anti personnel mines". The fight against this scourge is a direct contribution to actions in favor of the civilian population and should, hence, be supported with a high level of commitment and political will.
The implementation of effective controls to the illicit traffic of small arms and light weapons is also indispensable. My country will continue to promote this theme in the General Assembly, and would expect the Security Council to promote the adoption of effective controls in this area. The illicit traffic of small arms and light weapons threatens civilian security, increases crime rates and causes the death or permanent disability of thousands of people. Without decisive actions against this illicit trade, the initiatives aimed at protecting the civilian population may result incomplete and ineffective.
The Government of Colombia reaffirms its condemnation to any action aimed against the civilian population. The protection and strict compliance with international humanitarian law, and other relevant international norms, are matters of absolute priority, which will continue to guide my country's policies.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.