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World must do more to protect civilians in armed conflict, Security Council told

World must do more to protect civilians in armed conflict, Security Council told

USG Jan Egeland briefs the Council
There is little hope of stopping the deliberate targeting of civilians and relief workers in armed conflict without the political will to tackle impunity, provide reliable crisis funding and devise better ways to report rights violations, the United Nations Emergency Coordinator said today.

At the core of the challenge is the changing nature of warfare: increasingly, civilians – including humanitarian workers – often are not just random, incidental victims of conflict, but targets of it, Jan Egeland told reporters after he briefed the Security Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Indeed, with the numbers of killings, rapes and kidnappings on the rise, it's "far more dangerous today to be a civilian than a soldier," he said.

Adopting a presidential statement at the end of the meeting, the Council, expressing its "grave concern" about the limited progress on the ground to ensure the effective civilian protection, invited the Secretary-General to recommend in his next report ways to better address persisting and emerging challenges in the evolving peacekeeping environment.

"Upon receipt of the report, the Council expresses its intention to take further action to strengthen and enhance the protection of civilians in armed conflict, including, if necessary, a possible resolution in this regard," the statement said.

During his briefing, Mr Egeland said that brutal and indiscriminate tactics of terror continue to be deliberately employed in the world's most protracted protection crises. He listed a raft of alarming trends, from the unchallenged use of sexual violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the re-recruitment of child soldiers in Liberia, to the massive forced displacement in Colombia and the rise of sectarian violence in Iraq.

"Imagine the quality of life for those that are caught in these cycles of violence living in constant terror," Mr. Egeland said. "This has an enduring impact on individuals and tears the very fabric of society. Such endemic violence cannot continue. We have a responsibility to find better solutions to these intractable situations."

To better protect civilians, address displacement and the needs of children, and end sexual violence, he said the world must fight impunity by supporting the International Criminal Court and strengthening national judicial systems; include the protection of civilians in all peacekeeping mandates; strengthen engagement with regional and intergovernmental organizations; and improve humanitarian funding.

Mr. Egeland told reporters that the situation of civilians caught in the crossfire in conflicts around the world was "bleak." He also highlighted the increasing dangers faced by humanitarian workers, saying that 12 colleagues had been lost in Afghanistan since his last briefing to the Council in December, and at least five had been killed in Sudan's troubled Darfur region. Scores more have been kidnapped or detained. "This has to stop," he said.