Sierra Leone Statement at the UN Security Council Open Debate On The Protection Of Civilians In Armed Conflict:25th Anniversary Of Security Council Resolution 1265 (1999)


Mr. President, 

I thank you, Mr. President, for convening this important open debate.

I thank USG Alice Nderitu, USG Joyce Msuya, ICRC President Mir-jana Egger, and Mr. Hichem Kadhaoui for their invaluable insights and recommendations.

Sierra Leone firmly reiterates our full and unwavering commitment to the protection of civilians in armed conflict as a fundamental principle of international humanitarian law and human rights law.  This year, we celebrate two seminal global milestones, the 75th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions and the 25th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1265.

25 years down the road, since SCR 1265, the Security Council has continued to demonstrate its commitment to ensuring the protection of civilians during conflicts through various resolutions and other UNSC products which condemn harm perpetrated on civilians, including their person, properties, and other infrastructure which support their lives and livelihoods; as well as promote the prevention of future harm against civilians and access to humanitarian aid in conflict situations.

 Regrettably, as armed conflicts continue to escalate across the globe, civilians continue to bear the brunt of our inability to resolve disputes and conflicts by peaceful means. In 2023 alone, the number of UN recorded civilian deaths in armed conflicts was at least 33,443, representing a 72% increase from 2022. The report of the Secretary-General continues to remind us of persistent occurrence of trends and specific patterns of harm against civilians in armed conflicts and specific country situations. The alarming rate of civilian casualties in armed conflict is inexcusable and necessitates an urgent call to action.

The Secretary-General’s report paints a grim picture on the state of the protection of civilians in armed conflicts. From widespread civilian harm, the impact of acute urban warfare and use of explosive weapons in populated areas, attacks on critical infrastructure, the heavy toll of landmines, and explosive remnants of war, to the increasing concerns regarding actions by military and security firms, the imperative to reflect on what it means to protect civilians and to take action to prevent or mitigate their exposure to harm, particularly in the context of the New Agenda for Peace, is unquestionable.   

The widespread civilian harm, as reported by the Secretary-General in 2023 was aggravated by forced displacement, including multiple displacements, deprivation of medical care, conflict-driven hunger, famine, and lack of access to water, and the adverse impact on the environment and climate change.  We note with deep concern the increasing lack of protection for specific vulnerabilities, that is children, persons with disabilities, journalists, and missing persons.  

Sexual violence, in particular conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) also remains a most concerning specific vulnerability. The increase by 50% from 20222 of UN verified cases of CRSV, with the vast majority of incidents targeting women and girls (95%) regrettably indicates the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. There exists double victimization as victims further suffer from the lack of access to medical and psychosocial support within the prescribed timeframe.

With respect to peacekeeping, 25 years after the first protection of civilians mandated mission in Sierra Leone, authorized by SCR 1270 (1999), wherein the Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, authorized the established UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) “…to afford protection to civilians under imminent threat of physical violence”, we continue to grapple with not only non-compliance with international human rights law and humanitarian law by parties to conflicts, with the primary responsibility to protect civilians, but also protection gaps in face of untimely termination of peacekeeping mandates.

Mr. President,

In considering the responsibilities of host countries, we observe a retreat by some countries hosting peace operations with PoC mandates. In noting the value of ensuring the protection of civilians in peacekeeping mandates, established by the Security Council, we must make concerted efforts to ensure effective transfer of responsibilities with “progressive, responsible, honorable” disengagements, where there are requests for withdrawal or the transitioning of peacekeeping operations, particularly in situations where there are obvious dire implications for civilians.

In noting the imperative to strengthen and enhance the effectiveness of the protection of civilians agenda, we will make the following three observations in the context of peacekeeping and peace support operations:

Firstly, peacekeeping missions must function as political tools within the wider context of the conflict resolution processes. They must be established on the basis of valid and reliable analyses of the situations on the ground, and they must equally operate on well-articulated mandates with clear terms of references guiding their operations. The Security Council must authorize Missions with the necessary agility, flexibility, and with the required resources, to respond to rapidly changing dynamics, as is often the case in complex conflict situations involving often very vulnerable civilian populations. 

25 years since SCR 1265, we are of the considered view that all peacekeeping missions are to be authorized with a mandate to protect civilians, with the operational managers on the ground guiding the Council and the Secretariat on the types and levels of protection most appropriate in their different contexts. 

Secondly, we highlight the importance of early engagement with key stakeholders, including host countries, regional organizations, and other interlocutors, from the very early stages of the development and authorization of mandates to deployment and operationalization for peacekeeping missions, and peace support operations.   

From our experience, when SCR 1270 was adopted with the first PoC mandate, its success in addressing the appalling catalogue of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, was largely due to a common understanding and acceptance of the mandate and scope of operations by the Government of Sierra Leone, the UN Security Council, regional interlocutors, and the Mission’s leadership. The early engagement of key stakeholders can be fundamental in developing that common understanding. 

Thirdly, and more generally, with the call to strengthen the protection of civilians in the New Agenda for Peace, we agree there is opportunity, at this 25th anniversary of the protection of civilians agenda for deeper reflection on how to address harm to civilians in contemporary armed conflicts, and certainly elaborate a meaningful and holistic approach to protecting civilians in armed conflicts.  

Mr. President,

As civilians continue to endure the deadly effects of armed conflict, exacerbated by new and deadlier forms of weaponry, and legal non-compliance, this Council should positively consider the Secretary-General`s recommendations, as contained in his recent reports, to shape the behavior and actions of States and parties to conflicts. There is enough evidence for the Council to be persuaded to act together and galvanize action on a common commitment to protect civilians in all conflict situations.  We conclude by calling for parties to conflict to adhere to the principles of international humanitarian law and comply with their legal obligation to protect civilians in armed conflict. I thank you.  

Recent News

Scroll to Top