UNITED NATIONS, May 28 (APP): Pakistan has voiced concern that
non-combatants continue to be treated as “fair game” by warring parties in conflict zones around the world, and called for firm measures to end attacks on medical facilities and staff engaged in saving lives.
“Any attack on medical facilities and staff, jeopardizes life and
exacerbates suffering,” Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, permanent representative of Pakistan to the UN, told the Security Council, while regretting that “collateral damage” was still considered an inevitable byproduct of conflict.
“As a result, the tapestry of armed conflict is increasingly being
coloured by the suffering of civilian populations,” the Pakistan envoy said in the course of an open debate on the protection of civilians in armed violence.
Highlighting the acute plight of the vulnerable, Ambassador Lodhi cited
a report of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres revealing that more than 20 million people in conflict situations, including 1.4 million children, were on the brink of famine.
“This tragedy is compounded by an inadequate global response to address
the suffering of civilians in armed conflict.”
As a first step towards implementing resolution 2286 (2016), she said,
all parties to armed conflict must unequivocally reaffirm that health care must be protected and the perpetrators of such attacks must be held accountable. Parties to armed conflict must further ensure the safe, unimpeded and sustained passage of humanitarian access and the protection of civilians should be prioritized in United Nations peacekeeping operations.
“The onus now is to translate this political resolve into tangible
action,” Ambassador Lodhi told the 15-member Council.
In addition, she added, a clear distinction between the established norm
of protection of civilians and the evolving concept of the responsibility to protect must be maintained.
“As one of the leading troop contributors, my country has proudly and
conscientiously performed the task of protecting civilians in different parts of the world including in missions in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), Darfur, Ivory Coast, the Central African Republic and Liberia,” Ambassador Lodhi said.
“Based on our diverse and rich experience, we underscore the critical
importance of troops contributing countries not only in the formation of mandates, but also in their implementation, review, renewal or change, specially in case of a rapid deterioration of the ground situation.”
Underscoring that the goal of protection of civilians was best served by
preventing the outbreak of armed conflicts, Ambassador Lodhi said,
“This entails addressing the root causes of conflicts, finding
inclusive political solutions to disputes and seeking peaceful settlement of conflicts.”
Opening the debate, the secretary-general warned that parties to
conflict are treating hospitals and clinics as targets, rather than respecting them as sanctuaries.
“Despite our efforts, civilians continue to bear the brunt of conflict
around the world,” Guterres said, stressing that attacks on medical staff and facilities continue in conflict zones.
Alongside him were Christine Beerli, Vice-President of the International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Bruno Stagno Ugarte, Deputy Executive Director for Advocacy of Human Rights Watch.