Posted by: Scott P
I spent the day here at the United Nations. At 10 a.m. sharp, Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger called the UN Security Council to order as President. Seated around the horseshoe-shaped table were Ambassadors, Foreign Ministers, and high-level UN officials who had come from near and far to speak about the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict. To put an exclamation point on this tenth anniversary of the first Security Council session on Protection of Civilians, the Council passed Resolution 1894 at the outset.
CIVIC had been keeping an eye on the negotiation of 1894 for weeks, and we were quite pleased to see its emphasis on compliance with international law and mention of reparations (the first such mention in any Security Council resolution on protection).
For two and a half full hours, the delegations on the Security Council took the floor and railed against impunity, implored other states to comply with the law of armed conflict, discussed the need for better guidance for peacekeepers, and drove home the importance of improving access to humanitarian assistance. At the end of the morning session, Sindelegger recognized Ugandan delegate Benedict Lukwiya, who concluded his statement with this powerful plea:
“Long after the guns have gone silent, affected populations, many of whom end up losing everything, are left to pick up the pieces with no assistance, even from friendly forces. International law does not provide for making amends to individuals, who lose property or livelihood as a result of armed conflict. This draft resolution calls for national reparation programs for victims as well as institutional reforms. However, my delegation would like to go a step farther and also recognize the need for all parties to armed conflict to emphasize the dignity of civilians by recognizing losses that result from lawful combat operations as well as providing meaningful amends to affected individuals and communities, such as financial assistance or funding for humanitarian aid programs. My delegation encourages all member state to embrace the concept of making amends – not because there is any legal obligation to do so, but simply in the intrests of mitigating suffering and promoting humanity.”
It’s the first time anyone has made such a call at at the UN in it’s 64-year history — and we couldn’t have set it better ourselves.
CIVIC conceived of the concept of making amends several years ago. We believe that warring parties should help the civilians they harm. So the Ugandan representative’s remarks were a big victory for us. Now that Uganda has taken the courageous step of introducing the idea of “making amends” at the UN, we’ll be working with our partners to officially launch a campaign on the same idea. Stay tuned!