Statements at a UN Security Council open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict

Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
May 21, 2024


Thank you, Mr. President. I would like to thank our presenters for their very informative presentations.

Mr. president. We mark another tragic year for hundreds of thousands of civilians around the world who were killed or injured in armed conflict.

Seventy-five years ago, with the adoption of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the world established international legal standards to mitigate the suffering of civilians caught in the crossfire of war.

And 25 years ago, this Council called on the world to recognize the need to take concrete steps to protect the most vulnerable. We adopted Resolution 1265 on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts.

In recent years, many UN peacekeeping operations have led efforts to protect civilians in conflict zones where they are deployed.

The protection of civilians is the top priority of MINUSCA’s mandate. For almost a decade, the Mission has worked to promote security and stability throughout the Central African Republic by deterring violence by armed groups, facilitating the safe delivery of humanitarian aid, supporting the peace process and promoting disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, all mutually. reinforce activities that make civilians safer and increase the prospects for peace.

Likewise, MONUSCO’s mandate prioritizes the protection of civilians, including supporting the security of internally displaced persons and other people affected by violence. MONUSCO maintains blocking positions around the city of Goma, protecting the area from the M23 armed group and ensuring the continued delivery of aid to internally displaced persons sites.

Just this month, UNMISS peacekeepers carried out day and night patrols in Tambura, Western Equatoria State, after an outbreak of inter-communal violence prompted the need to protect newly displaced people in South Sudan. In response to inter-communal violence in late January in Abyei, a disputed border area between Sudan and South Sudan, which resulted in dozens of civilian casualties, two peacekeepers (one Ghanaian and one Pakistani) lost their lives, and several other members of the United Nations Interim Security Council Force for Abyei personnel were injured.

Looking at the situations in Haiti and Sudan, the international community is debating how to develop new tools to address this long-standing challenge.

In the face of destabilizing and deadly gang violence in Haiti, the Security Council met to authorize the Multinational Security Support Mission, which under Kenyan leadership could soon deploy.

In Darfur, 20 years ago, the UN and the African Union joined together to protect civilians through UNAMID. And now, the people of Darfur and other civilians across Sudan face horrific violence that once again demands that the international community consider what tools it can use to ensure that civilians in Darfur are protected today.

Today we recognize the importance of redoubling our efforts to protect civilians in armed conflict around the world and the centrality of this work to the institution of the United Nations. This Council must once again call on all parties to comply with their international legal obligations related to the protection of civilians, as well as the principles of international humanitarian law.

Today, the United States reaffirms its commitment to these standards. We are working with partners around the world to share best practices, learn from each other, and work together to protect civilians who are directly targeted by combatants or indirectly hardest hit by violent conflict.

Protecting civilians is everyone’s moral obligation and the foundation of international humanitarian law. It is our duty as members of this Council to advocate for the protection of civilians as we strive to achieve a more peaceful and secure world under the United Nations Charter.

Thank you, Mr. President.