1. The present eighth report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 1894 (2009).
2. The adoption of resolution 1894 (2009) on 11 November 2009 was a fitting commemoration of 10 years of thematic action by the Security Council on the protection of civilians and a welcome manifestation of the ongoing commitment of the Council to that critical issue. The resolution marked a significant step towards responding to some of the five core challenges identified in my previous report of 29 May 2009 (S/2009/277), namely, the need to enhance compliance by parties to conflict with international law, enhance compliance by non-State armed groups, enhance protection by United Nations peacekeeping and other relevant missions, enhance humanitarian access and enhance accountability for violations.
3. The present report provides an update on progress made in responding to those core challenges. It takes stock of positive developments and ongoing or new concerns affecting civilians in today's conflicts and makes additional recommendations for responding to the core challenges. In doing so, the report emphasizes the fundamental need to focus efforts on making a tangible difference where and for whom it matters most: in the midst of conflict and for the hundreds of thousands of civilians - women, men and children - confronting the horrors, pain and suffering of war on a daily basis. Whether as the intended targets of attack or the incidental victims of the use of force, civilians continue to account for the majority of casualties in conflict. The unstinting and rigorous attention of the Security Council to their situation remains vital and must be at the centre of its deliberations and actions. This is particularly the case in the many protracted violent crises and conflicts that persistently pose unacceptable levels of risk to civilians, with little prospect of peaceful resolution in the near future.
4. Through its thematic resolutions on the protection of civilians, including, most recently, resolution 1894 (2009), as well as resolutions relating to children and armed conflict and to women and peace and security; the mandating of peacekeeping missions to protect civilians; the adoption of the aide-memoire on the protection of civilians (see S/PRST/2009/1); and the creation of the informal Expert Group on the Protection of Civilians, the Security Council has over the course of the past 11 years established a comprehensive framework through which to pursue more effective protection on the ground. While this framework may be further developed, the emphasis must now be on making progress in enhancing protection on the ground.
5. For the Security Council, that means the systematic application of the aide-memoire and the regular use of the Expert Group to inform the development and revision of peacekeeping and other mission mandates, as well as other forms of Security Council action on protection. It means monitoring progress in providing protection to civilians and ensuring the implementation of the Council's resolutions. For United Nations country teams and peacekeeping and other relevant missions, it means more effective coordination, strategy setting and prioritizing; regular monitoring of the protection of civilians; and candid reporting to relevant bodies, including the Council, on obstacles to and opportunities for progress. For all involved - parties to conflict, the Security Council, Member States and the United Nations more broadly - it means redoubling efforts to meet the five core challenges and enhance respect for the principles of international humanitarian law, human rights law and refugee law on which the protection of civilians is founded.