‘For Those Facing Mass Rape and Violence, the Slow Pace of Global Deliberations Offers No Relief’, Secretary-General Cautions in General Assembly Debate

12 July 2011
GA/11112

‘For Those Facing Mass Rape and Violence, the Slow Pace of Global Deliberations Offers No Relief’, Secretary-General Cautions in General Assembly Debate

12 July 2011
General Assembly
GA/11112
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fifth General Assembly

Informal Thematic Debate

AM & PM Meetings

 ‘For Those Facing Mass Rape and Violence, the Slow Pace of Global Deliberations

Offers No Relief’, Secretary-General Cautions in General Assembly Debate

 

Determination of International Community to Shoulder Responsibility to Protect

Tested in Tragic Events in Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, Says Assembly President

The United Nations and its partners sought to ensure that the history of the twenty-first century was the first “not to be written in the blood of innocents”, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said as the General Assembly convened an interactive thematic debate on the role of regional and subregional arrangements in implementing the responsibility to protect.

Determined to rid the world of atrocity crimes, those participating in the dialogue formed a partnership born of necessity, shaped by practical experience, and sustained by common purpose, the Secretary-General said.  Every region knew the agony of mass killings and sexual violence, and those barbaric acts, wherever they occurred, were stains on humanity everywhere.  The wounds, as well as the economic and social dislocations, took generations to heal, he said.

Mr. Ban said that, while the principle of the responsibility to protect had been agreed at the 2005 World Summit, its roots extended to early declarations of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the pioneering work of the High Commissioner on National Minorities of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the legal and human rights traditions of the Americas and the spirit of “non-indifference” that animated the African Union.

Efforts were under way everywhere to improve early warning, spur normative development, end impunity and assist States under stress, he said.  However, there was no easy, simple, or assured path to stopping genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity or their incitement.  While participants might not agree on every step in every situation, it was necessary for them to continue to listen and learn from one another.

No one had a magical formula for discouraging those determined to make war on their own people, he said.  Such people were masters at splitting tactics and playing one group or organization against another, or ruled by intimidation and dividing populations, and not by uniting them for the common good.

No action was without risk of doing harm, he said, but he also stressed that the history of atrocity crimes were not one of acting too boldly, but of doing too little, too late.  For those facing mass rape and violence, the slow pace of global deliberations offered no relief.  People looked to them for protection, not comforting words or another five years of debate.

Along those lines, General Assembly President Joseph Deiss ( Switzerland), on whose initiative the meeting was held, said that 11 years after the genocide of Rwanda and 10 years after the massacres in Srebrenica, Member States were confirming that the international community had a responsibility to protect populations from atrocities.  The United Nations vowed never to remain passive when civilian populations were being devastated by such abject crimes.

Since that time, the determination of the international community to truly shoulder that responsibility had been put to the test, particularly during the tragic recent events in Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire and Libya, he said.  However, it faced many challenges in implementing the principle in a fair and consistent manner.  The three-pillar strategy set forth by the Secretary-General entailed the primary responsibility of the State to protect, international assistance and capacity-building, and a timely and decisive response.  The responsibility to protect was not limited to the third pillar, as the first two approaches were critical, especially with regard to prevention.

During a morning panel on “Regional and sub-regional perspectives and experience”, representatives of Member States, regional groups, and civil society debated the various benefits, necessities and possible drawbacks of the principle of responsibility to protect.  Many delegations stressed the need for such a principle to be strongly focused on preventative action, targeting the root causes of insecurity and focusing on non-military measures, such as political outreach.  Others warned against the politicization and unequal application of intervention, emphasizing the need to respect State sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The international community had no choice but to implement the responsibility to protect to the best of its ability, as it could not wait until a theory was perfected before it started to respond to emergencies throughout the world, declared Ed Luck, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Responsibility to Protect during the afternoon panel, entitled “United Nations perspectives and experience”.  While the international community must be careful not to do harm in such actions, it must also move forward, proving that a multilateral alternative existed and that the United Nations, with its regional and subregional partners, was up to the task of protecting civilians.

While some speakers stressed that collective action must be taken only as a last resort, they also cautioned that action must be taken in a timely manner, as there had been situations in which the international community had not taken action because there was no agreement.  While no controversy existed over the first two pillars — the State’s responsibility to protect, and international assistance and capacity building — the third pillar, concerning a timely and decisive response, was nevertheless critical.  Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide Francis Deng asked, “If we were to see Rwanda today, would we respond the way we had responded before?  I hope not.”

Wrapping up the discussion, Assembly President Deiss acknowledged that it was difficult to balance all of the different viewpoints.  He reiterated earlier statements that those working on the ground could not wait while those in New York City refined all of the details concerning the responsibility to protect.  However, he felt that the participants today had spoken in unison on the need to focus on the priorities given to prevention and the role that regional bodies should play in cooperation and interaction.  Nevertheless, the remaining challenge was that of the coherent and impartial implementation of the responsibility to protect.  Many of the examples shown were not everyday cases, but cases that affected the lives and sometimes deaths of millions of people.  Therefore, past atrocities should never be forgotten and the response to them should always be “never again”.

Background

The General Assembly met today to hold an interactive thematic debate on “The role of regional and subregional arrangements in implementing the responsibility to protect”.  A report of the Secretary-General on that topic was available to delegations ahead of the meeting (document A/65/877-S/2011/393).

The objectives of today’s dialogue, according to an information note dated 7 July by General Assembly President Joseph Deiss (Switzerland) transmitting that report, were to reconfirm that the responsibility to protect was an evolving principle, to serve as an opportunity for cross-regional exchanges on lessons learned and best practices, and to offer a forum for considering new ideas and approaches to enhancing global, regional, and subregional cooperation on the responsibility to protect.

In his report, the Secretary-General addresses the regional and subregional dimensions of the responsibility to protect, and notes that the architects of the United Nations had accorded a prominent place for regional arrangements in their vision of the new world body.  He recalls that the 2005 World Summit outcome and General Assembly resolution 63/308 had called for the Assembly’s continued consideration of the concept.

Making the point that fostering more effective global-regional collaboration was a key plank of his strategy forrealizing the promise embodied in the responsibility to protect and that protection was a common concern, the Secretary-General examines the item in the context of the protection and responsibility of the State; international assistance and capacity-building; timely and decisive response; and collaboration and partnership.

Opening Statements

General Assembly President JOSEPH DEISS ( Switzerland) said that 11 years after the genocide of Rwanda and 10 years after the massacres in Srebrenica, Member States were confirming that the international community had a responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.  The United Nations vowed never to remain passive when civilian populations were being devastated by such abject crimes.

Since that time, the determination of the international community to truly shoulder that responsibility had been put to the test, particularly during the tragic recent events in Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire and Libya.  Those situations raised many questions about the responsibility to protect.  The adoption of Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973 this year had made the international community think about the relationship between the protection of civilians in armed conflict and its own responsibility to project.  Today, that responsibility had become established as both a universal principle and norm in international security and human rights.

The challenge faced by the international community was in implementing the principle in a fair and consistent manner, he said.  In the 2009 report on that topic, the Secretary-General stressed that that responsibility rested on three pillars.  First, the primary responsibility of the State to protect; second, international assistance and capacity-building; and third, a timely and decisive response.  The Secretary-General had clearly stated that, when a State was manifestly failing in its duty to protect its population from the four crimes and violations specified, the international community stood ready to take collective action, in accordance with the United Nations Charter.

The three-pillar strategy showed the crucial importance of prevention, he said, adding the fundamental need to bear in mind that the responsibility to protect was not limited to the third pillar; the first two were critical aspects.  He pointed out that the United Nations and various regional and subregional organizations were developing policies under those pillars and were cooperating in their implementation. That would reduce the probability that the international community would have to resort to the measures set out in the third pillar.

At the same time, regional organizations were also playing a vital role in the third pillar: collective action.  Recent events, particularly in Côte d’Ivoire and Libya, had put the international community to the test in terms of its ability to protect.  Both situations demonstrated, as the Secretary-General stated, that “timely and decisive response was most likely when intergovernmental bodies favoured similar courses of action”.  The importance of regional organizations was established in the Charter and, today, the international community had the opportunity to consider in-depth aspects relating to the role of those bodies, as they varied markedly from region to region.

In particular, effective collaboration between global and regional levels in the prevention of, and the protection of populations against the four crimes mentioned earlier, was crucial to implementing and operationalizing the responsibility to protect, he said.  Such collaboration must be promoted, for example, by strengthening regional capacities for prevention and response and identifying effective policies for prevention of those four crimes.  The United Nations must fulfil its obligations to humanity, if it was to remain at the centre of global governance, particularly the prevention of flagrant violations of international law.

Panel Discussion 1

The first panel, on “Regional and sub-regional perspectives and experience”, was moderated by Assembly President Deiss, and featured three panellists:  Ambassador Liberata Mulamula, Executive Secretary of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR); Knut Vollebaek, High Commissioner on National Minorities at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE); and Victor Rico Frontaura, Secretary of the Secretariat for Political Affairs at the Organization of American States (OAS).

Launching the panel, Ms. MULAMULA discussed the context behind the responsibility to protect, saying that it was supported by the Great Lakes region, which had produced more refugees than other area of the world.  Following events such as the genocide in Rwanda, African leaders had articulated the view that intervention was sometimes needed for durable peace and security, that the demands were shared of promoting peace and protection, and that collective action was needed against Governments that threatened regional peace.  A regional pact on collective security in the Great Lakes region had been signed in 2006, which captured the concept of the responsibility to protect and supported the belief that there should “never again” be the repeat of such heinous violence.

Institutional mechanisms were now needed to translate into reality the concept of the responsibility to protect, she said.  The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region had come far, with headquarters in Burundi, which had undergone two elections and was now stable and peaceful. Provisions of the regional pact on collective security stipulated member States’ commitment to finding lasting solutions that guaranteed protection to communities affected by violence in the region and outlined programmes of action and binding protocols with regard to such issues as assistance to displaced persons, suppression of sexual violence, and punishment of crimes against humanity and forms of discrimination.

Discussing the pillars of the responsibility to protect, she said that decisive response did not necessarily entail military measures, although the military could intervene, when necessary.  The Great Lakes region would not stand by and watch destructive acts of violence and, if and when necessary, would send peacekeeping forces.  The International Conference was grateful for the support and training it received in such areas as the prevention and punishment of genocide and other crimes, but Member States must devise common strategies and policies to promote an interactive engagement in communities.

Bringing together various countries in Africa, the International Conference was a regional committee that was groundbreaking in its application of State commitments, she said, noting that the committee reviewed situations in Member States to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity, including through an early warning, prevention and response system.  The response to the committee had been positive among sectors such as academia and civil society.

However, challenges to the responsibility to protect remained, she said.  There was an implementation gap, as well as differing interpretations regarding the concept, such as in the case of Libya.  Additionally, regional and national initiatives needed to be linked, as there was often enthusiasm at the regional level that was not replicated nationally.  Electoral processes in Member States tested the responsibility to protect, as well as the role of the media, posing additional concerns.

Sharing insights and lessons learned from the experience of the OSCE, Mr. VOLLEBAEK focused on three main areas:  the OSCE’s conceptual contribution to the evolution of the responsibility to protect norm; the role and weight of prevention in the implementation of the responsibility to protect; and the current relationship between the emerging norm of the responsibility to protect and the OSCE, as demonstrated in recent crises in the OSCE area.  He noted that, when violence had erupted in the south of Kyrgyzstan in June 2010, although no action had been taken by the Security Council, the discourse surrounding the crisis had indicated a growing acceptance that the international community not only had the right but the duty to act.

In February 2011, the Security Council, for the first time, had made an explicit reference to the responsibility to protect in its resolution on Libya, which was taken as the decisive step on legitimizing international action, he said.  Outlining OSCE’s role in the evolution of the responsibility to protect, he noted that, since the Moscow Document of 1991, participating States had not been free to invoke the principle of non-intervention in order to avoid discussions of human rights problems within their countries.  As a “community of responsibility”, the OSCE countries had the duty to assist each other in solving specific problems.

Among the most practical manifestations of assistance was the institution of the High Commissioner on National Minorities, set up in 1992, he noted.  That post had been created to prevent conflict between majority and minority groups within States and to act as an early warning mechanism alerting participating States about the potential for a deepening crisis.  The High Commissioner could intervene in cases that posed a threat to stability or security of the OSCE region without formal permission by that body’s Permanent Council or even the State concerned.  The experience of the High Commissioner offered the following conclusions for the current discussion:  intervention and prevention were neither separate nor alternatives to one another; intervention with the aim of prevention did not erode sovereignty, but strengthened it by enabling States to fulfil their basic duties; and, that there was a direct link between State capacity and the protection of human rights, as weak States posed risks to human security.

There was a growing consensus that prevention was the most effective and adequate way of dealing with conflicts and man-made catastrophes, but this was easier said than done, he said.  A combination of actors and circumstances usually determined a positive outcome and, in the current political context, mobilizing resources for a “non-event” before it hit the headlines was rather difficult and did not pay off.  However, when prevention failed, it was essential for the international community to step in with utmost care for legitimacy, which was best ensured through multilateral efforts.  Because of dangers associated with unilateral intervention by a neighbouring state, multilateral action was essential for the effectiveness and credibility of any humanitarian operation, even at the risk of being slow and less flexible.

Nonetheless, last year’s unrest in Kyrgyzstan, when the Government requested intervention but the response of the OSCE States was muted, had demonstrated that in the OSCE’s own framework, the transition from early warning to early action was a “grey zone”, he said.  Assessing the scale of atrocities and deciding on action was ultimately a political decision, and the OSCE had little guidance to offer in terms of parameters and legitimacy.  It was also striking that there was practically no debate on the responsibility to protect in the context of the OSCE, despite the fact that the organization had contributed to the emergence of such a norm.  The idea of the responsibility to protect needed time to take root, as well as the endorsement of regional and subregional organizations if it was to become operational.  Today’s informal interactive dialogue could be an important step in finding the rightful place for that emerging norm.

Mr. FRONTAURA, next, spoke about the commitment to implement the responsibility to protect norm, which he considered a breakthrough.  He emphasized that the purpose of the draft concept paper for today’s informal dialogue was to reconfirm that the responsibility to protect was an evolving principle and should not broaden the concept to include other calamities that threatened security.  The Americas was a peaceful region, which solved conflicts through various mechanisms and was experiencing greater social inclusion.  The region possessed such instruments as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which contributed to a culture of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

He said that the informal interactive dialogue was an opportunity to showcase the experience of the OAS in four of the five main areas of discussion.  Regarding indigenous mediation capacity, the OAS had launched a programme for peacebuilding in Guatemala to foster conflict management.  The programme lasted seven years and provided training in conflict-resolution skills.  With regard to consensus and dialogue, the OAS had coordinated dialogues to prevent social conflict and the interruption of the democratic order.  In terms of dispute-resolution capacity, programmes with facilitators who brought about justice in a human manner were implemented in five countries.  Regarding the replication of capacity, the OAS was creating a roster of mediators and envoys and presenting case studies.  It also had launched a training programme on conflict resolution for Government officials in Guatemala, Haiti and Colombia.  There were other notable programmes, such as those under way in Colombia concerning the relationship between women and their aggressors, and neighbours working with officials, to identify problems and promote collective healing.

The OAS had developed a structure to protect human rights, which was distinct from the prevention of mass atrocities, he said.  The region was facing complex problems with negative impacts on democracy, including drug trafficking and organized crime.  Additionally, it was dealing with intra-State conflicts concerning issues such as land and environment.  He emphasized that strategic decisions were needed to identify priorities, and that the OAS was committed to working on those priorities with other international organizations.

In the ensuing discussion, representatives of Member States, regional groups, and civil society debated the various benefits, necessities and possible drawbacks of the principle of responsibility to protect.  Many delegations stressed the need for such a principle to be strongly focused on preventative action, targeting the root causes of insecurity and focusing on non-military measures such as political outreach.  Other speakers warned against the politicization of intervening measures, and placed emphasis on the need to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States.

Since 2005, it was noted, the international community had sought to translate the doctrine into practice in an effective manner.  However, it was suggested by some speakers that certain States who had abused that doctrine; they pointed to military actions in Libya and suggestion that non-military means to protect civilians had not been exhausted prior to the decision to intervene in a more forceful manner.  No matter what the outcome of the international community’s engagement in that country, those speakers said, the experience could be an indication of the enormity of putting in place a system protecting populations from war crimes, genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, when that system could include armed intervention.  The experience in Libya held valuable lessons for the General Assembly as a whole and for the regional organizations concerned, they said.

Agreeing that the world had seen too many atrocities, other speakers stressed the need for the international community to do its utmost to prevent another Holocaust, Rwanda, Cambodia, or Srebrenica, and not turn a blind eye to hate campaigns, human rights violations and other early warnings of mass atrocities.  That was where education that taught respect for “the other, the different, and the stranger” was so essential, and a fundamental component for the edifice of the responsibility to protect, they said.

Particularly with regard to the prevention of atrocities, speakers said that regional and subregional organizations could and should play an essential role, especially around such critical political events as elections.  The African Union’s representative noted that many had expressed concern that the principle of responsibility to protect could be used in an abusive manner, and he stressed the need for a State to be endowed with the power to protect its own citizens.

Responding to a suggestion by a speaker that the Security Council and bodies other than the General Assembly should abstain from taking any action concerning responsibility to protect, Mr. VOLLEBAEK said that the United Nations should not be criticized for failing to prevent atrocities on the one hand, and on the other hand, be saddled with so many obstacles as to make it impossible to effectively address the issues.

Regarding questions raised about regional and subregional groups and the problems faced in Latin America and the Caribbean, Mr. FRONTAURA said there were fewer problems of genocide in the region and more of corruption, organized crime, and migrations.  In that regard, the work of OAS was focused on prevention and dialogue to resolve crises of a social and political nature.  It had a Memorandum of Understanding with the European Union concerning conflict prevention.

Addressing questions and comments on the need for regional and cross-regional cooperation, Ms. MULAMULA said that the European Union invested much in putting in place the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, because it could not be done from afar.  Regional solutions were needed for regional problems, she said.  There were programmes organized by various member States, as well as conferences to promote information sharing and elaboration of common strategies.  The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region had needed to promote strong will and commitment.  The issue was not so much about intervention, but about countries being able to put into place institutional mechanisms to prevent mass atrocities, such as happened in Rwanda.  What the International Conference sought from the United Nations was support for the efforts of the countries of the region.  Nobody had expected violence following the elections in Kenya, but the International Conference had come to the country’s aid to resolve the conflict.  Now, the focus was on building grass-roots responses to all activities that could incite violence.

In closing remarks, panellists stressed that action taken by the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations must focus on preventive work, which would thus avoid calling into question the principles of sovereignty or territorial integrity of a State.  The norms and standards of responsibility to protect must be implemented equally, and double standards must be avoided.  While objections to responsibility to protect should be taken seriously and unexpectedly negative consequences must be minimized, such objections must not undermine the concept itself.

Also speaking in that discussion were representatives Barbados (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), Costa Rica (on behalf of the Responsibility to Protect Focal Points’ Network, Denmark, Ghana, and Costa Rica), Cuba, Sweden, Israel, Ireland, Germany, Guatemala, Armenia, Jordan, Hungary, Guinea, Switzerland and Chile.

A representative of the delegation of the European Union also spoke.

A representative of George Mason University also made comments.

Statement by Secretary-General

United Nations Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON said all participants had gathered as partners determined to rid the world of atrocity crimes.  That partnership was born of necessity, shaped by practical experience and sustained by common purpose.  Together, they sought to ensure that the history of the twenty-first century was the first not to be written in the blood of innocents.  Every region knew the agony of mass killings and sexual violence.  Those barbaric acts, wherever they occurred, were stains on humanity everywhere.  The wounds, as well as the economic and social dislocations, took generations to heal.

He said that the principle of the responsibility to protect was agreed at the 2005 World Summit.  Its roots, however, extended to early declarations of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the pioneering work of the High Commissioner on National Minorities of the OSCE, the legal and human rights traditions of the Americas and the spirit of non-indifference that animated the African Union.  The United Nations had followed their lead.  Everywhere, efforts were under way to improve early warning, spur normative development, end impunity and assist States under stress.  Everywhere, global, regional and subregional organizations were helping States to meet their sovereign responsibilities to their populations.

There was no easy, simple, or assured path to stopping genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity or their incitement, he said.  The participants of the informal interactive dialogue might not agree on every step in every situation, so they had to continue to listen and learn from one another.  No one had a monopoly on virtue, insight or judgement, so they had to continue to address legitimate concerns about possible misuse beyond what was agreed in 2005 or about interference in internal affairs, even as they moved forward.  No one had a magical formula for discouraging those determined to make war on their own people.  Such people were masters at splitting tactics and playing one group or organization against another, as well as ruled by intimidation and dividing populations instead of by uniting them for the common good. No action was without risk of doing harm, so the participants had to try to avoid unintended consequences, whatever their good intentions.

The history of atrocity crimes were not one of acting too boldly, but of doing too little, too late, he declared.  At the United Nations, they had been proceeding step by step, developing the principle of the responsibility to protect conceptually, politically and operationally through a series of reports and dialogues.  That process had produced both broader political support and a keener sense of how to proceed.  They would continue on this incremental but determined path.  For those facing mass rape and violence, however, the slow pace of global deliberations offered no relief.  People looked to them for protection, not comforting words or another five years of debate.

Over the past year, the responsibility to protect had become an operational reality, and both the Security Council and the Human Rights Council had invoked the principle in recent months, he continued.  All of the organizations and Member States represented in the informal interactive dialogue had been challenged by a series of acute, complex and largely unexpected crises in which populations had been threatened.  Asking what had they done and what had they learned, the Secretary-General said that, candidly, their record at every level — global, regional, subregional and national — had been mixed at best.  They had done better in some places than others.  Both will and capacity varied.  They needed to sharpen their tools for prevention and for protection.  They needed a fuller understanding of what motivated the perpetrators and planners of mass violence.  They needed to explore how to apply the principle more consistently across cases.

Nevertheless, he said, they had made a positive difference in terms of saving lives and giving hope to the vulnerable and displaced.  In crisis after crisis, their chances of success had multiplied when they had worked together.  Regional and subregional arrangements, along with civil society, had made cardinal contributions to each of the pillars of the Secretary-General’s implementation strategy:  State responsibility, international assistance and timely and decisive response.  It was evident, for example, that members of the United Nations Security Council had paid close attention to the views of regional partners in determining how to respond to the acute crises in Côte d’Ivoire, Libya and elsewhere.  Whether under Chapter VI, VII or VIII of the Charter, their capacity for effective and timely action was conditioned, in part, by the degree to which they shared perspectives and priorities.  His report offered a number of ideas for enhancing consultations, planning, early warning and assessments with regional and subregional partners.

Every day, they worked together on conflict prevention, mediation, peacekeeping and peacebuilding, he said.  They shared abiding commitments to human rights and the rule of law, and the results had been impressive.  Now, they could do the same for atrocity prevention. The Secretary-General’s Advisers on the Responsibility to Protect and on the Prevention of Genocide had benefited from the information and insights generated by regional and subregional arrangements, as well as from local and international civil society.  These advisers looked forward to further collaborations on training, education and awareness-raising around the world.  In the informal interactive dialogue, they had heard eloquent testimony on how much their partners had to contribute to this common enterprise.  Each had developed tools, institutions and norms that could serve as models for others.  They had much to learn from one other and should open a sustained cross-regional conversation on lessons learned and practical experiences.

“At the United Nations, we are listening and learning.  Your contributions have made this a good day for both.  Thank you for all that you have done and will do for the common good,” said Mr. Ban.

Panel Discussion 2

The second panel discussion, on “United Nations perspectives and experience”, was moderated by Assembly President Deiss and featured two panellists:  Ed Luck, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Responsibility to Protect; and Francis Deng, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide.

In opening remarks, Mr. Luck said that the international community had no choice but to implement the responsibility to protect as best it could, as it could not wait until a theory was perfected before it started to respond to emergencies throughout the world.  While the international community must be careful not to do harm in its actions for responsibility to protect, it must also move forward.  Moreover, if such tasks were left to others, there was a risk that those concerns raised would in fact become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

It was important to prove that a multilateral alternative existed, and that the United Nations with its regional and subregional partners were up to the task of protecting those civilians, he said.  The international community could not tell parties that it was debating whether or not it would come to their aid.  That particular horse was out of the barn, and the international community could not debate whether it wanted to put it back in again, he said.

Criticism should focus more on the performance of such actions and less on theory.  While many delegations spoke of inconsistencies, they seemed to expect higher standards from the Secretariat than the membership of intergovernmental bodies.  Meanwhile, delegations should let the Secretariat know about any inconsistencies.  It must also be recognized that intergovernmental bodies were by necessity political bodies, and might see things in a less than scientifically consistent way.  Furthermore, no two situations were identical and a “false consistency”, or applying the same template of response to any situation, should be avoided.

Greater political will, globally, regionally and subregionally, should be generated, and a greater emphasis should be placed on early warning through the assessment and sharing of situations. Stress must also be placed on messaging, meaning who said what and when in a particular crisis.  Splitting tactics must be dealt with, and a more united front should be cultivated in particularly sensitive areas.  Furthermore, it should be recognized that efforts would not always succeed.  The principle of responsibility to protect did not depend on an always immaculate and perfect implementation.  There would be ups and downs, and more joint “lessons learned” exercises were needed.

While all parties seemed to agree that prevention was the preferred method for dealing with conflicts, it was necessary to recognize that it did not always work, he said.  It was essential, therefore, to analyse what happened when prevention failed.  While many had suggested that an assessment should be made of those places in which the United Nations had applied the responsibility to protect in recent years, that list was getting quite long.  It was useful to look to the third pillar of response, but it should be kept in mind that that did not include only coercive measures, but might entail diplomatic means.

Mr. Deng said that conflicts resulted not from difference, but from how those differences were managed.  That often entailed gross inequalities, dehumanization, a denial of fundamental rights and civil liberties, and exclusion.  Protection, therefore, related to protection of all human rights.  Ideally, structural prevention should mean that issues of diversity were addressed through a constructive management of diversity, but it also meant an effective response to the failure to prevent violence.

The three pillars showed exactly how that responsibility was to be shared by the State, the international community, and more collective action.  However, the international community entailed, not only the global community through the United Nations, but was also regional and subregional actors.

His office had also prepared a compilation of risk factors and related legal norms, which, equally with the framework of analysis, provided guidance on which factors could generate genocide and mass atrocities.  It had often been said that the responsibility to protect was in essence “sovereignty as responsibility”.  Some might think of it as assigning responsibility solely to the State and “keeping out of the context”.  However, sovereignty as responsibility implied accountability.  States must be legitimate, externally and internally, and must live up to certain fundamental principles of responsibility, in which protecting populations was a fundamental responsibility.

“We should view ourselves as our brothers’ keepers,” he said.  The shortcomings of regional and subregional organizations or approaches should also be kept in mind, and issues of regional and subregional hegemony could also be a source of conflict.  In order to confront the dilemma of sovereignty in crisis situations, sovereignty must be responsible.

It was necessary to fine-tune the substance of the responsibility to protect, and a framework for sharing the responsibility between Member States, organizations, and the international community.  Responsibility to protect was highly demanded concept globally, and was also a call for global solidarity.  While there would be bumps on the road, the march forward appeared irreversible.

Following those remarks, Mr. DENG responded first to a question about financing prevention initiatives by stating that the issue of resources was of great concern.  Even when considering that regional and subregional arrangements were the most effective, the issue of sufficient resources was always a problem.  The role of the international community in supporting initiatives was critical, but very often, left a big gap.

Regarding comments about the need for joint cooperation, he said that sound regional approaches had been established, such as those adopted by the African Union, and frameworks for analysis and operational mechanisms developed by specialists had been adopted.  Programmes focused on training sessions in capacity-building, covered, among others, relevant human rights norms.  Those had been organized around the world and were in demand.  Books on risk factors and relevant international norms had also been developed.

Regarding ways to advance cooperation with regional and subregional organizations that had the most knowledge of local events,he noted that he had visited numerous Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries and was working with them on the concept of prevention as the constructive management of diversity.  Genocide was seen as a sensitive issue that did not lend to constructive discussion, but when it was recognized that diversity was a global phenomenon and that hardly any country could be seen as homogenous, the notion of managing diversity as an effective way to create security was well-received.

He said he cooperated with partners on two levels:  talking about the general challenges of preventing genocide and other crimes, as well as about specific crisis situations.  He found that most countries were welcoming and invited him to provide training.  He had been working with regional and subregional organizations and aspired to deepen and broaden relations with them.

Given the vigorous debate among delegations on the need to focus on the first two planks of the responsibility-to-protect strategy versus the third, he said it was necessary to accept that the third pillar often was critical.  If those representatives were to see Rwanda today, he wondered whether their response would be what it had been before.  He said he hoped not.  The international community could not have it both ways; international indifference was untenable, but when the community responded, that was deemed a new form of imperialism.

Mr. LUCK agreed with comments that a purely prevention strategy was not enough in the real world, stating that “if a stool only has two legs, it won’t stand”.  To say that the international community had tried prevention and walked away because it did not work was not sufficient.

Various representatives also raised the issue of Libya during the afternoon discussion, with some suggesting that the use of force there had made a political solution more difficult.  Mr. Luck noted that the responsibility to protect did not dictate the course of action, so that principle was intact.

As for whether the international community was mainstreaming the responsibility to protect concept effectively, he said that political acceptability had risen considerably, but that it would take time to advance that “big system with a lot of pieces”.

With regard to comments by representatives from the United Kingdom, Venezuela and Japan regarding the need for monitoring, evaluation and peer reviews, Mr. Luck stated that they do not yet have a set list of criteria that could be reviewed.  However, the most serious human rights violations should be taken into account and given special weight.

To a question about undermining sovereignty, Mr. Luck added that the whole goal of the responsibility to protect was to strengthen and not undermine sovereignty, given that the main purpose of the State was to protect civilians.  Regarding the issue of imperialism, he emphasized that the goal was to help small States through multilateral assistance, and not infringe on their sovereignty.  Additionally, it was necessary to deal with the impunity of non-State actors, who, in some cases, were the ones undermining the sovereignty of the State.

Concerning comments and questions regarding accountability and preventing unilateralism motivated by special interest, he felt that Member States had agreed on a sensible package and that the responsibility to protect discouraged unilateralism in the name of humanitarian issues.  It was not easy to hold intergovernmental bodies accountable, but those bodies held elections and could be impacted in that regard.

As for the possible formation of a technical group dealing with grave violations against children, he said that the representative of the Czech Republic’s idea to establish focal points should be discussed.  Concerning the scope of the work, it should be recognized that prevention involved looking at a wider range of situations before crimes were committed.  He found that early engagement was needed and that countries were responsive to training.

Additionally, he agreed with several speakers that the responsibility to protect citizens lay with the State and that international organizations could not replace a State’s responsibility.

Assembly President Deiss made closing remarks.

Also speaking in the discussion were representatives of Morocco, Lebanon, United States, Netherlands, Slovenia, Kenya, Georgia, Mexico, Honduras, Liechtenstein, France, Italy, Republic of Korea, Australia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Canada, Spain, New Zealand, Brazil, Pakistan, Belgium, China, Iran, Czech Republic and the Russian Federation.

Representatives from the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect and Initiatives for International Dialogue also made comments.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.