After weeks of wrangling, the UN Security Council today adopted a resolution on the protection of children in the Middle East. The text of the resolution, which was introduced by Malta as chair of the Council's Working Group on the Protection of Children in Armed Conflict, calls for the protection of children through temporary humanitarian pauses.
According to the resolution, the purpose of the pauses should include the provision of humanitarian assistance to the civilian population, particularly children, the evacuation of sick and injured children from the Gaza Strip and the recovery of missing children. To ensure this, the resolution calls for safe and unimpeded humanitarian access for UN humanitarian organizations, their partners and the ICRC during pauses in the fighting.
The resolution adopted by the Security Council also demanded that all parties comply with international humanitarian law and ensure the protection of civilians, in particular children, which is a priority of Swiss foreign policy. The text also calls for the release of all hostages held by Hamas since October 7.
Switzerland supported the resolution because it takes into account the urgent humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. The resolution reflects four Swiss priorities: (1) humanitarian pauses for rapid humanitarian access; (2) respect for international humanitarian law; (3) release of hostages; and (4) prevention of the escalation of the conflict. The concise text of the resolution, which is geared to operational needs, deliberately refrains from political contextualization, especially since it proved impossible to reach a consensus on this during the negotiations. As a country with a long humanitarian tradition and as the depositary state of the Geneva Conventions, the protection of children in conflicts is of particular concern to Switzerland. According to international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions, civilians, including children, must be protected in conflicts. In its explanation of vote, Switzerland reiterated the position of the Federal Council on the current conflict in the Middle East, in particular its condemnation of terrorist acts by Hamas and its recognition of Israel's right to ensure its defense and security. The so-called "statement after the vote" gives states at the UN the opportunity to present their detailed positions and assessments in addition to the vote.
After four failed attempts to adopt a resolution on the Middle East since October 7, today's resolution is a testament to the Security Council's ability to act and take decisions. At the same time, the resolution sends an important signal to all actors and affected civilians on the ground. The last time the Security Council was able to adopt a resolution on the Middle East was in 2016. Switzerland will continue to advocate in the UN Security Council for measures that go beyond the protection of the civilian population and address the overall situation in the current conflict in the Middle East - namely a resolution that condemns the terrorist acts of Hamas, calls for the release of all hostages, recognizes Israel's right to ensure its security and demands rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to Gaza.