75 UNGA: Statement by Ambassador Pedro L. Pedroso Cuesta, Permanent Representative of Cuba to the United Nations, Security Council Open Debate on “Protection of civilians in armed conflict: indispensable civilian objects”. New York, 27 April 2021.

Mr. President,

Mankind is facing a complex scenario and colossal challenges. International peace and security are threatened by the increase in conflicts and unconventional warfare, while the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a crisis with manifold and devastating effects that transcend the area of health and affect economy, trade and our societies in general.

The root causes of conflict must be eradicated and a just, democratic and equitable international order must be established. The substantial resources allocated to the arms industry should be invested in sustainable development and provide the 2030 Agenda with the necessary means for its implementation. The Charter of the United Nations must be strictly complied with, in particular its purposes and principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of States and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Mr. President,

We share the concern reflected in the Secretary-General's latest reports on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, which note that civilians continue to make up the vast majority of victims in conflict situations, targets of indiscriminate attacks and other violations.

The challenges we face in ensuring the protection of civilians, particularly in conflict situations, are manifold, including arms transfers to unauthorized non-State actors, an increase in development programs associated with lethal autonomous weapons systems, the use of military attack drones, rising military expenditures and the malicious use of information and telecommunications technologies. The resources earmarked for the development of these technologies should contribute to the economic and social development of peoples.

The Security Council should fulfill its primary mandate of maintaining international peace and security, promoting respect for international law and the peaceful settlement of disputes. It should refrain from supporting military adventures and from resorting to the threat or use of force in the settlement of conflicts.

The responsibility for conflict prevention and the protection of civilians lies with States. The international community, the United Nations and regional and sub-regional bodies, can provide constructive assistance, but not replace the role of the affected State. They should support and complement the efforts of national governments when requested to do so, impartially and unconditionally, in strict respect for their sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence.

It is unacceptable that civilian protection efforts are manipulated to advance the geopolitical interests of certain States, and used as an excuse for disregarding and violating the principles of the UN Charter and interfering in their internal affairs.

We strongly condemn the killing of innocent people, as well as the indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force against civilians.

The protection of civilians cannot be a pretext for legitimizing military interventions aimed at imposing regime change and overthrowing the political, economic and social order legitimately established in sovereign States.

We recognize that humanitarian assistance constitutes a fundamental component of the protection of civilians in armed conflict, and must be provided in accordance with the principles of the Charter, international law, international humanitarian law and United Nations General Assembly resolution 46/182. The guiding principles of humanitarian assistance must be respected, namely: humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, provided in accordance with international law and the national laws of the affected countries, and with the consent of the receiving States.

We reject the manipulation of humanitarian assistance for political purposes.

The application and intensification of unilateral coercive measures, in violation of international law, cause serious deprivation and human harm to the very civilians who are intended to be protected. These arbitrary and illegal measures generate additional difficulties in the current context of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

We reiterate the full validity of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, signed by the Heads of State and Government of the entire region.

Mr. President,

All parties involved in hostilities must comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, as enshrined in the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols.

This also applies to United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, particularly those with civilian protection mandates and deployed in changing security contexts. These must have realistic, achievable mandates with specific, clearly defined objectives and the necessary resources to avoid jeopardizing the safety and security of peacekeepers.

Mr. President,

Protecting civilians, particularly in situations of armed conflict, requires political will and commitment. We reiterate our support for the United Nations Secretary-General's urgent call to cease hostilities and put an end to the scourge of war, and instead to open up opportunities for diplomacy and cooperation, enabling us to confront together the terrible COVID-19 pandemic.

It is the duty of all States, and in particular of the members of the Security Council, to uphold multilateralism and the purposes and principles of the Charter, including respect for the sovereign equality of States and their political independence, unity and territorial integrity; the peaceful settlement of disputes; and refraining from the use or threat of use of force in international relations.

Thank you.