General Assembly

Opening of sixty-ninth session of General Assembly.
UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

As the main deliberative, policymaking and representative United Nations organ, the General Assembly plays an important role in calling for State compliance with their international obligations to prevent and punish atrocity crimes or to bring situations of concern to the attention of the Security Council. However, it assumes another fundamental role in the advancement of the responsibility to protect principle by continuing to debate relevant issues related to its implementation.

In particular, paragraph 139 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document stresses “the need for the General Assembly to continue consideration of the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and its implications, bearing in mind the principles of the Charter and international law.” The General Assembly has fulfilled this role by convening a formal debate, adopting a plenary resolution (A/RES/63/308), and holding annual informal interactive dialogues where the findings and recommendations of the Secretary-General’s annual reports are discussed.

Annual debates/dialogues

21-28 July 2009
Formal Debate on the Secretary-General’s report Implementing the Responsibility to Protect (A/63/677)
Official plenary meeting records for 21 July, 23 July, 24 July morning, 24 July afternoon, 28 July morning and 28 July afternoon.

09 August 2010
Informal Interactive Dialogue on the Secretary-General’s report Early Warning, Assessment, and the Responsibility to Protect (A/64/864)

12 July 2011
Informal Interactive Dialogue on the Secretary-General’s report The Role of Regional and Sub-regional Arrangements in Implementing the Responsibility to Protect (A/65/877-S/2011/393)

05 September 2012
Informal Interactive Dialogue on the Secretary-General’s report Timely and Decisive Response (A/66/874-S/2012/578) - Summary

11 September 2013
Informal Interactive Dialogue on the Secretary-General’s report State Responsibility and Prevention (A/67/929-S/2013/399) - Summary

08 September 2014
Informal Interactive Dialogue on the Secretary-General’s report Fulfilling our collective responsibility: International assistance and the Responsibility to Protect (A/68/947-S/2014/449) - Summary

08 September 2015
Informal Interactive Dialogue on the Secretary-General’s report A Vital and Enduring Commitment: Implementing the Responsibility to Protect (A/69/981–S/2015/500) - Summary

06 September 2016
Informal Interactive Dialogue on the Secretary-General’s report Mobilising collective action: the next decade of the responsibility to protect (A/70/999-S/2016/620) - Summary

06 September 2017
Informal Interactive Dialogue on the Secretary-General’s report Implementing the Responsibility to Protect: Accountability for Prevention (A/71/1016-S/2017/556) - Summary

25 June and 2 July 2018
Formal Debate on the Secretary-General’s report Responsibility to protect: from early warning to early action (A/72/884–S/2018/525)
Official plenary meeting records for 25 June and 2 July

Acting on the recommendation of its General Committee, on 15 September 2017 the General Assembly adopted the work programme and agenda for its 72nd session, deciding for the first time in 12 years to include the item “The Responsibility to Protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”. Therefore, the Secretary-General’s report on the Responsibility to Protect was discussed in 2018 within the formal agenda of the General Assembly.

Other initiatives

On 11 September 2015, the General Assembly reiterated the responsibility of each individual State to protect its populations from genocide in resolution A/RES/69/323, which established the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime (www.un.org/en/events/genocidepreventionday/).

To mark the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the responsibility to protect in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, on 26 February 2016 the President of the General Assembly convened a special event, “From Commitment to Implementation: Ten Years of the Responsibility to Protect”, which took place during the 70th session of the General Assembly. Check the statement of the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect.