WASHINGTON, DC (May 12, 2016)—Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) applauds efforts by the Netherlands and Rwanda to expand endorsement of the Kigali Principles on the protection of civilians, and welcomes the support of the Principles by 19 additional countries.
On May 11, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, 19 Member States endorsed the Principles, which commit UN troop-contributing countries to proactively protect civilians from armed parties with hostile intent and without waiting for approval from their home governments, bringing the total number of states supporting the Principles to 29.
Between 2010 and 2013, peacekeepers failed to intervene in some 500 attacks against civilians, according to an internal UN report, often because of unclear mandates, lack of appropriate training or resources, or failure to get approval to act from their capitals. The latest incident, recently investigated by CIVIC, was in February, when peacekeepers with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan were slow to intervene after the Malakal Protection of Civilians camp was infiltrated and set ablaze. At least 30 internally displaced people were killed, more than 120 wounded and one-third of the camp, which housed some 47,000 people, was left in ashes.
“We hope the support for the Principles by major troop-contributing countries like Ghana and permanent UN Security Council members like the US will be a big step toward making UN peacekeeping missions more robust and effective in protecting civilians caught in armed conflicts,” says CIVIC Executive Director Federico Borello.
“As US Ambassador Samantha Power said, the Principles are not an abstract set of values, but a blueprint aimed at shaping peacekeepers’ practices in dangerous and volatile situations. With wide adoption and proper implementation of the Principles, past failures, like those in Bosnia, Rwanda and, most recently, South Sudan, will hopefully be less likely to occur.”
There are currently 16 peacekeeping operations around the world, with almost 105,000 uniformed personnel from 123 countries serving. The 29 states supporting the Principles account for about 40,000—more than one-third—of those personnel, and include large troop contributors Bangladesh and Ethiopia. CIVIC supports the efforts by the United States, the largest financial contributor to peacekeeping costs, in urging the UN to prioritize support for contributing states that have endorsed the Principles.
“CIVIC urges the expansion of the Kigali Principles to all troop-contributing Member States, because as we saw in Malakal, peacekeepers are too often hampered by a lack of training in civilian protection, by the lack of critical resources needed to carry out their mandate, by commonly seeking orders from their capitals, and by the lack of accountability for failures to protect civilians—all issues explicitly addressed in the Principles,” Borello says. “As we witness an increased disrespect for international humanitarian law in today’s conflicts, the Kigali Principles commit peacekeeping forces to never again abandon civilians to armed parties looking to do them harm. Had the Principles been followed in February in Malakal, perhaps more lives could have been saved.”[/vc_column_text]