15 Aug New Responsibility to Protect (R2P) Report Out
The United Nations Secretary General’s fifth Report on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) was released last week. This Report is titled “State Responsibility and Prevention” and focuses generally on governance mechanisms and early warning. It also mentions the situation in Syria, stating that “[r]ecent events, including in the Syrian Arab Republic, underline the vital importance of early action to prevent atrocity crimes and the terrible consequences when prevention fails.”
On the whole, the Report is consistent with prior work, but doesn’t contain much that is new. The Report focuses in large part on governance, and includes the following points:
- There is an overlap between risk factors related to armed conflict and atrocity crimes
- “Genocides [The Holocaust and in Rwanda] started with hate speech, discrimination and marginalization.”
- Constitutions are mechanisms for creating societies based on non-discrimination
- Transitional justice mechanisms and security sector reform are important
The Report ends with a call to all countries to:
“ (a) Appoint a senior-level focal point with atrocity prevention responsibilities and adequate resources or establish other national mechanisms to implement this mandate; (b) Conduct a national assessment of risk and resilience, using the analysis framework on the prevention of genocide developed by my Special Adviser, as appropriate, the risk factors outlined in the present report and tools developed by civil society. The review should be system-wide and should include the identification of vulnerable populations and an assessment of existing structures for resilience. Civil society should be included in the review process; (c) Sign, ratify and implement relevant international legal instruments; (d) Engage with and support other Member States and regional or subregional arrangements to share experiences and enhance cooperation to promote the effective use of resources; (e) Participate in peer review processes, including the universal periodic review of the Human Rights Council, as well as regional peer review processes and other options for monitoring the effectiveness of measures taken; (f) Identify and form partnerships with other Member States, regional and subregional arrangements or civil society for technical assistance and capacity- building purposes, exchange of lessons learned and mobilization of resources; (g) Participate in international, regional and national discussions on the further advancement of the responsibility to protect and its implementation.”
What is perhaps more interesting is what the Report does not say:
- it does not mention Libya, which continues to be the real hot button precedent on R2P
- it does not mention military intervention, or the role of the Security Council
- it does not mention extraterritorial obligations of states
- it does not mention the ICC
- it does not mention new technology
On the latter two points, see this July 2013 Report on R2P by Madeleine Albright and Richard Williamson.
The Secretary General has recently appointed a new Special Representative on the Responsibility to Protect – Professor Jennifer Welsh of Canada – who has written widely on R2P and is currently a Professor at Oxford University. Hopefully, her appointment will bring new momentum to the campaign.
Many will no doubt be disappointed with the Report. With the ongoing situation in Syria, and renewed instability in Egypt, this would have been an opportune moment for the UN to move the debate forward on R2P, an opportunity it did not seize in this latest contribution.