Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN, United States

SC: Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

Statement by

H.E. Mr.  Karel J.G.van Oosterom

Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

to the United Nations


UNSC Open Debate

Agenda item: Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

Madam President,

Allow me to express my government's appreciation for the Argentinian Presidency for putting “Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict” on the agenda for this open debate. Those caught up in conflicts need our attention, they need the attention of our governments; they need the attention of the United Nations. I align myself with the statement made by the EU and thank the SG of the UN as well as the representatives of OCHA, OCHR and ICRC for their valuable briefings.

Madam President, yesterday I spent some time at Roosevelt Island, across the water from the UN building. The Roosevelt Park, visible from the delegates lounge down the hall, is dedicated to the famous Four Freedoms speech of President Roosevelt. He looked forward to a world based on four crucial freedoms; freedom of speech, of worship and freedom from want. The fourth freedom was freedom from fear, anywhere in the world.

That vision should inspire our deliberations today. The essence of protection of civilians in armed conflicts is that it should lead to freedom from fear for the civilians involved. My government sees three key elements in realizing this ambition: prevention, protection and prosecution.

Madam President

Let me begin with prevention. For my government, international Rule of Law is the basis for international relations. As our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Frans Timmermans recently said: "The promotion of the international legal order is enshrined in the Dutch constitution."

Article 33 of the UN Charter on the pacific settlement of disputes is paramount. Next week we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Peace Palace in The Hague, legal capital of the world. We commemorate the significant ways in which the ICJ contributes to international peace and stability through peaceful settlement of conflicts.

Implementation of international human rights instruments, both legal and other, must be strengthened. We welcome the New Deal for fragile states.

To make prevention truly effective, national judicial institutions should be so strong as to have a preventive effect. More states must support international mechanisms and institutions that offer protection to civilians. Knowing that their acts will not go unpunished, hopefully those capable of the worst crimes will be deterred from committing atrocities.

Madam president,

If prevention fails, we need to bring Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict into practice. This is a duty for all parties involved, primarily for the state and warring factions, but also for peace keeping forces. In peacekeeping operations, we should pay increased attention to the position of the civilian people in armed conflict. Security Council resolutions mandating peace keeping operations should reflect that moral imperative.

We must increase our efforts to implement Security Council Resolution 1325 in order to protect vulnerable women in armed conflict. In building peace, we must take women seriously. We must include their views and interests in political agreements and peace keeping operations.

We welcome the progress DPKO has made in this regard and encourage cooperation with UN Women.

All these actions should help provide protection to women and should contribute to combating sexual and gender based violence in conflict areas.

The Netherlands continues to champion the global principle of Responsibility to Protect, and we call upon all member states to join this worthy cause. We welcome the report of the Secretary General for 2013.

Madam President

If prevention and protection fail, accountability and prosecution should come into view. Therefore information gathering during conflicts is essential as it creates a basis for prosecution. Statistics and data on lives lost, women raped, children killed, and schools burned make for horrible reading.

But they do create a basis for accountability and for bringing the perpetrators to justice, either at the national or international level. For this reason, the Netherlands is co-funding the Center for Civilians in Armed Conflict to set up civilian harm tracking mechanisms in Mali.

Let me reiterate the words of concern as voiced by the EU about the situation in Syria. Those responsible for the crimes committed in that country should be held accountable and should be brought before a court. We renew our call to the Syrian authorities to allow full and unfettered access to the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Netherlands is honored to host the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre in The Hague. This important Centre is funded by more than 40 states and organizations.

It employs a non-partisan approach and reaches out to many Syrian individuals, communities and organizations and works closely with many international actors. This data gathering creates a basis for accountability and therefore is crucial long term work for the protection of civilians.

Ultimately, in specific cases, the International Criminal Court can bring justice to civilians harmed by armed conflict.

Madam President

Summing up: protection of civilians is closely related to prevention as well as to prosecution. Let us work closely together in applying these three aspects in a comprehensive approach. Together we can realize freedom from fear for civilians in conlict areas.

Let our common endeavors be inspired by our view across the East River of the Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park.


Thank you for your attention.


NEW YORK, 19 August 2013