24 July 2009

More Than 40 Delegates Express Strong Scepticism, Full Support as General Assembly Continues Debate on Responsibility to Protect

24 July 2009
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly


98th & 99th Meetings (AM & PM)

more than 40 delegates express strong scepticism, full support as General Assembly

continues debate on responsibility to protect


The General Assembly debate on protecting civilians from the most serious atrocities continued today as delegates wrestled with the extent to which States should step in to stop -– and ultimately prevent -- genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

More than 40 speakers took the floor to discuss the responsibility to protect (R2P), a concept endorsed at the 2005 World Summit and aimed at providing a legal and moral basis for assisting civilians in the event of State failure to do so in the specific context of those four crimes.  Views on the R2P concept ranged from strong scepticism to full support.

For Pakistan’s representative, decisions were needed on how to address the “trust deficit” left in the wake of historical injustice, including foreign occupation.  Consistency of language and expression could further the R2P concept, which should also examine the threshold for triggering R2P action.  Overall, he said, civilian protection rested first with the State, and R2P should not become a basis for contravening the principles of non-interference and non-intervention.  The intentional community’s responsibility within R2P was to “provide appropriate, diplomatic humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter”.

Cuba’s delegate said her country was concerned about ambiguous terms that could, under an indiscriminate humanitarian blanket, violate international law and the United Nations Charter.  She recalled in particular the “right of humanitarian intervention”, stressing that State sovereignty could not be disregarded even on a humanitarian basis.  Claiming that the principle of sovereignty had prevented the United Nations from coming to the aid of those who were suffering was to distort the truth.  Instead, double standards, a lack of development aid and various dysfunctions in bodies like the Security Council were to blame.

Japan’s representative stressed that R2P was evolving, pointing out the clear distinction between human security and R2P.  The purpose of human security, as agreed in paragraph 143 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome, was to enable people to develop their human potential, and the use of force was therefore not envisaged.  On the other hand, R2P, as agreed in paragraphs 138 to 140, was to protect populations from the four most serious human rights violations.  The concept had to be better understood, strongly supported and properly implemented, he said, adding that nations should proceed prudently, respecting the fact that the United Nations consisted of sovereign States.

Similarly, the representative of Switzerland said R2P was an ally of sovereignty, and must therefore be considered in the strict framework of paragraphs 138 and 139 and on the basis of the “narrow but deep” approach proposed by the Secretary-General, which was distinct from so-called “humanitarian” interventions.  However, States had obligations under international law, regardless of the emergence of a situation in which R2P might come into play, he stressed, adding that a clear distinction must be made between R2P and civilian protection.  To do that, it was essential to define the specific features of each concept and the area in which it could be applied.

Ireland’s delegate said the R2P debate could not be reduced to a myopic argument about military force, and attention should instead focus on the many “pillars” addressing atrocities, including early-warning systems, incorporating international treaties into national legislation and building up conflict prevention and resolution capacities.  In practice, that could be achieved, perhaps most appropriately, by building up regional organizations, he said, welcoming the focus of the Secretary-General’s report on responsible sovereignty, which eschewed false dichotomies between the interest of the State and that of its population, and between the State and the international community.

In line with that notion, Nigeria’s delegate said emphasis should be placed on prevention rather than intervention.  She welcomed the Secretary-General’s focus on the need for international assistance in capacity-building, calling on the United Nations to support implementation of the African Union Framework for Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development, which aimed to prevent post-conflict countries from relapsing, in complement to the work of the Peacebuilding Commission.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Austria, Algeria, Singapore, Ecuador, Chile, Morocco, Colombia, Israel, South Africa, Uruguay, Ghana, Czech Republic, China, Mali, Canada, Viet Nam, Guinea-Bissau, Venezuela, Norway, Germany, Bolivia, Romania, Slovenia, Monaco, Qatar, Solomon Islands, Croatia, Jordan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Rwanda, Turkey, Cuba, Hungary, India, Andorra and San Marino.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 28 July, to continue its debate on the responsibility to protect.


Meeting this morning to continue its debate on the responsibility to protect (R2P), the General Assembly had before it the Secretary-General’s report, Implementing the Responsibility to Protect (document A/63/677).  (For further information, please see Press Releases GA/10845 of 21 July and GA/10848 of 23 July.)


THOMAS MAYR-HARTING (Austria), fully aligning himself with the European Union, said his country had been a strong advocate of including R2P in the 2005 World Summit Outcome, a decision that sent an important message on the need to protect civilians from atrocities.  Indeed, the primary responsibility of R2P rested with each individual State.  The need for appropriate collective measures arose only in cases of manifest failure by States to protect people from the core crimes.  The Secretary-General’s report provided a clear framework and was an excellent basis for further discussion.  It made clear that the three main pillars of the R2P concept were based on existing international law, particularly the United Nations Charter, and were equally important.

He said that to turn the concept into practice, particular attention should be paid to preventing situations from escalating and building capacity.  The rule of law also played an important role in stabilizing post-conflict societies and building sustainable peace.  Austria, which was the coordinator of the Group of Friends of the Rule of Law, had organized, with the International Peace Institute, a seminar on the Security Council’s role in the responsibility to protect.  The Government of Austria endorsed the European Union’s proposal to keep the General Assembly informed about the implementation of R2P.

ABDULLAH HUSSAIN HAROON (Pakistan) said the protection of civilians rested first with the State, and sovereignty should remain the overarching principle for contemporary international relations.  R2P should not become a basis for contravening the principles of non-interference and non-intervention.  The international community’s responsibility within R2P was to “provide appropriate, diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter”.  R2P should be implemented on a case-by-case basis, not as a norm but an exception.

Given that situations leading to action based on R2P were often the result of underdevelopment and poverty, the commitment to help States build capacity remained the best prevention, he said.  A comprehensive approach was needed to prevent the four core crimes, starting with conflict prevention and using all existing mechanisms in the United Nations system.  Instruments like the genocide and Geneva Conventions, as well as organs such as the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council, should also be leveraged.  The Secretary-General’s report stimulated conversation on R2P, but the Assembly’s debate was a work in progress.

Consistency of language and expression would help in furthering the R2P concept, he said.  Strengthening early-warning capacity would also be critical in moving the discussion forward.  It was also important to evaluate the accountability factor and the cost of false alarms.  Decisions were needed on how to address the trust deficit given historical injustice, including foreign occupation.  There was also a need to address the threshold that would trigger R2P action.  Simple discretion would be the ultimate factor in deciding whether to apply the responsibility to protect at the present stage.  The existence of a historical lack of trust was being overlooked.  While everyone agreed with the first two pillars, the third one resembled the “right of intervention”, which the house had already decided against.

PETER MAURER (Switzerland) said the R2P concept was an ally of sovereignty, and must therefore be considered in the strict framework of paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 Outcome, as well as on the basis of the “narrow but deep” approach proposed by the Secretary-General, which was distinct from so-called “humanitarian” interventions.  Switzerland was committed to ensuring that the distinction was clearly maintained.  The report was a “major instrument of political mobilization”.

Outlining various aspects that would help in the current discussion, he said it was important to stress that States had obligations vis-à-vis international law, regardless of the emergence of a situation in which R2P might come into play.  “These obligations cannot and must not be diluted,” he said, adding that a clear distinction must be made between R2P and civilian protection.  To do that, it was essential to define proactively the specific features of each concept and their area of application.  The protection of civilians dealt with the entire set of civilian rights, not only the international crimes covered by R2P.  Progress in the area of civilian protection derived from humanitarian principles.

The absence of political will was at the heart of past failures, and to remedy that, the permanent Security Council members could refrain from using the veto in cases of genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and war crimes.  Finally, the most effective way to implement the third pillar of the R2P concept must be considered, as various questions were pending:  what was the threshold of intervention for “timely and decisive” response?  Who would decide whether a situation constituted one of the four core crimes?  The R2P concept concerned the entire international community.

MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria), aligning himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the circumstances in which the four core crimes usually unfolded were characterized by extreme poverty, the weakening of democracy and good governance by foreign manipulation, and other social and cultural realities.  The responsibility of protecting populations against the four grave crimes was at the centre of the African culture of peace, and the African Union had adopted it as a central tenet.  Those decisions demonstrated the commitment of African States to preventing the core crimes.

He said his country was pleased with United Nations efforts to strengthen the capacity of the African Union Peace and Security Council, the standby force and the early-warning system.  Algeria supported the Secretary-General’s proposals to bolster United Nations prevention capacities, and would participate fully as the Assembly continued to discuss the R2P concept.  In that it would be guided by paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome and articles 4h and j of the African Union’s Constitutive Act.  It would also apply the principle of non-indifference.

VANU GOPALA MENON (Singapore) said it was critical that the discussion not be reduced to the simplistic dichotomy of States, with one side insisting on absolute sovereignty and the other demanding the surrender of absolute sovereignty.  It was also important that R2P be applied without political biases or hidden agendas.  In order for the concept to become an international norm for deterring impunity and thus preventing genocide and other crime it was intended to address, R2P could not be tarnished by suspicions of domestic agendas or, worse still, political grandstanding.

More importantly, the judgement of whether a Government had failed in its responsibility to protect should be taken by the international community “without fear or favour”, he said, adding that all countries must be open to being judged, and all situations acted upon, according to the same standards.  The real challenge for the United Nations was translating the principles of R2P into action on the ground.  In that regard, the relationship between the General Assembly and the Security Council must be considered.  Of all United Nations organs the Council would be the one to respond to R2P situations.  At the same time, the Assembly, with its broader perspective and legitimacy derived from its universal membership, should also play a role.

MARÍA FERNANDA ESPINOSA (Ecuador), aligning herself with the statement of the Non-Aligned Movement, said she attached great importance to the United Nations for the promotion and respect for human rights.  Ecuador’s Constitution outlined the need to respect human rights and had a chapter of guarantees, including for protection.  Having studied the Secretary-General’s report, Ecuador believed that there was no other body to consider today’s important topic.  A sustained discussion was needed on the conceptual and operational aspects of the issue, notably because it appeared there was no political or practical agreement.  Nations must ensure that the three pillars were dealt with in balanced way.  The first pillar, which concerned sovereignty and types of intervention, could not be interpreted differently from international law.  She was pleased that the report did not intend to broaden the mandate stemming from the outcome document. 

On the second pillar, she asked for a more detailed explanation of military assistance.  Paragraphs 45 to 47 mentioned the theme of assistance for development and a possible conditionality with respect to the responsibility to protect.  It was important to take into account that any embargo or sanction that ran counter to civilian well-being could not be an acceptable measure.  On the creation of an early-warning system, she urged taking account of existing mechanisms.  As for the third pillar, the most complex, history had confirmed the Security Council’s role in cases like Cambodia and Rwanda.  Unfortunately, the Council had not been an impartial actor and its methods did not have neutrality.  It was important to ask whether the current decision-making mechanisms should be responsible for military intervention.  It was important to move forward with constructive dialogue and she hoped to deepen the dialogue in the future.

HERALDO MUÑOZ (Chile) said above everything else, the responsibility to protect was a call to States to deal with serious human rights issues from within -– a concept that apparently had not been fully understood.  As the first pillar of that responsibility, the concept referred essentially to the State, which had the duty to protect its populations, whether national or not.  The State itself had the power to set in motion most of the components of the R2P.  It had to be alert to the first signs of bigotry, intolerance and human rights violations that could lead to genocide or any of the other three major crimes involved in R2P.  Only if the State was unable to cope with a humanitarian crisis, should the second pillar be made effective, namely the international community’s assistance to help States fulfil their responsibility to protect.  The third pillar of R2P was the timely and decisive response by the international community.

Mr. Muñoz suggested that a strategy for preventing the occurrence of R2P crimes could contemplate democracy promotion.  Despite their imperfections, democracies generally did not go to war against each other and usually did not commit atrocities.  Consequently, mechanisms like the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group, and the United Nations Development Programme’s democratic governance programme, should be strengthened to lend democratic governance support to those countries that requested it.

Citing the example of his own region, he said for nearly 200 years, Latin American countries suffered “Pax Americana”, with preventive military operations and regime changes.  Thus, the principle of non-intervention became crucial for Latin Americans and other developing countries; but in ways that would respect the principles of others and of the Charter of the United Nations and regional organizations’ charters, including the respect for human rights and universal morality.  While he cautioned against selective application of R2P, he observed that no principle had yet withstood the test of perfect application and, in any event, principles lost credibility precisely when they were applied in a partisan way.  He also pointed out that any permanent member of the Security Council could veto a resolution proposing coercive action aimed at safeguarding local populations.  It would be morally and politically wrong to conclude that because the international community could not act everywhere that it therefore should act nowhere. 

MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco) said the Secretary-General’s presentation and animated debate yesterday showed that R2P sparked evident interest.  However, it also revealed the persistence of legitimate questions about the concept’s scope and mandate, the criteria for its implementation and what bodies were responsible for its implementation.  The responsibilities of States, the Assembly and the Security Council in implementing R2P constituted a broad field of exploration.  Its application in the review of States’ human rights records, particularly the periodic review mechanism of the Human Rights Council, did not seem appropriate and could even be dangerous.  Injecting the concept into such a new mechanism, which remained very fragile, could damage its credibility and viability.  That same concern applied to peacekeeping, where the line between maintaining and imposing peace could be blurred.  That could also affect the principles of engagement.

He said that to accelerate consensus on R2P, discussions should not be confined to basing the responsibility on the United Nations Charter.  Indeed, international legal norms were not created instantaneously.  That said, Morocco was committed to making every effort to move towards consensus, which might strengthen the concept’s implementation.  It was important that the responsibility be built on a number of elements of convergence around the first pillar and the need for the international community to build capacities as called for in the second pillar.  That should occur even as debate on the third pillar remained ongoing.

CLAUDIA BLUM (Colombia) said the definitions contained in the 2005 World outcome document constituted an essential framework to examine R2P and should not be renegotiated.  Genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity were extremely serious matters and Colombia reaffirmed its commitment to the definitions and criteria outlined in General Assembly resolution 60/1 (2005).  Although the Secretary-General considered all three pillars equally solid, it was undeniable that, depending on the circumstance, they could have different degrees of importance.  To achieve civilian protection, consolidation of national capacity took on special importance and was needed in areas including the reinforcement of the rule of law; development of norms to consolidate rights enjoyment; and preservation of democratic institutions.

She said that international cooperation offered a positive contribution as well, notably in fulfilling obligations to confront transnational crime.  Illegal arms trafficking and the fight against the global drug problem were just some of the issues requiring cooperation among States.  Colombia agreed that R2P must be an ally, and not a foe, of sovereignty.  On the third pillar -– timely international response -– the World Summit outlined relevant actions and legal frameworks.  In situations where international action would have its basis in the Security Council, the United Nations Charter established the mandates and procedures related to the preservation of international peace and security.  Early-warning systems should be developed on the basis of an objective process.  Colombia would continue to contribute to the discussion of the issue.

GABRIELA SHALEV ( Israel) said it was essential to carefully explore the various means by which R2P could best be implemented.  As a people who had experienced perhaps the most serious genocide in history, Israel knew how important it was not to remain silent in the face of such crimes.  Too often, a blind eye had been turned to genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Yet those violations did not happen in a vacuum; they were often calculated.  It was thus important to address the issue of incitement by remembering the weight of words in carrying out those crimes.  After all, they began in the minds of men and resulted in the incitement of blind hatred.  Teaching peace and eliminating incitement were critical.  Greater investment in education would probably diminish the likelihood of such crimes.

She stressed the importance, as the Secretary-General’s report suggested, of recognizing the early signs of such crimes.  Capacities should be bolstered, but the key challenge was to be able to capitalize on that recognition.  Moving forward, existing tools should be used, rather than created anew.  Strong civil society sectors were central in prevention efforts.  Today’s debate reflected a growing consensus that the gravest crimes, wherever committed, were an international concern.  But it also revealed the need to address shortcomings in implementing the R2P principle.  In order for it to offer true protection, R2P must not become a political tool for exploitation and abuse. 

BASO SANGQU ( South Africa) said R2P could be developed only under the auspices of the United Nations and in full compliance with its Charter.  Citing General Romeo Dallaire’s account of the Rwandan genocide, he said the global community had failed to move beyond self-interests.  Such events still loomed large in 2000, when the drafters of the African Union Constitutive Act wrote article 4(h), declaring the Union’s right to intervene in a Member State pursuant to a decision by the Summit.  As a founding member of the African Union, South Africa agreed that the United Nations should never again exhibit indifference in the face of genocide.  Calling the Secretary-General’s report a good starting point for the debate, he said R2P should not be applied to areas other than the four identified crimes –- it was not applicable to HIV/AIDS, climate change and natural disaster.

On pillar one, which noted that States should develop internal conflict resolution mechanisms, he said South Africa supported that concept as a member of the African Peer Review Mechanism.  Pillar two included elements of great importance to developing countries, like development assistance and capacity-building vis-à-vis conflict prevention and management.  Development could not be achieved without sustained security and political stability, which could be achieved in partnership.

Failure to implement the first two pillars might give rise to systemic conflicting social situations that might, in turn, create conditions in States in which those crimes could be perpetrated.  “We should seek development and security as a matter of course in pursuit of the promotion of human dignity for all people”, he said.  As for pillar three, he recalled there were myriad instruments to use in instances of the four crimes -– negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation and arbitration among them.  The need for R2P resulted from the Security Council’s failure to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.  History was strewn with examples of its abuse of power, and he agreed that the General Assembly had to develop guidelines for response, including the curtailment of the veto when considering issues related to the four core crimes, identified in the Secretary-General’s report.

GUSTAVO ÁLVAREZ (Uruguay) said the Secretary-General’s report should be a point of departure for Member States to move towards consensus on how to implement R2P.  That concept was clearly limited to four mass atrocities.  Any attempt to extend it to other crimes was outside the agreement reached on R2P at the 2005 World Summit.  Further, the concept rested on national sovereignty, as the Outcome of that meeting had elaborated.  The Summit’s message was a clear step towards solidifying human awareness.  “We said no to indifference and no to the tragic events of the past, the details of which continued to move us.”

He said the broadest possible base of support for R2P was important not only for its legitimacy but to generate the best possible means of the concept’s implementation.  There was a major space for the United Nations to work together with regional organizations to fulfil the second pillar.  Existing capacities such as the Peacebuilding Commission should be better used.  The third pillar remained the most sensitive since, in the most extreme cases, it implied the use of force.

While the Security Council had the main responsibility to act when peace and security were breached, the General Assembly should not be sidelined in discussing this principle, he continued. It was important to ask what should be done within the more formal framework of the United Nations in developing steps for implementing the R2P principles.  But differences in this regard should not prevent action.  Given the importance of the issue and in light of the commitment made, reports from the Secretariat should not be merely anticipated.  The issue had to be actively addressed, and the Assembly should have its own mechanism to seek agreement on doing so.

LESLIE KOJO CHRISTIAN (Ghana) said the focus of the discussion should be on garnering the needed political and collective will to act and take concrete measures at the national, regional and international levels towards preventing the four crimes.  Ghana could not but promote a comprehensive and common understanding of raison d’être of R2P which informed its own support for the concept.  The brutal legacy of the twentieth century spoke bitterly and graphically of the profound failure of individual States to live up to their most basic and compelling responsibilities, as well as to the collective inadequacies of the international institutions.

That had led world leaders to ask whether the United Nations and other international bodies should be exclusively focused on States’ security without regard to the safety of the people within them.  Could sovereignty, in fact, be used as a shield behind which mass violence could be inflicted on populations with impunity?  Perhaps sovereignty was actually an instrument -- not a privilege -- that carried a heavy responsibility, and only when it was exercised with due respect for fundamental human rights, dignity and worth of the human person would it be recognized as credible and legitimate. 

To ensure the effective implementation of R2P, the United Nations should more actively support regional and subregional organizations, such as the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in implementing the legally binding regional instruments they had adopted to combat the four crimes.  Prevention must also be given top priority, he said.  In that, the early-warning systems and the Peer Review Mechanism of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) should be supported. 

He said support should also be given to the elaboration and implementation of the African Union Framework for Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development to promote regional ownership of peacebuilding processes in Africa.  Civil society would also continue to play a role in fighting impunity and advancing R2P.  While the tendency was to discuss R2P only in terms of the hindsight gained from lessons learned from past mistakes, Ghana believed that the concept was a reaffirmation of faith in human dignity and a tool for realizing and fulfilling the promise of the United Nations Charter.

YUKIO TAKASU (Japan) said the R2P concept needed to be better understood, strongly supported and properly implemented.  He urged that the 2005 World Summit Outcome not be reopened, saying that States must implement and consolidate that agreement, and focus on issues that directly linked to the four most serious crimes of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.  The international community should make every effort thorough diplomatic, humanitarian and peaceful means to implement R2P, and when the use of force was inevitable, as a last resort, it must be exercised in line with the Charter.  Indeed, R2P was evolving, and nations should be strictly guided by agreements contained in the outcome document, and proceed prudently, respecting that the United Nations consisted of sovereign States.

He said there was a clear distinction between human security and the R2P.  The purpose of human security, as agreed in paragraph 143 of the World Summit Outcome, was to enable all people to develop their human potential.  As such, the use of force was not envisaged in that concept.  The focus of human security was to prevent and empower -– and such an approach would help prevent threats to human development.  R2P, on the other hand, as agreed in paragraphs 138 to 140, was to protect populations from the four most serious human rights violations.  On pillar one, the most important of the three, he said each State had to establish good governance, the rule of law and a functioning justice system.

To that end, States should become parties to international human rights and humanitarian law instruments, particularly the Rome Statute, he said.  While he agreed on the importance of detecting early signs of problems, measures listed under pillar two appeared “overstretched”.  Focus should be on international assistance and capacity-building. As for pillar three, he said if consent was not forthcoming and the most serious violations continued, collective action must be taken through the Security Council, under the United Nations Charter.  He also recognized the role of the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.

MARTIN PALOUŠ (Czech Republic) said the R2P doctrine, as expressed in the 2005 World Summit Outcome, had acknowledged the collective responsibility to protect populations worldwide.  Accordingly, each individual State had the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.  The R2P concept rested on the three pillars outlined in the Secretary-General’s report.  It also relied on the equal importance, strength and viability of those pillars.  The report was explicit and strict regarding the scope of R2P.  It affirmed that the purpose of the doctrine was “to build sovereignty, not undermine it”.

The Czech Republic welcomed such a balanced approach, which emphasized that responsible sovereignty entailed the construction of stable institutions, good governance and compliance with international law.  However, while its scope should be kept narrow, the range of possible responses should be deep.  In that, the engagement and role of civil society and non-governmental organizations were particularly important.

He stressed that R2P was consistent with the core United Nations principles:  promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms of all without distinction.  It was now widely understood that the international community must do its best to prevent future occurrence of the hideous crimes against human beings.  The credibility of the United Nations depended on its ability to act effectively to prevent and halt such atrocities, and developing firm strategies and practices for R2P was an important step towards that goal. By doing so, any misuse of the principle could be avoided.

LIU ZHENMIN (China), calling the responsibility to protect a new concept that emerged at the start of the century, said the 2005 World Summit Outcome had provided a prudent description of that concept.  It strictly limited its scope of application to the crimes of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.  However, there was still controversy over the meaning of the concept.  As to its implementation, he said States had the primary responsibility to protect their citizens, while the international community could provide assistance.  That was in keeping with the principle of sovereignty.  It was important that R2P not contravene principles of sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs.  There must be no wavering on any of those principles.  Also, R2P only applied to the four crimes outlined -– no State should make arbitrary interpretations.  There was a need to avoid abuse of the concept.

He said that when a crisis emerged in one of the four crime areas, relevant actions must abide by Charter provisions and by the State concerned.  It was necessary to prevent any State from unilaterally implementing the R2P concept.  When the United Nations was called to respond, the Security Council must make judgements in light of specific circumstances and act prudently.  The Council must consider the responsibility to protect in the context of maintaining peace and security.

As for early warning, the General Assembly and the Security Council must study whether there was a need for such a mechanism.  If there was a need, the neutrality of the information gathered must be ensured, and that there were no double standards or politicization of the situation at hand.  Also, States must steer clear of using R2P as a diplomatic tool to exert pressure on others.  Whether it could be implemented effectively needed further exploration.  He noted that States still had divergent views on R2P and the Assembly must continue to carry out discussions on the topic.  “We are open-minded toward the discussions,” he said.

OUMAR DAOU ( Mali) said the responsibility to protect was incumbent on each individual State.  In that context, respect for the promotion of human rights, democracy and good governance was particularly important.  Regarding the second pillar outlined in the Secretary-General’s report, Mali recognized the need to strengthen State capacity, particularly through assistance from the international community to regional, subregional and other organizations.  Doing so would help prevent and contain the impact of any crises.  Institutions and mechanisms for reconciliation and peaceful resolution of disputes should also be strengthened.

Turning to the third pillar, he noted the emphasis on the international community’s role, particularly within the United Nations system, to prevent or halt mass crimes.  Yet the use of force raised a lot of questions regarding the modalities for those measures and what bodies had the responsibility for implementing such actions.  Above all, the best way to protect was to prevent.  Mali associated itself with the statement made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.

JOHN MCNEE (Canada), welcoming the Secretary-General’s report, said it was appropriate that today’s debate coincided with the fifteenth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide and the thirtieth anniversary of the Khmer Rouge “killing fields.”  Today, the Assembly must consider how to ensure that past mistakes were not repeated.  Indeed, the last 100 years had witnessed the killing of people on a scale as never before -- nearly 1 million lives had been claimed in Rwanda alone.  Non-interference was a fundamental pillar of inter-State relations, but questions had emerged about the nature of States’ responsibilities towards their peoples.  When was passive observation no longer acceptable?  The 2005 World Summit Outcome stated that when States manifestly failed to protect civilians from four core crimes, the global community had a subsidiary responsibility to protect them.  People did not lose their rights just because a State could not -- or would not -- ensure them.

Acknowledging the report’s dual focus on intervention and prevention alike, he said a substantial impact could be made in operationalizing prevention.  He reminded the Assembly that if prevention failed, the response should be collective.  It was essential to deepen consensus on that collective responsibility and to monitor situations that posed a serious risk of armed attack.  Among other things, States could raise diplomatic pressure and communicate firm and consistent messages, which would reinforce existing mechanisms, including the Special Office of the Security Council on the Responsibility to Protect.  He also urged creating a rapid response mechanism, saying that such preventive measures could include immediate observation, notably vis-à-vis genocide cases.  Taking into account existing development trends, each nation had a role to play in efforts to ensure that human rights violations were prevented.  “The road will be long”, he said, and there was much to do in translating norms into actions.

IFEYINWA ANGELA NWORGU ( Nigeria) said the Secretary-General’s report was a step in the right direction towards implementing the vision set out by world leaders at the 2005 World Summit.  Its three-pillared approach was drawn from the three-pronged agreement contained in the World Summit’s outcome document.  It constituted the authority within which Member States, regional and subregional arrangements and the United Nations system and its partners could give doctrinal, policy and institutional life to R2P.  Indeed, the essence of R2P was not new and was captured under article 4 (h) of the African Union Constitutive Act.  Other instruments and actions taken by countries under the auspices of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) were also precursors to the R2P concept. Nigeria had played a leading role in the peaceful resolution of conflicts in West Africa.  It had taken steps at the domestic level to strengthen democracy and the rule of law and had been actively engaged in peacekeeping operations worldwide.

She said that, in consonance with the notion of “sovereignty as responsibility”, emphasis should be placed on prevention rather than intervention.  Nigeria thus welcomed the Secretary-General’s emphasis on the need for the international community to assist States with capacity-building.  Towards that goal, she called on the United Nations and the international community to support the implementation of the African Union Framework for Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development, which aimed to prevent post-conflict countries from relapsing into conflict.  She also called on the Secretary-General to elaborate further on some of the report’s proposals.  Regional organizations like the African Union needed assistance in implementing R2P, which was enshrined in that body’s Constitutive Act.  ECOWAS’ Prevention and Early Warning Mechanism should also be strengthened and the African Union’s Peer Review Mechanism should be supported. 

BUI THE GIANG (Viet Nam), aligning himself with the statement of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that, with the adoption of the 2005 outcome document, the global community had accepted for the first time a key instrument on the responsibility to protect.  With its adoption, States did not need to discuss whether R2P was necessary or struggle to define its scope. The Secretary-General’s report provided an excellent ground for how to make the outcome document operational.  He also agreed that R2P was, first and foremost, a matter of State responsibility and was grateful for the assertion, in paragraph 138, that the global community should encourage States to exercise that responsibility.  The United Nations had a critical role in helping nations concerned, notably through political mediation, peacekeeping operations and provision of assistance.

He said that such assistance could be most effective when based on cooperation with related States.  It was necessary to equally emphasize the five qualifiers -– the voluntary engagement of States; application of “timely and decisive” collective action; the “case by case” basis; conformity with the United Nations Charter, including Chapter VII; and cooperation with relevant regional organizations.  The qualifier for “timely and decisive collective action”, described in pillar three, required a rational definition to avoid its possible confinement to coercive military force as the only alternative.  The best way to protect populations was to prevent wars and address the root causes of conflicts, which were found in poverty and economic underdevelopment.  Cultural tensions must also be addressed.  In that connection, education and public awareness must be regularly and intensively conducted, particularly in remote areas.  The United Nations could contribute to that process.

ALFREDO LOPES CABRAL (Guinea-Bissau) said the adoption of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document could be seen as a wake-up call for the international community.  At that meeting, the world had looked into a mirror and, examining its conscience, had realized how it had failed in its duty towards other humans beings.  Still, R2P was not born then, but, in fact, had its origins in the United Nations Charter.  Having made a commitment in 2005, the world was today asking itself how to mobilize its energies to ensure that genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing were never again perpetrated.  While legitimate, concerns about the doctrine should not be allowed to put brakes on meeting the world’s collective responsibility to end those evils.

He noted that the Secretary-General’s balanced and inclusive report defined the three pillars on which the R2P concept rested, and clearly established their equivalency.  Responsibility fell to the State first, and any State that considered itself sovereign should play its part in ensuring that these crimes did not recur.  The international community should also ensure that State capacities were improved by leveraging the United Nations system.  The gap between what was said in 2005 and the ability to act now must be closed.  Courage would be needed if action was to be prompt.  It was true that the Security Council did not fully represent the Member Sates of the United Nations in its working methods or its composition.  But the General Assembly should work in conjunction with the Council to formulate how to implement the R2P doctrine.

JOHN PAUL KAVANAGH ( Ireland), aligning his statement with the remarks of the European Union, said that condemning past failures was insufficient in fashioning a solution for today’s problems.  The General Assembly should never tolerate a situation in which the peoples of the world were not protected from the four crimes in question.  The unanimous adoption of the R2P doctrine in 2005 had been a major step in preventing and halting those mass atrocities, but it was now time to move into the critical stage of implementing it.  Ireland welcomed the Secretary-General’s balanced and well-judged report, particularly its focus on responsible sovereignty, which eschewed the false dichotomies between the interest of the State and of its population and the interest of the State and the international community.

He stressed that R2P could not be reduced to a myopic argument about military force.  Attention should instead focus on the many pillars that existed to address those atrocities, including early-warning systems, incorporating international treaties into national legislation and building up conflict prevention and resolution capacities.  That could be achieved, perhaps most appropriately, by building up regional organizations.  However, the development agenda should not be confused with the prevention of those crimes, which were certainly not limited to developing countries.  Moreover, current development mechanisms could not be relied on.

The third pillar of the R2P doctrine should be approached with imagination and openness, he said, adding that attempts to equate that pillar with military intervention should be rejected.  The third pillar encompassed a number of options, including travel sanctions and dispute mediation.  By focusing on only peace enforcement, the world community would end up neglecting its duty to implement the other options.  However, given the number of concerns about the third pillar, it was necessary to guard against any incorrect application of R2P through a broadening of scope, selective application or wilful misapplication.  R2P should in no way lower the threshold for military intervention. 

JORGE VALERO (Venezuela) said today’s topic was deeply controversial, in part because of the imperial powers that determined the trend of international relations.  Paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 outcome document were the only points of consideration for the General Assembly.   Venezuela condemned acts of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, regardless of who committed them.  Two main questions centred on who would protect and how would that protection be given.  Many delegations had been excluded from discussions on those issues.  Sovereignty and territorial integrity were universal principles that allowed States to protect their populations.  To meet that responsibility, developing countries’ right to development must be recognized.  International law said that countries had a right to a new, fair and equitable economic order.

He said that paragraph 138 highlighted that the State had the duty to protect its population from four crimes.  The global community could encourage States to undertake that responsibility and create a framework for early warning –- a system that should respond to peoples’ demands for societies based on equality and solidarity.  On paragraph 139, if the aspiration was for R2P to be a multilateral mechanism of joint action, it should be under the General Assembly’s jurisdiction.  Many argued that the Security Council would be the appropriate body to implement armed action when R2P had to be enforced.   Venezuela completely disagreed; discussion in the General Assembly was needed.

Turning to the Secretary-General’s report, he said it did not refer to the causes of grave crimes against populations.  The massacre of Palestinians had not been mentioned, nor had the massacre of women and children in Afghanistan. The Iraqi war had left almost 1 million dead and had been undertaken in the deafening silence of those who defended the responsibility to protect.  He urged the Security Council to call for punishment of the perpetrators of “genocide” and to allow the former United States President George W. Bush to be tried before the International Criminal Court.  The third pillar was a challenge to the principles of international law, including territorial integrity and non-interference in domestic affairs.

MORTEN WETLAND (Norway) said historic wrongs could never be undone, but new ones could be prevented.  Towards that end, Norway warmly welcomed the Secretary-General’s first report on implementing R2P, which provided a steady platform for the work ahead.  The report clearly stated the responsibility of each individual State to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.  It underlined how the international community could and should encourage States to meet that responsibility, and presented a broad canvas of legitimate measures to do so.  It also provided a bulwark against abuses of the principles of non-interference.

He said that, thus far, the R2P debate had underlined the need to refine the means of early warning and the roles of the various United Nations organs in implementation.  That exercise would make some of the situations pointed out by the sceptics of R2P less likely.  The norms and principles developed in the General Assembly and practiced in accordance with the Charter would strengthen the rule of law while deterring arbitrariness and selectivity.  Various tools were already in place, such as the International Criminal Court and other international tribunals, the Universal Periodic Review under the Human Rights Council and the Special Procedures of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In most situations, the focus should be on assisting the cessation of violence through mediation and other means, and the protection of people through the dispatch of humanitarian, human rights and police missions, he said.  But in instances where sovereign Governments were unwilling to fulfil their responsibility to protect their citizens, that responsibility should be taken up by the world community.  Norway endorsed the emerging norm of the collective responsibility to protect, exercisable by the Security Council, in the case of the four crimes.  That responsibility should weigh heavily on Council members, especially those with veto powers, he added. 

THOMAS MATUSSEK (Germany), fully aligning himself with the statement of the European Union, warmly welcomed the Secretary-General’s report and three-pillar strategy.  Although all three pillars were integral to fulfilling R2P, pillar two, the most innovative, involved cooperation and prevention -- the basic principles of R2P.  It recognized State sovereignty and aimed to enhance it, by stressing the international community’s responsibility to cooperate with individual States in meeting their obligations.  The strong focus on cooperation and prevention was the main reason that many nations saw the emergence of the R2P concept as an opportunity -- they understood that acceptance of responsibility gave them leverage to say “we do our part, now you do yours”.  Individual States and the global community had a common duty to prevent crimes from emerging in the first place.

He said that Germany stood ready to further develop many innovative proposals, adding those for an early-warning system, crisis management, crisis prevention and conflict management. The third pillar would only arise when an individual State and the global community had failed to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing or crimes against humanity.  That the General Assembly was discussing ways to implement the R2P concept four years after the summit outcome was a success in itself.  A world free of mass atrocities would only happen if States agreed to find common ground, and it was essential that debate continue.

PABLO SOLÓN-ROMERO (Bolivia) said the prevention of and protection against genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing was intricately linked with their prosecution.  In Bolivia, a crime against humanity took place in October 2003, when 67 persons died and more than 400 were wounded at the hands former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada’s Government.  Unfortunately, the trial against the former President and others had been impeded:  he and other accused were living in and being protected by the United States.  Recently, Peru had also given refuge to three others being tried.  Bolivia’s requests for the extradition of those facing trial had gone unanswered.  Bolivia thus asked what measures the Secretary-General proposed to take against those protecting people of crimes against humanity. Today, it repeated its request that the United States and Peru hand over the accused. 

He noted that mass crimes did not occur overnight, but resulted from worsening economic and political factors.  For example, families displaced by the ascendancy of the first indigenous Government had conducted a campaign against that Government.  After the presence of certain mercenaries was discovered in Bolivia, and a possible mass crime was prevented, it was important for countries where these mercenaries had previously acted to provide information on their links and financing.

The power to intervene by force, which could fall to the Security Council, was key in today’s debate, he said.  But armed intervention to stop mass crimes should not be in the Council’s hands.  History demonstrated that the geopolitical interests of different Council Powers affected that body’s decisions.  To prevent such biased outcomes, the veto power should be eliminated.  Given the large number of States that had voiced concerns about the misuse of the R2P doctrine, that doctrine should continue to be discussed in the General Assembly.

SIMONA MIRELA MICULESCU (Romania), fully aligning herself with the European Union’s statement, said the Secretary-General’s report was “everything we have hoped for and even more”, having brought much desired conceptual clarification to existing legal obligations.  Indeed, the R2P concept represented a significant development in the field of human rights protection and humanitarian law, and held great potential to prevent the most serious crimes.  It had all the elements to create preconditions for international cooperation in designing ways to prevent crimes or to act if needed.  It had theoretical and practical value, as it incorporated existing conventional and customary State obligations under international humanitarian law, international human rights law and criminal law.

Moreover, she said, the R2P concept also included an understanding of sovereignty -- the essential building block of the State, the United Nations and international law -- as “responsible sovereignty”.  R2P underscored the primary responsibility of States towards their people and recognized the corollary obligation to cooperate at the international level when basic responsibilities towards citizens could not be met.  While making R2P operational, all actions should refer exclusively to the four types of crimes included in the concept.

The task ahead was not to renegotiate the conclusions of the World Summit but rather, to find ways to fully and consistently implement the Summit decisions, she said. While each pillar had equal importance in making R2P operational, prevention should stand out as the core priority.  Long-term assistance to States needing capacity building was part-and-parcel of the prevention process.  Proposals for future actions should be further explored and agreed.  Within that context, she urged avoiding duplication. “Let us be the change we want to see.”

Aligning her statement with that of the European Union, SANJA ŠTIGLIC (Slovenia) said the significance of today’s debate could not be overstated. Lessons should have been learned in Rwanda and Srebrenica.  But new humanitarian crises in the last decade served as reminders that the right tools to respond in a timely and effective manner to the world’s worst crimes had not yet been found.  Nevertheless, the Secretary-General’s report was a crucial starting point for discussions on R2P.  It narrowed the scope of R2P to four crimes and three pillars of action.  It underlined the R2P’s main purpose:  building responsible sovereignty rather than undermining it.  It demonstrated that the concept of R2P was not synonymous with military intervention.  Indeed, prevention was a key element in implementing the doctrine.  Early warning capabilities, therefore, were essential and the role of the Special Adviser on Genocide was particularly important.

She emphasized that Member States held the primary responsibility to protect their citizens.  Where States failed, collective action should be taken in a timely and decisive manner, in accordance with the United Nations Charter, to ensure an early and flexible response.  A broad range of tools existed to do that.  Slovenia called on all Security Council members holding the veto power to refrain from its use in cases of R2P.  Addressing R2P and potential R2P situations ultimately remained a matter of political will.  Indifference was not an option.

ISABELLE F. PICCO (Monaco) said today’s debate had one objective:  to save human lives.  Four years after the 2005 World Summit, Monaco welcomed the balanced report of the Secretary-General on implementing the responsibility to protect.  Monaco also welcomed how the R2P concept had developed in recent years and supported the Secretary-General’s three-pillar strategy.  As the State Minister of Monaco had previously stated, it was time to start constructive work to ensure that the responsibility to protect became a right as soon as possible.

Turning to the principle of non-indifference, she said it would be wise to be inspired by the Constitutive Act of the African Union.  Grave situations were not limited to any specific part of the world.  Partnerships should be established, based on the specificities of each State.  The responsibility to protect reinforced State sovereignty.  Monaco would follow efforts to create an early-warning system.

SALEM MUBARAK SHAFI AL-SHAFI ( Qatar), aligning his statement with that of the Non-Aligned Movement, said collective work was critical in the current undertaking.  It was natural that the notion of international security would expand to include the responsibility to protect.  Solidarity with fellow human beings rose above political, economic and other concerns.  The international community could not stand silent when faced with genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.  Discussing responsibility implicitly meant accountability.  But the 2005 World Summit had not addressed instances where States failed to meet that responsibility.  The reason for failure to achieve consensus on that issue was well known.  But an internationally-agreed on definition on the crimes and the possible responses involved in R2P had to be reached through General Assembly procedures.

He said that the Assembly’s role was critical, since history showed how often and disastrously an exclusive group of people could decide norms for others, particularly in the colonial era.  Today, it must be asked how the Security Council could implement the R2P principle, given the striking instances when it had failed to enforce its mandate to maintain international peace and security, particularly in cases like Gaza, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.  It was the misuse of the principles of humanitarian intervention, human security and R2P that caused them to be discredited and questioned today.

For its part, Qatar emphasized the comprehensive approach of the General Assembly to debating the R2P doctrine, he said.  Based on Qatar’s belief that preventive actions were more legitimate than the use of force and were based on the United Nations Charter, his country had on more than one occasion carried out mediation to help resolve a dispute.  Qatar also reaffirmed the linkage between development and security and the need for collective effort to achieve political and economic development.

COLLIN D. BECK ( Solomon Islands) said R2P acknowledged international humanitarian treaties, and his Government did not have any difficulties with the concept’s intentions and principles –- it subscribed to them.  The challenge lay in translating into action paragraphs 138 and 139 of the World Summit’s outcome document.  In that pursuit, it was important to define the concept against a multilateral structure and to examine the R2P concept in recently-created bodies, including the Peacebuilding Commission.  Security Council reform, notably related to the non-use of veto, was also important.  For its part, the Peacebuilding Commission should increase activities towards countries emerging from conflict, in a “water tight manner” to ensure that needed assistance was provided.

He said that preserving the R2P spirit meant not broadening the concept to include non-State actors or other mechanisms not provided for under the United Nations Charter.  In addition, the General Assembly’s legitimacy must be increased.  Discussing the pillars, he said the Solomon Islands had no difficulty with pillar one.  “We operate in an international system where the State is the main actor.”  He underscored that international assistance, referred to in pillar two, was about strengthening sovereignty.  He cautioned that unchecked assistance would create a situation in which countries could become spectators to well-resourced actors.

The third pillar needed more discussion.  Speed was critical, and the time period for intervention should be matched against goals for phase-out.  In 1998, when his Government saw simmering conflict, it sent out an international “911” call, only to find that no one responded.  This year, the regional assistance mission to the Solomon Islands would celebrate an anniversary.  Regarding an early-warning system, that would only work with cooperation in obtaining quality data.  United Nations presence was a must.  In closing, he assured the Assembly of his country’s cooperation in continuing the dialogue.

RANKO VILOVIĆ (Croatia) said that as his delegation read the Secretary-General’s report, it could not help but think of all the lives that could have been saved in his country.  The civilian tragedy of Vukovar was an important wake-up call for the international community and underscored the importance of preventing the recurrence of such tragedies in the future.  It was regrettable that the international community and the United Nations itself had failed to recognize and respond adequately to the ethnically inflammatory rhetoric that had culminated in the Vukovar tragedy.  Even after the temporary cessation of hostilities and the creation of United Nations protected areas in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, ethnically-biased killings and ethnic cleansing had occurred.

He said that, moreover, United Nations peacekeepers were not only present in the so-called United Nations Protected Areas, where hundreds of thousands of Croatian people had been killed or forced from their homes.  Many were also present in the United Nations-declared safe haven of Srebrenica, where 8,000 Bosniak men and boys had been victims of genocide.  Early warning signs had been present, but were ignored.  That example raised R2P’s most important aspect in Croatia’s view:  prevention.

In the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, the world community, for the first time, had accepted its collective responsibility to act should States fail to protect their civilians.  Yet the responsibility to protect should not be confused with the right to intervene.  On the contrary, R2P was a collective obligation that consisted of three pillars:  the protection responsibility of the State, the need for international assistance and capacity building, and timely and decisive responses.  Those pillars offered numerous possibilities to exert R2P.  The commitment to a timely and decisive response in cases where States failed to meet their responsibility was a last resort.  However, where a rapidly unfolding situation required sanctions or decisive action, Croatia believed the Security Council, acting in accordance with the Charter, had a special responsibility.

MOHAMMED F. Al-ALLAF ( Jordan), associating himself with the statement of the Non-Aligned Movement, welcomed the Secretary-General’s report, saying that the dark events of history must never be allowed to happen again.  As a member of the International Criminal Court, Jordan believed in the R2P concept and was prepared to work with all parties at all levels to develop an action plan.  Paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 outcome document formed a political and moral foundation for a system to be internationally agreed through the United Nations.  They expressed the international community’s unanimous view and affirmed the role of international law in dealing with conflict.  Jordan had acceded to all conventions addressing violence, genocide, ethnic cleansing and war crimes.

Discussing the Secretary-General’s three-pillar strategy, he said Jordan believed in dialogue to avert those crimes.  Adopting the strategy required an open, transparent and inclusive dialogue.  In that light, the General Assembly should focus on such issues as misuse of the concept.  The notion should be dispelled that R2P was linked to interference and military force.  It should be made clear that it was linked to the four core crimes, and efforts to expand that scope would undermine the concept’s viability.  Successful implementation was linked to the strategy’s credibility, and he urged avoiding selective approaches, as a conflict of interest would negatively impact the decision-making process.

He said he supported the Secretary-General’s strategy for rapid response, saying that mass atrocities never arrived without warning.  As such, the international community’s political will was paramount.  He called for R2P’s exclusive use within the framework outlined by the Secretary-General’s strategy.  The permanent five Security Council members should refrain from opening the scope of application beyond the four criteria outlined in the Secretary-General’s report.  The global community should invest more time to make the strategy embodied in the second pillar a success.

JEAN OLINGER (Luxembourg), aligning his remarks with those of the European Union, said the entire international community had taken a solemn commitment to uphold States’ responsibility to protect their citizens from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.  The first report on implementing the responsibility to protect was a major step towards elaborating a concrete strategy to turn that concept into a reality.  All Member States had recognized in 2005 that R2P neither weakened State sovereignty nor justified arbitrary intervention.  As the Secretary-General underlined in his report, R2P was an ally, and not an adversary, of sovereignty, which entailed rights as well as responsibility.  Among the latter, none was more important than protecting a State’s own citizens.

Stressing that prevention was a key component of R2P, he said Luxembourg was convinced that investing in training programmes on human rights, mediation, conflict prevention, crisis management and good governance would be beneficial in the long term. Many international actors and regional organizations played a crucial role in prevention.  So did parts of the United Nations system, such as the Human Rights Council, with its universal periodic review and the Peacebuilding Commission and members of fact-finding missions, as well as peacekeepers, humanitarian staff and even the Secretary-General, himself.  Through the United Nations, the world community could translate R2P into collective action, on a case-by-case basis, to protect populations against crimes when States failed to meet their obligations.  In fast-evolving situations it was vital to react quickly to save lives.

SOCORRO ROVIROSA ( Mexico) said R2P was a response to historical indifference in the face of mass atrocities.  There were many examples, some painfully new.  The scope outlined in paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 outcome document found solid grounding in international law.  It drew on existent international human rights law and international humanitarian law.  When peaceful means failed to ensure protection, that duty transferred to the international community.  Mexico supported the Secretary-General’s efforts to develop a three-pillar strategy for implementing R2P and underscored that developing the R2P concept was of great importance.  Sovereignty was the cornerstone of the international legal order.  The first two pillars of the Secretary-General’s report outlined recognition of sovereignty and established means of assistance by the international community in needed situations.

She said that the third pillar called for more specifics, and stressed that “timely and decisive” responses should not translate into abuses.  Timely and decisive action also excluded any type of unilateral action.  The General Assembly should continue its work on the issue in the immediate future.  The pillar included measures that the international community could adopt in the context of collective security.  Mediation and preventive diplomacy were among the available tools to implement R2P, and the Secretary-General could play a lead role in that regard.  R2P was designed to protect people from four crimes, but it also gave the United Nations a role in responding to the situation of those whom, in the past, it had observed from the sidelines.  On the Security Council’s role, she urged that body to avoid using R2P to change State obligations under the Charter vis-à-vis force and exceptions.

EUGENE-RICHARD GASANA (Rwanda) said the genocide that had claimed the lives of more than a million of his countrymen and women, including his own kin, 15 years ago was known to all and had been cited by many speakers as the rationale for the R2P principle.  Rwanda’s tragedy was compounded by the fact that the genocide was entirely preventable.  The warning signs had been there and a United Nations peacekeeping force had been present on the ground.  However, some permanent members of the Security Council had debated whether to call it genocide, even as 10,000 people were massacred per day.  Some had argued that if R2P had been in effect the genocide would still have taken place.  That might be the case, true, but Rwanda was convinced that the 2005 World Summit Outcome, coupled with the Secretary-General’s report and today’s debate, made it much less likely that such horrific events would be repeated anywhere in the future.

Noting that the report built upon the relevant parts of the 2005 Outcome and clarified R2P’s three pillars and four crimes, he said the African Union and African subregional economic communities had made great strides in line with those pillars to operationalize R2P.  The Government of Rwanda had been active in such efforts.  Through the East African Community, the establishment of the East African Standby Brigade, and the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region Programme of Action for Peace and Security, the country had steadily increased its contribution to peacekeeping, and would continue to strengthen partnerships between civil society and Governments.

Yet aspects of R2P required further elaboration, he said.  They included the threshold for intervention, the respective roles of the General Assembly and Security Council, the critical use of the veto in genocide cases, the establishment and strengthening of early-warning systems, and the question of intervention.  The objective of R2P should be to eliminate the need for intervention by ensuring that the measures called for in the first two pillars were implemented in a timely manner.  Today’s debate should not be an exercise in intellectual posturing or an opportunity to grind political axes or to engage in polemics.  It was actually about the value placed on human life.  It was a fallacy to believe that the events that had occurred in Rwanda were limited to particular regions or countries.  It was thus incumbent on Member States to ensure that history did not repeat itself.

FAZLI ÇORMAN (Turkey) said the adoption of R2P had been among the major achievements of the 2005 World Summit, while the Secretary-General’s report was another important step.  Regrettably, however, genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity were still being committed.  Indeed, civilian protection was a concern for all.  Translating the R2P concept into action required diligence.  Indeed, the responsibility to protect populations from the four core crimes rested primarily with States and carrying out that responsibility in a lawful and timely manner was the most desirable way to do so.  Thus, the rule of law and properly functioning judicial systems were key deterrents to potential perpetrators.

The promotion of democracy could help prevent the type of human tragedies that fell under the R2P purview, he continued.  In cases where prevention was not possible, the detection of crises in their initial phase was of utmost importance, and the United Nations system must work in a coordinated and coherent manner in such pursuits.  In exceptional cases where States could or would not protect civilians, the international community had a duty to do so through a range of means, from sanctions to collective action.  However, there was a need for caution in resorting to such coercive measures.  R2P was not limited to prevention and reaction -- it also covered post-conflict rehabilitation.  R2P had been misused in the past and it should be no surprise that many States perceived that they were faced with a new form of neocolonialism.  R2P must be better defined and communicated or the wider membership would have difficulty supporting it.

ANET PINO RIVERO (Cuba) pointed out that the R2P concept did not exist in any international legal norm, and her country was concerned about ambiguous terms that could violate international law and the United Nations Charter under an “indiscriminate humanitarian blanket”.  It had echoes of the “right of humanitarian intervention”, she said, emphasizing that State sovereignty could not be disregarded even on a humanitarian basis.  Moreover, claiming that sovereignty had prevented the United Nations from coming to the aid of the suffering was to distort the truth.  Instead, double standards, a lack of development aid and various dysfunctions in bodies like the Security Council were to blame.

She went on to say that the Charter, particularly Article 9, codified the framework for solving economic, social, and humanitarian problems.  It was vested with the power to do so in the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council.  Certainly the decisions of the General Assembly were not binding, but they were reached in a democratic body.  In contrast, there was no legal standard justifying a humanitarian intervention upon the Security Council’s decision.  If there were, it would be in violation of the main achievement of international law, which stipulated the illegality of war and the use of force.  Clearly, the Security Council’s working methods needed revision.  Its passivity in the face of Israel’s assault on Lebanon in 2006 and on Gaza earlier this year, as well as in the response to Cyclone Nargis, were examples of what was wrong.

Countless questions regarding R2P illustrated the complexity of the concept from a legal and ethical view.  Who decided when it was evident that a State was not protecting its people, and how was that decisions made?  How and where was the line drawn between an intervention under R2P and under political aims?  Was killing for food legal and ethical?  Was saving an ethnic group by killing another group legal?  The 2005 World Summit Outcome did not provide the basis for a legal standard for R2P.  Moreover, the Secretary-General’s report went beyond the scope of that intergovernmental accord in its treatment of human rights under the first two pillars and in its annex.  Cuba was particularly concerned about the flexible character and fundamental interdependence of the three pillars.  The ambiguous reference to regional mechanisms was highly controversial, especially with respect to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  The report contained no analysis of the legitimate right of people to self-determination and the dialogue among civilizations, and it left a number of critical terms undefined.  Clearly a deeper analysis of R2P in the General Assembly was needed.

GÁBOR BRÓDI (Hungary) said the Secretary-General’s report identified the means to achieve a common goal:  the fullest protection of populations.  The three pillars of R2P constituted complete implementation of the concept, and no pillar could be singled out as the ultimate solution to all problems.  While States bore the primary responsibility to protect their citizens, State sovereignty implied both rights and responsibilities under international law, especially that relating to the protection of human rights.

Thus, if a State manifestly failed to protect its people, the international community was morally obliged to respond in a timely and decisive manner, he said.  Depending on the circumstance, it could act by building State protection capacities.  In that regard, international instruments for early warning, mediation and crisis management should be improved.  One particular goal could be found in each pillar of the report –- prevention.  Research had revealed a gradual progression of events towards genocide.  The period from initial threat to full genocide offered ample warning to take preventive action.  In light of that, Hungary urged States to enhance the efficiency of activities in that area.

HARDEEP SINGH PURI (India) said the discussions so far had left some delegations deeply disturbed.  Perhaps it was a sign of the times that the debate continued to reveal both a sense of helplessness and deep intellectual acrimony in finding the political will to prevent the recurrence of the four identified crimes.  A State’s responsibility to protect its citizens was among the foremost of its responsibilities, and no derogation of the right to life was permitted even in times of emergency.  Capacity-building and early warning were critical, and in this regard, the Secretary-General’ report identified several proposals under pillars one and two that deserved intensive work by the world community.

He underlined the Secretary-General’s identification of R2P as the defining attribute of sovereignty and statehood in the twenty-first century.  In the international arena, specific conventions on preventing genocide identified the international community’s responsibility.  Regrettably, despite all the articulated safeguards and obligations, the international community had failed in its duty to respond to mass atrocities, even when they were a clear threat to international security.

In its effort to find common ground on a vast array of issues, the 2005 World Summit Outcome gave a cautious go-ahead to R2P, he said.  To remain faithful to that document, the current discussions on the doctrine must not lose sight of that fact.  The international community was enjoined to use “peaceful means” in protecting populations.  Decisions on measures under Chapter VII of the Charter should be taken on a case-by-case basis and only when peaceful means proved inadequate.

Any attempt to create new norms should at the same time seek to prevent their misuse, he cautioned.  Even a cursory review of reasons for non-action by the United Nations, in cases where the four identified crimes had been perpetrated, revealed that non-action was not due to a lack of warning and resources, or even because of the principle of State sovereignty.  Rather, it was the result of strategic, political or economic considerations by those upon whom the present international architecture placed the onus to act.  Thus, a necessary ingredient in the willingness to act was real reform of the Organization’s decision-making bodies, particularly the Security Council.

NARCÍS CASAL DE FONSDEVIELA (Andorra) said the country endorsed the adoption of paragraphs 138 and 139 of the World Summit Outcome Document and supported State responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.  The Government also understood that each State must be the first to protect populations from such evils.  The protection of populations would not be complete unless it was preventive.  But, it was true that States could fail to live up to their obligations -- only international assistance could assure protection.  Recent history had shown that the need for protection applied to all continents and it was realistic to say that the United Nations should have an international response.  Better than anyone, it could coordinate a proportionate response to what was at stake.  Andorra welcomed every effort, notably by the Secretary-General, to achieve the widest consensus and construct an efficient system to protect populations.

DANIELE D. BODINI (San Marino), expressing appreciation for the Secretary-General’s report, reiterated his delegation’s support for the 2005 World Summit Outcome.  As a small country without an army, San Marino was very sensitive to the responsibility to protect, and thus strongly welcomed United Nations efforts to assist States that were unable to protect their citizens from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing when their own Governments were unwilling to do so.  Yet the implementation of R2P, being so sensitive to misinterpretation and possible abuse, required international scrutiny and should follow rigorous guidance.  The Secretary-General’s report provided substantive tools for finalizing a correct and unbiased approach to implementation of R2P, but the General Assembly must develop the concept in a transparent and fair manner.

* *** *

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