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Protection of civilians is primary responsibility of national governments: India

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Press Trust of India United Nations
India has emphasised that the protection of civilians in the conflicts is the primary responsibility of national governments and not of the peacekeepers, voicing concern that very little is done to strengthen national and societal capacities of protection.
The general tendency is to wrongly assume that protection of civilians is the responsibility of the parties to the conflict, peacekeepers, and humanitarian organisations. However, this responsibility primarily rests with the national governments, India's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador K Nagaraj Naidu said at a Security Council open debate on 'Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.'

Very little is done in terms of strengthening the national and societal capacities of protection. "Outside agencies can only supplement and not supplant the responsibility of national governments," he said.
Naidu also pointed out that protection of civilians in the context of UN peacekeeping operations has been a complex one because of the vastly different nature of armed conflicts; possible contradiction with the longstanding agreed principles of UN peacekeeping; as also the limitations of the mandates; and the serious inadequacy of the resources made available for peacekeeping missions.
"It is our impression that there is no dearth of intent to better the protection of civilians in armed conflict situations. However, it is obvious that the implementation of this concept is not matching the expectations. We need to translate the concept into feasible actions and operational responses," he said.
Naidu added that while 8 of the current 14 UN peacekeeping missions include protection of civilians as one of their mandates, this aspect is only one of the many other mandated components, at least 10 on an average, that each of these missions is individually expected to fulfill.
"It is clear that the expectations that the UN peacekeepers can effectively ensure protection of civilians in the absence of clear mandates are not realistic," he said.
Conflicts where peacekeeping operations are deployed are inherently messy, complex and difficult, he said adding that these should not be taken as an excuse to accept the devastating impact of conflict on civilians.
Naidu noted that the commitments under the UN Secretary General's Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative provide a foundation to tackle some of the challenges and further strengthen the protective role of peacekeepers.
"It is also useful to consider evolving a normative architecture for protection of civilians as part of a broader endeavour. A framework that is politically attuned, but not politicized or seen as being instrumentalised," he said underlining that it is only then can nations move forward with cohesion to address issues that have exacted a heavy price of civilian lives.
Naidu also recalled the stellar example of Captain Gurbachan Singh Salaria who led an Indian Infantry Brigade Group as part of United Nations Operation in the Congo in November 1961. The mission's objective was to restore the peace and unity of Congo and to protect the lives of the civilian population in Elizabethville. However it resulted in the maximum number of casualties suffered by India in any UN operation 39 personnel laid down their lives. This was at a time when 'Protection of Civilians' was not part of peacekeeping mandate," he said.

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First Published: May 29 2019 | 1:15 PM IST

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