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UN General Assembly discusses the Responsibility to Protect (R2P)

arton3521On 12 July, the UN General Assembly held an Informal Interactive Dialogue on the Role of Regional and Sub-regional Arrangements in Implementing the Responsibility to Protect (R2P).

In 2005, during the World Summit, Heads of State and government agreed on the R2P principle to protect people from violence and crimes against humanity. The World Summit Outcome Document notes: “Each individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. This responsibility entails the prevention of such crimes, including their incitement, through appropriate and necessary means…. The international community, through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means…, to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.” From the beginning, it was recognized that the implementation of the R2P principles can only be successful through effective partnerships between governmental, inter-governmental and civil society entities at the global, regional, sub-regional, national, and local levels.

At the Informal Interactive Dialogue, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, commended progress made in terms of political recognition and support for the responsibility to protect, but was critical about the limited action to address atrocity crimes and violence around the world. “The history of atrocity crimes is not one of acting too boldly, but of doing too little, too late,” he said, noting that “For those facing mass rape and violence, however, the slow pace of global deliberations offers no relief. They look to us for protection, not comforting words or another five years of debate.” He therefore called upon the international community to sharpen the tools for prevention and for protection, and to develop a better and fuller understanding of what motivates the perpetrators and planners of mass violence.

Referring to the recent events in Libya, Sudan or Còte d’Ivoire, Joseph Deiss, President of the UN General Assembly, said (in French) that the internationally community had recently been forced to implement the R2P. However, he underlined that these actions were needed as a last resort to protect the people in those countries. The UN and its development partners, including regional and sub-regional organizations, should instead focus on the prevention of such situations by strengthening collaboration and building national State capacities to protect.

Many participants, including representatives from UN Member States, regional groups and civil society confirmed that preventative action that targets the root causes of insecurity should be favoured over military interventions, particularly because the latter might be applied in a biased or politicized way. However, they also agreed that there had been situations in the past where the international community should have responded in a timelier manner, such as the genocide of Rwanda, where international disagreement brought a very slow response. The main difficulty with the R2P principle is that it allows for different interpretations.

Preventing conflicts and violence is not an easy task, explained Knut Vollebaek, High Commissioner on National Minorities at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). He referred to the fact that it is difficult to mobilize resources to prevent atrocities that did not yet happen and received international attention.

Participants further confirmed that regional and subregional organizations could and should play an essential role in the prevention of atrocities, especially around critical events such as elections, but also to resolve crises of a social and political nature. Moreover, one participant said that regional solutions were needed for regional problems.

Read also the UN Secretary-General’s report “The Role of Regional and Sub-regional Arrangements in Implementing the Responsibility to Protect

Read the official press release of the event here.


This article is available in Spanish.


Photo credits
© UN Photo/Evan Schneider

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