Saturday, 16 January 2021

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Responsibility to Protect

The responsibly to protect – on a case by case basis

Historical overview Eskinder Debebe UN PhotoIn 2005 the United Nations General Assembly agreed to adopt the principles of responsibility to Protect (R2P).

By doing so the individual governments promised to do their utmost to protect and prevent their populations from atrocities that can be categorized as genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing or crimes against humanity. These are the broad pillars of focus, when talking of the R2P concept and when and how to act in case of atrocities being committed. More details about what was agreed can be found in the 2005 Summit Outcome Document.


R2P – A Short History

ed luckThe notion of protecting human lives and preventing large scale massacres goes back a long way. In 1864 the International Red Cross was established and through the years many other organizations have been established to help the downtrodden and people being abused. After World War II the UN resolution 260 of 9 December 1948 adopted the convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as a direct response to the horror of the Holocaust. The Wars in Indochina in the 1960s and 70s was also a turning point in many ways. Young people all over the world witnessed on their TV screen the atrocities that happen during a war, and the first televised famine in Biafra help spur further commitment to humanitarian work.


Responsibility to Protect – Two case studies with Alex Vines


alex vinesAlex Vines, Director of Regional and Security Studies at Chatham House in the UK explain two different case studies of the use of R2P in Côte d’Ivoire and East Congo respectively.

- Mr. Vines, how did R2P come about in the case of Côte d’Ivoire?

In Côte d’Ivoire a UN peacekeeping mission had been deployed to oversee the implementation of the Linas-Marcoussis Accords of January 2003 and its mandate included to use 'all necessary means' to protect civilians. This UNOCI force was also mandated to oversee long-postponed elections - which were to have marked the end of the conflict but in November 2010 reignited conflict as the principal parties disputed the results. Concerns of the potential for mass atrocities was evident when in December, the Special Advisers to the Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide and R2P issued a statement of 'grave concern'. This was reiterated several times. As the situation deteriorated in early 2011, on 30 March the Security Council passed Resolution 1975, which recognized Mr Ouatarra as present and authorized UNOCI to 'use all necessary means' to protect civilians.


3 questions to Edward Luck


Definition of the Responsibility to Protect

    • The State carries the primary responsibility for the protection of populations from mass atrocities such as genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

    • The international community has a responsibility to assist States in fulfilling this responsibility.

    • The international community should use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means to protect populations from these crimes. If a State fails to protect its populations or is in fact the perpetrator of crimes, the international community must be prepared to take stronger measures, including the collective use of force through the UN Security Council.