As part of Switzerland’s presidency of the UN Security Council, President Alain Berset will chair an open debate dedicated to the protection of civilians in armed conflict on Tuesday, 23 May. According to UN figures, 70 % of people suffering from acute hunger live in conflict areas.
Protecting civilians in armed conflict is one of Switzerland’s priorities for its work in the UN Security Council in 2023/24, alongside the commitment to sustainable peace, enhancing effectiveness in the Council and climate security. The visits that President Berset paid to Mozambique in February and to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in April were primarily devoted to these topics.
In 2018 and 2021, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolutions on food security and protecting civilian infrastructure in conflict zones. Resolution 2417 specifically condemns the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare. In Resolution 2573, the Security Council condemned unlawful attacks on objects critical to the delivery of essential services to the civilian population.
Furthermore, more people die worldwide from the consequences of armed conflict than from the violence itself. In light of numerous conflicts, including Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, the Council will also address how to improve food security in affected areas.
The high-level debate in the UN Security Council is intended to underline the importance of international humanitarian law in armed conflict – an issue that Switzerland has long been a strong advocate of. Speakers at the debate will include UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Mirjana Spoljaric Egger, and a civil society representative from West Africa.
Digital dilemmas in humanitarian work
On the evening before, President Berset will open an exhibition entitled ‘Digital Dilemmas’ at the UN headquarters in New York together with UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and ICRC President Spoljaric Egger. The immersive experience, organised by Switzerland and the ICRC, is dedicated to the opportunities and challenges of digitalisation in the field of humanitarian work.
For civilians caught up in conflict, sharing data can help them find loved ones and access medical care and food, but it can also render them vulnerable. Information about their ethnicity, location, health and beliefs can make them targets. And while the use of artificial intelligence can help clarify matters, making humanitarian operations more effective, it can also reinforce stereotypes due to skewed data.