At the United Nations World Summit in 2005, member states recognised that the government of each country has a “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) their own population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. They agreed that the international community should encourage and help states to fulfil this responsibility and would be prepared to take action, which would need to be authorised by the UN Security Council (UNSC), if any state failed to do so.
In 2012, we continued to fund UN efforts and to work with UN member state partners to help countries meet their responsibility to protect their people. We worked with a wide range of countries that also support R2P to encourage them to share their own experiences of action to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. On 5 September, we participated in the annual UN General Assembly interactive dialogue on R2P and joined the majority of UN members in reaffirming our support for implementation. We welcomed the appointment of Mr Adama Dieng as the Secretary-General’s new Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide. We look forward to the appointment of the Secretary-General’s new Special Adviser for Responsibility to Protect. These roles are critical to supporting successful preventive action.
The United Nation General Assembly (UNGA) debate saw the largest number of countries to date speak out in favour of R2P. Libya and Côte d’Ivoire said that more lives would have been lost in their countries had the international community not responded in a timely and decisive manner to halt mass atrocities. The debate also highlighted continuing divisions over the UNSC-mandated intervention in Libya, and that reaching consensus in the UN on how to apply R2P in practice where atrocities may be imminent will remain a challenge.
We are helping to put in place structures which will allow R2P prevention work to be more effective, including by contributing funding to the Joint Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advisers for Genocide and Responsibility to Protect. This will support training and post-training technical assistance to states and regional and sub-regional organisations to strengthen their capacity to develop early-warning, risk assessment and response strategies to prevent genocide and other war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. It will also help more states to develop national action plans to identify R2P risks and take practical steps to mitigate them. We continued to provide funding for the international advocacy and outreach work of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, a leading New York-based NGO. This will support increased engagement with states and regional organisations on the implementation of R2P to help build a shared understanding around risks and effective prevention measures. We also support the Global Centre’s continued publication of the R2P Monitor, a bi-monthly publication that provides policy-makers and civil society with information on populations at a risk of mass atrocities and encourages international efforts to take preventative measures. We also worked to reinvigorate the “Friends of R2P Group”, an informal cross-regional group of UN member states that share a common interest in R2P. We have continued to participate in the national Focal Points network and have encouraged more governments to appoint national R2P Focal Points (senior-level officials in individual countries responsible for the promotion of R2P).
We worked closely with the Australians, long-standing supporters of R2P, ahead of their event on R2P at the Human Rights Council (HRC) in June on the HRC’s role in the preventive aspects of R2P. We welcomed close cooperation with the United States on early-warning analysis and with France and the Netherlands on engaging through the EU.
Following the publication of the Building Stability Overseas Strategy, we have strengthened our cross-government early-warning and early-action systems to identify those potential conflicts where there is a risk of mass atrocities.
There are many examples of consensual prevention activities to tackle R2P risks, at national, regional and international levels. Examples include President Ouattara’s creation of a Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Côte d’Ivoire; President Mbeki’s diplomacy between Sudan and South Sudan under the auspices of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel and the development of a UN Regional Strategy on the Lord’s Resistance Army by the UN Office for Central Africa and the African Union.
We remain deeply concerned by the continuing conflict in Syria and are committed to pursuing a political solution. The UK continues to urge the Syrian government to implement the six-point plan and the Geneva communiqué of the Syria Action Group to bring an end to the violence and take forward a process of sustainable political transition. All states share a common responsibility, in accordance with the principles set out in R2P, to stop the bloodshed. Members of the UN Security Council have a particular responsibility in this regard. We were appalled by the decision by Russia and China in July to veto a draft UN Security Council resolution on Syria under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which prevented the Security Council from using its collective weight to require the Syrian regime to end the violence and from imposing serious diplomatic consequences if it did not. We continue to urge all members of the Security Council to unite around more decisive action to compel all parties to the conflict to stop the fighting and to work towards a political solution.