NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 6 – “Should national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, then we must be prepared to take collective action, in accordance with the Charter, including Chapter VII, on a case-by-case basis,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said today at a dialogue held at UN Headquarters on the responsibility to protect, commonly referred to as ‘R2P’. Highlighting increased atrocity crimes – genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity – in many parts of the world, Guterres called for concrete action to protect the vulnerable and to reverse such negative trends.
“All of us are well aware of the grim human reality that lies behind the words, ‘war crimes’, ‘crimes against humanity’, ‘ethnic cleansing’, and ‘genocide’,” Mr. Guterres said at a dialogue held at UN Headquarters on the responsibility to protect, commonly referred to as ‘R2P’. “It is time – he said – to move beyond the conceptual debate towards improved protection of people from atrocity crimes.”
Referring to his report on responsibility to protect, the UN chief also stressed that the Organization must give far greater attention to address the challenges before they spiral out of control. In particular, he underscored the need for practical steps, noting that his report includes options that can be taken in a relatively short time, without major operational or institutional requirements.
Among the member states who took part in the dialogue, Italy expressed full support for the Secretary General’s call for a new approach to R2P preventive efforts and strengthening accountability. “As member of the UN Security Council Italy is committed to ensure that the Council acts effectively and consistently in emergencies, upholding the responsibility to protect”, the Italian Deputy Permanent Representative and Charge’ d’Affaires Inigo Lambertini said.
“The growing numbers of attacks against civilians, schools, hospitals, humanitarian workers and peacekeepers – as well as the widespread and systematic use of sexual and gender-based violence as a deliberate strategy by state and non-state actors – are a stark reminder that we need to close the gap between our commitment to the R2P and the reality populations at risk face. Our efforts should honor the norms and principles that safeguard humanity under international humanitarian law, human rights and refugee law”, said Lambertini, recalling that as the top Western Troop-Contributing Country for peacekeeping operations, “Italy has acknowledged the importance of the Kigali Principles on the Protection of Civilians since the moment they were launched, and wishes to highlight the importance of early warning mechanisms, such as the UN Framework for Analysis for Atrocity Crimes, which should be integrated into pre-deployment and in-theatre training for all peacekeepers”.
Italy, moreover, has appointed a National R2P Focal Point and participates in the Global Network of R2P Focal Points, together with fifty-eight other Member States from every region of the world, as along with the European Union. “As it attaches great importance to improving national and collective accountability for prevention, Italy wishes to echo the Secretary-General’s encouragement to all Member States to follow suit”, the Italian delegate said.
In his speech to the dialogue, Guterres urged the Human Rights Council (the highest UN intergovernmental forum on human rights) as well as the Security Council to further strengthen their capacity to address the risks of atrocity crimes and other violations of the responsibility to protect, and called for improving the use of all three UN pillars – peace and security, development, and human rights – for better early warning and prevention, as envisaged in the Human Rights Up Front action plan.
Noting that the responsibly to protect agenda generates some discomfort for a number of UN Member States, with the primary concern that it will be used to “impose” international approaches that may harm national sovereignty, Mr. Guterres said that the success of the UN implementing its mandates depended on national actors being able to deliver on their sovereign responsibilities.
Further, the Secretary-General recalled the outcome document of the 2005 World Summit, which was adopted unanimously and which reinforced that States have the primary responsibility to protect their populations from atrocity crimes as well as assist States if they do not possess the necessary capacity to prevent crimes in their territory. “Should national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, then we must be prepared to take collective action, in accordance with the Charter, including Chapter VII, on a case-by-case basis,” he proclaimed. (@OnuItalia)