United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday urged upholding promise to protect civilians caught in conflict.
"Civilians have suffered the deadly effects of armed conflict for too long. It is time we live up to our promise to protect them," Guterres told the UN Security Council debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
The world is failing to live up to its commitment to protect civilians during wartime, the top UN official said, urging greater respect for international humanitarian law.
Last year, civilians accounted for 94 percent of victims of explosive weapons deployed in populated areas, he noted, adding that more than 117 million people worldwide also faced acute hunger in 2022, primarily because of war and insecurity, which is "an outrage."
Guterres pointed to recent action towards alleviating the impact of conflict on civilians. For example, some warring parties have taken steps to protect children and allow humanitarians to access people in need.
Addressing food security, he mentioned measures such as the Black Sea Initiative to export grain from Ukraine amid the ongoing war, as well as a memorandum of understanding on bringing Russian food and fertilizer to global markets.
Last November, states adopted a political declaration on restricting or refraining from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, which he urged all countries to join.
The council also adopted a resolution the following month which aims to prevent UN sanctions from harming civilians and obstructing humanitarian action.
"These modest steps are welcome. But the terrible truth is that the world is failing to live up to its commitments to protect civilians; commitments enshrined in international humanitarian law," said Guterres, referring to the Geneva Conventions.
"We need action and accountability to ensure it is respected. That depends on political will," he added.
The secretary-general urged the international community to intensify efforts to prevent conflict, protect civilians, preserve peace and find political solutions to war.
"Where war continues, all countries must comply with international humanitarian law and members of this council have a particular responsibility," he said, adding that countries that export weapons should refuse to do business with any party that fails to comply with international humanitarian law.
(Cover: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the media during a visit to the UN office in Nairobi, Kenya, May 3, 2023. /CFP)