posted on Tue 8 Nov 2011 5:05 PM
Protection of Civilians Open Debate

The Council will hold its biannual open debate on protection of civilians in armed conflict tomorrow morning (9 November). The debate will be chaired by President Aníbal Cavaco Silva of Portugal. High-level participation is also expected from Brazil, which will be represented by Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota. The Secretary-General, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, and Director for International Law and Cooperation at ICRC, Philip Spoerri, are expected to speak.

It seems that the Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has indicated interest in participating but at the time of writing this had not been confirmed. If this were to happen, it would most likely be Assistant Secretary-General Catherine Bragg. (The Secretary-General and OCHA have both briefed during previous protection of civilians debates.)

There is no Secretary-General’s report due at this time (the next report is due in May 2012) and no outcome document is expected. While the debate is likely to cover a broad range of protection of civilians issues, Portugal has invited Council members to address in particular how to enhance accountability for violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) and human rights law. This was one of the five key challenges identified by the Secretary-General in his 2009 and 2010 reports on protection of civilians.

It seems that some participants are likely to address a number of other issues. Brazil is likely to want to raise the issue of “responsibility while protecting”, a concept recently launched by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in the General Assembly. A number of participants also appear keen to address recent developments in the Middle East.

In preparation for the debate, Portugal co-hosted a workshop on 1 November with OCHA on the role of the Council with respect to violations of IHL and human rights law. It appears that Portugal is planning to circulate a summary of the workshop at the open debate in order to encourage further discussion and follow-up on these issues.