Humanitarian Access Critical to Protecting Civilians in Conflict

Protection of civilians a priority

Saying that President Obama has made it clear that for the United States the deterrence of genocide and atrocities is “a core national security interest and core moral responsibility,” U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Rose DiCarlo said humanitarian access is critical to protecting civilians particularly in armed conflict.

At a Security Council Open Debate on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict in New York, Ms. DiCarlo stresses the need for timely, full, and unimpeded humanitarian access to populations in need of assistance must make the top priority for everyone.

“This is as true in Syria as it is in Sudan, where millions of vulnerable civilians lack access to food, water, shelter, and medicine.” – Ms. DiCarlo

A FSA fighter walking among rubble in Aleppo, October 2012.

In addition, it is also crucial that personnel engaged in humanitarian activities should be free from targeting and attack.

It is not new that attacks against humanitarian personnel have continued unabated around the world, she said.

In fact, Ms. DiCarlo says attacks like the one on the UN compound in Mogadishu in June prevent humanitarian agencies from undertaking their life-saving work and should be condemned wherever and whenever committed.

Ms. DiCarlo underlines that horrific consequences when access to those in need in armed conflct is blocked especially in the case in Syria.

“When the government’s armed forces and armed rebel groups traumatize civilian populations.” – Ms. DiCarlo

She also cites the case in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“When impunity prevails and the perpetrators of atrocities are not held accountable, as in the Central African Republic.” – Ms. DiCarlo

A Syrian rebel sniper in Khan alAssal, Aleppo province.

In addition, these devastating situations are particularly acute when community leaders – journalists, activists, religious figures, and scholars – are targeted for the critical work they do to sound the alarm, protect the vulnerable, and foster peace and reconciliation, she noted.

Protection of civilians a priority

Ms. DiCarlo explains that too often warring parties fall short or blatantly disregard their obligations altogether.

She cites that in horrible cases, including ongoing tragedies, as in Syria and in Sudan, parties to armed conflict deliberately target civilians.

She says it is clear, the international community must strengthen its commitment in the three key areas that Argentina has rightly highlighted for this debate: enhancing compliance with international humanitarian law; improving humanitarian access to areas in conflict; and ensuring effective accountability mechanisms for suspected war crimes.

What UN says?

In Afghanistan, a UN report revealed that ordinary Afghans continue to bear the brunt of the ongoing conflict in the country.

UN reports there were 2,777 conflict-related civilian deaths in 2010.

Over the past four years, 8,832 civilians have been killed in the conflict with civilian deaths increasing each year.

Suicide attacks and improvised explosive devices killed the most Afghan civilians in the conflict in 2010, taking 1,141 lives, or 55 per cent of civilian deaths attributed to anti-government elements.

UN says millions of civilians worldwide are still victims of armed conflicts – losing their lives, being forced to flee their homes and becoming victims of physical and sexual violence – despite recent progress in some countries

UN underlines that civilians comprise the majority of casualties in armed conflict, often in contravention of international humanitarian law.

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn’t preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.