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‘Responsibility to protect’ principle not yet fully operationalized – UN deputy chief

North America

‘Responsibility to protect’ principle not yet fully operationalized – UN deputy chief

The United Nations deputy chief has said that collective global action is needed to overcome barriers to implementation of States’ legal commitments to protect populations from atrocity crimes – the principle known as ‘responsibility to protect’ or R2P.

‘We have seen concrete implementation plans to make the ‘responsibility to protect’ a living reality,’ Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said Wednesday at a UN General Assembly interactive dialogue on the subject.

In his remarks to the gathering, Eliasson flagged that he had served as President of the General Assembly in 2005, when the R2P principle was adopted by Member States. ‘This commitment was a signature achievement for the United Nations,’ he said.

Much of it was already embedded in the international human rights obligations of States, he noted. But subsequent events, such as unconscionable brutality against civilians around the world, have underlined the need to articulate and affirm this important principle and place it more prominently on the international agenda.

‘Sadly, we have yet to fully operationalize the responsibility to protect principle, agreed with such high hopes and expectations in 2005,’ he said, highlighting points from this year’s report of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon which will be critical to overcoming implementation barriers.

First, the Deputy Secretary-General pointed out, prevention must be taken more seriously. ‘The call for prevention is not a rhetorical call; it is a call to action to all States, organizations and other stakeholders,’ he said

Effective prevention requires foresight and serious analysis as well as constant attention, support and political will, he said, noting it means integrating a prevention agenda into national, regional and international frameworks for action. It also requires additional institutional capacity, he added.


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