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The Holy See urges effective protection of civilians in war zones

Archbishop Gabriele Caccia

Archbishop Gabriele Caccia

Fountain: Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations

In an open debate in New York on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, denounced attacks on civilian infrastructure, the indiscriminate use of weapons in populated areas and the increase in attacks against humanitarian personnel. .

Archbishop Caccia reiterated an urgent call for the effective protection of those facing greatest risks during the conflict, including humanitarian personnel, health workers, religious personnel, journalists, displaced people, women, children and people with disabilities.

Speaking yesterday at an open debate of the Security Council, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of UN Resolution 1265, Archbishop Caccia highlighted that with the dramatic increase in conflicts around the world, the protection of civilians is more urgent today never.

In his speech, the Archbishop highlighted the fact that in modern warfare no place is now a safe haven for civilians: civilian infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and places of worship have become “devastating targets, disproportionately affecting lives of the innocent and defenseless.” “.

The Vatican Observer called for special protection of places of worship in conflict zones, noting that these places are not simply places of prayer, but also serve as places of assistance and protection for those in need.

The Vatican Observer also reiterated the Holy See’s repeated calls to cease the production, stockpiling and indiscriminate use of weapons, such as landmines, cluster munitions and explosive weapons in populated areas. While he praised the UN Mine Action Service for its work, he urged the implementation of the Political Declaration on the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas.

Finally, Bishop Caccia reaffirmed the Holy See’s firm condemnation of any attempt to obstruct the delivery of supplies such as food, water and medicine to those suffering from the impacts of war, as well as the indiscriminate attacks against humanitarian and medical personnel that put their lives in danger. in danger to help the population on the ground.

The full statement follows:

Below is the statement of HE Archbishop Gabriele Caccia:
Permanent Observer of the Holy See

Security Council open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict: 25th anniversary of S/RES/1265 (1999)
New York, May 22, 2024

Mr. president,

As we commemorate the 25th anniversary of Resolution 1265 and the 75th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, it is clear that the need to strengthen the protection of civilians in armed conflict is more urgent than ever.

The increase in conflicts around the world in recent years is alarming. These conflicts generate catastrophic effects on the lives of millions of people, with civilians being the most affected. Indeed, “it seems that the distinction between military and civilian objectives is no longer respected, there is no conflict that does not end up in some way hitting the civilian population indiscriminately.”(1) The majority of those affected by the scourge of war are are forced to flee their countries of origin, while a significant number of others have been victims of these conflicts. It is imperative that “civilian victims are not (seen as) ‘collateral damage’, but (as) men and women, with names and surnames.”(2)

In light of these grave circumstances, the Holy See urges the implementation of Resolution 1265 in the protection of those who face greatest risks during the conflict, such as humanitarian personnel, health workers, religious personnel, journalists, displaced people, women, children and people. with disabilities.

While emphasizing the need to properly implement these provisions and incorporate them into all peacekeeping mandates, my Delegation would like to present three key points for the Council’s consideration.

First: it is important to recognize that modern warfare no longer takes place solely on the battlefield. It also negatively affects civil infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and places of worship. These safe havens can become devastating targets and disproportionately affect the lives of innocent and defenseless people. In this sense, my Delegation urges that places of worship in conflict zones be especially protected. These sites are not simply places of prayer; They also serve as places of assistance and protection for those in need.

Second: the cessation of production, stockpiling and indiscriminate use of weapons, such as landmines, cluster munitions and explosive weapons in populated areas, is a crucial measure to ensure the protection of civilians in armed conflict. The consequences of these instruments of death are well known and, along with other explosive remnants of war, continue to pose a serious threat to civilians even after hostilities have ended. In this regard, my Delegation commends the United Nations Mine Action Service for its valuable work and calls for the implementation of the Political Declaration on the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas.

Third: The blockage of humanitarian aid in conflict zones and the increase in attacks against humanitarian personnel are of grave concern. The Holy See, while calling for strict respect for international humanitarian law, condemns any attempt to hinder the delivery of supplies such as food, water and medicine to those suffering from the impacts of war, as well as indiscriminate attacks against humanitarian personnel. and doctor. who put their lives at risk to help the population on the ground.

Thank you, Mr. President.

(1) Pope Francis, Address to the members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, January 8, 2024.
(2) Ibid.

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