3778th Meeting of Security Council: Protection for Humanitarian Assistance - Part 2

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21-May-1997 01:32:32
Difficulty of providing military support for humanitarian operations, an open debate at the 3778th meeting of the Security Council.

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The Security Council met this morning to consider the following topic: "Protection for humanitarian assistance to refugees and others in conflict situations".

YASUSHI AKASHI, Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said some 90 percent of victims of conflicts were civilians. In the First World War the number of victims who were non-combatants was 10 per cent. Eighty per cent of the people in need of protection were women and children. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) had estimated that during the last two years 2 million children had been killed by warfare and some 12 million made homeless. An estimated 42 million people worldwide were dependent on humanitarian assistance in 1995, 60 per cent more than the 1985 figures.

Such a dramatic increase in the number of people in need of assistance was compounded by the complexity and nature of contemporary crises and the difficulty of relying on traditional protection instruments to safeguard the basic rights and integrity of people endangered conflict, he said. The majority of people in need of assistance were displaced in their own countries, or trapped in besieged cities, and were often in need of protection from the very authorities responsible for their safety. Recent estimates indicated that there were 22 to 24 million internally displaced persons worldwide which greatly outnumbers the 16 million refugees who had sought asylum or had recently been repatriated. The growing number of displaced people, and others adversely affected by warfare, highlighted the importance of reformulating the understanding of protection requirements and pointed to the timeliness of the current debate.

He said the most compelling and problematical challenge confronting humanitarian actors in today's conflict zones was the difficulty of providing assistance in abusive and hostile environments where civilians were directly targeted and the work of relief agencies was deliberately obstructed. "When people are forcibly uprooted and pushed from their homes, and the aim of warfare is to inflict maximum pain, then `protection' requirements are quite different to what was needed in more traditional humanitarian assistance operations", he stated. In redefining "protection needs", the international community was, in effect, redefining "threats to the peace". There was a growing recognition that "security", first and foremost, concerned that the well-being of people and was not of lesser value than the security of States. Increasingly, the concept of sovereignty was fundamentally linked to the ability of States to respect and safeguard the security of its citizens.

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