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António Guterres (UN Secretary-General) on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts - Security Council Open VTC
27 May 2020 -  Opening remarks by António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts, during the Security Council Open VTC.
"(...) I repeat my call to States to develop national frameworks to strengthen the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
States must also ensure accountability through strengthened efforts to prevent serious violations of international law, by prioritising investigation and prosecution.
I urge all to move beyond rhetoric and close the accountability gap through national legislation and coordinated international action.
My report outlines other actions that require greater global attention.
First, I urge States to review and rethink their approach to urban warfare, committing to the protection of civilians in their doctrine, strategy and tactics.
This includes measures to condition arms exports on respect for international humanitarian and human rights law.
Second, armed drones are increasingly being used to conduct attacks in many situations of armed conflict, including Libya and Yemen. We need to reassert the authority of international law over their use.
Third, we must address the legal, moral and ethical implications posed by the development of lethal autonomous weapons systems. It is my deep conviction that machines with the power and discretion to take lives without human involvement must be prohibited by international law.
Finally, we must tackle the malicious use of digital technology to conduct cyberattacks on critical civilian infrastructure. Reports from several countries indicate a rise in cyberattacks on healthcare facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. We must do more to prevent and end these new forms of aggression, which can cause further severe harm to civilians.
Civilians caught up in violence now face a new and deadly threat from COVID-19.
The pandemic is amplifying and exploiting the fragilities of our world. Conflict is one of the greatest causes of that fragility.
Protecting civilians requires us to do much more to ensure compliance with international law and accountability for violations. We must also do more to prevent, reduce and resolve conflicts.
Sustainable political solutions remain the only way to ensure that civilians are kept safe from harm. (...)" - António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General [excerpt].