Pakistani peacekeepers always protect civilians: Ambassador Lodhi

Founder Editor Tazeen Akhtar..

New York: At the UN, Pakistan called for addressing the root causes of conflicts and finding  peaceful settlement of disputes to ensure the protection of civilians in conflict situations.

Speaking in the Security Council Open Debate on the ‘Protection of Civilians and Healthcare in Armed Conflict’, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Dr. Maleeha Lodhi voiced Pakistan’s support to the Secretary General’s call for a ‘surge in diplomacy for peace’. “A culture of prevention is after all, the best assurance to sustainable and enduring peace and security”, she said.

The goal of protection of civilians, Ambassador Lodhi said, was best served by preventing the outbreak of armed conflicts in the first place. “This entails addressing the root causes of conflicts, and finding inclusive political solutions to disputes and seeking peaceful settlement of conflicts”, she added.

She also called for prioritization of protection of civilians in UN peacekeeping operations. As one of the world’s leading troop contributors, Ambassador Lodhi said, Pakistan has “proudly and conscientiously performed the task of protecting civilians in different parts of the world including in Missions in the DRC, Darfur, Central African Republic and Liberia.”

Arguing that the protection of civilians in armed conflict was a basic tenet of international humanitarian law, Ambassador Lodhi regretted that despite an established normative framework, compliance was unfortunately sporadic and accountability mechanisms remained weak.

“Non-combatants continue to be treated as “fair game” at the hands of warring parties to further their strategic interests. “Collateral damage’ is still considered an unfortunate but inevitable byproduct of conflict”, she added.

Ambassador Lodhi pointed out that the plight of the vulnerable including women and children, remains particularly acute. She referred to the Secretary General latest report, which noted that more than 20 million people in conflict situations including 1.4 million children are on the brink of famine. She emphasized that there was an ever greater need for humanitarian assistance and protection for people displaced by conflict.

This challenge, she pointed out, was compounded by an inadequate global response to address the suffering of civilians in armed conflict.

Ambassador Lodhi described as “unfortunate” the spate of recent attacks against medical facilities, both by state and non-state actors, in conflict situations. Essential health services including hospitals and medical personnel, she said, play a critical role, both as providers of vital life support as well as sustainers of hope and optimism. 

“Any attack on medical facilities and staff, jeopardizes life and exacerbates suffering. It is therefore, not only an egregious breach of international law, but also a betrayal of humanity itself”, she added.

Recalling the landmark Security Council Resolution 2286, adopted last year, which unequivocally condemned attacks or threats against medical and humanitarian personnel exclusively engaged in medical duties, the Pakistani envoy urged the 15-member Council to translate this political resolve into tangible action.

Calling for an end to the culture of impunity, Dr. Lodhi said that criminal prosecutions and other forms of accountability for the perpetrators of attacks on health service providers are equally essential.

Ambassador Lodhi said that parties to an armed conflict must also ensure a safe, unimpeded passage and sustained humanitarian access. Human misery, she said, could not be mortgaged at the altar of political objectives.