Tag Archives: Secretary-General

#R2P Weekly:17-21 August 2015

UntitledThe UN Security Council and the Responsibility Not to Veto

 

When resolutions on crises where genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and/or ethnic cleansing are imminent or ongoing come before the Security Council’s agenda, Permanent Members should not obstruct united action to protect populations from atrocity crimes.The recent vetoes in the Security Council on resolutions pertaining to Syria and Srebrenica have reinvigorated efforts in this regard. Click on the infographic to the right for a brief overview on these current initiatives, which will enhance the Council’s ability to uphold its Responsibility to Protect.

Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Gaza
Iraq
Kenya
Libya

Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

The president ordered an extension on the state of emergency for the Kokang region of the Shan state until 17 November. The state of emergency began mid-February when fighting erupted between government troops and ethnic Chinese rebels, forcing tens of thousands to flee. The area will remain under military control during the November 8 election.
 
The Karen National Union (KNU) announced that it will sign the National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the Myanmar government. Human rights watch argued that the targeted arrests of land rights activists in the Karen state are the newest form of political prisoners. 


Burundi:

The opposition in Burundi called on Nkurunziza to step down by 26 August, the last day of his current mandate. However, President Nkurunzizia was sworn in during a surprise ceremony for a third term on Thursday.
 
Four civilians were killed on Tuesday night in Bujumbura in an apparent revenge attack against members of the ruling party. The UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon condemned the assassination of Burundi’s former Army Chief of Staff, Colonel Jean Bikomagu, by unknown assailants on 15 August, which marked the second attack on a senior official in Burundi this month.
 
OHCHR reported that at least 96 people have been killed in Burundi since the outbreak of violence in April. The AU warned that Burundi is at risk of deteriorating into further violence. 


Central African Republic:

New rape allegations against members of a MINUSCA military contingent were raised  on 12 August. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Parfait Onanga-Anyanga of Gabon as the new head of MINUSCA. Associated Press reported that France is considering withdrawing more of its troops from the CAR. 


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

A government spokesperson announced that 34 people have been charged with crimes, including genocide, murder and rape in connection with ethnic violence in the southeast.

Following the numerous allegations of child abuse by MINUSCA peacekeepers in the CAR, MONUSCO launched a campaign prevent sexual abuse by its peacekeepers, displaying the words “Sex with children is a crime”. Martin Kolber, the head of MINUSCA, declared that the mission must work to withdraw from the country.
 
The Enough Project announced that over 140 mines in the DRC are now conflict-free.


Gaza:

Palestinian refugees protested against cuts by UNRWA, which the UN agency states are due to a lack of funding. However, many of the refugees believe the cuts are politically-motivated.

Reportedly, preparations have been made for a senior Hamas delegation to travel to Egypt for ceasefire talks with Israel, with accounts that a long-term ceasefire is under negotiation between the parties. 


Iraq:

ISIL claimed responsibility for last Thursday’s attack on a crowded market in Sadr City, which killed at least 67 people and injured 200 others.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, OPCW, announced it would inquire into allegations of possible uses of chemical weapons by ISIL in Iraq against Kurdish fighters.

The U.S. and its coalition allies claimed they had conducted 22 air strikes against ISIL militants in Iraq and Syria over a 24-hour period.


Kenya:

The ICC Appeals Chamber ordered judges to reconsider whether Kenya failed to cooperate with the Court regarding the case against President Uhuru Kenyatta.


Libya:

In Sirte, at least 25 people were killed, during clashes between ISIL’s affiliate in Libya and a rival Islamist group back by armed civilians. Fighting broke out after the ISIL affiliate killed a senior Muslim cleric who had refused to comply with ISIL’s orders for residents to pledge allegiance or face death. Other reports stated that at least 106 people were killed over the three days of fighting between ISIL loyalists and local tribesmen in Sirte.

The internationally-recognized government in Libya (HoR) appealed to fellow Arab states to conduct air strikes against ISIL in Sirte. The spokesman of Libya’s HoR, Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani, announced that he has withdrawn his offer to resign his post, stating that the resignation would have added to the chaos in the country.


Mali:

Over the weekend, violence erupted between armed groups in the Kidal region, breaking the ceasefire agreement.The pro-government Gatia militia claimed to have killed at least 20 separatists during the fighting. After three days of clashes, MINUSMA secured the town of Kidal and set up a security zone to curb the fighting. However,the CMA asked MINUSMA to immediately remove the security zone and “let the parties settle their differences.” 

The UN warned of a new hunger crisis in Mali, with more than 715,000 children at risk of acute malnutrition.


Nigeria:

Over the weekend, violence erupted between armed groups in the Kidal region, breaking the ceasefire agreement.The pro-government Gatia militia claimed to have killed at least 20 separatists during the fighting. After three days of clashes, MINUSMA secured the town of Kidal and set up a security zone to curb the fighting. However,the CMA asked MINUSMA to immediately remove the security zone and “let the parties settle their differences.” 

The UN warned of a new hunger crisis in Mali, with more than 715,000 children at risk of acute malnutrition.


South Sudan:

Last Friday, OCHA reported that the month-long restrictions on the movement of goods by air and river routes in South Sudan had been lifted, allowing delivery of aid supplies to Malakal.

President Salva Kiir declined to sign an IGAD-brokered peace deal by the 17 August deadline, requesting an additional 15 days to review its provisions. The government spokespersoncalled the deal a “sell-out” for the people of South Sudan. Rebel leader Riek Machar did sign the deal, which mandates the demilitarization of Juba; gives the rebel forces 40% share of government positions in Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei and 33% in the central administration; and includes language on establishing a court to try violations of national and international law.  

In response to Kiir’s failure to sign the accord, the US circulated a draft resolution to the Security Council containing provisions for increased sanctions and an arms embargo in South Sudan. Under the draft resolution, if Kiir does not sign the agreement by 1 September, an arms embargo and increased targeted sanctions would go into effect on 6 September for a period of 1 year. The draft also includes language on accountability, calling for the Secretary-General to provide resources for the establishment of a hybrid court for South Sudan and report back to the Council on progress in this regard in 3 months. Should the Council decide there has been insufficient progress on the hybrid court or more broadly on the promotion of “accountability for the gravest offenses,” the Security Council retains the option of referring the situation in South Sudan to the ICC.
 
However, despite this draft resolution, reports have emerged that Kiir has told John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, that he will sign the peace deal after “a couple more days of consultation.”


Sudan/Darfur:

The non-signatory rebel groups to the Doha Document for Peace and Development, together with the acting chief of the African Union United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) agreed to work together for a viable and lasting negotiated settlement in order to end the 12-year conflict in the western Sudan region. Reconciliation efforts between the Fellata and Salamat tribes in South Darfur are underway after clashes last week left 54 dead and 29 wounded.


Syria:

On Sunday, a series of government airstrikes killed over 110 people and injured more than 300 in a marketplace in Douma near Damascus. Stephen O’brien, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, condemned the attack and conveyed that he is “horrified by the total disrespect for civilian life in this conflict.”

A suicide bomber killed at least 10 members of Kurdish security forces and 6 civilians in an attack claimed by ISIL. Meanwhile, more than 40 people were killed and wounded in an explosion of a booby-trapped vehicle near an Asyish post in the city of al- Qameshli.
 
The UNSC approved a Presidential Statement backing preparatory talks for a resolution to Syria’s political crisis. The statement supported UN mediator Staffan De Mistura’s plan to work towards “political negotiations and a political transition” based on the Geneva Communique, adopted in 2012 by the first international conference on the issue and endorsed by the Security Council.
 
A ceasefire established between Syrian rebels and pro-government forces in two Shia villages near the Turkish border and a Sunni town near the Lebanese border has collapsed. The ceasefire was agreed last week to allow passage of food and medical supplies to rebel forces in Zabadani and government forces in Fuaa and Kafraya in the northwest.


Yemen:

A new op-ed by the UN Special Advisers on Genocide Prevention and RtoP reminded the parties to the conflict, the media, and the international community of their RtoP in Yemen.
 
Over the weekend, pro-government forces recaptured Zinjibar from Houthi rebels, killing at least 19 people and injuring 150 others during the fight. Pro-government fighters additionallyseized six districts in the central province of Ibb, as they make their way closer to the currently Houthi-controlled city of Sana’a.
The ICRC president, Peter Maurer, determined the situation in Yemen to be ‘catastrophic’ on his visit to Sana’a. UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food warned that the deliberate starvation of civilians could constitute a war crime and/or crime against humanity. A new report by UNICEF announced that an average of eight children per day are being killed or maimedevery day in Yemen.
 
Amnesty International released a new report detailing the impact on civilians of Saudi Arabia-led coalition airstrikes and attacks by pro and anti-Huthi armed groups in Ta’iz and Aden, saying that such violations of human rights could amount to war crimes.

Twenty three NGOs, including four ICRtoP members, published a statement on the need for the Human Rights Council to establish a Commission of Inquiry in Yemen.  


What else is new?

 The Global Policy Initiative of Columbia University released a report of their April 2015 conference “Responsibility While Protecting: Implementation and the Future of the Responsibility to Protect.”

The Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace wrote an article in the Phnom Penh Post urging Cambodia to take the lead in mainstreaming RtoP within ASEAN.


 

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#R2P Weekly:10-14 August 2015

UntitledSecretary-General Releases Seventh Report on RtoP

This week the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released his seventh report on the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P), “A vital and enduring commitment: implementing the responsibility to protect”. The report reiterated the commitment that States made a decade ago, i.e. to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing as articulated in paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document. The report assessed the progression of the RtoP norm over the past ten years, identified core challenges and opportunities for implementation, and detailed six core priorities for the international community to undertake to more effectively fulfill RtoP.

Over the past decade, there have been situations in which the international community has responded proactively to the risk of atrocities and acted to prevent their recurrence, as well as cases where the international community ultimately failed to adequately protect populations. Through the discussion of the cases of Libya and Syria, the Secretary-General recognized the practical challenges that remain for RtoP’s effective implementation. The international action taken in Libya highlights the need to better understand when and how force should be used as well as the necessity of long-term support.  In addition, the inability to effectively prevent and respond to the crisis in Syria has led some to criticize the norm’s utility in catalyzing action, which has further contributed to misconceptions of RtoP as a coercive doctrine. Despite such issues, the Secretary-General stated that this “should not shake our resolve to live up to the responsibilities” agreed to in 2005. He noted that a cross-regional consensus has developed on the core framework of RtoP, one which encompasses the need to a) prioritize prevention; b) utilize all available diplomatic, political, and humanitarian tools; c) consider military force as a last resort and to be used only in accordance with the UN Charter.

Read the ICRtoP’s summary of the report here.


Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Gaza
Iraq
Kenya
Libya

Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

Yanghee Lee, the UN human rights envoy to Burma, was barred from meeting with Rohingya Muslims during her visit last week to assess human rights in the country and announced that it was impossible for her to fulfill her mandate.

Nearly 4000 names from 78 parties, along with 100 independent candidates, have signed up to run in the November general election. Rohingya Muslims have been told that they will not be able to vote in the elections, though many could in 2010.

Forty-five senior military officers retired in order to join the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). Among those who joined USDP is Khin Zaw Oo, who was accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 2005-2006 Burma Army offensive in Karen State by the International Human Rights Clinic. Shwe Mann, the USDP party chief, was ousted by President Thein Sein in an event surrounded by security forces.


Burundi:

Following the post-election violence last week and the assassination of Nkurunziza’s ally General Nshimirimana, the Burundian authorities detained at least 21 people in a “security crackdown.” Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Radio France International (RFI) condemnedthe lack of response by Burundian authorities to persecute those responsible for the abuse and torture of their journalist, Esdras Ndikumana.

Diplomats from the United Nations, African Union, European Union, Belgium and United States expressed concern that the government of Burundi intends to do away with ethnic quotas for positions of power, a key agreement in the Arusha Accords. In addition, they all called for the government of Burundi to immediately resume an inclusive political dialogue.


Central African Republic:

On Saturday, a Rwandan peacekeeper shot four of his colleagues dead and wounded eight others. MINUSCA has launched an investigation into the incident.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon vowed to take decisive action on the reports of sexual violence committed by UN peacekeepers and briefed the UN Security Council in this regard. The Secretary-General also accepted the resignation of the Special Representative Mr. Babacar Gaye as the head of MINUSCA and commended him for his tireless efforts.

Amnesty International called for an investigation into the August 2 and 3 incidents in which UN peacekeepers allegedly raped a girl and killed a father and his 16 year old son. The UNlaunched an inquiry into the incident.

The Institute of Security Studies urged CAR to include refugees in the October election.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch urged the government of the DRC, with the support of the UN, to improve efforts to protect civilians in a report on the widespread killing and displacement of civilians by ethnic militia in northern Katanga.


Gaza:

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that Israel agreed to establish a sea route between the Gaza Strip and Cyprus in return for a long–term ceasefire with Hamas.  A UNRWA studyrevealed a recent alarming rise in infant mortality rate in Gaza. The UNRWA health director stated that Israel’s blockade of health facilities, medicine, and equipment on the coastal strip of Gaza could be a contributing factor.


Iraq:

ISIL claimed a car bomb suicide attack in Shiite-dominant Baquba that killed 30 people and injured 40 others. Senior Iraqi officers reported that former officials in the military and intelligence under Saddam Hussein now dominate ISIL leadership and may have contributed to its quick advancement into Iraq and Syria. Amidst widespread protests due to corruption and poor public services, the government of Iraq announced a sweeping reform of the government to reshape the dysfunctional political system, including the establishment of a corruption inquiry and the elimination the American-imposed system of sectarian and party quotas in the appointment of top officials.


Kenya:

Kenya ratified a peace treaty with Uganda and Rwanda on the East African Community Protocol on Cooperations in Defense Affairs and on the establishment of the East African Standby Force. The treaty is aimed at enhancing cooperation in regional ‘defense affairs’ such as peacekeeping, peace missions, information sharing and shared military trainings.

The victims’ representative in the collapsed ICC case against Kenyatta criticized the Office of the Prosecutor for failing to undertake effective investigations. Additionally, the IDP Network Kenya stated that the ICC Prosecutor failed to deliver justice.


Libya:

Defense lawyers in Libya announced their intention to appeal the death sentences given last week for war crimes committed by senior officials in Gaddafi’s regime.

Rival factions resumed UN- led peace talks in Geneva on Tuesday. Notably, the GNC joined the talks after boycotting the peace process last month. During the negotiations, the UN Special envoy called on the warring parties to agree on a national unity government plan by the end of August.

ISIL attempted to recapture the city of Derna, which it was forced out of last month by the al-Qaeda affiliate Abu Salim Martyrs Brigade in an offensive that took place over the weekend. The attempt left at least 10 dead and injured 21 others, most of whom are believed to be civilians. Amnesty International pressed the ICC to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by armed groups in the last four years. FIDH released a report on the increasing danger against human rights defenders in Libya whom are targeted by armed groups and in many cases either face exile or death.


Mali:

17 people died in an al-Qaeda claimed attack on the Byblos Hotel in Bamako. A day after, unknown gunman killed 10 civilians in the village of Gaberi in northern Mali. The UN OHCHR expressed deep concern over the release of detainees on July 16  were implicated for war crimes, terrorist acts, and gross human rights violations, and warned that their release is contrary to international law and violates Mali’s Peace and Reconciliation agreement.


Nigeria:

Boko Haram is suspected to have killed hundreds of people in recent weeks in response to the establishment of the Multinational Joint Task Force. A bomb attributed to Boko Haram was detonated in a busy market on Tuesday in Borno State, killing at least 47 people and wounding dozens more. President Buhari called for the establishment of a Military Industrial Complex to begin the domestic production of weapons as an additional step in the country’s fight against Boko Haram, which will decrease the reliance on foreign imports to support the weapon supply of the state armed forces.  President Deby of Chad announced that Boko Haram’s leader has reportedly been killed and replaced with a new leader who is “willing to negotiate.”


South Sudan:

The two rival factions resumed talks on 6 August amidst pressures from President Obama to come to an agreement by 17 August or face sanctions. However, the Information Minister, Michael Makuei Lueth, reported that it is unlikely that an agreement will be reached as there are many outstanding issues.

Machar’s former commanders, Gathoth Gatkuoth and Peter Gadet, announced their split from the SPLM-IO and rejected the ongoing peace process. Reportedly, both have stated that they are now at war with both Machar and President Kiir for their actions in starting the crisis and failed leadership. However, SPLM-IO spokesperson denied the split in the party, arguing that the change is only a “defection” by two “disgruntled” generals.

Rebel forces in the Unity State accused the government forces and its allied militias of killing over 200 civilians, mainly women and children, last month in Leer and Mayiandit counties. They also accused the government of committing crimes against humanity in the abduction of children and murdering of civilians.


Sudan/Darfur:

Elise Keppler of Human Rights Watch argued that Bashir’s visit to the UN would be an affront to victims in Darfur and that he must face his outstanding  warrants for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity at the ICC. Bashir ordered the Ministry of Justice to compensate the victims of the September protests in Khartoum during which about 200 people died. Despite assurances from the Ugandan government that he would not be arrested, Al-Bashir declined to travel to Kampala for talks on South Sudan.

The Popular Committee for the Follow-up of the Implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, made up of 300 Darfuri leaders & academics, proposed a reform of the Darfur Regional Authority and warned that a referendum at this time would only lead to further divisions.

The AU Peace and Security Council called on the AU, UN, and the Sudanese government tocontinue formulating an exit strategy for UNAMID.


Syria:

The Security Council adopted resolution 2235 on Friday, formally establishing the Joint Investigative Mechanism of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to  identify those whom are involved in the use of chemicals as weapons in Syria. Russia hosted Saudi Arabia in Moscow in talks on Syria but again failed to agree on the fate of President Bashar al-Assad.

Two day ceasefires between Syrian rebels and pro-gov’t forces reportedly began in Zabadani, Fuaa, and Kafraya on Wednesday in order to allow food and medical supplies to be delivered. After an ISIL attack on the town of Qariyatain  in Homs Province, it is reported that at least 250 Christians are missing and believed to be held captive.

The New York Times explained that actions to combat ISIL are becoming complicated due to the actions of Turkey against Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria. The Nusra Front declared its withdrawal from the front lines in the fight against ISIL in Syria, claiming that the actions of the US and Turkey are not in line with the Syrian rebel cause but rather serve to advance Turkish interests. There are mixed reports, however, as to whether Nusra Front has actually begun moving off the front lines or not.

A new report released by Amnesty International includes evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the hands of the Syrian government as it continues to launch a widespread and systematic campaign targeting civilians under siege in Eastern Ghouta.


Yemen:

Over the weekend, pro-government forces recaptured Zinjibar from Houthi rebels, killing at least 19 people and injuring 150 others injured during the fight. Pro-government fighters additionally seized six districts in the central province of Ibb, as they make their way closer to the currently Houthis-controlled city of Sana’a.

The ICRC president, Peter Maurer, determined the situation in Yemen to be ‘catastrophic’ on his visit to Sana’a.

UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food warned that the deliberate starvation of civilians could constitute a war crime and/or crime against humanity. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen appealed for significant contributions to scale up humanitarian efforts in Yemen, where 80 per cent of the population requires live-saving assistance.


What else is new?

Alex Bellamy with the International Peace Institute released his new piece titled, Can new sustainable development goals add firepower to the war on war?, which discusses the inclusion of the reduction of all forms of violence among the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Stanley Foundation published a Policy Analysis Brief on the Economic Drivers of Mass Atrocities: Implications for Policy and Prevention.

The ICRtoP welcomed four new members to the Coalition: Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant and Episcopal Church of America (USA), Syrian Network for Human Rights (Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, UK), Justice without Frontiers (Lebanon) and the Carl Wilkens Fellowship (USA).


 

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Leadership for “Our Common Humanity”: Why RtoP Advocates Should Support a Better Selection Process for the UNSG

The following is a co-authored blog written by Matthew Redding, ICRtoP Blog and Social Media Coordinator, and Alexandra Maresca, Program Associate at the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy (WFM-IGP). WFM-IGP is a Steering Committee member of the 1 for 7 Billion Campaign launched in November 2014 to reform the outdated process of selecting the United Nations Secretary-General.  Read on to discover why supporting this campaign is in the best of interest of RtoP advocates and all those committed to the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities. 

 

From the earliest stages of inception, the role of the UN’s Secretary-General (UNSG) in formulating and advancing what would become known as the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) was crucial. It was former Secretary-General Kofi Annan who set in motion a momentous process of redefining sovereignty to include a responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing when he asked:

“… if humanitarian intervention is, indeed, an unacceptable assault on sovereignty, how should we respond to a Rwanda, to a Srebrenica – to gross and systematic violations of human rights that affect every precept of our common humanity?”

GA am

UNSG Kofi Annan addressing the 2005 World Summit. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

At Annan’s request, the historic International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) was formed in 2001 to debate this matter, and RtoP subsequently emerged as the answer to this quandary. Annan used the moral authority and legitimacy of the Secretary-General’s position to champion the norm and ensure it became a serious consideration among UN member states. His report In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All confirmed his support and presented RtoP for adoption by the UN General Assembly at the World Summit in 2005.

It is now well known that 150 member states endorsed RtoP in paragraphs 138-139 of the World Summit Outcome Document, formally recognizing that sovereignty indeed entails an obligation to protect populations from the worst atrocity crimes. However, it soon became clear that certain states, including some permanent and non-permanent members of the Security Council, began to feel what Gareth Evans described as “buyer’s remorse” over lingering concerns about the potential for its abuse.

Enter Ban Ki-moon, who made no secret of his intention to make RtoP a priority during his tenure. Famously referring to RtoP as “…an idea whose time has come,”  and stating that he would “…spare no effort to operationalize the responsibility to protect,” the new Secretary-General made significant progress in clarifying misconceptions and focusing the norm, including by articulating the three-pillar approach in his 2009 report Implementing the Responsibility to Protect.

These efforts were greatly assisted by his newly created Special Advisor on the Responsibility to Protect – a position filled by Edward Luck, who played a distinct but complementary role to the existing Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, Francis Deng. Ban has since released annual reports on a thematic issue related to RtoP every year, eliciting important contributions from civil society actors, and used the informal interactive dialogues at the General Assembly to openly discuss the documents.

Aside from broadening normative consensus through rhetorical commitments and raising awareness within the UN system, both Secretaries-General have also played a critical role in implementing RtoP. For example, they have made use of their good offices to mediate crises that had the potential to escalate to mass atrocities, either personally or through their Special Representatives, in Kenya, Guinea and Kyrgyzstan, and have spurred member states to take action to halt imminent or ongoing crimes in Libya, Cote d’Ivoire and the Central African Republic. Ban Ki-moon has taken further steps to deliver on his commitment to “promise less and deliver more” through new initiatives such as the “Rights Up Front” action plan and the launch of the Framework of Analysis for the Prevention of Atrocity Crimes.

General Assembly: Informal interactive dialogue on the report of the Secretary-General on the responsibility to protect

Ban Ki-moon providing remarks at the Informal Interactive General Assembly Dialogue on RtoP in September, 2014. UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz.

Given the significance of having a Secretary-General that is a firm ally of the norm, it is now more important than ever that Ban Ki-moon’s replacement is equally supportive. Ten years after RtoP’s adoption, civil society advocates and supportive UN member states are pushing for a tangible shift from words towards deeds. Initiatives aimed at removing challenges to the norm’s implementation and expanding the global consensus around the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities will require the next Secretary-General’s steadfast support and unwavering commitment to this core UN responsibility.

 

An Outdated Selection Process in Need of Reform

Unfortunately, the current process for selecting the Secretary-General leaves much to be desired in regards to choosing a candidate most qualified to see this vision through. The UN Charter states that the General Assembly appoints the Secretary-General upon the recommendation of the Security Council.  In practice, however, the Council’s permanent members have had the final say in who gets appointed to the post.  The veto power of each of the permanent five members, coupled with a 1946 resolution requesting that the Council recommend only one candidate for Secretary-General, has turned the General Assembly into a rubber stamp for the Security Council’s decision.

Because there is no public shortlist of candidates and no set timeline for the process, member states and other stakeholders struggle to identify which candidates are being considered by the Council at any given time. Worse, with no formal selection criteria for the position and no opportunity for member states or the general public to interact with candidates, it is all but impossible to assess the Council’s chosen candidate and his or her commitment to RtoP and other international norms, as well as their continued willingness to work with civil society for advancement.

The shortcomings of the current process are an open secret, and dissatisfaction with the status quo has only grown over time.  Sir Brian Urquhart, a respected UN expert who worked for the organization for forty years, offered a set of proposals for reform as early as in 1990. The General Assembly first suggested improvements to the process in a resolution passed in 1997, and the UN General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Working Group (AHWG) on the Revitalization of the General Assembly has adopted a resolution on the issue by consensus every year since 2008. Yet the failure to implement these resolutions, as well as the reluctance of Security Council members to make the process more transparent, has left the selection process adopted seventy years ago largely intact.

 

1 for 7 Billion: A Growing Movement for Change

While the international community has been lucky enough to have two successive Secretaries-General that showed strong leadership on RtoP, this luck may run out, and the result could be a major setback for the norm. The 1 for 7 Billion Campaign, however, has shown that there are those unwilling to leave such an important outcome to the mercy of luck and power politics.

1for7Billion

The ‘1 for 7 Billion’ Campaign.

Launched in November 2014, 1 for 7 Billion is a group of more than fifty NGOs and concerned individuals around the world, which calls for the adoption of a more open, inclusive, and merit-based process before the next Secretary-General is chosen in 2016. Rather than endorse individual candidates, the campaign argues that a strong process will produce a strong Secretary-General.

Its supporters believe the process should be rooted in seven common-sense principles, such as transparency, inclusiveness, and a focus on appointing the most qualified candidate.  Based on these principles, the campaign suggests ten reforms designed to make these ideals a reality.   Public hearings with candidates, for example, would make it possible for all stakeholders—including member states, civil society, and the general public— to assess the values and priorities of prospective candidates.  Formal selection criteria would help to identify candidates with the skills and experience needed to implement the UN’s complex agenda.  More controversially, 1 for 7 Billion suggests that the Council recommend more than one candidate to the General Assembly for it to debate, allowing all member states to weigh in on the next Secretary-General.  Significantly, none of these proposals would require an amendment to the UN Charter.  Some, including the recommendation of more than one candidate by the Security Council, have even been advanced by Kofi Annan himself.

As the Ad Hoc Working Group’s debates begin this week, it is important to remember that the UN does not just represent the interests of states.  It also has a responsibility to individuals, to “We the Peoples of the United Nations”.  With the 70th anniversary of the UN converging with the 10th anniversary of the World Summit Outcome, it is time for a selection process that reflects the values and concerns of everyone represented by the UN – not least populations who continue to suffer the tragic effects of mass atrocity crimes.

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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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Filed under CivSoc, Human Rights, Informal Interactive Dialogue, Prevention, Regional Orgs, RtoP, Third Pillar, Timely and Decisive Action, UN

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