Security Council Open Debate: Protecting Civilians and Health Care in Armed Conflict

Statement by H.E. Lise Gregoire-van Haaren,
Deputy Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations

NEW YORK, 25 May 2017

Mr. President,

Thank you for convening this debate on Protection of Civilians and Health Care in Armed Conflict. We welcome discussion on this issue, which requires our urgent attention at the highest level. The Kingdom of the Netherlands aligns itself with the statement delivered by the European Union, and with the statement by Switzerland on behalf of the Group of Friends on Protection of Civilians.

In addition, I would like to make the following remarks. In his latest report on Protection of Civilians in armed conflict, the Secretary General emphasizes three priorities to improve protection of civilians in conflict.

The Netherlands fully supports these priorities.

Allow me to focus my remarks on two of the three protection priorities:

Firstly: To protect the humanitarian and medical mission and to prioritize the Protection of Civilians

Mr. President,

Although the Security Council unanimously adopted landmark Resolution 2286 last year, we see little change on the ground.

We cannot condone attacks on medical personnel and health infrastructure. Not only because the safety of medical missions lies at the heart of humanitarian action, but also because it will lead to a more general erosion of respect for International Humanitarian Law. We cannot allow attacks on health care services in armed conflict to become an accepted part of warfare. We as Member States need to put the recommendations of the Secretary General regarding the implementation of resolution 2286 into practice.

And we need to do more. Improved and harmonized data collection will provide a factual base for monitoring and reporting mechanisms, such as the Security Council-mandated Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on grave violations against children in armed conflict. We are very worried about the direct and indirect effects of attacks on medical facilities in Yemen and what this means for the access to healthcare of Yemeni children, who are currently facing a cholera epidemic on top of severe malnutrition.

An environment that ensures safe and unimpeded delivery of medical care in armed conflict is of the utmost importance. The 20 million people currently at the risk of famine desperately need rapid, unimpeded and sustained access for humanitarian aid, in full respect for the humanitarian principles and international humanitarian law.

That brings me to the second point: To enhance respect for international law by parties to conflict

Mr. President,

In Syria, Yemen and other conflict situations, civilians are more than ever victims of appalling violence. To protect them, there is an urgent need to enhance respect for International Humanitarian Law. States should use their influence on parties in armed conflict to protect civilians. States should also engage constructively in the process to strengthen compliance with International Humanitarian Law led by the ICRC and Switzerland.

Accountability for serious violations of International Humanitarian Law is vital. Impunity is unacceptable, because it ultimately leads to undermining the rule of law. Where parties to conflict persist in seriously violating International Humanitarian Law, the Council should take decisive action to ensure accountability, including through referral to the ICC.

There is also a role for other actors. The Kingdom of the Netherlands welcomes the establishment by the General Assembly of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to assist in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the most serious crimes under international law committed in Syria. 

The Kingdom of the Netherlands calls on all UN Member States to financially and politically support this mechanism, which can play an important role in preventing impunity for international crimes committed in Syria. We also call on Troop Contributing Countries to endorse the Kigali Principles on the Protection of Civilians in Peacekeeping Operations.

In conclusion

Mr President,

The Kingdom of the Netherlands wishes to emphasize that it has deep respect and appreciation for the work carried out by humanitarian workers and medical staff in the most difficult and dangerous of circumstances. We call on the international community, the UN Security Council and individual countries to implement the Secretary General’s recommendations included in his report on Protection of Civilians in Conflict. As a partner for peace, justice and development, the Kingdom of the Netherlands will continue to contribute to this agenda, in close collaboration with Italy, other Members States and relevant actors.

Thank you.