Regional Organisations

Flag-raising at UNAMID headquarters
in El Fasher, Sudan.
UN Photo/Albert González Farran

Regional and sub-regional organizations are in a pivotal position to assist and respond regionally or locally to situations of concern from the perspective of the principle of the responsibility to protect. In many cases, the historical, cultural, geographic and political ties of these organisations to countries in their respective regions significantly increase the effectiveness of prevention and response tools to situations at risk of atrocity crimes. Collaboration with these organizations thus brings added value to the implementation of each of the three pillars of the responsibility to protect.

Under pillar I, regional and sub-regional arrangements can encourage Governments to recognize their obligations under relevant international conventions and to identify and address sources of friction within their societies before they lead to violence or atrocity crimes. Also, responsibility requires accountability, which should begin at the national level. However, international justice serves as a fall back option when domestic judicial processes prove inadequate to the task. Regional human rights courts and commissions have paved the way for the development of the International Criminal Court and have made important contributions to justice in Africa, the Americas and Europe.

Under pillar II, regional and sub-regional arrangements are vital in strengthening structural prevention efforts. They play a key role in the regional and sub-regional development of norms, standards and institutions that promote tolerance, transparency, accountability, and the constructive management of diversity. Also, they are at the forefront of the provision of assistance in crises that have a regional dimension. For example, non-State actors, such as armed groups, drug cartels or terrorists tend to operate on a transnational basis, thus requiring cooperative responses at the regional or sub-regional level.

Under pillar III, when States are unable or unwilling to protect their own populations from atrocity crimes, quiet response tools such as investigation, fact-finding, good offices, mediation, personal persuasion and conflict resolution, laid out in Chapters VI and VIII of the United Nations Charter, are often undertaken by regional and sub-regional arrangements. In this regard, it is important to take into account that context matters - while the responsibility to protect is a universal principle, its implementation and tools applied should consider institutional and cultural differences from region to region.

Regional and sub-regional arrangements also have an important role to play at the global level. For instance, because they are closer to the situations in which there is a risk of commission of the crimes, they can be critical in helping to ensure the accurate and timely flow of information and analysis from the country level to global decision-makers, while lessening the risk of misinterpretation, misinformation and deliberate distortion.

Several regional and sub-regional institutions have explicitly affirmed their support for the responsibility to protect principle. Here are some examples: