Remarks by Lamin M. Manneh, UN Resident Cordinator, at the International Conference on the Protection of Civilians

Lamin M. Manneh, UN Resident Coordinator, on the occasion of the International Conference on the Protection of Civilians
Kigali, 28 May 2015

• Nyakubahwa, His Excellency, Paul Kagame, the President of the Republic of Rwanda;
• All protocols observed.

Mbere na mbere nagira ngo mbasuhuze. MWARAMUTSE NEZA? First of all, Good Morning, Bonjour.

To the delegates who have come from abroad to attend this important conference, I say “MURAKAZA NEZA MU RWANDA. Welcome to Rwanda, the Country of a Thousand Hills!

Your Excellency, President of the Republic, it gives me great pleasure and honour to be here today to make these brief remarks on behalf of the UN Family on this important occasion.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to express at the outset my sincere appreciation and gratitude to His Excellency, President Paul Kagame, and his Government, for organizing this High Level International Conference on the Protection of Civilians, in conjunction with the TCCs/. Your Excellency, Mr President, gracing this event with your personal presence is another concrete sign that indeed you and the people of Rwanda have at heart the protection of civilians at all times, especially in conflict situations where they are particularly vulnerable, through effective peacekeeping operations.

This conference is timely as it is organized at a time when significant numbers of civilians are again increasingly becoming the victims of various armed conflicts around the world. The earlier serious challenges the UN missions faced in providing security in complex crises such as Somalia, and to protect civilians from mass atrocities in Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s, tested the fundamental principles and capabilities of UN peacekeeping operations and their underlying principles then and demonstrated that reforms were urgently required. These tragedies indeed have contributed to the reforms in the peace keeping mandates in the subsequent years. Unfortunately, the lessons the world learned from the Rwandan tragedy did not prevent similar atrocities from happening in other areas such as Sudan’s Darfour and many other conflict zones around the world.

But there is at least some comfort that as a result, the UN peacekeeping mandates have changed, as the Security Council has shifted peacekeeping well beyond its traditional role of monitoring the implementation of peace agreements. As you are all no doubt aware, currently, peacekeeping missions are multidimensional, addressing the full spectrum of peacebuilding activities, from providing secure environments to monitoring human rights and rebuilding the capacity of the state.

Increasingly, such mandates also take more aggressive stances, whereby peacekeeping missions are empowered to put more emphasis on the physical protection of civilians, by force if necessary. As a matter of fact, 95% of peacekeepers operate in missions mandated by the Security Council specifically to protect civilians. A good example of this is the Force Intervention Brigade within MONUSCO, as an additional effort towards robust peacekeeping in DRC, even though much more still to be done, including taking military action against the FDLR and other marauding rebel groups. In South Sudan, UNMISS has provided an unprecedented protection to civilians and opened its doors to increasing numbers of displaced persons.

Nevertheless, these positive developments have not translated into systematic and consistent protection of civilians on the ground across the board. Peacekeepers and other key actors often still struggle to deliver on the promise of protection of civilians, even though this is embodied in the very heart of the UN Charter. For this to happen, the protection of civilians in the context of UN Peacekeeping operations must be addressed holistically, with a view to improving the performance of all actors who share a stake in protecting innocent civilians from physical violence. Furthermore, we have to keep in mind that peacekeeping may be effective or robust, but cannot be successful if there is not a political solution on the ground. This requires beeping up the civilian expertise of UN Missions in political affairs, human rights, the rule of law, as well as peacebuilding expertise, alongside military and police officers.

Even though there are still many challenges in the protection of civilians in conflict situations, it is important to recognize the tens of thousands of UN peacekeepers who put themselves in harm’s way every day in order to protect civilians from indiscriminate physical violence. The UN has known a number of cases of peace keepers who lost their lives while protecting civilians from harm, unselfishly putting their lives on the line. We respectfully remember those heroes, among them a number of Rwandans peace keepers.

At this point, I would like to particularly commend Rwanda for its important contribution to Peace Support Operations in many parts of the World and in Africa in particular, despite its limited resources. As you are all aware, Rwanda is currently the 5th biggest contributor to peace keeping operations after Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Ethiopia, with a total of 5,575 personnel, including the police, military experts and troops. This is indeed admirable.

Rwanda has held chairmanships in a number of Security Council subsidiary bodies, including the Ad-Working group on conflict prevention in Africa as well as the co-chairmanship of the Group of Friends of the Responsibility to Protect. During its 2013-2014 term in the UN Security Council Chairmanship, Rwanda demonstrated strong commitment to the protection of civilians, as demonstrated by its effective chairmanship of the Security Council Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations. There is now increasing consensus that the best way to protect civilians from armed conflict is to prevent conflicts in the first place.

It is for this reason that we should also commend Rwanda for its strong prevention efforts both here and abroad. In this regard, it is notable that during presidency of the Security Council in 2013-2014 it organized many activities around the theme conflict prevention by addressing its root causes. This is echoed in what His Excellency President Paul Kagame said last September at the 69th Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly and I quote: “Thus, our task in the international community is not just managing conflicts, but helping to prevent and end those conflicts. If we focus on keeping people safe, and bringing them together to solve their problems, we will be able to do so” {End of Quote}.

Allow me to conclude my remarks by quoting the UN Secretary General. Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, who recently said and I quote: “We must enhance the international system’s capacities to prevent and resolve conflicts in order to create the conditions for a peaceful, more prosperous world. We owe this to the generations lost in this and numerous other wars; we above all owe it to our children and future generations” {End of Quote}.

The UN system will always work with governments and development partners and civil society organisations around the globe, to put in place systems that ensure sustainable peace in conflicts prone areas, and to create an environment conducive for sustainable development. As we move from the MDGs to the Sustainable Development Goals era, the protection of civilians in conflicts situations should be among the most important areas of concern at the global level. This Conference is therefore very timely and pertinent.

I cannot conclude my remarks without, saluting once more the dedicated leadership and strong commitment of his Excellency President Paul Kagame towards peace and security in Africa and around the world. I would also like to reiterate our gratitude to the Government of Rwanda for associating the UN with this important event and to all the other TCC/ for their demonstrated commitment to peace building and conflict prevention throughout the world. I trust that this conference will come up with concrete recommendations that will help improve the protection of civilians in conflicts situations where ever they arise across the world. I sincerely wish you very fruitful deliberations.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.

Murakoze Cyane, Merci Beaucoup, Sucran.