May 2020 – In a joint statement, 22 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including Watchlist, call on UN Member States to strengthen action to protect civilians in armed conflict. The statement has been released ahead of the Security Council open debate on the protection of civilians, which will be held later this month.

In the more than 20 years of consideration and prioritization of the protection of civilians in armed conflict by the UN Security Council, significant progress has been made in building an international normative civilian protection framework. However, compliance with the laws and norms that safeguard civilians has deteriorated along with the safety and security of civilians caught in armed conflict. Conflicts of today continue to have devastating impacts on civilians, critical civilian infrastructure, protection, livelihoods, education, health systems, and food and water security, particularly when explosive weapons are used in populated areas.

As the world faces the unprecedented challenge of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, those living in conflict-affected countries are among the most vulnerable and at risk from the devastating consequences of the disease. They live in countries with weakened or decimated health infrastructure, where those working to help them are targets of attack and where humanitarian access is challenging. Constraints placed on peacekeeping operations, severe restrictions on rights and freedoms, and devastating socio-economic impacts may contribute to political destabilization, exacerbate existing armed conflicts, or lead to the emergence of new protection risks for civilians. There is a limited window of opportunity to effectively respond to this crisis and demonstrate global solidarity.

Read the joint statement on the protection of civilians: