Foreign Minister Urmas Paet at the UN Security Council: States are responsible for the protection of civilians in armed conflicts
At the UN Security Council discussion on 12th of February, focusing on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said that States must take responsibility for finding solutions to ensure the safety of civilians. “Yet sometimes, as conflicts become more severe, precautionary measures are not sufficient and the international community must take decisive action to help alongside the UN Security Council in order to save lives,” the foreign minister said.
According to Paet, the central role of UN peacekeepers is often restoring peace, yet above all protecting lives. “Estonia will continue to support UN peacekeeping. Last year, we increased our contribution to peacekeeping significantly,” Paet said. “We are participating in the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA in Mali and the UNTSO mission in the Middle East. We also decided to participate in the European Union’s peace support mission in the Central African Republic," he added.
Paet commented that the UN Security Council must give a clear mandate for the missions. "In order to strengthen opportunities to protect civilians, the UN Security Council should also monitor the implementation of its decisions," he said.
The assurance of the human rights of civilians in conflict areas is very important to Estonia. “Estonia has focused its contributions for development cooperation and humanitarian aid to those most in need of support in Afghanistan, Mali, Syria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Somalia and elsewhere. Unfortunately the work often becomes complicated and difficult for the humanitarian organizations, which go to great lengths in order to get aid to those in the most vulnerable situations. Therefore the UN Security Council must send a very clear message to all parties involved in an armed conflict, which would help in humanitarian aid reaching the needy,” Paet stressed.
Paet said that States have a duty to bring war criminals and human rights violators to justice. “But in addition to national legislation, international criminal law must also constantly be reinforced. Of particular importance is the International Criminal Court’s role in the prevention of future crimes – yet the court can only act effectively if governments cooperate with the Court," he remarked. The UN Security Council open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts was organized by Lithuania, who holds the presidency of the UN Security Council in February.
While in New York, Foreign Minister Paet also deposited the instrument of ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict to the Secretary-General of the UN and met with the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui.