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Report of the Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict (S/2013/689)

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I. Introduction

  1. The present report, submitted pursuant to the request contained in the statement by the President of the Security Council dated 12 February 2013 (S/PRST/2013/2), is my tenth report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

  2. The 18 months since my previous report on this topic (S/2012/376) have borne witness to further tragic and brutal reminders of the fundamental importance of the protection of civilians in armed conflict. This is not simply as a thematic item on the agenda of the Security Council but also as a fundamental objective that we must all — parties to conflict, States, the United Nations and other partners — work tirelessly to achieve. Ensuring the protection of civilians requires uncompromising respect for international humanitarian and human rights law and serious efforts to ensure such respect.

  3. The need to strengthen efforts to prevent and respond to violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in situations of conflict and violence has been at the forefront of discussions within the United Nations and its agencies, funds and programmes as we have considered our own response to the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic and the recommendations made by the Internal Review Panel on United Nations Action in Sri Lanka. We are strongly committed to learning from past failures and have agreed upon an action plan, entitled “Rights up front”, which contains important proposals to strengthen the role of the United Nations. The plan is based on recognition that the United Nations can meet its core responsibilities only when it operates with the firm, unified and vocal support of Member States, both within and outside the Security Council. Equally important, the plan recognizes that protecting people from atrocities is an overarching responsibility that must bring together all the critical functions of the United Nations: human rights, humanitarian, political and peacekeeping. This requires close coordination, better information sharing and advocacy, more robust preparedness, greater efforts in prevention work and a coherent and effective strategy owned and delivered by the Organization as a whole.