AP R2P Statement to UN General Assembly


Remarks to the United Nations General Assembly

Informal and Interactive Dialogue on International Assistance and the Responsibility to Protect

New York 8 September 2014

Thank you, Mr. Moderator.

Thank you for organizing this informal and interactive dialogue on International Assistance and the Responsibility to Protect.

Thanks too to the eminent panelists for illuminating the steps that should be taken to make the Responsibility to Protect a “lived reality”. In particular, the Asia Pacific Centre for R2P welcomes and endorses Dr. Surin Pitsuwan’s comments and congratulates him on the leadership he is providing as Chair of the High Level Advisory Panel on R2P in Southeast Asia. Efforts like this are indispensable as we work to deliver on the commitment to R2P that was made in 2005.

Our mission is to support the advancement of R2P in the Asia Pacific region. We support the mandate of the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect and we congratulate the Secretary-General and Dr. Welsh on this important and timely report.

The primary responsibility to protect rests with the state. As such, the international community’s primary responsibility must be to provide encouragement and assistance. Our ultimate goal is to help one another reinforce the habits of protection and to build the necessary capacities.

Mr. Moderator, let us be frank about the magnitude of the challenges we confront. We are daily confronted by agonizing acts of barbarity committed by groups that reject the basic principles of humanity and decency advanced by this Assembly.

When this Assembly committed itself to the Responsibility to Protect nearly a decade ago, it promised that the entire membership of the UN would stand together to protect populations from the worst of crimes known to humanity. International assistance, the topic of today’s dialogue, is one of the principal ways in which we can do that.

Mr. President, I would like to highlight five points about international assistance.

First, we should make a virtue of asking for assistance by celebrating and commending those states that do. Responsible sovereigns do not try to soldier on by themselves against the odds. They ask for help. We should encourage states to ask for help and congratulate and embrace those that do. In so doing we should establish amongst us a spirit of cooperation that facilitates mutual support.

Second, it is important to think strategically about international assistance and to set aside the necessary resources. When Member States ask for international assistance, it is imperative that the international community as a whole responds in a timely fashion by providing what is needed. Be it military assistance to the government of Iraq, surveillance assistance to root out terrorists in Nigeria or technical assistance to support the rule of law in Nepal, R2P commits us all to doing what we can. Only by backing our words with deeds will we achieve our common goal.

Third, international assistance should pay particular attention to the protection of women and girls and to the urgent need to empower women as agents of protection. We need to ensure that more practical support is given to women human rights defenders. In many parts of the world, these women are the first line of protection for marginalized and minority groups.

As called for by UN Security Council Resolution 1325, international assistance should contribute to the goal of ensuring that women are empowered and represented in peacemaking activities and in relevant political, judicial and security sectors. Our deliberations on Pillar II of R2P provide an opportunity to redouble our efforts to empower women as agents of protection.

We should not forget that widespread and systematic sexual violence can constitute acts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Assistance aimed at preventing these crimes is rightfully part of our discussion today. International assistance is a crucial part of that equation.

Fourth, we underscore the need to deny perpetrators the capacity to commit these crimes. Controlling small arms and light weapons is a crucial part of that equation. Therefore, we welcome the Arms Trade Treaty and call on states to ratify and implement it. States should also redouble their efforts to control the flow of small arms.

Finally, it is time to mainstream the responsibility to protect throughout the UN system so that atrocity prevention becomes part of the daily-lived reality of the organization and its partners. The Secretary-General called for the mainstreaming of R2P in his first report on the topic and we are delighted that Mr. Dieng and Dr. Welsh have committed themselves to advancing this objective. The prevention of genocide and other atrocity crimes must become part of what we do every day. The Secretary-General’s report is a significant contribution and provides a pathway for incorporating an atrocity prevention mindset into the work of the UN system as a whole.

Mr. Moderator, the challenge now is to translate the commitment this Assembly made in 2005 into a lived reality. That demands of us a renewed determination to take the practical steps necessary to protect people in need. That is the challenge that lies before the General Assembly. We are confident that it is a challenge that you will meet, with the help of the UN, regional bodies and organizations like ours.

Thank you.

Alex Bellamy, Executive Director

Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

To Build Regional Community, Southeast Asian Leaders Advocate for “Responsibility to Protect”

Repost from IPI Global Observatory.

States belonging to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) joined the whole membership of the United Nations in making a solemn commitment to the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle at the World Summit in 2005. As ASEAN now seeks to integrate more closely by 2015, a High Level Advisory Panelchaired by the former ASEAN secretary-general and foreign minister of Thailand, Surin Pitsuwan, is arguing that R2P offers an important pathway to the establishment of an ASEAN Community. The panel (for which I serve as secretary) will launch its report on Mainstreaming the Responsibility to Protect in Southeast Asia at UN Headquarters in New York on Tuesday, September 9.

Southeast Asia’s recent past includes many examples of genocide and mass atrocities. Most obviously, in the late 1970s the Khmer Rouge unleashed a reign of terror on Cambodia that lasted less than three years but left a quarter of the country’s population dead. The Khmer Rouge’s bloodbath came at the end of more than a decade of war in Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos) characterized by the systematic killing of civilians by all sides. Elsewhere, military governments in Burma (now Myanmar) committed atrocities against civilian populations associated with ethnic separatists, in Indonesia anti-communist militia and their allies massacred hundreds of thousands of suspected communists in the mid-1960s, and civil war in the Philippines involved the deliberate targeting of civilians.

Anti-civilian violence in Southeast Asia arose from three factors in particular: interference and intervention from outside, the struggle for decolonization, and practices of state consolidation. Seared in the memories of many societies in Southeast Asia is the violence that ensued as a result of the battles for independence against different colonial masters—French, Dutch, British, Japanese, and Americans. The postcolonial experience of nation-building produced difficult periods of political transition as peoples endured civil wars, fought against sometimes cruel dictatorial regimes, managed ethnic tensions, and confronted deep divisions in multiethnic societies.

But since the end of the Khmer Rouge’s rule in Cambodia, and almost unnoticed by the rest of the world, the region has been transformed. Although problems persist, most notably in Myanmar, there are fewer cases of genocide and atrocity crimes in Southeast Asia today than at any point in its recorded history. Although significant global developments, such as the end of the Cold War, clearly played an important role in fashioning this transformation, factors inside the region were also significant. These include:

  • The promotion of regional peace and cooperation, characterized by the termination of violent interstate conflict and the ending of civil wars in Cambodia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
  • The growth of regional institutions such as ASEAN, which has dramatically reduced the incidence and scale of armed conflict in the region.
  • Economic growth.
  • The gradual and managed transition away from authoritarian government and the establishment of more representative forms of government.
  • A strong commitment to sovereignty alongside a growing recognition that sovereignty entails responsibilities of care and protection as well as rights.

But if recent events in the Middle East and elsewhere teach us anything, it is that we can never take peace for granted and that new challenges to resilience will arise. To build on past successes, ASEAN leaders have committed themselves to establishing a more closely integrated regional community with political-security, economic, and social pillars by 2015. This is where R2P comes in. A meaningful regional community must be one that, at the very least, protects its peoples from the worst of crimes known to humanity.

Much of the commentary about the High Level Advisory Panel on R2P in Southeast Asia will undoubtedly focus on its recommendations. At the regional level, these include calls to support efforts to raise awareness and public knowledge of R2P, develop and strengthen regional capacity for early warning and assessment through existing ASEAN arrangements, strengthen consultation and exchange on issues relating to the prevention of genocide and atrocity crimes and the protection of vulnerable populations, incorporate R2P-related consideration into the future agenda of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, and support civil society efforts to promote human rights protection and advance the norms and principles of atrocity prevention.

The Panel also identifies a range of steps that could be adopted at the national level: Governments could continue and further develop dialogue among stakeholders on building national institutions to support the prevention of genocide and atrocity crimes. They could consider signing, ratifying, and implementing relevant international treaties relating to these crimes. They could also give urgent consideration to the UN Secretary-General’s recommendation that all states conduct a national assessment of risk and resilience and participate in dialogue and peer review. To achieve all this, the Panel suggests that governments should consider appointing a senior-level official as national focal point for the Responsibility to Protect, to coordinate national efforts and lead engagement in regional and global dialogue.

Although significant, these recommendations are perhaps not the most important aspect of the Panel’s contribution. Instead, its most significant contribution lies in its core argumentthat R2P and ASEAN’s own commitments to establish a regional community are not just compatible with one another but are mutually supporting:

“Mainstreaming the Responsibility to Protect in Southeast Asia could make a significant contribution to the establishment of a ‘sharing and caring’ ASEAN Community… The responsibilities of protection stem not just from international law and global commitments made by the region’s governments at the United Nations, but also from the commitments that ASEAN Member States have made to each other. The concepts and norms of the Responsibility to Protect converge with ASEAN’s vision of a peaceful, just, democratic, people-centered and caring community in Southeast Asia. As such, the Responsibility to Protect provides ASEAN with a major pathway towards realizing its vision of a caring and sharing community in Southeast Asia and supports ASEAN’s responsibility to care for the protection of its own people.”

Indeed, the Panel concludes that the commitment of ASEAN member states to R2P is a “logical extension of the commitments that they have made to each other within the ASEAN framework.” Cooperation to protect Southeast Asian peoples from genocide and atrocity crimes is therefore seen as a necessary corollary to the establishment of an ASEAN Community. From this flow four important points, among the many emphasized by the Panel.

First, the ultimate objective of R2P—the protection of populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity—is consistent with and integral to the overall goals of an ASEAN Community.

Second, the norms and objectives of the Responsibility to Protect are not alien to ASEAN. Southeast Asia is already well endowed with norms relating to the prevention of these crimes and the protection of populations from them.

Third, ASEAN already has important mechanisms and instruments that are particularly relevant to the implementation of the R2P. These include, among others, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, its Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children, the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, and the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone.

Fourth, as one of the world’s leading regional organizations, ASEAN should work more closely with the United Nations to promote international peace and security.

By making arguments like this and outlining practical steps that might be taken to fulfill national, regional, and global responsibilities, the Panel’s work has the potential to mark the beginning of a new era for R2P, one in which new sets of leaders from different regions take the lead in “localizing” the principle, making it part of daily lived reality for populations around the world. Whatever the future trajectory, however, the very fact that a group of prominent Southeast Asians are coming to New York to make the case for renewed effort to mainstream R2P demonstrates that the principle is now one that is genuinely global in its scope and—significantly—in its ownership.

Alex J. Bellamy is Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at The University of Queensland and Director of the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. He is also a Non-Resident Senior Adviser at the International Peace Institute. He serves, with Professor Mely Caballero-Anthony, as Secretary of the High-Level Advisory Panel on the Responsibility to Protect in Southeast Asia.


Sixth UNSG Report on R2P: International Assistance and the Responsibility to Protect in Southeast Asia

This is an excerpt from R2P IDEAS in Brief by Dr Noel M. Morada, Director of the Regional Diplomacy and Capacity Building program of the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (AP R2P).

The UN Secretary General’s sixth report on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) since 2009 focuses on Pillar 2 (international assistance) and the role of the international community in encouraging and helping states to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. The report focuses on the three core elements of Pillar 2, namely, encouragement, capacity-building, and protection assistance and provides some examples of good practices at national, regional, and international levels. It also identifies a number of challenges to
the implementation of Pillar 2 and sets out several recommendations for advancing this important pillar. The Secretary General’s Report will be the topic of this year’s Informal Interactive Dialogue on R2P held by the UN General Assembly this month.

Since 2009, a number of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states participated in the annual dialogue on R2P, with four of its ten members—Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand—reflecting on the Secretary General’s Report in last year’s dialogue. For the first time, Southeast Asia will be represented among the Panelists in this year’s Interactive Dialogue as former ASEAN Secretary-General, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, will address the General Assembly on this topic. Dr. Surin currently serves as Chair of the High Level Advisory Panel on the Responsibility to Protect. At the request of the Mr. Adama Dieng, Under-Secretary-General of the UN and Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, the High Level Panel will present a report on the steps that ASEAN might take to mainstream R2P in Southeast at the United Nations on 9 September this year.

This policy brief highlights some important points in the Secretary-General’s Report on R2P and identifies a number of priority areas for international assistance that are relevant to ASEAN member states and that could contribute to capacity building at the national and regional levels. Specifically, it focuses on the need for continuing support for the promotion of human rights protection, conflict prevention, peace, and reconciliation; the creation of national architectures for mass atrocities prevention in ASEAN states; the need to deal with past atrocities; and the importance of inter-faith or communal dialogue.

Read the full brief here.

High Level Advisory Panel on the Responsibility to Protect in Southeast Asia

High Level Advisory Panel on the Responsibility to Protect in Southeast Asia launched at United Nations 9 September 2014


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