Statement by Ambassador Leendertse in the UN Security Council, Open Debate on “War in cities: protection of civilians in urban Settings”, 25 January 2022

25.01.2022 - Speech

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Mr President,

Germany aligns itself with the statement (to be) made by the European Union.

I would like to thank Norway for hosting this debate today, and the Secretary-General, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as Radhya Almutawakel for their important remarks.

With armed conflicts – unfortunately – being increasingly fought in urban areas, we see their impact on people on an ever larger scale. In densely populated areas, civilians account for up to 90 percent of casualties, and the risk of critical civilian infrastructure being damaged or destroyed is multiplied.

Today, I would like to focus on four central aspects that Germany considers of particular importance:

First, we call on all parties to armed conflict to fully comply with International Humanitarian Law. We all have to make the protection of civilians an undisputed priority. Last year, the Security Council adopted landmark resolution 2573, which calls on conflict parties to avoid establishing military positions in densely populated areas. Member States must ensure respect for International Humanitarian Law, including resolution 2573, and urge all parties to armed conflict to do so as well. Those responsible for violations of International Humanitarian Law, and for human rights abuses, must be held accountable.

Second, on humanitarian assistance: It is crucial that parties to armed conflicts grant access to humanitarian assistance – to all those in need and in compliance with International Humanitarian Law. Safe, rapid, and unimpeded access for medical and humanitarian personnel must be guaranteed and their safety must be ensured at all times. These are the core demands of the “Call for Action to strengthen respect for international humanitarian law and principled humanitarian action” that was launched by France and Germany in 2019. We call on all Member States to join the 52 signatories in their efforts to protect the humanitarian space.

Third, unexploded ordnances pose a major threat in densely populated areas, especially when displaced communities start to return after the end of hostilities. Explosive remnants of war not only endanger lives, but also impede the provision of much needed humanitarian assistance. “Humanitarian Mine Action” is an important first step to protect civilians in urban settings after fighting has ceased. In 2020 and 2021, Germany funded, inter alia, two projects implemented by the international NGO HALO Trust that identified and cleared hazardous areas in southern Tripoli.

Lastly, armed conflict in urban settings and impeded humanitarian assistance affect genders differently. Women and girls face particular risks in their homes or while fleeing. Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is a particularly heinous crime. In our effort to combat SGBV, Germany has joined the “Call to Action to End GBV in Emergencies” and has now taken over the role of Co-Chair of the Call’s States & Donors Working Group. To address these and further challenges, we have to ensure the full, equal and meaningful participation of women and girls in all humanitarian processes and initiatives.

Let me conclude by calling on the UN and on its Member States to do more to protect the most vulnerable in armed conflict, and to ensure the protection of civilians. Germany will continue to stand by the principles and rules of International Humanitarian Law, accountability for serious violations, the humanitarian principles, and the protection of human rights, to help better prevent casualties of civilians in armed conflict.

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