The UAE thanks Norway for organizing this open debate. Thank you, Prime Minister, for your personal presence and for chairing this meeting. We would also like to thank the Secretary-General and Mr. Peter Maurer for their very insightful briefings.
We have also listened carefully to the briefer in Sana’a, and of course, strongly reject the allegations made against my country and the Coalition. Unlike the Houthis, we reiterate here the Coalition’s commitment to complying with its obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians, and we would welcome the Houthis doing the same.
I will, however, concentrate my remarks today on the important and timely topic of urban warfare that Norway chose as the centerpiece of its presidency. And, as a country that has recently defended itself against multiple terrorist attacks by the Houthis within the space of just one week targeting civilian infrastructure in densely populated urban areas, I could not agree more with the Council’s condemnation of the heinous attacks – not just within armed conflicts but also in peaceful havens like the UAE.
Since the Council adopted resolution 1265, we have seen conflicts in urban areas proliferate and take a devastating toll on civilians, with a disproportionate impact on women and children. With rapid urbanization continuing across the globe, particularly in fragile settings, and the increased density of cities, urban warfare has indeed become more complex, and the fundamental principle of distinction has become more challenging for parties in armed conflict to apply.
Yet, some non-state armed groups exploit this challenging environment and deliberately choose cities as a primary battleground in complete disregard for human life. The Houthis who I have mentioned, but also other terrorist organizations, not only deliberately target civilians and civilian objects, they also use schools and civilian infrastructure to store weapons or to launch attacks, and use civilians, including children, as human shields. This must stop, and it is the responsibility of this Council amongst other bodies to make it stop.
Against this backdrop, the UAE would like to make the following four suggestions aimed at more effectively protecting and mitigating the cumulative impact of urban warfare on civilians and civilian infrastructure:
- First, international law provides the necessary framework for the protection of civilians in urban warfare, and full compliance is even more critical in the complex environment of urban warfare because of its devastating consequences on civilians and essential infrastructure. Training, capacity building, and sharing best practices with parties engaged in armed conflict can help strengthen compliance.
- Second, sanctions remain an important tool of the Security Council for achieving various objectives, including the protection of civilians. They can work either to deter or coerce actors into compliance with international law. To achieve the intended results, however, they must be carefully designed to ensure that humanitarian actors can continue to deliver their essential work in these urban settings.
- Third, we must more systematically support early-recovery and reconstruction efforts to restore critical infrastructure and basic services that are damaged and disrupted by the impact of hostilities in cities. The current pandemic makes this commitment even more critical given that the heaviest toll of urban conflict falls upon children. We welcome that resolution 2601 (2021) highlighted the importance of the continuity of education in conflict and the potential of technology, particularly digital platforms, to mitigate disruptions to education. Developing and supporting ways to allow children to continue their education, even in the midst of conflict, is essential for their development and contributes to the achievement of peace and security.
- Fourth, and finally, protection and reconstruction strategies are more effective when women and men are equally included in consultation and decision-making. It is therefore crucial that women and girls are empowered in such a way that enables them to participate fully, equally, and meaningfully in these efforts. Their inclusion in all sectors – public and private – is critical for effective recovery, as well as for helping prevent the resurgence of conflict.
Urban areas are key hubs of civilian life; we must ensure that people, infrastructure, and the environment within them are protected. We recognize that the best way to protect civilians is indeed to prevent conflict at its onset. The UAE remains committed to working with the UN and its Member States to prevent conflicts and take collective action in the Council to promote the protection of civilians at all times.
I thank you.