H.E. Ambassador Beresford-Hill addressed the Security Council concerning the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict


On May 22, 2024, during a Security Council open debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflicts, Ambassador Beresford-Hill delivered a compelling and heartfelt statement, emphasizing the urgent need for united global efforts to safeguard civilians caught in the horrors of war.

At the beginning of his speech, Ambassador Beresford-Hill highlighted the significance of the debate by referencing two pivotal anniversaries: the 25th anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1265, which first introduced the Protection of Civilians (PoC) as an item on the Security Council’s agenda, and the 75th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, which are foundational texts in international humanitarian law. He stressed that these milestones serve as a stark reminder of the enduring relevance and necessity of these frameworks in guiding actions to protect civilians in the midst of armed conflicts.

Citing the Secretary-General’s annual report on PoC, Ambassador Beresford-Hill painted a grim picture of the current state of civilian harm in conflict zones. Civilians are facing death, attacks on essential infrastructure, conflict-induced hunger, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and conflict-related sexual violence. He underscored that these atrocities, occurring across all conflict zones, demand a comprehensive and determined response from the international community.

Ambassador Beresford-Hill then introduced the Sovereign Order of Malta’s specific initiatives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Ukraine, and Palestine, emphasizing its 900-year mission of aiding those in need and its unwavering commitment to protecting civilians in armed conflicts. Through its humanitarian arm, Malteser International, the Sovereign Order of Malta has been at the forefront of providing aid to civilians, with a particular focus on migrants and refugees. Ambassador Beresford-Hill highlighted the Order’s extensive network, which offers medical aid, psychological support, and essential supplies to those in dire circumstances, tirelessly upholding the principles of humanity and impartiality.

Ambassador Beresford-Hill concluded his address with a stern reminder of the unacceptable violations of international humanitarian law, including direct attacks on civilians, the use of human shields, the misuse of protected facilities, and the targeting of humanitarian aid workers. These actions not only cause immediate harm but also have long-term repercussions on the stability and development of affected regions. He called for securing compliance with international humanitarian law and strengthening the efforts of civil society and international organizations working on the ground.

During the debate, UN officials highlighted the worsening plight of civilians, with 33,000 deaths recorded in 2023, a significant increase from the previous year. Joyce Msuya, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, cited severe violations in conflicts across Gaza, Sudan, and Ukraine, calling for comprehensive protection beyond mere legal compliance. Alice Wairimu Nderitu, Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, warned of genocide risks in Sudan, urging immediate international action, while Mirjana Spoljaric Egger, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and Hichem Khadhraoui, Executive Director of the Center for Civilians in Conflict, stressed the need for political and military leaders to uphold international humanitarian law and protect civilians from the impacts of warfare. Over 60 delegations reaffirmed their commitment to civilian protection but criticized the selective application of international law. Additionally, Thomas Gürber, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, proposed a resolution for safe humanitarian access, with various countries emphasizing the importance of impartial humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping operations.