Thank you for convening today’s ministerial level open debate on a very timely and critically important topic. Estonia aligns itself with the statement (to be) delivered by the European Union.
Today’s debate marks the 20th anniversary of resolution 1265 (1999) and the adoption of the protection of civilians as an item in the Security Council’s agenda. After 20 years of efforts to increase the level of protection, it is highly concerning to read the assessment in the Secretary-General’s annual report that despite some progress, increased awareness and strengthened framework on this topic the state of protection of civilians today is tragically similar to 20 years ago. In this light, we need to ask ourselves if there is anything the international community can do differently to ensure more tangible results on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. From the Estonian side, we would like to highlight three areas where further progress needs to be made.
Firstly, I would like to emphasize the paramount importance of conflict prevention and peacebuilding. More needs to be done in addressing the root causes of conflict, finding avenues to promote political dialogue, and creating truly inclusive societies. This entails addressing the root causes of conflict in a holistic manner, paying attention to possible shortcomings in good governance, rule of law and sustainable development as possible contributors to tensions in societies. It is important to repeat that it is the primary responsibility of states to ensure the protection of their people.
Secondly, let me emphasize the importance of accountability: perpetrators must be brought to justice and states must ensure that those responsible do not operate with impunity. In this regard, let me also underline the role of International Criminal Court in cases where investigations or prosecutions at the national level are not possible. We encourage states to cooperate with the ICC and Security Council to refer matters to the ICC. In cases already referred to the ICC, further support from the Security Council is of paramount importance. In general, greater political and financial investment is needed to ensure more tangible results in the fight against impunity.
Thirdly, in terms of preparing the peacekeepers and other UN staff that will be deployed to the missions, education and training in international humanitarian law has an important role to play. Such education clearly supports efforts to halt and prevent acts of violence, attacks and threats against the wounded and sick, medical personnel and humanitarian personnel as well as medical facilities. We see the value in references to mission-specific legal issues prior to deployment and believe that it could lead to better application of the international law, complement the overall training procedure of the troops and raise awareness.
From our part, in Estonia we have ratified the main instruments of international humanitarian law with regard to the protection of civilians and have introduced the necessary domestic regulations for their enforcement. Every measure has been taken to ensure that our military personnel does not violate international law when carrying out their duties and that they are trained to comply with the obligations to protect civilians as agreed by Kigali principles and stated in the Declaration of Shared Commitments of the Action for Peacekeeping initiative.
Estonia stands ready to work with all our partners to enhance capacities and work on solutions for conflict prevention and protection of civilians, especially women and children who often have to endure disproportionate hardships due to armed conflict. This is also something we prioritize in our strive to become an elected member of the Security Council in 2020-2021.