H.E. Ambassador Mr. Bui The Giang,
Deputy Permanent Representative
at SC Open Debate on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
New York, 27 May 2008
I wish, first of all, to thank you for convening this open debate on a very important topic. I take this opportunity to express my Delegation’s appreciation to Under-Secretary-General John Holmes for his very comprehensive briefing. We are convinced that periodic briefing on this issue is a critical mechanism for the Council to be updated on the situation, and thereupon to take appropriate measures.
My Delegation joins other Council members in welcoming efforts made by OCHA and U.N. missions in protecting civilians in armed conflict, and recognizing the progress they have recorded in recent years, contributing to lessening civilian sufferings in some parts of the world, most notably is the recent case of UN Missions in Cote d’Ivoire, Timor-Leste and Nepal. However, we are deeply concerned at the worsening situation in many areas where civilians, first and foremost women and children, continue to fall victims to killing, maiming, abuse, humiliation, and inhumane treatment. We recall with worry the alert made two weeks ago by Under-Secretary-General Jean-Marie Guéhenno on attacks at villages occupied by civilians in North and South Darfur, and the alert made in great detail today by Under-Secretary-General John Holmes on pervasive hostilities in many countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. These, plus sexual and gender-based violence in DRC and elsewhere represent a strong warning that the efforts by U.N. bodies and all Member States are not enough.
While sharing the view that humanitarian access, among other things, is critical to protect civilians in armed conflict, we hold that humanitarian access and assistance should be independent of political and military measures, and in keeping with the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, and in conformity with national and international laws. We are mindful of millions of people who are still excluded from access to life-saving assistance, and continued attacks targeting U.N. personnel, relief workers, and other humanitarian staff in many conflict places. Apart from the detailed account of attacks against humanitarian workers that Under-Secretary-General John Holmes has just given us, the recent ambush of 4 U.N. peacekeepers in West Darfur and kidnapping of 2 Italian volunteers in Somalia are but two of the many examples of this situation. It is urgent now to demand that parties to armed conflicts end hostilities against humanitarian staff and allow them to help people in need.
As we have highlighted during several Council meetings, the best way to protect civilians in armed conflict is to prevent and peacefully resolve armed conflict itself. In this regard, we wish to underline the need to ensure better and closer cooperation and coordination between the Security Council and the General Assembly and other agencies and organizations, and between U.N. bodies and regional organizations for we trust that regional organizations, with their good understanding of regional stakeholders, are well positioned to convince parties to armed conflict to minimize their operations in civil areas, facilitate humanitarian access, and respect humanitarian and human rights laws. At the same time, we emphasize that parties to armed conflict should comply with the principles of distinction and proportionality of international humanitarian law, refrain from exerting measures against civilians, and that the Security Council should consider the issue of protection of civilians on a case-by-case basis and in line with the approach endorsed in previous related Security Council resolutions.
While supporting international cooperation, I would like to reiterate Vietnam’s view that it is States that bear primary responsibility to protect their own civilians, deal with violence against civilians as well as violations of the international humanitarian law. In order to help States fulfill their responsibilities, the U.N. can help improve their national capacity, provide technical assistance, and work with States to conduct other awareness raising activities, for instance through training courses. Bearing that in mind, we hold that the creation and application of any international mechanism should be thoroughly studied with a view to ensuring its efficient, effective and sustainable performance, without resulting in unnecessary financial burden for States, and that such an act should respect national sovereignty, territorial integrity, ownership, and self-determination, and in accordance with the U.N. Charter and international laws.
I thank you, Mr. President.