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'We are failing': UN chief calls for protection of civilians fleeing war

FILE- A doctor attends to a malnourished child at a refugee camp in Yola, Nigeria. Sunday, May 3, 2015.
FILE- A doctor attends to a malnourished child at a refugee camp in Yola, Nigeria. Sunday, May 3, 2015. Copyright AP
Copyright AP
By Euronews with AFP
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Noting that over 100 million people were classified as refugees in 2022, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told member states it was falling short of its commitments.

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The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling on parties involved in armed conflict across the world to prioritise the protection of civilians.

"Ninety-four per cent of the victims in populated areas were civilians," he said during a debate on civilian protection at the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday.

In 2022, more than 100 million people across the globe were classified as refugees. They have been forced from their homes mainly due to conflict, violence, human rights violations or persecution.

“War is devastating lives around the world,” Guterres says. “We must intensify our efforts to prevent conflict, protect civilians, preserve peace and find political solutions to war.”

According to the UN chief, the "terrible truth" is that the world is failing to live up to its commitments to protect civilians, commitments enshrined in international humanitarian law.

At the UN, the Security Council debated on whether the protection of civilians in combat zones was being upheld. For instance, in urban warfare, warring parties must ensure civilian protection by not using heavy explosives in populated areas and providing access to essential services.

Guterres was quick to remind member states of the protocols.

"I urge all states to join and turn the declaration into meaningful action. In December [2022], Security Council adopted resolution 2664 which aims to prevent United Nations sanctions from harming civilians and obstructing humanitarian action. I urge all states to implement it, and to exclude humanitarian and medical activities from their own counter-terrorism and sanctions measures."

Over the long day of discussions, several measures were discussed, including the obligation to provide all civilians access to humanitarian workers, a resolution against the use of starvation as a weapon of war and outlawing attacks on emergency workers.

Speakers also underlined the need to address the link between food insecurity, notably the knock-on effect of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on grain scarcity globally, and the growing number of refugees.

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