Category Archives: Timely and Decisive Action

A “Responsibility Not to Veto”? The S5, the Security Council, and Mass Atrocities

A bloc of small countries – the so-called Small-Five or S5, comprised of Costa Rica, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Singapore, and Switzerland – was forced to withdraw their draft resolution at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on 16 May, which sought to amend the working methods of the UN Security Council (UNSC).

Among other measures that were aimed at “enhancing the accountability, transparency, and effectiveness” of the UNSC, a notable element of the S5 resolution recommendation No. 20 that urged the Permanent Members (P5) of the UNSC – Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States – to agree to refrain from using their veto power to block collective Council action to prevent and halt genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. As the S5 stated in their 4 April speech to the UNGA, in which the bloc introduced the resolution, their work stems from the commitments made at the 2005 World Summit:

“The recommendation #20 to refrain from using the veto to block action in situations of “atrocity crimes” (genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity) is in line with the 2005 World Summit resolution which states, in its paragraph 139, that the, “international community, through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to use the appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian, and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter, to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”

The idea of such restraint on the Council’s veto power in situations of mass atrocities was expressed in the 2001 report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), the ground-breaking document that first articulated the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P). As the report stated:

“An issue which we cannot avoid addressing, however, is that of the veto power enjoyed by the present Permanent Five. Many of our interlocutors regarded capricious use of the veto, or threat of its use, as likely to be the principal obstacle to effective international action in cases where quick and decisive action is needed to stop or avert a significant humanitarian crisis. As has been said, it is unconscionable that one veto can override the rest of humanity on matters of grave humanitarian concern. Of particular concern is the possibility that needed action will be held hostage to unrelated concerns of one or more of the permanent members – a situation that has too frequently occurred in the past.”

As such, ICISS recommended that the UNSC agree to a “code of conduct” with regards to their veto power. Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS) , an ICRtoP member, has explored this notion of a code of conduct, or a “responsibility not to veto” (RN2V) further in a 2010 paper that seeks to advance the understanding of the initiative and the RtoP. As CGS’s paper explains:

“Momentum for the idea of a responsibility not to veto continued in the debates leading up to the World Summit in 2005. However, the final version of the outcome document did not address any measures that would limit the P5’s veto powers in relation to situations of mass atrocities.  According to accounts of the long process of drafting the outcome document this particular omission was due in large part to P5 pressure.”

Despite its omission in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, the idea for an RN2V would re-emerge with the UN Secretary-General’s (UNSG) 2009 report, Implementing the Responsibility to Protect, with Ban Ki-moon stating:

“Within the Security Council, the five permanent members bear particular responsibility because of the privileges of tenure and the veto power they have been granted under the Charter. I would urge them to refrain from employing or threatening to employ the veto in situations of manifest failure to meet obligations relating to the responsibility to protect, as defined in paragraph 139 of the Summit Outcome, and to reach a mutual understanding to that effect.”

Despite the endorsement by the UNSG and the efforts of the S5, as well as the work of civil society in advancing the RN2V concept, the veto has remained a complex issue in formulating collective responses to situations of mass atrocities, as evidenced recently by the situation in Syria. On two occasions over the course of the government-led crackdown, China and Russia employed their veto powers (on 4 October 2011 and 4 February 2012) to block Council action aimed at resolving the crisis, which were widely believed to have been employed as an expression of their respective national interests in the situation, and their concerns over the implementation of Resolution 1973 in Libya.

And as Colum Lynch at Foreign Policy noted on 15 May, the S5 draft resolution led to a rift within the UN, pitting the bloc of small countries and the supporters of their resolution against members of the P5, which felt the resolution would impede their prerogatives. Ultimately, the RN2V and other provisions in the S5 resolution would not be voted on, as the S5 dropped their motion as the UNGA was set to meet. As Lynch writes in his 16 May post on his Foreign Policy blog:

The U.N. secretary general’s top lawyer today effectively killed off an initiative by five small U.N. member states to press the U.N. Security Council to allow greater outside scrutiny of its actions…the initiative failed after the U.N.’s lawyer, Patricia O’Brien, recommended that the resolution require the support of two-thirds of the U.N. membership, rather than the simple majority required for most U.N. General Assembly votes.

Lynch explains further:

Under the U.N. Charter, a General Assembly resolution requires the support of a simple majority, unless it involves particularly “important questions,” like an amendment of the U.N. Charter, in which case it would require a vote by two-thirds of the General Assembly. But in 1998, the General Assembly passed a resolution declaring that the assembly would not adopt any resolution “on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters” without a two-thirds majority.

According to Lynch, the Swiss representative to the UNGA withdrew the motion when this recommendation was made, suggesting that the S5 bloc did not have the support of two-thirds of the Assembly on its resolution.

Ahead of the consideration of the S5 resolution by the UNGA, the ICRtoP – as well our partners at the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) – sent a letter to all Heads of State and Ministers of Foreign Affairs on 14 May expressing its support for recommendation No.20. The letter from the ICRtoP stated:

[…] this provision reflects the historic decision in the 2005 World Summit document which states that the international community, through the UN, has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity; and that when a  state is manifestly failing, the international community has a responsibility to take timely and decisive response, including measures authorized by the Security Council under Chapter VII…Tragically, almost every year and even at present the international community witnesses Council deliberations where use of the veto (or its misuse) is inconsistent with these provisions – a situation that this measure in the resolution attempts to address…This recommendation within the S-5 resolution would enhance the goal for preventing and ending impunity, and strengthen the responsibility of States, the international community, the UN and the Security Council to prevent and stop the commission of these crimes.

The RN2V remains an important initiative that will likely continue to be advanced at the UN and in national capitals by like-minded governments, often working in tandem with an engaged and supportive civil society, that strive to ensure that early and flexible responses to protect populations are available to the international community when faced with cases of mass atrocities. While the withdrawal of the S5 resolution may have been a setback, and current Security Council practice dictates that a “responsibility not to veto” is far from being accepted by the P5, the RN2V idea is certainly here to stay.

Further reading:

Global Action to Prevent War: Small-5 Propose GA Resolution on Improving Working Methods of the Security Council

“Small Five” Challenge “Big Five” Over Veto Powers – IPS News Agency

 

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Filed under CivSoc, First Pillar, General Assembly, Libya, Prevention, RtoP, Second Pillar, Security Council, Syria, Third Pillar, Timely and Decisive Action

The G8 – An Untapped Forum for Advancing R2P

A guest post special to ICRtoP’s blog by Naomi Kikoler, Director of Advocacy and Policy at the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P), on tonight’s G8 +5 Summit and the role the body can play in implementing the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P) and preventing mass atrocities. 

This evening a small but exclusive group of world leaders, the G8+5,[1] will sit down for a ‘working dinner, leaders only’ to discuss regional and political security issues. Not on the table formally, but should be as it speaks to core interest of each participating state and the organization, is the urgent need to advance the global commitment to the responsibility to protect (R2P) by prioritizing the prevention of mass atrocities.

G8 summits have increasingly, in their discussions on international peace and security, delved into matters directly relevant to R2P. As a group of likeminded states (with the exception of Russia) on human rights issues, with each summit there has been a growing willingness to raise and speak out on mass atrocity situations.

At the 2011 Deauville Summit, G8 members jointly declared that “Qadhafi and the Libyan government have failed to fulfill their responsibility to protect the Libyan population and have lost all legitimacy.” At that same summit they also discussed and expressed concerns about the risks facing civilians in Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Burma.

That these concerns were included in the final joint communique shows that the G8 can be an important forum for building consensus amongst members, notably Russia, on contentious issues related to R2P. For example, the strong language on Libya and Syria at last year’s summit came at a point when Moscow was critical of NATO’s implementation of United Nations (UN) resolution 1973 and was blocking UN Security Council action on Syria.

The G8 has also played an important role in operationalizing R2P – even prior to the 2005 commitment. As G8 scholar John Kirton notes, “the G8’s most decisive achievement was in preventing a major genocide in Kosovo, by agreeing on military action in 1999.” Faced with a paralyzed Security Council, G7 leaders authorized an air campaign carried out by NATO to halt and avert atrocities in Kosovo which Russia subsequently supported.

While the G8 has had conflict prevention on its agenda in the past, there has been no formal discussion of the need to prioritize the prevention of mass atrocities. As Libya has shown, halting atrocities once they have begun is an incredibly difficult task. It is a costly undertaking, especially in an economic downturn. It also requires considerable political resources and energy to mobilize the Security Council and other relevant actors, and to sustain domestic support for action. As the leading world economies, the G8 has an incentive to see the emergence of an international prevention agenda and to be at the fore of such efforts.

How then can the G8 fulfill its potential as an agenda setter on R2P and more specifically on prevention? For starters states should include a re-affirmation of their 2005 World Summit commitment to R2P, and the importance they place on early prevention, in the final Summit Communique. They should also outline the steps that they individually and collectively will endeavor to take to advance an international prevention agenda. These steps should include at the national level three things: (1) issue an official statement outlining the priority the government places on prioritizing atrocity prevention and R2P; (2) appoint a senior-level government official to serve as an R2P focal point to help improve intra-state and inter-state coordination on mass atrocity prevention; and (3) undertake a review of existing domestic capacities for mass atrocity prevention.

The G8 members should also use the opportunity to start a conversation with the +5 states, Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa, about mass atrocity prevention. The G8 presents a unique forum to start crafting an international prevention agenda. Because averting and halting mass atrocities requires a collective response, the effectiveness of the G8’s efforts will depend on the support of states like the +5.

As the leaders sit down for dinner tonight to discuss Burma, Syria and ‘others,’ may they discuss not only what needs to be done to save lives today, but what they, the G8 and +5, can do together to prevent crimes from occurring in the future.

The comments expressed above are the author’s alone, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the GCR2P or the ICRtoP. 


[1] Attending the G8 Summit this weekend are the G8 member states: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom. They will be joined by five influential powers: Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa.

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New “At a glance” Series Looks at Key Measures Under RtoP’s Third Pillar

Since 2009, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly has held an annual informal, interactive dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P). The discourse is based in part on reports published by the UN Secretary-General ahead of the meetings exploring measures within the norm’s scope or the role of various actors.

These dialogues are an important opportunity for Member States, regional and sub-regional organizations and civil society to discuss the norm’s implementation and assess best practices from past crisis situations. This year, the General Assembly plans to discuss the broad range of political, economic, humanitarian and, if necessary, military response measures available to actors at the national, regional, and international levels within the third pillar of the Responsibility to Protect.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon addresses attendees at the 2010 informal interactive dialogue on early warning, assessment and the Responsibility to Protect. (UN Photo/Evan Schneider)

ICRtoP encourages actors at all levels to participate in this timely discussion and generate constructive conversation on the regional and international community’s response to imminent threats or occurrences of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing. Furthermore, the Coalition has developed a clarifying document about the spectrum of measures available within the norm’s third pillar and how these measures can be employed by actors at all levels.

In order to foster a more complete understanding of RtoP’s third pillar ahead of this summer’s UN General Assembly dialogue, ICRtoP will be publishing a new series of “At a Glance” educational tools on the role of actors and measures available to prevent and halt mass atrocities. Each “At a Glance” will provide an overview of how a specific measure or group of actors fits within RtoP’s third pillar, debates and challenges regarding implementation, and steps that can be taken at all levels to strengthen prevention capabilities.

The first document, published on 12 April, focuses on Preventive Diplomacy and the Responsibility to Protect, a particularly timely topic in the wake in joint United Nations-League of Arab States Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s efforts to find a mediated solution to the crisis in Syria. As the “At a Glance” explains:

Within the RtoP framework, preventive diplomacy offers a set of tools to be used on a case-by-case basis by a wide range of actors to peacefully respond to threats and occurrences of mass atrocities by facilitating political solutions. Quiet diplomacy and engagement behind the scenes gives all parties an opportunity to participate in dialogue outside the international spotlight and on their own terms.  Mediation, often led by appointed diplomats or special envoys, allows for encouragement from the international community to build political will for peaceful settlement if parties are reluctant to negotiate. Other important tools include political missions, which are civilian-led and can facilitate dialogue to prevent escalating threats or assist in rebuilding efforts such as inclusive governance or reconciliation; and peacekeeping missions, which incorporate preventive diplomacy into their security-based mandates and offer political support to encourage peaceful conflict resolution.  

The publication also looks at the challenges associated with Preventive Diplomacy, and the steps national, regional, and international actors, including civil society, can take to strengthen the manner in which this measure is implemented to respond to country-specific situations.

The latest “At a Glance”, published on 27 April, discusses the role of International and Regional Justice mechanisms in responding to threats of mass atrocities. The recent examples of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issuing its first ever verdict in the case of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo on 14 March, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone ruling on 25 April that former Liberian President Charles Taylor was guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, have shown international and regional justice mechanisms at the fore of the fight against impunity. As the publication states:

Within the RtoP framework, international and regional justice mechanisms and institutions contribute to the prevention of and response to threats of mass atrocities by ending impunity, deterring would-be perpetrators, and delivering justice to victims. Under RtoP, the state bears the primary responsibility for the protection of its population, and is thus held accountable for the commission of mass atrocities.  Many judicial bodies interpret this responsibility by investigating cases where populations are at risk, and then indicting, trying and sentencing individual perpetrators, regardless of rank or title, for the commission of one or more of the RtoP crimes. These institutions work to facilitate transitional justice, ensuring accountability for massive human rights violations and establishing a basis for sustainable peace and reconciliation.  

The “At a Glance” also elaborates on the challenges faced by these bodies, the role of national governments and civil society in strengthening them, and the existing mechanisms at the regional and international level, including an overview of the ICC, the International Court of Justice, ad-hoc tribunals and special courts, and regional judicial bodies.

The publications on Preventive Diplomacy and International and Regional Justice are just the first two of a series of seven “At a Glance” documents, in which the following measures will be covered (by order of publication):

  • The Use of Force
  • Monitoring, Early Warning and Response
  • The Role of Actors within the United Nations
  • Targeted Sanctions
  • The Role of Regional and Sub-Regional Arrangements

Our Coalition hopes that these publications will foster a more complete understanding of the wide range of measures available to the international community when a state manifestly fails to protect its population from mass atrocities, and will contribute to constructive international conversation on the norm’s third pillar.

Download the following educational tools:

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Ceasefire Violations Abound As UN Deploys Monitors in Syria

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has unanimously moved to oversee the Syrian ceasefire in two separate resolutions since 14 April, but continued reports of violations by Syrian security forces and attacks by the opposition have called into question the sustainability of the fragile six-point peace plan of joint United Nations-League of Arab States Special Envoy Kofi Annan.

Adopting Resolution 2042 on 14 April, all members of the Council agreed to dispatch an advance team of up to 30 unarmed United Nations monitors to assess whether the Syrian government and the opposition were respecting the ceasefire. And while Syrian Ambassador to the UN, Bashar Ja’afari, said his country would “spare no expense” to ensure the success of the Annan plan, violence escalated a day after the Council’s decision was made, with Syrian forces and heavy weaponry remaining in cities across the country. Amnesty International called the passing of the resolution positive, but underwhelming, noting the constant breach of trust by the Syrian government.

By 19 April, with reports of ceasefire violations by the government nearly every day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that the Syrian government had failed to adhere to the ceasefire plan, and that, there has been no meaningful progress on the ground.” Attempting to salvage Annan’s peace plan and ensure greater implementation on the ground in Syria, the Secretary-General proposed an expansion of the monitoring mission mandated by Resolution 2042 of up to 300 unarmed monitors, and the establishment of a new mission, the United Nations Support Mission in Syria (UNSMIS).

Developments followed quickly at the Security Council, with the 15-member body unanimously endorsing the expansion of the monitoring mission to 300 unarmed observers with Resolution 2043 on 21 April. In an interesting turn of events, it was the Russian delegation – which has twice vetoed Security Council action on Syria (on 4 October 2011 and 4 February 2012), as well as voted against a General Assembly resolution – that circulated the Resolution, which calls for the expeditious deployment of the monitors, unimpeded access for them, cooperation between the UN and Syria to provide for air transportation assets, and the ability of the monitors to communicate with individuals without retaliation against those individuals.

Members of the UN Security Council unanimously approve Resolution 2042 on 14 April. (UN Photo/Rick Bajornas)

Reports of government-perpetrated violence in Homs and Damascus continued to emerge immediately after the passing of Resolution 2043, leading UN officials to call for a full cessation of violence and Security Council Members to urge the rapid deployment of more monitors to the country on 24 April.

Ten days after the advanced observer team was mandated by the Council, only 11 monitors were active in the country. Ahmad Fawzi, the spokesperson for Kofi Annan, said on 27 April that the full advance team of 30 monitors would be deployed by Monday, 30 April, but Syrian activists have expressed concerns with the slow deployment process. The mission also faces complications on the ground as a result of Syria’s lack of cooperation and non-compliance. The Syrian government has reportedly refused to allow any monitors that are nationals of any of the countries in the 14-member “Friends of Syria” group, and a government spokesperson also stated on 15 April that it would need to be involved in “all steps on the ground” by UN monitors, raising concerns over the ability of the monitors to have unhindered access in the country.

Recent reports suggest that a game of cat and mouse has ensued in Syria between security forces and the UN monitors, with gunfire and shelling by government security forces occurring immediately after the observers toured cities like Homs and Hama, which have seen some of the most destructive violence by government mortar fire.

On 25 April, Special Envoy Annan called the recent flares of violence “unacceptable and reprehensible”, and confirmed that the Syrian government has still yet to withdraw troops and heavy weapons from major cities and towns. This was echoed by the Secretary-General on 26 April, who expressed his alarm at continued attacks by government forces against civilian populations and demanded Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s President, comply with the ceasefire. A day later, the Secretary-General appointed Norwegian General Robert Mood as head of UNSMIS, who urged for help and cooperation” by all sides to end the violence.

An advanced group of UN monitors tour Homs on 21 April. (UN Photo/Neeraj Singh)

As violence in Syria continues, including devastating explosions in Hama and deadly blasts in Idlib, and hopes falter for the successful implementation of Annan’s peace plan, Western and Arab countries have begun to talk of the need for contingency planning if the Assad government does not cease attacks and withdraw troops and heavy weaponry from cities.

At the Friends of Syria meeting on 19 April, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for the imposition of an arms embargo, as well as stricter sanctions against the country to ensure Syrian compliance with Annan’s six-point plan. On 25 April France’s Foreign Minister, Alain Juppé, also stressed the need for contingency planning, stating that Paris would be pushing for a Chapter VII resolution at the Council, which could include punitive sanctions against the Assad regime, if Syria did not fully implement the peace plan by May. The Arab League has also stated on 26 April that it will call on the UN Security Council to take “immediate action to protect Syrian civilians” at an upcoming Council meeting, with Nabil el-Araby, the League’s Secretary General, stressing the need to rapidly deploy the full monitoring force to Syria.

Despite the continued violence in the wake of the deployment of UN monitors, some analysts are urging caution in writing off Annan’s plan, especially as the monitoring mission has yet to be deployed in full. Mark Lynch, Associate Professor at George Washington University and author of a blog on the Middle East at Foreign Policy Magazine online, urges against abandoning Annan’s plan in favour of military intervention, stating:

“The painstakingly constructed international consensus in support of diplomacy and pressure should not be abandoned before it has even had a chance. Nobody expects the current diplomatic path to quickly or easily end the conflict in Syria, but military intervention does not offer a compelling alternative…It is highly unlikely that Bashar al-Assad or his regime will voluntarily comply with a ceasefire, and even more unlikely that they will surrender power.  But international diplomacy does not depend on Assad’s good intentions. Instead, it aims to demilitarize the conflict and create the political space for change driven by Syrians disgusted by the destruction of their country.” 

Daniel Serwer, professor at John Hopkins School of Advance International Studies and blogger at peacefare.net, noted, ensuring the 300 monitors are deployed as rapidly as possible will be crucial to success:

“If they are going to have an impact, the observers will need to acquire it after full deployment over a period of weeks, working diligently with both protesters and the regime to ensure disengagement and to gain respect for Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan. This they can do, but only by being forthright in their assessments of what is going on, determined in their efforts to go where they want when they want and honest in communicating their observations to both the Syrian and the international press.”

Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, George A. Lopez, sees the long-term utility of the monitoring mission, despite the continued violence:

“Assad’s increased bombardment of city areas before the monitors’ arrival has generated cynicism and criticism of this UN effort as irrelevant….But the monitoring presence is not futile. Rather, the monitors’ documentation and related work, especially in making consistent demands of all fighting parties to end particular actions, can decrease the killing. The monitors provide a first, small crack in the previously closed door of Syrian repression.”

The deployment of monitors by international and regional organizations is one of the many tools available to the international community under the third pillar of the Responsibility to Protect framework. If such missions receive the cooperation of the host government of the country in which they are deployed, as well as the requisite capabilities and support from the international community, they can investigate and report on violations, which may effectively deter attacks against civilians in the context of a ceasefire between armed belligerents.

If, however, the threat or commission of mass atrocities in the context of a country-specific situation continues in spite of a deployment of monitors, the third pillar of the RtoP provides for a range of diplomatic, economic, legal, and military measures that national, regional, and international actors can implement to stem such atrocities. Proactively assessing the effectiveness of measures employed to protect civilians, as well as contingency planning in the wake of the failure of such measures, is thus critical in responding to situations of ongoing mass crimes. Such planning does not mean that a particular measure will be written off, or that another will be favoured as a course of action moving forward. Instead, it indicates that the international community is prepared to mobilize the necessary will and resources to effectively respond to massive human rights violations in a flexible, timely manner.

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Filed under Monitoring Mission, Prevention, RtoP, Security Council, Syria, Syria Ceasefire, Third Pillar, Timely and Decisive Action, UN

Civil Society Advocacy Aims to Ensure Constructive 2012 UN Dialogue on RtoP

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) will host an informal interactive dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect this summer (date yet to be announced). The dialogue will be the third of its kind since 2009, and is an opportunity for discussion between Member States, regional and sub-regional arrangements, and civil society on the norm and its implementation. This year, the dialogue will be on measures under the third pillar of the Responsibility to Protect framework – timely and decisive action.

Each dialogue is based, in part, on a report published by the UN Secretary-General (UNSG) ahead of time, which explores aspects of the prevention and response to mass atrocities and roles of various actors within the RtoP framework. A report for this year’s dialogue has yet to be released.

Civil society plays an important role ahead of the dialogues, engaging UN Officials, regional and sub-regional organizations, and Member States to provide constructive remarks, working together to educate on the thematic focus of the dialogues, participating in the meetings themselves, and publishing reports in their aftermath.

The dialogues have served as an important forum to stimulate discussion on the implementation of RtoP, emphasize the importance of prevention, and advance the normative consensus at the UN and in national capitals. They have also attracted an increasing number of attendees since the first meeting in 2009, including from civil society organizations.

Both ICRtoP and the Global Centre for R2P issued statements at the 2010 dialogue on Early Warning, Assessment and RtoP in 2010. Civil society was also represented in the opening panel during this dialogue. The following year, during the dialogue on The Role of Regional and Sub-Regional Arrangements in Implementing the RtoP, the Coalition, Global Centre, Initiatives for International Dialogue (based in the Philippines), and the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University gave remarks.

Members of the ICRtoP Steering Committee and Secretariat with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former President of the UNGA Joseph Deiss, Special Advisors Francis Deng (Genocide Prevention) and Dr. Ed Luck (RtoP), and other panelists at the 2011 dialogue on the role of regional and sub-regional arrangements.

The thematic focus of this year’s dialogue will be measures under the third pillar of the RtoP framework. Third pillar tools range from diplomatic, to economic, legal, and military, and enable flexible, rapid responses to country-specific situations. In light of recent cases including Libya, Côte d’Ivoire, Sudan/South Sudan, and Syria – where such third-pillar measures have been implemented in efforts to protect populations from mass atrocities – the dialogue will serve as a timely opportunity to address concerns held by some UN Member States over RtoP’s implementation, reflect on best practices and lessons learned, and foster informed conversation on clarifying what RtoP’s third pillar entails and how to operationalize these measures.

Underlining the importance attached to this summer’s dialogue, 38 civil society organizations* from around the world participated in a sign-on letter coordinated by the ICRtoP Secretariat, which was sent to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the President of the UNGA, Abdulaziz Al Nasser, and the UNSG’s Special Adviser on RtoP, Dr. Edward Luck, on 23 March.

The letter calls for an announcement of a date for the dialogue, and asks that the UNSG’s 2012 report on measures within RtoP’s third pillar be released at least two months ahead of the dialogue, following a consultative process with civil society. As the letter reads:

“Only if published well in advance, can your report be a crucial resource for Member States, regional organizations, and UN offices and departments to prepare for a constructive dialogue. Regional meetings of NGOs and diplomats ahead of the dialogue are an opportunity for these actors to reflect on the report. This will result in increased participation from Member States and regional organizations, as in past years they have lacked adequate time to prepare remarks for the General Assembly….This year’s dialogue can act as a forum to further the commitment of all actors to protect populations from mass atrocities, fostering discussion on how we can all work towards the effective use of the full spectrum tools under the third pillar of RtoP.”

Recognizing the central role that regional and sub-regional organizations play in preventing and halting mass atrocities, and the need for these organizations to be involved in ongoing discussions of RtoP, ICRtoP also sent a letter addressed to 14 such organizations** on 22 March to encourage their attendance and active participation at this summer’s meeting.

Our letter to these organizations draws on the active role played by these organizations in response to country-specific situations where mass atrocities are threatened or have occurred. From the African Union-facilitated mediations in response to the post-election violence in Kenya in 2008, to the deployment of an international policing operation in Kyrgyzstan in 2010 by the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the diplomatic moves by the League of Arab States, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, and the Gulf Cooperation Council to resolve the current crisis in Syria, the efforts of regional and sub-regional organizations are critical to fostering a more comprehensive understanding and robust discussion on third pillar measures under the RtoP framework.

For more information on regional and sub-regional arrangements and regional entry points for the prevention of mass atrocities, please see our regional pages: Africathe AmericasAsia-PacificEurope, and the Middle East.

As the summer nears, civil society has indicated its willingness to be an active participant in this year’s dialogue, as it has been in the past. The announcement of a date for the upcoming dialogue, a published report from the UNSG well in advance to provide the opportunity for wide-ranging consultations, and a commitment by regional and sub-regional organizations to participate in the meeting would be welcome first steps in ensuring the fourth informal interactive dialogue on RtoP is the most comprehensive and attended dialogue yet.

*The 38 civil society organizations that signed on are as follows: A Billion Little Stones (Australia), Act for Peace (Australia), Aegis Trust (United Kingdom), Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (Australia), Asia-Pacific Solidarity Coalition, Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights (Canada), Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (Liberia), Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (Australia), Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular (Colombia), Citizens for Global Solutions (United States), Coalition for Justice and Accountability (Sierra Leone), Coordinadora Regional de Investigaciones Económicas y Sociales (Argentina), Droits Humains Sans Frontières (Democratic Republic of the Congo), East Africa Law Society (Tanzania), Genocide Alert (Germany), Global Action to Prevent War (United States), Global Justice Center (United States), Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (The Netherlands), Human Rights Watch (United States), Initiatives for International Dialogue (The Philippines), Madariaga-College of Europe Foundation (Belgium), Mindanao Peaceweavers (The Philippines), Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (Canada), Pan African Lawyers Union (Tanzania), Permanent Peace Movement (Lebanon), R2P Student Coalition (Australia), Réseau de Développement et de Communications de la Femme Africaine (Mali), Semillas para la Democracia (Paraguay), STAND Canada (Canada), United Nations Association – Denmark (Denmark), United Nations Association – Sweden (Sweden), United Nations Association – UK (United Kingdom), United to End Genocide (United States), West Africa Civil Society Forum (Nigeria), West Africa Civil Society Institute (Ghana), World Federalist Movement – Canada (Canada), World Federalist Movement – Institute for Global Policy (United States, The Netherlands) and World Federation of United Nations Associations (United States and Switzerland).

**The 14 regional and sub-regional organizations are as follows: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, African Union, Caribbean Community, European Union, East African Community, Economic Community of West African States, Gulf Cooperation Council, Intergovernmental Authority for Development, International Conference of the Great Lakes Region, League of Arab States, Organization of American States, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and Southern African Development Community.

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