NATIONS, June 12, (Xinhua/GNA) - The United Nations Security Council has passed
its first-ever resolution on missing persons in conflict, Resolution 2474,
unanimously by the 15-member Council.
According to the resolution, the Council called upon parties to armed conflict to take appropriate measures to prevent persons from going missing as a result of armed conflict, through the facilitation of the reunion of families dispersed as a result of armed conflict, and to allow for the exchange of family news, consistent with their international obligations.
"Alarming numbers of persons go missing in armed conflict," said Reena Ghelani, who heads operations and advocacy at the UN's humanitarian coordination office, OCHA, while briefing on behalf of UN Relief Chief Mark Lowcock.
There are no comprehensive figures on the number of persons that go missing every year, but the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) - the non-profit organization that traditionally coordinates efforts regarding the protection of civilians in conflicts worldwide - has recorded over 10,000 cases in Syria, and over 13,000 requests for assistance on this matter in Nigeria alone.
She explained that when a missing person is the breadwinner of the family, the economic impact can be devastating, and that relatives left behind often face legal, administrative or cultural challenges that make it hard to remarry, claim their inheritance, or receive benefits.
The historic text puts emphasis on moving from a post-conflict approach to one that addresses the issue at the beginning of hostilities and lists several prevention measures, including detainee registration, ensuring means of identification, and the establishment of national information bureaux.
The resolution places a special emphasis on missing children and reaffirms the Council's support for ICRC's efforts in this matter and calls on parties to conflict to cooperate with the non-government organizations and its Tracing Agency, in line with international humanitarian law.
ICRC President Peter Maurer, who was briefing from Geneva via video link, underlined the importance of states fulfilling their obligations to search for missing persons so that those answers could be given to family members.
Maurer said that ICRC was "modernizing" its approaches both on the prevention and response, thanks to a "growing body of expertise" and the upgrading of search methods, including face recognition technologies.
The ICRC head called for stronger political and additional preventive measures to be put in place, and the imperative to adhering to humanitarian principles when handling all issues of missing persons.