Statement by H.E. Mr. Rodolfo Reyes Rodríguez, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Cuba to the United Nations, at the Security Council Debate on: Protection of Civilians in armed conflicts. New York, 12 February 2014.
We thank the Secretary-General of the United Nations for the presentation of his tenth report on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts. We share his conclusions that the situation on this issue leaves little room for optimism.
Cuba supports the need to protect civilians in armed conflicts pursuant to International law, particularly the International Humanitarian Law included in the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols.
The 70th anniversary of the foundation of the United Nations Organization is drawing near, fruit of the resolute decision of its peoples to save future generations from the scourge of the war. We have been successful in preventing a third world war; however, we have failed to prevent wars. That is still a pending task of the Organization incumbent on all its Member States.
Nothing justifies the killing of innocent people, and Cuba strongly condemns these actions wherever they occur. Notwithstanding, we accept neither genocide in the name of peace nor the false justification of protecting civilians to hide the true purpose of overthrowing the political, economic and social order that the people, target of the aggressions, has decided to build in exercise of their sovereign powers, in accordance to the principles of the UN Charter.
We, the United Nations Member States, must act with determination to prevent armed conflicts; preventing the development of conflicts is the safest and less expensive way to protect civilians. We, Member States, should strictly adhere to the Charter of the United Nations, particularly the respect for its principles and purposes; not to stir up or stoke conflicts when they inevitably arise. The search for peace and its consolidation, once it is achieved, must be the main objective when the conflict arises. UN Peacekeepers should devote its efforts and resources to achieve those goals.
It is unjustifiable that global military expenditures continue to reach astronomical figures and amounts today to 1.75 trillion dollars, equivalent to 2.5% of the world GDP. The arms race does not stop, on the contrary, we witness every day the emergence of new and more sophisticated weapons. Whom are these weapons going to be used against?
United Nations peacekeeping operations, especially those with civilian protection mandates must be guided by the principles of the Charter and, under no circumstance, should become means for changing governments or military interventions. The protection of civilians is a paramount responsibility of the PKOs-receiving States; therefore, the implementation of mandates of the United Nations peacekeepers should be accomplished without prejudice to the responsibility of the recipient State.
It is important to remember that the General Assembly has the primary role within the United Nations to formulate concepts, policies and to address the issues of budgets of peacekeeping operations. In this context, the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations is the only UN forum mandated with the comprehensive review of all matters related to peacekeeping operations in all its aspects. Recommendations thereof encompass the issue of protection of civilians, which is really relevant to today’s debate.
The coordination with the States receiving UN peacekeepers and the countries contributing with troops and police is indispensable. The Secretary-General addressed this issue in his report; in like manner, he highlighted the evolution of some mandates of operations in the field with authorization for offensive actions. This is a delicate and controversial matter in the light of the basic principles governing the functioning of the United Nations peacekeeping operations since the very beginning, namely, respect for sovereign equality, political independence and territorial integrity of all States, as well as the non-interference in internal affairs. Member States must ensure that these principles are strictly observed and that any obstacle hindering its compliance is removed in time.
We share the concern of the Secretary-General about the use of new technologies, particularly the use of unmanned aircraft managed by remote control and the use of the so-called non-autonomous weapon systems. If we really want to take action to protect civilians in armed conflicts, these facts cannot be put aside. The General Assembly should assess those facts and prevent extrajudicial execution and crimes against innocent civilians using these technologies. Those responsible for these actions should be brought to justice and account for their crimes. The Security Council should not be isolated from these events.
The report of the Secretary-General is silent once again about the danger of nuclear weapons, although some nuclear States intend to use them even in conventional conflicts. The international community has redoubled efforts to finally achieve a world free from nuclear weapons, the only sustainable solution to face such huge threat. Next 26 September, we will celebrate for the first time the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, as a result of a decision of the General Assembly. The humanitarian consequences of those weapons are part of the problem; Cuba advocates for an equal decision to face this matter.
You cannot advocate for an effective protection of civilian in conflicts at the same time you defend the use of nuclear weapons as part of military doctrines. You cannot advocate for an effective protection of civilians in armed conflicts and stir up armed confrontations, transferring weapons to non-state actors, as it is currently happening in Syria. You cannot advocate for an effective protection of civilians in conflicts while abetting crimes against the Palestinian people and other occupied Arab peoples.
The region of Latin America and the Caribbean is leader in promoting peace and peaceful settlement of disputes. Only few days ago, last 29 January, leaders of Member States of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), gathered at the Second Summit of the Community in Havana, proclaimed Latin America and the Caribbean as Zone of Peace, in a comprehensive progress that seeks to banish forever the threat and the use of force as a means for solving conflicts; poverty, illiteracy, lack of universal and free access to essential services like health and education; in which solidarity and cooperation prevail among our peoples in order to achieve prosperity, and to promote and protect human rights, including the right to development, full freedom and dignity of its citizens.
Thank you so much.