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Refugees International continues to be encouraged by the Security Council’s ongoing engagement on the issue of the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Despite a heightened recognition of the critical importance of protection of civilians to the work of the Security Council, as well as numerous tactical innovations at the field level, RI remains concerned about the inability of individual states, as well as the broader international community, to meet the widespread challenges that prevent individuals, particularly those forcibly displaced or at a heightened risk of statelessness, from living in safety and security during times of conflict.
Given that many civilians in need of protection are either internally displaced or refugees, we urge the Security Council to engage more proactively with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees by inviting him to provide briefings during the semi-annual Protection of Civilians Open Debates, as well as inviting him to provide briefings on relevant country specific situations. Given UNHCR’s role as the agency leading the Protection Cluster both at the global and field levels, and as the mandated agency for refugees and stateless people, UNHCR’s activities are an important component of an integrated POC response and complement DPKO’s activities. In addition, protection clusters continue to be under-resourced and suffer from serious capacity constraints, compromising UNHCR’s ability to effectively lead this critical cluster. The Security Council can play a more proactive role in highlighting the need to financially support the protection cluster, as well as encouraging national governments to support the protection cluster.
A long standing POC principle has been the right of asylum for those fleeing violence. For decades, countries have opened their borders to refugees. Given the growing numbers of refugees fleeing violent conflict in Mali, Syria, and Somalia, it is critical that the Security Council recognizes the generosity of host countries and collectively works to ensure that states maintain open borders. In addition, the Security Council should highlight the importance of offering capacity building and other forms of technical and financial assistance to host countries to enable them to continue providing this important form of protection, as well as the importance of supporting international efforts to achieve durable solutions for refugee populations.
The plight of internally displaced persons has long been a concern of the Security Council. As numbers of people displaced by conflict continue to grow, it is important that the Security Council maintains pressure on states to fulfill their national responsibility to protect and assist their own citizens, including people who have been displaced to urban areas. Urban IDPs are emerging as one of the more vulnerable groups within the larger POC response. A majority of internally displaced persons live outside camps, and states and UN agencies must ensure that their IDP programs target those IDPs in urban areas. RI urges the Security Council to request that information on urban IDPs be included in all relevant reports from the Secretary General.
Another overlooked group within the wider POC response is stateless individuals and those who are at a high risk of statelessness during times of conflict and reconciliation. Statelessness is an issue of concern in several countries currently on the Security Council’s agenda—Syria, the Sudans, Cote d’Ivoire and Libya. Ensuring that individuals do not become stateless during or after conflict, resolving questions of nationality, and protecting stateless individuals during times of conflict and reconciliation should be a priority for the Security Council, and we urge you to request that the Secretary General include information on statelessness in his relevant reports.
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