|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-third General Assembly
97th Meeting (PM)
General Assembly adopts resolution stressing critical need
for regional approach to conflict prevention in africa
Implementation of Responsibility to Protect:
Secretary-General’s Three-pillar Approach is Focus of Subsequent Debate
Reaffirming the need to strengthen the synergy between Africa’s economic and social development programmes on the one hand, and its peace and security agenda on the other, the General Assembly today adopted a resolution that stressed the critical importance of a regional approach to conflict prevention on that continent.
The Assembly particularly emphasized the central role of the African Union and subregional organizations in addressing peace and security issues as it adopted, without a vote, the text on implementation of the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s report on the causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa.
By other terms of the text, the Assembly stressed the importance of creating an environment conducive to national reconciliation as well as social and economic recovery in countries emerging from conflict. To that end, it called upon the United Nations system and Member States to support peace consolidation mechanisms and processes, including the Panel of the Wise, the African Union Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development Framework and the early warning system, as well as the operationalization of the African Standby Force.
Also by the text, the Assembly called for the enhancement of the role of women in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and post-conflict peacebuilding, consistent with Security Council resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008). It also called upon Member States to support relevant United Nations bodies, including the Peacebuilding Commission, and to help post-conflict countries make a smooth transition from relief to development.
The Assembly subsequently kicked off its debate on the Secretary-General’s report, Implementing the Responsibility to Protect, after having held an informal interactive dialogue on that topic in its morning session. (See Press Release GA/10847.)
Opening the debate, Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann ( Nicaragua) said the Assembly had been charged by the 2005 World Summit with further considering the responsibility to protect (R2P) and examining that doctrine’s implications. But as demonstrated by its rich and passionate morning discussion, it was unclear if the time for a fully-fledged R2P norm had arrived.
He explained that many Member States hesitated to embrace the doctrine and its aspirations, not out of indifference to the plight of many who suffered at the hands of their own Governments, but due to a fear that the current system of collective security had not evolved to the degree that would allow the doctrine to operate in the intended manner. To that end, there was a need for a more just and equal world order –- including a Security Council that no longer created a differential system of international law geared towards the strong protecting or not protecting whomever they wished.
Underlining these concerns, Egypt’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that there were persistent mixed feelings about implementing the R2P principle. Central to those concerns was a possibility that it would be abused if its application was expanded to include situations beyond genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity. He urged States to work to reconcile all divergent views through honest and all-inclusive dialogue in order to build consensus on the way forward.
To that end, many of the afternoon’s 18 speakers praised the three-pillared approach to the R2P doctrine, as laid out by the Secretary-General. Pillar one outlined the protection responsibilities of the State; pillar two described the need for international assistance and capacity-building in cases where States were willing to implement the R2P doctrine but lacked the ability to do so; and pillar three called for “timely and decisive responses” by the international community in cases where a State was unwilling to meet its protection obligations.
For the most part, speakers voiced support for the tenets of the first two pillars, with many of them emphasizing the doctrine’s prevention aspect and calling for the application of R2P in ways that strengthened State capacity in good governance and the rule of law. A number of delegations underlined particularly the critical need for a more robust and better-resourced early-warning system.
But the representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina, while noting her country’s support for such a capability, cautioned that a mechanism to capitalize on early-warning signs and prompt concrete action was equally important. Bosnia and Herzegovina did not blame the international community for what it had not done, or had done too late, in the conflicts that emerged from the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia, but there had been clear warning signs.
The representative of France stressed, however, that it was the third pillar that gave the R2P concept its meaning. What distinguished the doctrine was the international community’s reaction when one of the four crimes was being committed or about to be committed.
In discussing the third pillar, several speakers pointed out that the use of force was a last resort, emphasizing that a range of other options were available in cases where States failed to live up to their responsibilities. Agreeing that force should only be used rarely, the representative of the United States said the world community should nevertheless be ready to employ more extreme measures when earlier efforts failed. “The tools at our disposal should be sharper, stronger and deployed more consistently,” she added.
Sudan’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced the resolution adopted today (document A/63/L.61/Rev.1).
The representative of Sweden spoke in explanation of position, on behalf of the European Union.
Also speaking in this afternoon’s debate were the representatives of Sweden, United Kingdom, Indonesia, Philippines, Brazil, Guatemala, Belgium, Republic of Korea, Australia, Liechtenstein, Costa Rica (also on behalf of Denmark), New Zealand, Netherlands and Italy.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Friday, 24 July, to continue its debate on the responsibility to protect.
When the Assembly met this afternoon, it had before it a draft resolution entitled “Causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa” (document A/63/L.61/Rev.1).
Also before the Assembly was the Secretary-General’s report, Implementing the Responsibility to Protect (document A/63/677). (For further information, please see Press Release GA/10845of 21 July.)
Action on Draft Resolution
HASSAN HAMID HASSAN (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced the draft resolution on the causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa, saying it was based on the Secretary-General’s report on that issue.
He stressed that development, peace and human rights were integral principles in a mutually reinforcing system, and that responsibility for preventing conflicts rested primarily with the State. The text also stressed the need to create a coordinated regional approach to conflict prevention.
The Assembly adopted the draft resolution by consensus.
The representative of Sweden, speaking in explanation of position on behalf of the European Union, expressed support for the text, saying that the regional bloc was working actively working to support peace and sustainable development on the continent and had recently committed more funds to that end. It had four missions deployed in Africa, which was the European Union’s principal development partner.
MIGUEL D’ESCOTO BROCKMANN (Nicaragua), President of the General Assembly, opened the debate on the Secretary-General’s report by noting that the Assembly had been charged, in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, with further considering the responsibility to protect and examining its implications. While the concept had the potential to evolve into a full-fledge rule of customary international law, it was up to the Assembly to decide if such a norm already existed. A rich and passionate discussion had been held earlier in the day, when the Assembly had met in an informal session to discuss the concept with some of the world’s most prominent theorists. (See Press Release GA/10847)
As had been made clear, he continued, instances of gross violations like the Holocaust, the Khmer Rouge killing fields, the genocide in Rwanda and the massacres in former Yugoslavia could not be considered in isolation from the historical actions that had precipitated them. And while it was a reflection of great progress that there was now broad agreement that the international community could not remain silent in the face of genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity, current situations, such as the one in Gaza, urgently needed adequate characterization. “I would ask whether it was the absence of responsibility to protect that led to non-intervention in Gaza as recently as this year”, he said, wondering whether if it was, rather, the absence of Security Council reform, where veto power remained unchecked and the membership unreformed.
No one needed reminding that, despite the existence of a genocide convention and various instruments on international humanitarian law, their implementation remained erratic, he pointed out. Thus, it was not out of indifference to the plight of many who suffered at the hands of their own Governments that many hesitated to embrace the responsibility to protect (R2P) doctrine and its aspirations. The problem for many was that the system of collective security had not yet evolved to the degree that would allow the doctrine to operate in the intended manner. Unfortunately, the Secretary-General’s report argued for a continuum from strengthening a State’s capacity to ensure human rights to diplomatic measures to economic sanctions and the use of force.
That could discredit the concept of responsibility to protect since it suggested the thoroughly discredited concept of humanitarian intervention, he said. Given that the Assembly had not yet agreed on a definition of “terrorism” or “aggression”, it also seemed unlikely that it would able to agree soon on definitions of “just cause” and “right intentions”. The question remained whether the time for a full-fledged responsibility to protect norm had arrived. “We first need to create a more just and equal world order,” he said, stressing that it should include a Security Council that did not create a differential system of international law geared towards the strong protecting or not protecting whomever they wished.
ANDERS LIDÉN (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union, recalled that, at the 2005 World Summit, the global community had collectively recognized that each State bore the responsibility to protect its own citizens against genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. This year, the Secretary-General’s report had brought the R2P concept down to the level of practical implications and provided a platform on which to build concrete measures. Indeed, it described three pillars constituting the concept’s implementation: States’ primary responsibility to their populations; the vital role of international assistance in helping States shoulder that responsibility; and the global community’s response when a State failed to meet its obligations.
The first pillar should remain undisputed, he said, adding that the second was not only about humanitarian aid, but also to help prevent manifest risks to the development of State capacity to act before a situation devolved into crisis. The Secretary-General’s report underlined the link between timely information and the application of instruments that could limit such risks. That was an area in which more could be done, notably with regard to mechanisms for early warning, conflict prevention and crisis management. As for the third pillar, the global response must be discharged, first and foremost, through diplomatic, humanitarian and other measures, such as support for capacity-building. If those proved inadequate, enforcement through the Security Council should be possible.
Regional organizations had various relevant instruments, including capacity-building in the areas of conflict prevention, development and human rights, he said. The bloc stood ready to contribute both as a regional organization and a global actor. Today’s debate was about ending the most serious crimes that continued to plague humankind. The Secretary-General’s report was a “critical first step” towards turning the authoritative words of the 2005 World Summit Outcome into policy and, most importantly, deeds.
MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the creation of the United Nations more than 60 years ago had generated hopes of restoring human dignity and preventing the mass atrocities of the past. Unfortunately, recent history was rife with examples of the global community’s inability to live up to its responsibility to maintain international peace and security. While many elements of the Secretary-General’s report had received support, there were persistent mixed feelings about implementing the R2P principle, as well as concern about its possible abuse through the expansion of its application to include situations falling beyond the four areas defined in the 2005 World Summit Outcome. The Non-Aligned Movement urged States to work to reconcile all divergent views through honest and all-inclusive dialogue.
Recalling that his country had hosted Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned Movement at a meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh last week, he said they had reiterated the General Assembly’s role in the maintenance of international peace and security. They had also expressed grave concern about the Security Council’s failure to address cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The 2005 Outcome Document provided clear guidelines for the General Assembly, while the Secretary-General’s report offered initial ideas on how to go about it. To build consensus on the way forward, there must be clarity on what must be done, based on agreement that each State had the duty to protect its own population. The Movement would remain active in further deliberations in the General Assembly.
MARK MALLOCH BROWN, Minister for Africa, Asia and the United Nations of the United Kingdom, aligning himself with the European Union, said the term “never again” resonated all present. Shared memories of Rwanda and Srebrenica ensured the kind of commitment that every Member State could support. The question had always been how to put it into practice. The Secretary-General had provided a framework for action, but each State must play its part to make real progress.
He said his country considered the report well-balanced, clear about what R2P was and what it was not. The three-pillared approach of State responsibility, assistance and response aided conceptual clarity, as did the emphasis on an early and flexible response. In that context, regional organizations should take or share the lead in reaction to crisis situations. There was also value in improving and better coordinating early-warning efforts. A more cohesive approach would only enhance collective prevention efforts.
The Secretary-General’s explanation of R2P as a “narrow but deep” concept provided help in its implementation, he said. While it applied only to four crimes, there were many means by which States could put it into practice. The concept should be a governing principle of all Member States’ work across the conflict spectrum and on human rights and development. Building good governance, the rule of law and effective judicial and security sectors all contributed to building a preventive environment in which crimes would be less likely. The goal should be an R2P culture that was as much about responsible sovereignty as international assistance.
MARTY M. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia), aligning himself with the statement by the Non-Aligned Movement, said his delegation was not in disagreement with the three pillars of the responsibility to protect. Specifically within the framework of the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, those pillars were solid enough to withstand any and every assault. The framework agreed at the 2005 World Summit imposed on each State the responsibility to protect its citizens. That must be emphasized, along with the global community’s responsibility to assist States needing capacity-building assistance.
“We believe that prevention is key,” he said, adding that the responsibility to protect was also about efforts to strengthen State capacity to meet minimum criteria of good governance and application of the rule of law. The General Assembly’s discussion should include a comprehensive and clear strategy aimed at boosting capacity-building programmes. A focus on prevention entailed strengthening the United Nations early-warning capacity, not least by working closely with its regional and subregional partners, as well as by heightening responsibility to protect prescriptives within existing United Nations departments, programmes and agencies. Indonesia looked forward to the Secretary-General’s proposals to be submitted later this year. To the suggestion that the Assembly consider conducting a periodic review of States’ implementation of the responsibility to protect, he said that issue needed a practical modality before such a discussion. The challenges ahead could not be underestimated and all must ensure that the 2005 consensus be built upon.
JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX (France), endorsing the remarks made on behalf of the European Union, said the responsibility to protect was a key element in the fight against mass atrocities on a par with international humanitarian law, human rights law and criminal law. It was not a geographic concept to be implemented solely by developed countries, but had been developed by prominent figures from every continent. Further, the international community and the United Nations system had already been contributing to the implementation of the concept for a number of years in various crises. Today’s meeting, therefore, should not discuss the concept’s definition, but debate the means of strengthening its implementation.
Calling the Secretary-General’s report “balanced and pragmatic”, he welcomed the importance it assigned to preventive action. The definition of national sovereignty gave nations lasting obligations toward their people. Respect for human rights law, international humanitarian law and refugee law was the first step towards exercising responsible sovereignty, and States should adhere fully to the international instruments pertaining to those rights.
The international community should help strengthen States’ capacity so they could better exercise responsible sovereignty, he said. By promoting democracy and respect for the rule of law, development aid played a major role in implementing the responsibility to protect. While the success of R2P depended on the world community’s ability to prevent mass crimes, it was the third pillar which gave it meaning: the international community’s reaction when one of the four crimes was being committed or about to be committed. Importantly, the response should not be limited exclusively to the Security Council.
HILARIO G. DAVIDE JR. (Philippines) praised the Secretary-General’s report, saying that its discussion on the mandate, context and definition of approach for the responsibility to protect doctrine warranted an earlier General Assembly debate. The political foundation for the responsibility to protect in paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 World Summit outcome document was anchored in existing international practice. The concepts in those paragraphs built on current standards condemning genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. More important was that their adoption by leaders at the highest levels provided a new framework for understanding and applying existing legal obligations.
Successful implementation of any United Nations initiative depended on Member State support, he said. Regarding pillar one, he fully concurred that the responsibility to protect was first and foremost a matter of State responsibility. In the Philippines, that duty was mandated by the Constitution. As for pillars two and three, the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Secretary-General should have a substantive role in their implementation. Underscoring that the Assembly approved paragraphs 138 and 139 in 2005, he said its overall role on the issue must be strengthened.
Moreover, he said the R2P concept should be universal, applied equally and fairly to all States. The timeframe and mandate of any action taken under pillars two and three should be clearly defined, while United Nations resources used for R2P should not affect activities undertaken in the context of other legal mandates, like development assistance. Finally, he urged that international assistance focus on maximizing contributions from regional and subregional organizations and that more focused discussion be held on the implementation and modalities for pillar three. He looked forward to a “meeting of minds” that would lead to fair and responsible operation of the responsibility to protect.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil) said her delegation’s participation in such an important exercise was based on the premise that today’s discussion was not one between those who cherished the dignity of human life and those who did not. By definition, all States subscribed to the core values enshrined in the United Nations Charter and were bound to act accordingly. Also, the political boundaries of the responsibility to protect had been clearly set by Heads of State and Government in 2005, and States were not mandated to alter them. In addition, ignoring the legitimate concerns of many States would not provide a way forward. Success meant addressing those concerns effectively by ensuring that the implementation of R2P was fully consistent with the Charter.
The responsibility to protect was not a proper principle, much less a “novel” legal prescription, she explained. Rather, it was a powerful political call for States to abide by legal obligations already set forth in the Charter, human rights conventions and international humanitarian law. The Secretary-General’s report presented paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2008 World Summit Outcome as three “pillars”, which could be useful in showing the basic elements of the notion. But there was a political subordination and a chronological sequence among them, as seen in the third pillar’s position as subsidiary to the first, and a truly exceptional course of action.
She said her country attached great importance to the aspect of prevention. The first step towards a durable solution to humanitarian crises was to identify their root causes, which usually included underdevelopment, poverty and social exclusion. Brazil advocated the concept of “non-indifference” to emphasize international responsibility when faced with humanitarian crises like those resulting from hunger, poverty and epidemics. Such catastrophes could be prevented through political will, as well as short- medium- and long-term cooperation.
GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the evolution of humanitarian law over the last two decades had made possible the acceptance of the R2P concept in 2005. Paragraphs 138 and 139 of the World Summit Outcome outlined an important framework for addressing the four major crimes, and it was high time the international community said as one, “Never again”, to those crimes. While progress had been made in confronting those crimes, there was still a way to go in ensuring such abuses no longer occurred. The Secretary-General’s well-crafted report provided the means to turn the concept into doctrine, policy and deeds, with the three-pillar approach outlining a path from rhetoric to action.
Of the remaining concerns about the responsibility to protect, he said, four stood out: resolving sovereignty with supra-national issues; lingering suspicion that R2P was merely a way around the principle of non-intervention; continuing debates on the definition of the four crimes; and important overlaps between implementation of the responsibility to protect and the Security Council, with all its known shortcomings. Against that backdrop, he continued, the three-pillar approach was useful, particularly since it made clear that the use of force should be a last resort, undertaken only upon the decision of the Security Council. While some delegations had expressed doubts that any specific outcome resulting from today’s debate, Guatemala believed that there should be one. The report contained abundant material for further action.
MIRSADA ČOLAKOVIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina) urged the international community to pay exceptional attention to the responsibility to protect. Indeed as leaders had outlined at the 2005 World Summit, the United Nations was responsible under the Charter for taking collective action. The notion of sovereignty implied States’ responsibility to protect their populations and respect human rights. If States were unable to do so, the international community had to step in. Some States needed assistance to build their capacity to protect, a prerequisite for which was the readiness of their leaders to accept that fact. Regional organizations should have appropriate instruments to support capacity-building in the areas of conflict prevention, rule of law and security sector reform.
As the report noted, the worst human tragedies had no geographic or economic exclusiveness, she said. Bosnia and Herzegovina attached utmost importance to the creation of the United Nations early warning capability, but raised questions about the establishment of a mechanism that would transcend an early warning sign, and move into concrete action. While her delegation did not blame the international community for what it had not done, or had done too late in the conflicts that emerged in the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia, she reminded delegates that there had been clear warning signs. She recalled the International Court of Justice ruling on 26 February 2007, which noted “acts of genocide, committed […] in and around Srebrenica from about 13 July 1995”. Today, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia represented the legacy of an unfortunate time in her nation’s history. Becoming a party to the international human rights instruments, international humanitarian law, refugee law and, above all, the Rome Statute, was a factor of stability for every State. International standards must be incorporated into national legislation and carefully guarded.
ROSEMARY DICARLO (United States) said the type of horrors that marked the twentieth century should no longer be part of the international political landscape. Four years ago, Member States had unanimously agreed that sovereignty came with responsibility and that States had a particular obligation to protect their citizens from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The responsibility to protect followed a path laid out by the African Union, in which African nations pledged not to remain indifferent in the face of mass atrocities. It also reflected the recognition of past failures. The Secretary-General’s report represented important progress in implementing the responsibility to protect, and the United States supported it. In that document, the Secretary-General reminded the United Nations community that the grave crimes of the past century had occurred all over the world.
Still, “we still know too little about the paths that lead to mass atrocity, but in the twenty-first century we cannot wait for crimes to occur”, she said, stressing that “we must prevent them”. The report provided a useful framework and its three pillars showed the way. It was important to do more to respond effectively to early warning signs. The United States supported more timely action by the Human Rights Council. The mediation standby teams could play an important role, but should be strengthened. Preventing or swiftly responding to outbreaks of violence required more effective peacekeeping and peacebuilding capacities.
“The tools at our disposal should be sharper, stronger and deployed more consistently,” she urged. Where efforts failed, the world community should be ready to employ more extreme measures. Only rarely, however, should that mean use of force. The United States stood ready to work with the United Nations and other organizations in implementing the responsibility to protect. The world community must work together to summon the courage of its conviction and its will to act.
JAN GRAULS ( Belgium) said that victims of crimes -- whether in Cambodia, Rwanda or the former Yugoslavia -- reminded the Assembly that no region or culture was safe from the horror engendered by hate and violence. The promise of hope made at the highest level created expectations for populations who had suffered, and the Organization’s credibility depended on its ability to answer them. As underlined by the Secretary-General, implementation of the responsibility to protect required, first and foremost, national action. Individual State responsibility was paramount. If a State lacked the means to assume its responsibility, the global community must offer assistance. That “solidarity effort” was at the heart of United Nations principles.
He said, however, that sometimes a State was unable or unwilling to protect its population against the worst crimes. In such circumstances, the global community could not forfeit its collective responsibility -– it must use all means at its disposal to react, including, as a last resort, via coercive measures. Belgium would not accept any backtracking on the unanimous agreement of 2005. Most activities proposed in the Secretary-General’s report already existed and were being pursued in full compliance with the United Nations Charter -- in mediation, conflict prevention or peacebuilding. Whether in the first, second or third pillars, they formed much of the United Nations daily work. Other proposals, notably to create an early-warning capacity, deserved rapid implementation. Belgium fully subscribed to the statement made on behalf of the European Union.
PARK IN-KOOK ( Republic of Korea) said that by embracing the historic notion of responsibility to protect, a lengthy debate over whether to act had ended. Discussions now turned to how that principle would be implemented. That remained the most pressing question before the Assembly. However, some concerns about the concept remained. His delegation fully supported the Secretary-General’s clarifications on the concept that the primary responsibility lay with individual Governments and, secondly, with the international community, as well as the fact that responsibility to protect was the ally of sovereignty. Responsibility to protect had a narrow scope, applying to four specified crimes. But while the scope might be narrow, the response should be deep. Moreover, an early and flexible response tailored to the situation at hand was paramount and about saving lives.
He said that the first pillar outlined in the report was self-evident. As for the second, the world community would respond if the Government was willing to implement its responsibility to protect, but was incapable of doing so. In that, the Secretary-General’s emphasis on assisting States rather than waiting for them to fail was welcome. The capacity of regional organizations to provide that assistance was critical. The goals of responsibility to protect should be mainstreamed within the United Nations system.
Regarding the third pillar, which outlined “timely and decisive measures”, he underlined the collective responsibility to prevent atrocities and save lives when a State was manifestly failing. Many such responses, however, were not coercive, but where coercion was needed, it should be implemented in accordance with the relevant Charter provisions. In that regard, there was no implication in the report of any change to the respective roles of the General Assembly and the Security Council. His country supported the recommendation that the Council’s permanent five members refrain from employing or threatening to employ the veto in situations of manifest failure to meet the responsibility to protect obligations.
GARY QUINLAN (Australia) expressed strong support for the Secretary-General’s articulation of the responsibility to protect as resting on three pillars, as well as his characterization of R2P as “narrow but deep”. It was narrow in that it focused on the prevention of four crimes and deep in that it needed to employ the wide array of prevention and protection instruments available to States, the United Nations system, as well as regional and subregional organizations. The report highlighted the diversity of tools in the R2P toolkit ‑‑ from preventive diplomacy and targeted development assistance, to sanctions and, as a last resort, the use of force.
He said his country assisted States in fulfilling their responsibility to protect their citizens, notably through its development assistance programme. Australia helped them increase their conflict-prevention and peacebuilding capacities. It was also developing a deployable civilian capacity to enable a more effective response to emergencies in the region, and was a strong supporter of various organizations, including the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect. R2P was an expression of the irrevocable collective commitment to ensure that “never again” would the world be confronted with the horrors of another Rwanda, Srebrenica, Cambodia or Holocaust.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said the Secretary-General’s three-pillar approach was helpful in illustrating the R2P concept’s different dimensions, which were themselves integral parts of that concept. Liechtenstein embraced the opportunity to reaffirm the concept, promote understanding of it and make it operational. Based on the notion of sovereignty as responsibility, the responsibility to protect was of essential importance to the United Nations.
Yet it was worth noting that States had obligations vis-à-vis their own populations that went far beyond the narrow area covered by R2P, he said. In particular, they had an obligation to promote and protect human rights, and to respect international humanitarian law. They also had a legal obligation to prevent genocide under the 1948 Genocide Convention. Those obligations preceded the R2P concept and could neither be amplified nor undermined in the current debate.
He went on to stress that the novel dimension of R2P was the strengthened role of the international community in ensuring its application. That dimension was important in the second pillar, which called for strong preventive measures through assistance to help a State fulfil its responsibility to its citizens, as well as the third pillar, which addressed situations where a State manifestly failed in that responsibility due to unwillingness rather than inability. The third pillar clearly excluded any form of unilateral action taken in contravention of the United Nations Charter. Thus, it was important that there be no use of the Security Council veto in cases where the responsibility to protect applied.
JORGE URBINA ORTEGA ( Costa Rica), speaking on behalf of both Denmark and his own country, reiterated his commitment to the agreement in the 2005 World Summit Outcome document. Today’s debate was an opportunity to make progress in providing the operational content for the responsibility to protect concept and uphold the commitment to responsible sovereignty. The responsibility to protect was not without boundaries -– its legitimacy was clearly restricted to four specific crimes and entailed consistent application of the rules of international law, on which the concept itself was based. In that context, abuse, double standards and selectivity must be avoided. Strengthening the first pillar required steps at the national level, including enhancing democratic institutions, access to independent justice and social cohesion. Regarding the second pillar, technical assistance in security sector reform and the rule of law strengthened State ability to protect. As such, donors should increase funding to improve policing and civilian services.
He said that the responsibility to protect implied a process that included both the prevention of violence and reconstruction, and the Peacebuilding Commission’s role in that area should be strengthened. Member States collectively bore responsibility to respond in a timely and decisive manner when a State manifestly failed to provide protection in a “responsibility to protect” situation. He supported close interaction among the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Secretariat. On the use of force, the responsibility to protect aimed to expand multilateral options to improve the Security Council’s performance. The Council had great “dissuasive” potential and could apply binding punitive measures, such as targeted sanctions. Denmark and Costa Rica were committed to a cross-regional effort to avoid the repetition of past crimes. Advancing the responsibility to protect must be a goal that transcended geography.
JIM MCLAY ( New Zealand) said the responsibility to protect principle had already been unequivocally agreed. The current debate should be concerned with its implementation. He fully supported the Secretary-General’s report. Clearly, all three pillars were equally important; part of a whole and interdependent. Responsibility to protect was a common-sense concept that could help States, regional institutions and the United Nations, itself, to understand, assign and organize ongoing responses to the issues. Multilateral development institutions were well-placed to assist implementation of pillars one and two, and if the United Nations was to improve in that area, its development system needed support. Concerns that the responsibility to protect principle would not be applied consistently should not be used to block progress in its implementation.
He said that although New Zealand supported the Security Council’s structural reform, it was concerned with suggestions that modifications to the Charter were needed as a prior condition to implementing responsibility to protect. Regardless of the Council’s composition, it was far more important to make wide-ranging changes to its practices and working methods. New Zealand’s experience as a Council member in 1994 demonstrated that the problem that spring was not one of powerful States eager to intervene in Rwanda, but of the opposite. The General Assembly’s present task was to challenge the Council, whatever its make-up, to fulfil its role consistently and courageously. Towards that goal, New Zealand supported the Secretary-General’s call for restraint in the use of the veto in the Council since it should never be said that the veto prevented action to deal with genocide, ethnic cleansing, widespread crimes against humanity or war crimes. New Zealand also supported a biennial report from the Secretary-General on implementation of the responsibility to protect. It hoped that more resources were provided for early warning and assessment and for rapid reaction.
PIET DE KLERK (Netherlands), aligning himself with the European Union, said today’s topic touched on the core of what the United Nations was all about: a collective world institution inspired to take action when faced with mass conflict. Recalling various landmark occasions when States had transcended their differences to set out a common agenda, he said today’s task was to translate a moral commitment into political and operational readiness. “This is not a legal discussion, nor should it be.” Rather, it must focus on translating commitment into reality. To that end, there was a need to focus on practical and effective mechanisms to help States live up to their obligations.
Welcoming the Secretary-General’s report as a well calibrated analysis, he said his country looked forward to proposals for building on it and putting needed mechanisms in place, notably an enhanced early warning capacity. The Secretary-General’s approach was the right one. However, he cautioned against reading more into the R2P concept than had been intended in 2005 -– it was fundamentally about national obligations under the rule of law.
Effective implementation depended on the range of suggested mechanisms to be put in place, he said, calling upon the General Assembly to welcome the Secretary-General’s report and remain engaged. Also, the Netherlands also called for acknowledgement of the current limitations in dealing with each situation. The Security Council had not always been able to respond due to a lack of consensus. Endorsement of the R2P principle increased pressure on the Council to optimize its working methods.
GIULIO TERZI DI SANT'AGATA (Italy), aligning himself with the European Union, warmly welcomed the Secretary-General’s report and commended the balanced and insightful work of his Special Adviser. The unanimous affirmation of the R2P principle was among the cardinal achievements of the United Nations, particularly in light of the still-fresh memory of atrocities perpetrated in the Western Balkans and Africa’s Great Lakes region. “Prevention begins at home,” he said, notably through the promotion of human rights, the rule of law and democratic governance, which were universal principles. As such, Italy welcomed various points elaborated by the Secretary-General, from the role of the Human Rights Council in advancing R2P goals to the call for States to sign up to the Rome Statute.
He said that pillar two, which examined international assistance and capacity-building, meant that States must avail themselves of all bilateral, regional and multilateral instruments –- a crucial task involving the entire United Nations system. In that regard, he reiterated Italy’s strong interest in exploring the creation of a standing rule-of-law capacity modelled on the standing police capacity. As for pillar three –- States’ responsibility to respond collectively when a nation failed to protect its own population -– the responsibility to protect should not be perceived in a confrontational manner, but rather as an instrument to overcome crises. Regarding the Secretary-General’s suggestion that the “P5” refrain from employing, or threatening to employ, the veto in situations of manifest failure, that was a very delicate issue, driven by international public opinion, and debate on that topic must continue.
* *** *For information media • not an official record