I would like to thank you for organizing this open VTC on the protection of civilians in armed conflict and thank the briefers for their statements. These are difficult times for civilians in conflict-affected areas around the world. In addition to the existing threats they face—violence, food insecurity and displacement, among others—the COVID-19 pandemic presents a dramatic new threat to civilians and has created new challenges to their safety.
In order to mitigate the impact of armed conflict on civilians around the world, the United Arab Emirates takes this opportunity to renew its support for, and commitment to, the Secretary-General’s appeal for a global ceasefire. As the Secretary-General has underscored, that is the most effective way to protect civilians. The appeal is also an opportunity to remind us of our shared humanity, and we hope that other Member States will fully support this initiative.
Protecting vulnerable populations, including by providing medical care in conflict situations around the world, is at the center of the UAE’s humanitarian programs and its efforts to support the global fight against COVID-19. We have provided aid to more than 50 countries, including many affected by conflict such as Somalia, Afghanistan, and Yemen. We have partnered with the World Health Organization to support the worldwide delivery of critical medical equipment through Dubai’s International Humanitarian City and we have launched an international air bridge operation in partnership with the World Food Programme that will enable the movement of life-saving cargo and personnel where they are needed most.
Allow me to now turn to the content of the Secretary-General’s report. As has been the case in recent years, violations of international humanitarian law by non-state actors continue unabated. In Yemen, for instance, the Houthis use human shields, deliberately attack critical civilian infrastructure, and intentionally obstruct the delivery of humanitarian assistance. These constitute grave violations of international humanitarian law. Left unanswered, such violations of international humanitarian law contribute to the erosion of the essential set of rules that seek to mitigate the effects of armed conflict.
The United Arab Emirates expresses its continued commitment to supporting all efforts towards ending sexual and gender-based violence in conflict. We note with concern the analysis in the Secretary-General’s report of the patterns of conflict-related sexual violence during displacement and in the midst of hostilities. The UAE is a donor to the UN trust fund to address sexual violence in conflict and will continue to implement the outcomes of the Ending Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Humanitarian Crises conference it co-hosted last year in Oslo, including through funding initiatives targeting sexual violence.
Training and capacity development are a core element of promoting accountability and state compliance with international obligations. In addition to strictly national accountability mechanisms, it is important to highlight the role that international instruments can play when working closely with the sovereign state concerned and at its request, such as the Security Council-established UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh (UNITAD). We take this opportunity today to reiterate our support for the Team’s mandate, and in particular its critical work documenting sexual and gender-based crimes against religious minorities.
The United Arab Emirates remains committed to bridging the gap between rhetoric and implementation. In order to do so effectively, we would like to propose four recommendations:
First, we urge the Security Council to tailor and apply the range of tools within its disposal to address effectively the growing threat to civilians posed by non-state actors and ensure their compliance. Too often, Security Council resolutions, including those imposing measures under article 41 of the UN Charter, are ignored by non-state actors.
Second, the UAE would like to express its support to the Security Council efforts to negotiate a resolution welcoming the Secretary-General’s appeal for a global ceasefire. We urge Council members to overcome their divisions. In this moment of crisis, unity of action is essential.
Third, the UAE would like to commend the Secretary-General for the report’s comprehensive approach that highlights the growing challenge of protecting civilians from threats like the malicious use of digital technologies and climate change. These are no longer the threats of tomorrow, but the threats of today. We encourage the Council to incorporate more regularly in its analysis the impact of these challenges in the maintenance of international peace and security.
Finally, it is important that measures taken by Member States to address the COVID-19 pandemic be consistent with international humanitarian law and its fundamental principles.
The UAE will spare no effort in promoting the protection of civilians and upholding international law. We call on the Security Council and fellow Member States to join us in this endeavor.