Remarks by H.E. Mr. Sven Jürgenson, Permanent Representative of Estonia at the Open Debate of the Security Council on "Protecting civilians in the context of peacekeeping operations", 10 June 2016
First of all, I would like to thank the French presidency for organising today´s open debate as well as all the briefers.
Protection of civilians in armed conflicts remains a deep concern for Estonia as well as the particular needs of women and children in this context. As was expressed by my delegation in this chamber last week, sexual violence in conflict is also a continuing concern.
Children are among the most vulnerable in armed conflicts and pay a high price – they are injured, deliberately killed, suffer sexual abuse, abducted, maimed and recruited. Their schools and homes are destroyed, they are being denied food, water and health care. We are outraged that such suffering continues. As president of the UNICEF Executive Board this year, Estonia does utmost to bring attention to the need for all of us to work together to put an end to these violations and protect children from violence, exploitation and abuse in all its forms.
At the recent World Humanitarian Summit Estonia committed to uphold the norms that safeguard humanity.
Mr President, while aligning myself fully with the statement delivered here today by the Deputy Head of the EU Delegation, let me now touch upon the areas presented in your concept note for today´s discussion.
It is clear that states themselves have the primary responsibility to protect their citizens. At the same time, it is also main task of peacekeeping. We believe that peacekeeping operations, in order to be effective, need to be equipped with clear set of goals, strong mandates and exit strategies.
For protection of civilians, relations with local actors and non-governmental organizations as well as cooperation with regional and international organizations is crucial. Local governments and civil society organisations have an important role to play in providing UN peacekeepers with information that could help prevent and stop violations. Furthermore, strategy for engaging the local community is important, since it will increase trust towards peacekeeping. However, closer cooperation should be tied with an increase in transparency on the side of local and regional actors.
Mr President, we are greatly concerned that protection of civilians is challenged by disrespect for international humanitarian law by some States and non-State armed groups, as well as the sense of impunity for violations. It is of utmost importance that humanitarian aid organisations such as International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Médecins Sans Frontières would be able to help people affected by conflict without being targets themselves.
Estonia strongly supports training of all troops to improve the understanding of the need to protect civilians by the peacekeeping missions as well as the idea of having gender advisors in all peacekeeping operations. Better implementation of relevant UN standards and UN-certified training materials on the protection of civilians are needed. Pre-deployment and in-mission trainings should also include issues such as sexual exploitation and abuse as well as child protection. In this context, let me once again express serious concern over the significant increase in the number of allegations of sexual exploitation by UN peacekeepers. In this regard Estonia fully supports the Secretary-General´s zero tolerance policy.
In concluding, I would also like to reiterate the important role of the International Criminal Court and necessary cooperation between the Court and peacekeeping missions. Estonia believes that when a peace operation is to be deployed in an ICC situation country, its mandate should authorize it to facilitate or assist the Court.