Tag Archives: UN General Assembly

#R2P Weekly:14-18 September 2015

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Main Themes of Latest General Assembly Dialogue
on the Responsibility to Protect

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Want a quick overview of the major themes and highlights of last week’s General Assembly discussion on RtoP? Check out the ICRtoP’s latest infographic above for quick numbers on how many states called for a GA resolution on RtoP; supported efforts for the Security Council to not block resolutions on atrocity situations; and more.

For a more complete look at last week’s GA discussion, read our full summary here.


Catch up on developments in…

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

Nigeria
South Sudan
Sri Lanka
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

The Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR) launched an anti-hate speech initiative for Burma that will monitor and report on hate speech, while promoting public debate and tolerance. International Crisis Group reported that the nationwide ceasefire remains elusive while campaigns for the November elections have already begun.


Burundi:

UN Special Rapporteur on Truth, Justice and Reparations, Pablo de Greiff, conveyed that the failure of the international community to immediately intervene in Burundi could result in “new mass atrocities” and lead to a larger regional war with impossible implications. He also noted that the UN Human Rights Council is working on a Burundi resolution, led by the European Union and a few African states.


Central African Republic:

The UN reported that a civilian MINUSCA employee is suspected of sexual exploitation, and that they are undertaking an investigation. This brings the total number of alleged sexual abuse cases to 17.

Amnesty International advocated that credibility will only be restored to UN Peacekeeping in CAR if those who committed sexual violence are brought to justice, noting that sexual misconduct by UN peacekeepers threatens the integrity of the entire United Nations system.

Watchlist reported that both ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka militias have attacked numerous schools throughout CAR and pressed international peacekeeping forces to do more to protect children’s right to education.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Seven senior political figures were expelled from the DRC’s ruling party after they signed a letter urging President Joseph Kabila to relinquish power when his term expires next year and to take immediate steps to ensure a presidential election scheduled for November 2016 happens on schedule. If the election goes ahead, it would mark the first peaceful transition of power in the history of the DRC.


Gaza:

Several hundred Palestinians demonstrated in Rafah last Saturday against increasing power cuts stemming from deterioration in electricity lines from Egypt, leaving residents of Gaza with four to six hours of electricity supply per day.

The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, briefed the Security Council and noted his grave concern over the violence and continuing clashes in and around the holy sites of the Old City of Jerusalem, stating that the provocations have the potential to ignite violence far beyond the city.


Iraq:

Turkish warplanes bombed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq on Friday, thereby continuing to undermine the Kurdish-Turkey ceasefire.

ISIL claimed responsibility for two suicide bombs in Baghdad that killed at least 23 people and wounded more than 60 at police checkpoints in the Wathba and Haraj markets. An additional blast occurred in Bab al-Muadham district, killing four, but no claims of responsibility for the attack have been made.


Kenya:

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights reported that Kenyan security forces have carried out 25 extrajudicial killings and 81 enforced disappearances in the last two years as part of a crackdown on militants. The report of the Commission additionally expressed concern that ethnic Somalis and Muslims were being disproportionately targeted.

After the ICC issued arrest warrants against Paul Gicheru and Philip Kipkoech Bett – who are alleged to be Kenyan journalist Barasa’s accomplices in corrupting witnesses in the case against Deputy President William Ruto –  Barasa for the first time signaled that he may surrender to the court.


Libya:

On Monday, Bernardino Leon, UN Special Envoy for Libya ,announced that both the House of Representatives (HoR) and the General National Congress (GNC) governments had made compromises in order to overcome longstanding differences and that he is confident a final political agreement can be reached by the September 20th deadline. However, the next day, the HoR rejected amendments submitted by the GNC to the National Unity Plan.  The HoR were particularly opposed to two main amendments: First, that the proposed 120-member State Council be composed entirely of sitting members of the GNC; and second, that the Libyan military and security forces be built by the Unity Government, which would leave out the HoR National Army commander General Khalifa Heftar. After the stall, Bernardino Leon called on rival governments to return to the negotiating table of peace talks in Skhirat.

The UNSC extended the mandate of UNSMIL until March 2016, emphasizing that there can be no military solution. The Council also condemned the use of violence against civilians and institutions, calling for those responsible to be held accountable.


Mali:

In a fresh violation of a UN-brokered peace deal, fighting erupted near the Algerian border between the Coordination for Azawad Movements (CMA) and the Platform armed groups.


Nigeria:

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of IDPs condemned last Friday’s suicide bombing on the Malkohi IDP camp in Yola, which killed at least 7 people and injured 14.

The spokesman for the Nigerian military reported that the new counter-terrorism strategies have yielded the surrender of “scores” of Boko Haram militants, and that Boko Haram has been “sufficiently weakened.” The Nigerian military recaptured Gamboru Ngala, a border town with Cameroon, that Boko Haram used as a stronghold to launch attacks in both Nigeria and Cameroon. Nigeria’s army also announced that they rescued a dozen kidnapped women and children that were being held captive by Boko Haram. President Buhari has reportedly been engaged in talks with Boko Haram over the 219 girls abducted in April 2014 from a school in Chibok. French President Francois Hollande pledged that his administration will support and provide assistance to Nigeria to tackle insurgency and extremism in the country.

Nigeria concluded their Violence Against Women (VAC) survey and was commended by UNSG Ban Ki-moon for being the first West Africa country to do so. The survey found that 6 out of 10 Nigerian children experience some form of violence and 1 out of 4 girls suffer sexual violence.


South Sudan:

An attempt to adopt sanctions (an arms embargo and assets freeze) against two additional belligerents by the UN Security Council was blocked by Russia and Angola. Angola reportedly wished to give the two sides more time to implement the new peace deal, while Russia expressed concern that new sanctions would aggravate the situation. IGAD mediators announced that their monitors had witnessed the South Sudanese government carry out a helicopter gunship attack on rebel positions only days after signing the peace deal.

A consortium of aid groups operating in South Sudan reported that aid workers have been attacked, including with acts of murder and rape, with increasing frequency.


Sri Lanka:

The new government of Sri Lanka announced a plan to the UN Human Rights Council for a truth, justice and reconciliation commission and a new constitution to stabilize the country and address remaining grievances following the decades-long civil war. However, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called for the government to set up a special court to investigate the “horrific” abuses committed by both sides during the civil war. The strong recommendation was presented alongside the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka that asserts that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed.

On Thursday, September 17 2005, Adama Dieng, Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, and Jennifer Welsh, Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Responsibility to Protect, released a statement which called for the establishment of credible accountability and reconciliation mechanisms for Sri Lanka.


Sudan/Darfur:

The Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF), an umbrella group of rebels, announced its willingness to sign a six-month cessation of hostilities with Khartoum.  The SRF emphasized the cessation was for the purposes of protecting civilians, allowing uninterrupted humanitarian assistance, and creatinga more healthy atmosphere for peace processes. The Sudanese president has announced recently his readiness for a two-month ceasefire in the Blue Nile, South Kordofan, and Darfur regions. At the opening of the Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern over the high level of impunity towards severe human rights violations in Sudan, especially in Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan.

An African Union (AU) commission tasked with investigating the activities of the Ugandan Lord resistance (LRA) arrived in Khartoum. Sudan has been long accused of harboring and supporting the LRA rebels.


Syria:

A US official stated his government’s belief that ISIL is making and using chemical weapons in Iraq and Syria, saying that the US has identified at least four occasions on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border where ISIL has used mustard agents.The UN announced that senior disarmament official Virginia Gamba will lead the Joint Investigative Mechanism in Syria in order to determine who was responsible for earlier chemical weapons attacks. The Security Council approved the investigation last week, which will be a joint inquiry by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien urged the Security Council to find a political solution to end the conflict in Syria, warning members that the war had created one of the largest refugee exoduses since the Second World War. Mr. O’Brien also explained that, 18 months after the adoption of resolution 2139 on allowing unhindered humanitarian access to Syria, parties had disregarded the resolution and humanitarian aid has been unable to reach civilians in need.

Russia positioned about a half a dozen tanks at an airfield south of Latakia as part of a military buildup in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin defended delivering military assistance to the Syrian regime, describing it as aid for a government fighting “terrorist aggression”. The top US commander in the Middle East Gen. Lloyd Austin admitted on Wednesday that only four or five US-trained Syrian fighters remain on the battlefield against ISIL and acknowledged that the US would not reach its goal of training 5,000 soldiers in the near term. French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced that France will soon join the coalition of Western and Middle Eastern countries carrying out airstrikes against ISIL in Syria.


Yemen:

Last Friday, rocket fire from the Houthi rebels killed 20 civilians and wounded dozens more in a busy market. Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition sent reinforcements into Yemen in preparation to retake the capital Sana’a, seized by the Houthi insurgents a year ago. As part of the assault on Sana’a, coalition warplanes struck an arms depot and killed at least seven civilians and wounded 10. On Saturday, the Saudi-led coalition launched additional airstrikes killing at least 16 Yemeni civilians, including ten people from a single family.

The Yemeni government abandoned UN-mediated peace talks with the Houthis, which were set to start this week. Yemen’s Prime Minister Khaled Bahah and several government ministers returned to Yemen after months spent in exile in Saudi Arabia, and plan to stay in recently reclaimed Aden.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Monday called for an independent inquiry into human rights violations committed in Yemen by both the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels. ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch argued that the international community must urgently take steps to hold to account the actors committing mass atrocities in Yemen’s civil war.

The UN Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect released a statement on the situation in Yemen, expressing their concern at the “virtual silence” of the international community and the increasing impact of the conflict on civilians. They stated their belief that violence will only escalate if there is not a “serious commitment” of the parties to finding a political solution to the conflict.


What else is new?

Human Rights Watch reported that the EU has been deflecting its responsibility to protect refugees by failing to agree on a proposal for mandatory distribution of asylum seekers inside the EU.

The UN Secretary-General announced that he will hold a high-level meeting on the refugee crisis during the General Assembly at the end of September in order to mobilize a “humane, effective and rights-based response” to a global crisis that has seen 60 million people flee their homes.


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#R2P Weekly:7-11 September 2015

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General Assembly Holds 7th Informal Dialogue on RtoP;  ICRtoP & Partners Hold Event Exploring Priorities for Norm Over Next Decade

Tuesday, 9 September 2015, UN Member States gathered to discuss the Secretary-General’s latest report on the Responsibility to Protect, “A Vital and Enduring Commitment: Implementing the Responsibility to Protect.” (Read a summary of the report here.)

Sixty-nine Member States spoke on behalf of 91 governments, with one regional organization (the EU) also participating. Several civil society organizations gave interventions, including the ICRtoP and three of its members (the Global, Asia-Pacific, and Canadian Centres for RtoP). Thirty delegations called for the Security Council to not block resolutions aimed at preventing or responding to atrocity crimes by welcoming either the ACT Code of Conduct or the French and Mexico political declaration. At least 16 states, as well as the Group of Friends of RtoP, showed support for a General Assembly resolution on the ten-year anniversary of the norm, while 26 others welcomed and encouraged the expansion of the R2P Focal Points initiative.

fadiICRtoP Steering Committee Member Fadi Abi Allam of Permanent Peace Movement (Lebanon) delivered a statement on behalf of the ICRtoP. The ICRtoP emphasized the need to further show how RtoP relates to other sectors; urged the Security Council to better assume its RtoP by not blocking resolutions designed to prevent or respond to atrocities; and called for the General Assembly to adopt a resolution on the ten-year anniversary of the norm.

Check back next week for a full summary of the dialogue.

The day after the dialogue, the ICRtoP, the Stanley Foundation, and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung held an event titled “The Responsibility to Protect at Ten: Perspectives and Opportunities.” The purpose of the event was to focus on opportunities to further mainstream RtoP within other sectors and enhance capacity for addressing new civilian protection challenges.

Dr. Jennifer Welsh, the UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, delivered introductory remarks, in which she reflected on key themes of the General Assembly dialogue and noted areas of opportunity for implementing RtoP in the future.

Other speakers included Erin Mooney, Senior Protection Adviser for the UN and ProCap, who spoke on how protection assistance for the displaced and refugees could be enhanced through implementing RtoP; Alex Hiniker, UN representative of PAX, who provided ideas on how disarmament/arms control initiatives and RtoP could work together to protect populations; and Alex Bellamy, Director of the Asia-Pacific Centre for RtoP, who discussed how measures to counter violent extremism could impact atrocities prevention and response.

The ICRtoP and its co-sponsors will soon produce a full report on the event.


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
Ukraine
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

Human Rights Watch urged the government to publicly condemn the Border and Security Affairs Minister of the Mandalay Region Parliamentarian, Dr. Myint Kyu, who spoke out against gay men and transgender women and called on police to arrest them. The Burmese election campaign began on Tuesday and excluded Muslim candidates from the ballot while wiping an estimated 500,000 Rohingya from the voter list.


Burundi:

Patrice Gahungu, the spokesperson for the opposition party Union for Peace and Development (UPD) – Zigamibanga, was assassinated on Monday evening in Bujumbura.The Chairman of the UPD was murdered earlier this year.

Burundi, whose budget is 52 percent donor funded, formally received notifications that aid from European countries, the United States, and various key aid agencies would be suspended. Meanwhile, early in his controversial third term, reports are emerging that President Pierre Nkurunziza is deepening ties with the governments of China and Russia.


Central African Republic:

The UN established a “weapons-free zone” in Bambari to protect civilians from militant groups involved in inter-religious clashes, which have killed more than 10 people in the month of August and have displaced more than 800,000 people during  two years of violence.


Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Ahead of upcoming presidential elections, the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) stated that human rights violations by DRC authorities are increasing, with journalists and activists being targeted specifically.


Gaza:

The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, urged all Palestinian leaders and factions to use the postponement of the Palestine National Council meeting to take constructive steps towards achieving unity. Though the meeting of the Council was scheduled to take place next week in Ramallah, a new date has not yet been set for what will be the first gathering of the Council in nearly 20 years.


Iraq:

After the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) resumed its armed campaign against Turkey by targeting police and military officers and killing more than 100 people in the past 50 days, Turkey deployed ground forces and launched a wave of airstrikes into Iraq to pursue Kurdish militants in the first such action since the 2013 Kurdish-Turkey ceasefire.


Kenya:

The International Criminal Court on Thursday announced public arrest warrants against Paul Gicheru and Philip Kipkoech Bett on accusations of “corruptly influencing witnesses” in the case against Kenyan deputy Prime Minister, William Ruto, for crimes against humanity.


Libya:

The General National Congress (GNC) called for a regional conference to deal with the “migrant” influx crisis. UN Special Representative for Libya, Bernardino Leon, reported that the talks aimed at uniting Libya’s two warring governments are entering the last round and that there is hope of signing a deal by 20 September. Later in the week, Bernardino Leon met ten leaders from each of Libya’s three historic provinces in Cairo, then headed back to Morocco for final talks aimed at naming the prime minister and two deputy prime ministers to head the new Government of National Accord.


Mali:

Malian Special Forces arrested three jihadi suspects after recent attacks against MINUSMA. Despite the signing of a peace deal in June, ongoing conflict in northern Mali and consequent insecurity has increasingly threatened the livelihood of millions. UNOCHA reported that an estimated 3.1 million people are considered to be “food insecure” and roughly 54,000 people are without adequate access to potable water.


Nigeria:

The Nigerian military arrested a number of suspects who were caught allegedly carrying fuel and drugs for Boko Haram in Yobe state. IOM released its 5th Displacement Tracking Matrix, which reported an increase in internally displaced people to over 2.1 million from  the 1.3 million recorded in June. IOM attributed the increase to the intensification of attacks by insurgents in the north.


South Sudan:

The South Sudanese parliament warned that it would reject the recently agreed to Compromise Peace Agreement if it were found to violate national sovereignty; however, when tabled later in the week, the parliament unanimously voted to adopt the deal.


Sudan/Darfur:

ICRtoP member Human Rights Watch released a report stating that the Sudanese government’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF), has gone on two episodes of killings and mass rape of civilians in dozens of Darfur villages since February of last year. HRW urged the government to end RSF atrocities and bring those responsible to justice; the abuses have found to be widespread, varying, and systematic against civilian populations and may constitute crimes against humanity. HRW also underscored that existing peacekeeping forces have not fully carried out their mandate of protecting civilians and have seldom released public reports or comprehensive documentation on abuses against civilians during any RSF counterinsurgency campaigns.

Judges at the ICC asked South African authorities to account for their failure to arrest Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir this summer during his travels to the country.


Syria:

Syrian rebel militants from a coalition of mainly Islamist groups, including the al-Nusra front,seized key Abu al-Duhur airbase in north-western Idlib province after a two year siege.

Amnesty International reported that the Democratic Union Party (PYD)-led autonomous administration in northern Syria has been unlawfully detaining and unfairly trying peaceful critics and civilians believed to be sympathizers or members of alleged terrorist groups.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon admitted that the UN Security Council is failing Syria due to power divisions preventing action to end the conflict. He said that Russia and China should “look beyond national interest” and stop blocking Security Council action on the conflict in Syria. Additionally, the United Nations Special Envoy on Syria, Staffan de Mistura, called for “a real discussion” to end the conflict in Syria.

After the United States and NATO warned Russia over its involvement in the Syrian conflict, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov confirmed that humanitarian aid flights to Syria also carry military equipment. Separately, Lavrov stated that Russian military advisers have been in Syria, but that their presence has been a part of a longstanding agreement to provide the country with military aid.


Ukraine:

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, declared that nearly 8,000 people have lost their lives in eastern Ukraine since mid-April 2014, as he released the 11th report by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine. The report states that the number of civilian casualties more than doubled this past month, in comparison with the previous three months.

The Ukrainian government, though not a member of the International Criminal Court, voluntarily accepted the jurisdiction of the ICC backdated to early 2014 and accused “senior officials of the Russian Federation” and rebel leaders of committing atrocities during the annexation of Crimea and fighting in eastern Ukraine.


Yemen:

Around 1,000 soldiers from Qatar’s Armed Forces, more than 200 armored vehicles, and 30 Apache combat helicopters deployed to Yemen as part of the Saudi-led coalition’s fight against Houthi rebels. War planes from the coalition bombed the capital of Sanaa in the largest attack on the city in over five months.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien, released an emergency fund of $15 million to help alleviate the “almost incomprehensible” scale of human suffering in Yemen, where four out of five people are lacking the most basic survival items such as clean water, food, fuel and medicines. In addition, the Secretary-General and members of the Security Council strongly condemned the suicide attack of September 2 against a mosque in the northern Jarraf district of Sana’a in Yemen that killed 30 and injured 100.


What else is new?

In a new analysis for the International Peace Institute’s Global Observatory, the Asia Pacific Center for the R2P’s Alex Bellamy highlighted that “one of the most straightforward and effective measures that could be adopted in fulfillment of RtoP is the provision of safe passage and asylum to those fleeing” the Syrian conflict.

ICRtoP member International Crisis Group released a report detailing how the rise of Christian and Muslim fundamentalist movements in Cameroon is rapidly changing the religious landscape and paving the way for religious intolerance.

International Crisis Group also issued a conflict alert for Nepal, stating that  protests against a draft constitution have left 23 dead and hundreds injured in Nepal in two weeks.

War crimes prosecutors in Serbia charged eight people over the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia. This is the first time that a court in Serbia has charged anyone over the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys by Bosnian-Serb forces.


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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?”

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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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Civil Society Reflections on the Sixth General Assembly Dialogue on RtoP

On September 8, 2014, the UN General Assembly held its 6th annual informal, interactive dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect and the thematic issue of Pillar II international assistance. The following day, the ICRtoP Steering Committee also met for its annual meeting. Blog and Social Media Coordinator Matthew Redding sat down with some of our Steering Committee members, including Alex Bellamy, Executive Director of the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (APCR2P), Donald Deya, Chief Executive Officer of the Pan-African Lawyer’s Union (PALU) and current Chair of the ICRtoP Steering Committee, and William Pace, Executive Director of the World Federalist Movement- Institute for Global Policy (WFM-IGP) to get their unique perspectives on the General Assembly dialogue.

 

Regional Voices

In the wake of the dialogue, the ICRtoP was fortunate enough to obtain reflections on common themes and key statements from Steering Committee members representing diverse regions of the globe. With APCR2P’s focus on promoting RtoP in the ASEAN region through initiatives such as the High Level Advisory Panel on the Responsibility to Protect in Southeast Asia, Alex Bellamy highlighted some developments seen from these member states. 20140908_162219

 “We’ve definitely seen stronger participation. In past years, we’ve had a difficult time persuading member states to participate. ASEAN states usually haven’t been forthcoming and now they’re expressing their views. This year we had 5 of 10, which is I think the highest number we’ve had. Of those, Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand were incredibly strong. They were as strong a supporter of RtoP as any European or any other proponent of RtoP would be.

In regards to Indonesia, Bellamy noted their reaffirmation that “…they’ve always been supportive of RtoP, that they’re a champion of it, and that they are firmly committed to it.”  On Thailand’s statement, he drew particular attention to the mention of “…the empowerment of women and the importance of gender perspective,” while enthusiastically recalling that “The Philippines also had a strong endorsement of RtoP and expressed their desire to move the agenda forward towards implementation.”

On a less positive note, Bellamy referred to Malaysia’s statement, which showed that “Malaysia is cautious, it’s always been cautious. It’s concerned about things like conditionality, its concerned when it sees what it perceives as attempts to expand the concept. There was no movement in what Malaysia said this year from last year and the year before that…so we need to spend more time engaging with Malaysia.”

However, this was tempered with a reminder of the importance of Myanmar’s participation, “Myanmar was the 5th to contribute and I think it’s a really good sign. The following day, their legal advisor attended the launch of the High-Level Report on Mainstreaming RtoP in Southeast Asia and said that this [RtoP] was now customary international law. So Myanmar accepts the principle, but of course, there are all sorts of issues regarding their political transition – specifically in relation to the Rohingya situation, where there is deeply embedded discrimination against that group…It’s really encouraging that Myanmar is participating and it just shows how well embedded RtoP is becoming. It’s not surprising that they’re cautious, but it reminds that we still need to engage them more.”

Representing an organization that works closely with the African Union on legal and human rights issues, Donald Deya of PALU expressed somewhat mixed views on the African participation in this year’s dialogue.

Deya recalled that “In previous years the African Union Mission to the United Nations has made a statement, so I was disappointed to see that this year they did not.” Deya compared the absent AU presence with the strong European Union statement he believed the AU should have also delivered, given the large number of RtoP cases located on the African continent.

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivering his remarks at the opening of the GA dialogue.

He also added that he would have liked to see more statements from African countries in general, particularly from Kenya “…which is one of the areas in which the international community’s RtoP intervention has been successful.”

However, Deya was sure to mention that he was happy with the few African countries that did make statements. For example, when recalling Cote d’Ivoire’s  comments, he asserted that it was “…very useful, and of course their acknowledgement that assistance has been important from the international community in terms of pillar I and pillar II was also welcomed.”

 

RtoP Implementation at the UN

An important aspect of RtoP’s evolution is how it is prioritized and applied by the major organs of the UN, in particular the Security Council and the General Assembly. Speaking on behalf of the WFM-IGP – an organization that works tirelessly to improve the effectiveness of these bodies to ensure they better serve the world’s peoples – Bill Pace reflected on RtoP’s development at this level:

 “I am optimistic from the GA [General Assembly] meeting that governments are taking RtoP more seriously every year. This includes the Security Council, in spite some of the controversies over misuse, selective application, or inappropriate enforcement.”

Pace noted that there is certainly room for improvement given these controversies, and added that:

“Over the next decade, I hope the democracies of the UN system will continue to press the permanent and elected members of the Security Council to do peace enforcement and peacekeeping on a much more efficient, and non-selective level. In that regard the permanent members of the Security Council must be pressured to refrain from using the veto in situations where mass atrocity crimes under international law are being committed.” Encouragingly, the dialogue provided Pace with some hope, as he stated, “I am personally optimistic that the General Assembly and the Security Council are moving in that direction.”

 Importantly, he provided a reminder that next year will be the 10th anniversary of the 2005 World Summit and mentioned that, “The assessment we will be doing at the UN and within the GA may result in RtoP moving from an informal dialogue into a more formal agenda item that may be discussed and have a resolution every year.” He added that the Coalition would be actively involved in efforts to strengthen RtoP within the General Assembly.

 

General Reflections

Each interview concluded with some general thoughts on the dialogue, including some stand-out statements, and speculation on what the event means for RtoP moving forward. Bellamy singled out Iran as a surprisingly “fantastic” statement, noting that:

Iran has contributed before and has always been broadly supportive, though cautious. The positive thing about Iran’s statement is that there was no caution at all. This might be because of the subject matter and that international assistance is less controversial than pillar III and pillar I, but I think it’s also a sign that the consensus on RtoP is getting more deeply embedded.”

Bellamy also reflected on the evolving consensus and deepening shared understanding of what RtoP is, “A couple of missions talked about sequencing, but not very many and certainly much fewer than the year before. Also, nobody was disputing what RtoP is, what the three pillars are, what crimes it related to, or what the development mechanisms are.”

Bellamy ended with a couple of positive observations, concluding that “…now the debate really is shifting to this question of implementation, or what to do in practice, and not what the principle is and whether or not the Assembly is committed. Even Cuba and Venezuela have toned it down in terms of their comments, and I think this shows that there is a consensus and that the debate is indeed moving forward.”

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ICRtoP Steering Committee in discussions with the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng.

Deya agreed with Bellamy on several points, noting that, “…there has been progress in the sense that a couple of years ago the level of suspicion and even outright hostility was quite palpable, and the number of states expressing these sentiments was quite high. But a lot of the skepticism has changed to support, even if it is conditional support.” 

He also agreed that consensus is deepening, stating that“…there is a sense of resignation where there is no longer a question of whether RtoP exists at the UN or the community of states. It’s more or less a comment on how we can do it better.” Deya also made note of the softening stance of traditional opponents such as Cuba and Iran, agreeing that Iran’s statement in particular was “quite positive.”

Additionally, Deya made an important point on the increased involvement of civil society, observing that “one of the things that has happened under the current joint office and the two current Special Advisers [on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect]  is that they have given more scope to civil society.”

As a sign of this progress, he recalled that there was “…more opportunity to address the interactive debate than ever before, with 4 civil society organizations that were allowed to speak.” Perhaps more importantly, he also noted “…the whole process of being consulted extensively by Dr. Welsh on the drafting of the Secretary-General’s report and the mobilization of the Coalition and its members is very positive. “

Pace recalled a different statement as being particularly notable. He expressed that there had been worry over Russia’s position, given current hostilities in Ukraine. However, ultimately he believed that the Russian statement “…was actually much better than expected.”

Pace’s concluding thoughts were a poignant way to summarize the dialogue. He took note of the broad participation from roughly 70 countries, some of which spoke for up to 28 countries in their region. He called the day-long event “quite an achievement” that demonstrated “growing political will,” evident in the diminishing number of skeptics in the General Assembly. Pace then provided a solemn reminder that the goal of RtoP and its measures under the various pillars is to bring about a reality where mass atrocities are an exception, rather than the rule and where application of the norm is a non-issue.

 

A detailed overview of the dialogue and a full listing of member state, regional and civil society statements are available via the ICRtoP website.

The opinions expressed in these interviews are those of the individuals featured, and do not represent the position of the ICRtoP.

 

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FEATURE: Responsibility while Protecting – the impact of a new initiative on RtoP

The “responsibility while protecting” (RwP) concept and its potential influence on the development of the Responsibility to Protect norm (RtoP, R2P) have been a source of ongoing discussion in recent months. RwP was first introduced by Brazilian President Dilma Raousseff as “responsibility in protecting” during her address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September 2011 and then expanded on in a concept note presented to the UN Security Council (UNSC) on 9 November 2011 by Brazilian Permanent Representative, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti. RwP seeks to address concerns regarding the implementation of military measures to prevent and halt mass atrocities, emphasizing that prevention is the “best policy” and that the use of force in particular must be regularly monitored and periodically assessed so as to minimize the impact on civilians.

On 21 February 2012, the Brazilian Permanent Mission organized an informal discussion on RwP with Member States, UN actors, and civil society organizations. Debate has since continued, most recently at the fourth UNGA informal, interactive dialogue held on 5 September, with many commentators and scholars reflecting on how RwP will impact RtoP and more importantly, the international response to future situations of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing. The ICRtoP Secretariat reached out to civil society organizations with a series of questions in order to map the origins of RwP and analyze the concept’s influence on the Responsibility to Protect.  

Read the full feature post.

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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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Breaking: Overwhelming Majority of UN General Assembly Votes in Favour of Draft Resolution

The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour of a Saudi-drafted UNGA draft resolution on the situation in Syria on 16 February. 137 states voted in favour, 12 in opposition, and 17 states abstained from voting. Syria, Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Belarus, Zimbabwe, and Cuba all registered votes against.

Vote tally reflected on the screens at the 16 February UN General Assembly meeting on Syria (UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz)

The resolution calls for the UN and its members to support the League of Arab States’ peace plan in Syria, which provides that President Bashar al-Assad delegate power to deputy in order to begin the process of a political transition. It also condemned the escalating violence in Syria, urged the Syrian authorities to put an end to further violations of human rights, and stressed the need to ensure accountability for all violations, including those that may amount to crimes against humanity. The resolution also calls for the UN Secretary-General to appoint a Special Envoy on Syria, and for the UN to provide technical and material assistance to the League of Arab States.

More updates to follow, here and on Twitter.

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Filed under Arab League, Regional Orgs, RtoP, UN