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6 July 2009 News Update
RtoP Listserv
 
In this issue: Upcoming UN General Assembly debate on the RtoP, AU Summit, RtoP Workshop in the Philippines and Jakarta, UK and RtoP
 
I. Upcoming UN General Assembly debate on the RtoP
1. EU PRIORITIES FOR THE 64th SESSION OF THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY: COMMITMENT TO RtoP
2. INTERNATIONAL REFUGEES RIGHTS INTIATIVE --RTOP ADVOCACY LETTER IN ADVANCE OF UPCOMING DEBATE: CALL FOR SIGN ON 
 
II. African Union Summit
1. AU NATIONS “WILL NOT ARREST AL-BASHIR”
2. AFRICAN CRISES ESCALATE AS AU LEADERS MEET IN LIBYA
 
III. Workshop on RtoP Promotion and Constituency-Building in the Philippines –25 June 2009
1. SPEECH BY H. MARCOS C. MORDENO – “SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT AND THE PLACE OF MEDIA”
2. OP-ED BY MIRIAM CORONEL FERRER ON THE RtoP
3. OP-ED BY AMINA RASULE ON RtoP AND THE FILIPINO CONTEXT
 
IV. Peacekeeping and Civilian Protection Workshop in Jakarta, Indonesia –11 June 2009
1. SOUTHEAST ASIA AND ASIA-PACIFIC PERSPECTIVES AND NORMS ON PEACEKEEPING AND CIVILIAN PROTECTION
 
V. UK House of Lords Debate – 30 June 2009
1. WHAT STEPS IS THE UK GOVERNMENT TAKING TO GIVE EFFECT TO THE UNITED NATIONS DOCTRINE OF RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT? 
 
VI. Related Publications
1. KOFI ANNAN OP-ED – AFRICA AND IN THE INTERNATIONAL COURT
2. GENOCIDE, MEMORY AND TRAUMA IN ASIA: ON THE PAUCITY OF RESEARCH AND THE ROAD AHEAD
  
I. Upcoming UN General Assembly debate on the Responsibility to Protect
 
1. EU committed to the concept of Responsibility to Protect
 
The EU priorities, with regard to peace and security, sustainable development and human rights, for the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly approved by the Council of the EU on 15 June (2950th Council meeting, General Affairs and External Relations, Luxembourg, 15 June 2009[1]) where, among others, the EU stated that it “is committed to the concept of the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity as agreed at the 2005 UN World Summit” and “fully supports the UN Secretary General’s efforts to implement the Responsibility to Protect within the UN and welcomes his report and the balanced three-pillar strategy he sets out.” and “is determined to make the concept operational and in particular stresses it preventive importance.” (para. 8)
 
Moreover, the EU agreed that “the fight against the scourges of violence against women and children must be given the utmost attention” and “underlines the need to implement the UNSCR 1325, 1820 and 1612.” (para. 20)
 
As regard as International Justice, the EU agreed that “Ending impunity for the most serious international crimes must remain on the agenda” and that “Sustainable peace will not be achieved without justice.”
 
In addition, “the EU remains committed to supporting the International Criminal Court (ICC) as well as to promoting the universality and integrity of the Rome Statute.” (…)
 
 
2. RtoP Advocacy Letter in Advance of Upcoming GA Debate: Call for sign on
 
Following last years meeting of 17-18 April, 2008, convened by the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) in partnership with WFM-Institute for Global Policy in Kampala, Uganda on the Responsibility to Protect, IRRI has drafted a advocacy letter to be sent to UN member states regarding the commitment made in 2005 to support the norm, and requesting their support in the upcoming General Assembly debate.

The General Assembly debate is expected to take place the fourth week of July to discuss the Secretary General's report on the RtoP, entitled
Implementing the Responsibility to Protect. The letter drafted by IRRI with support from NGO colleagues will be sent ten days in advance to African permanent missions to the UN in New York.
no later than July 10th 2009.
 
 
To: African Heads of Governments and Foreign Ministers
Your Excellency,
 
We are writing to encourage you and your government to support the norm of the Responsibility to Protect through words and actions in the upcoming 63rd Session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. 
 
The conviction that states have a responsibility to protect civilians from crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, genocide and war crimes received global support in the adoption of the Responsibility to Protect at the 2005 UN World Summit. The norm is based on the recognition that the failures of states and the international community to prevent international crimes must not be allowed to continue. 
 
Crucial leadership around the adoption of the Responsibility to Protect in 2005 came from the global south, especially from African leaders, who had already enshrined the principle as a governing norm in Article 4 of the African Union (AU)’s Constitutive Act.
 
Later both the AU and sub-regional bodies such as the Economic Community of West Africa put the principle into effect through the development of standards and mechanisms which began to operationalize Africa’s commitment – from the deployment of the AU mission in Sudan (now a joint United Nations mission) to responding to Senegal’s request for assistance in prosecuting former Chadian President Hissène Habré accountable for international crimes. In addition, the norm has been enshrined in the Great Lakes Pact, which was adopted by the eleven heads of state of the member states of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and entered into force in 2008.
 
In the coming month, states will be asked to consider the Responsibility to Protect and the fundamental principles it encompasses in the 63rd General Assembly, and in other major UN and African peace, security and human rights forums. We urge you to continue to support the Responsibility to Protect in African for and at the global level in line with the continent’s progressive stance.
 
As civil society organizations, we are committed to supporting the Responsibility to Protect and are exploring ways to organize ourselves to better assist you and your government, alongside the AU and the UN, in this important peace initiative.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
The International Refugee Rights Initiative
  
 
 
II. African Union Summit
 
1. AU will not arrest al-Bashir
BBC News
3 July 2009
 
The African Union says it will halt co-operation with the International Criminal Court over its decision to charge Sudan's leader with war crimes.
 
President Omar al-Bashir was indicted over alleged atrocities in the Darfur region in March.
 
But delegates to an AU meeting in Libya agreed a resolution saying they would not co-operate in his arrest.
 
Analysts say the move means the Sudanese leader can travel across the continent without fear of arrest. (…)
 
The ICC has accused President Bashir of two counts of war crimes - intentionally directing attacks on civilians and pillage - as well as five counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and torture, related to the conflict.
 
He denies the allegations, saying the state has a responsibility to fight rebels.
 
In a statement, the AU pointed out that its request to the ICC to defer Mr Bashir's indictment had been ignored.
           
It went on: "The AU member states shall not co-operate... relating to immunities for the arrest and surrender of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to the ICC."
 
The statement was backed by many African leaders who, analysts say, see the ICC as an attempt by the West to interfere in their affairs.
 
(…) But, says BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut, despite the Sudanese satisfaction a number of countries, including Chad and Benin, are reported to have expressed disquiet about the text.
 
(…) It does not ask the 30 African states that have signed up to the ICC to end their relationship with it.
 
Indeed, on the day this resolution was being passed, Kenya agreed explicitly to continue co-operating with the ICC, to prosecute those suspected of taking part in the violence that followed the December 2007 election.(…)
 
 
 
2. African crises escalate as AU leaders meet in Libya
Oxfam Press Release
1 July 2009
 
Over 1.4 million people have been forced to flee their homes so far this year as a result of significant increasing violence in DR Congo, Sudan and Somalia, international agency Oxfam said today, as heads of state gather at the AU Summit in Libya to discuss peace and security across the continent.
 
At the last AU Summit, in January 2009, leaders failed to address these ongoing conflicts or take measures to protect civilians from violence and suffering, Oxfam said. (…) The rest of the international community has been equally ineffective. (…)
 
Oxfam called on the AU to put renewed emphasis on sustainable diplomatic and political solutions to these conflicts, rather than military actions (…)
 
“Peace and security in Africa has made great strides forward over the past decade – there are now fewer conflicts across the continent, and African peacekeepers have intervened to protect civilians. However, the ongoing humanitarian suffering and conflicts in these three countries are delivering a fatal blow to the hopes of a peaceful and prosperous future for Africa. The AU must step up and challenge those that are responsible, and say that enough is enough,” said Assogbavi.
 
 
 
III. Workshop on RtoP Promotion and Constituency-Building in the Philippines
 
1. Someone Else’s Windows: The Responsibility to Protect and the Place of Media
MindaNews
 
H. Marcos C. Mordeno
26 June 2009
 
 
Marcos C. Mordeno was invited to speak as a media representative at the 25 June workshop on R2P Promotion and Constituency-Building in the Philippines
: Perspectives from Stakeholders, organized by the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. See his speech below:
 
(…) History tells us that in many cases statistics, although significant, has not had been the number one factor in mobilizing international action for victims of mass hunger and slaughter. It was the evolution of world public opinion, fed by media reports and images of suffering that forced the hand of world leaders and/or the United Nations. Non-government organizations and similar types of pressure groups also contributed through their advocacies, which in the final analysis, really had to rely on the inherent power of the media to influence the course of policy. (…)
 
Conversely, the inability of information to go beyond national borders – which has become improbable nowadays due to advances in communications technology – has been the biggest stumbling block to positive action. (…)
 
(…) the obsession to outdo each other in delivering the freshest news (…) what often come out are details lacking coherence and worse, half truths that distort the entire picture as well as stories that fail to capture the most important angle of an event, i.e. the extent of human suffering. (…)
 
But journalists are not solely to blame for the low statistics of human rights stories. In some cases, media ownership is a factor that influences reportage (…)
 
Moreover, civil society groups oftentimes lack savvy in media work. There are also no programmed efforts by these groups to educate journalists on human rights so as to improve the quality of reports. (…)
 
(…) In earlier workshops with fellow journalists in Mindanao it came out that many lack basic understanding on human rights concepts and that human rights reporting is not a priority among them. (…) This appears to be the reason why despite technological advances human rights issues have remained largely underreported, or maybe “misreported”.
 
The point here is that the failure – or refusal – of media to report extensively and comprehensively on situations that threaten the wellbeing and security of peoples would spell the difference between dying and surviving (…). Their ultimate agenda may not be to influence policymaking, and, by the nature of their profession as “objective” harbingers of information, journalists may not be invited as organic members of this initiative. But by churning out stories told from the viewpoint of the victims themselves and from their own introspection as human beings first and journalists second, members of the Fourth Estate shall have accomplished this unsolicited task.
 
 
2. The Responsibility to protect
ABS-CBN News Online
26 June 2009
 
(…)The Workshop on the new global discourse “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) organized by the Australia-based Asia-Pacific Center for the Responsibility to protect at EDSA Shangri-la Hotel this week.
 
The R2P principle, put another way, posits that sovereignty comes with responsibility and, when states are remiss, they cannot use sovereignty as a shield. And yet, the R2P proposition argues that it actually reinforces sovereignty.
 
(…) States are forced to act and build capacity to responsibly address domestic strife in order to lessen the need for international succor. Enhanced capacity makes stronger states.
 
In any case, when UN member-states and regional bodies are able to show that they can act decisively in critical situations, then those intending to commit such atrocities (including states) may think twice before doing so.
 
Also, as UN Ban Ki-moon assured governments, R2P does not make it easier for a state to use force. (…)The authorization of the UN Security Council will be required. As such, the new norm (and practice) can even help prevent acts of aggression disguised as humanitarian acts.
 
It is understandable that R2P advocates in the UN have to assure states that they are not subverting the system of sovereign nation-states that has become the global order since the 19th Century. After all, the UN itself is built on this structure. (…)
 
(…) I think many governments act in duplicity when they claim their rights to state sovereignty. The fact is, states compromise sovereignty all the time, selectively. They open up their borders, their people, economy, natural resources and military camps, but only to those they prefer. (…)
 
State sovereignty has long been a myth. It was never absolute. Worse, it has become a convenient dogma to flag down when it suits the interests of leaders and governments, which are not necessarily the people’s.
 
I will gladly exchange a kilo of state authority for a universal norm that puts both onus and limits to states so that individually and collectively, we the people and our governments can more effectively prevent and respond to the worst forms of man-made calamities like genocide and other war crimes. (…)
 
 
3. The ‘Responsibility to protect’ and the Filipino context
The Manila Times
28 June 2009
 
Last week, media reported on the findings of the Norwegian Refugee Council on the Mindanao refugees: “the Philippines was the most neglected displacement situation in 2008.” (…)
 
On August 3, the Supreme Court stopped the August 5 signing of the agreement by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Kuala Lumpur, hosted by the Malaysian government, which had facilitated the process. Within 24 hours, fierce fighting erupted in Central Mindanao, with thousands becoming refugees overnight. Within a month, 600,000 innocent civilians—overwhelmingly Muslim—were displaced and hundreds killed or wounded.
 
(…) The peace process has been shelved, and Mindanao has reverted to an arena for war. Since August, the refugees have grown as armed conflicts have erupted in other areas.
 
The term “humanitarian crisis” emerged to describe the situation in Central Mindanao, with the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) unable to return to their homes. Civil society organizations have petitioned the United Nations and other international organizations to intervene to help resolve the situation. (…)
 
reinterprets the concept of state sovereignty to include its primary responsibility for the protection of its people. (…)
 
The State’s responsibility to protect embraces three specific responsibilities: the responsibility to prevent those monstrous crimes; the responsibility to react to situations of compelling human need with appropriate measures (…); and the responsibility to rebuild post-conflict both physical and human infrastructure.
 
Will the principles of R2P appeal to communities in the Philippines? If they do, how can we organize a constituency for the promotion of R2P in the Philippines? These were the issues discussed by representatives of government, civil society and the academe during the workshop organized by The Asia Pacific Center for Responsibility to protect (APC-R2P) on June 25 to 26 at the EDSA Plaza Hotel.
 
We from the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID) (…) welcomes the attempt to reinterpret sovereignty as implying responsibility of the state to its own people, that the primary responsibility for the protection of its people lies with the state itself. Should the state violate the responsibility, the international community is obligated to intervene.
 
This is particularly applicable to the Bangsamoro and the indigenous peoples of Mindanao. (…)The talks bogged down with the state insisting on its right to protect its sovereignty, i.e., to protect its territorial integrity, while the Muslim liberation fronts maintain that the Bangsamoro nation’s sovereignty was “stolen” from them when the United States included their ancestral domain as part of the new Philippine Republic. (…)
 
The sovereignty of the state must be employed to protect its citizens, particularly minority populations(…). Understood this way, sovereignty should not be viewed as an obstacle to peace agreements; it should be the very basis of government in granting the Bangsamoro their right to self-determination.
 
The central theme of R2P (…) is something that PCID has advocated in the past. During the height of the conflict resulting from the MOA-AD controversy, PCID issued various statements asking regional and international organizations like the UN, EU, and ASEAN to exert their responsibility to avoid a humanitarian crisis brought about by the more than 600,000 people displaced by the conflict. (…)
 
A problem I foresee is this: how can we expect the Arroyo administration to push for R2P when it has been accused of engaging in acts against its own citizens, which have resulted in a humanitarian crisis?
 
 
 
IV. Peacekeeping and Civilian Protection Workshop
 
1. Southeast Asia and Asia-Pacific Perspectives and Norms on Peacekeeping and Civilian Protection
Jakarta, Indonesia
11 June 2009
 
Global Action to Prevent War (GAPW) in cooperation with Center for Strategic and International Studies (Jakarta, Indonesia) and the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney (Australia) recently hosted a regional workshop on “Peacekeeping and Civilian Protection” in Jakarta. The workshop engaged government, civil society, UN and ASEAN decision makers and focused on the following:
  •  Southeast Asia and Asia-Pacific perspectives on civilian protection and the possible role of a standing UN peacekeeping service.
  • The impact of Southeast Asia and Asia-Pacific norms, language, politics and culture on proposals for UN peacekeeping reform. 
Over 45 participants from Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia took part in highlighting and assessing civilian protection/human security goals, regional conflict prevention and resolution strategies (including case studies focused on Aceh, Mindanao and Burma), and the feasibility of new peacekeeping capacities such as a UN Emergency Peace Service (UNEPS). A workshop outcome document is being prepared and will be available shortly.
 
While in Jakarta, we also launched our new publication, “Standing for Change in Peacekeeping Operations”. (See below)
 
 
 
 
The publication, Standing for Change Peacekeeping Operations, recognized the complementary goals of UNEPS and the Responsibility to Protect norm and hence provides an overview of the RtoP norm and addressed the difficulties the emerging norm faced, in particular in gaining acceptance, as well as implementation.
 
To download PDF version of the report: click here
 
 
V. UK House of Lords Debate – 30 June 2009
 
1. What steps is the UK government taking to give effect to the United Nations doctrine of Responsibility to protect 
House of Lords debate
30 June 2009
 
On 30 June 2009, the House of Lords (UK) held a short debate, “to ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to give effect to the United Nations doctrine of Responsibility to Protect.” Lord Jay of Ewelme, Lord Parekh, Lord Brett, Lord Patten, The Bishop of Wakefield, The Earl of Sandwich, Lord Addington, Lord Howell of Guildford and Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead made speeches at the debate. Below are excerpts from two speeches, please refer to link below for full transcript of all 10 speeches.
  
Lord Jay of Ewelme (Crossbench)
(…) Against that background, I ask the Minister to ensure that putting the doctrine of responsibility to protect into effect gets to the top of our foreign policy agenda, with the departments concerned (…) working closely together so that the tools of our foreign policy—diplomacy, economic aid and our peacekeeping forces—are properly co-ordinated. (…)
In addition, I suggest that we work to ensure the UN General Assembly reconfirms R2P at its meeting next week and agrees on the urgent need to put it into effect; that we make the doctrine a central plank of our foreign policy dialogue with the Obama Administration; that we work within the European Union, for which the Minister is uniquely well placed, and in particular with the Swedish presidency that takes office tomorrow, to put the doctrine at the top of the EU's agenda too; that we work equally hard (…) and as G8 hosts next year, to put the doctrine high the G8 agenda; and that we build up a dialogue on responsibility to protect with the African Union, the charter of which includes the important and welcome principle of non-indifference to grave crimes committed within African Union member states.
 
Lord Parekh (Labour)
(…) I endorse the United Nations report on the responsibility to protect. (…). However, as the document is formulated, there are important gaps. I will briefly highlight five of them, and hope that the Minister will feed them into the appropriate channels.
First, those four evils overlap. (…)The United Nations document tends to homogenise them and fails to appreciate the need for different strategies.
Secondly, we need to evolve a global consensus on what obligations and responsibilities the outside world has. (…) The United Nations document makes the mistaken assumption that there is already a universal consensus on intervening in situations of this kind. (…)
The third point that needs some attention is the document's total absence of mention of the need to restructure the United Nations. (…) If the United Nations is to carry moral and political authority it will need to be far more representative than it is. (…)
Fourthly, (…) The purpose of military intervention should be not to run the country or discipline the natives and sort them out but rather to restore normalcy and hope that over time the country, now handed over to its citizens, will be able to manage its own affairs.
My fifth and final point is to do with the need to explore non-military forms of intervention. (…)
 
Official transcript of House of Lords 30 June 2009 debate: Click here (Read from column 191 to 206)
mySociety compiled transcript of the RtoP section (easier to read format): Click here
 
VI. Related Publications
 
1. Africa and the International Court
New York Times
Op-Ed Contributor – Kofi Annan
30 June 2009
 
Kofi Annan served as secretary general of the United Nations from 1997-2006 and is now president of the Kofi Annan Foundation.
 
(…) The African Union summit meeting will be the first since the I.C.C. issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir. (…)
 
The African Union’s repeatedly stated commitment to battle impunity will be put to the test. On the agenda is an initiative by a few states to denounce and undermine the international court. In recent months, some African leaders have expressed the view that international justice as represented by the I.C.C. is an imposition, if not a plot, by the industrialized West.
 
In my view, this outcry against justice demeans the yearning for human dignity that resides in every African heart. It also represents a step backward in the battle against impunity. (…)
 
The African opponents of the international court argue that it is fixated on Africa because its four cases so far all concern alleged crimes against African victims.
 
One must begin by asking why African leaders shouldn’t celebrate this focus on African victims. Do these leaders really want to side with the alleged perpetrators of mass atrocities rather than their victims? Is the court’s failure to date to answer the calls of victims outside of Africa really a reason to leave the calls of African victims unheeded?
 
Moreover, in three of these cases, it was the government itself that called for I.C.C. (…)The fourth case, that of Darfur, was selected not by the international court but forwarded by the U.N. Security Council.
 
It’s also important to remember that the I.C.C., as a court of last resort, acts only when national justice systems are unwilling or unable to do so. There will be less need for it to protect African victims only when African governments themselves improve their record of bringing to justice those responsible for mass atrocities.
 
(…) The African Union should not abandon its promise to fight impunity. Unless indicted war criminals are held to account, regardless of their rank, others tempted to emulate them will not be deterred, and African people will suffer.
 
We have little hope of preventing the worst crimes known to mankind, or reassuring those who live in fear of their recurrence, if African leaders stop supporting justice for the most heinous crimes just because one of their own stands accused.
 
 
2. Genocide, Memory and Trauma in Asia: On the Paucity of Research and the Road Ahead
Singapore Institute of International Affairs
Access to Justice Asia Legal Team - Vinita Ramani Mohan
6 January 2009
 
(…) A great deal of literature already exists on the Khmer Rouge period (…) But much of the writing has emerged in two disciplinary fields: political science and history. There was and still is a paucity of scholarship on post-conflict, postcolonial countries in Southeast Asia focusing on “muddier” areas like memory/forgetting, identity and informal rule-following, culture, genocide and reconstruction.
 
(…) Cambodia is an unfortunate exception to the rule in that gathering of nations with unfortunate histories of genocides in their recent pasts. Unlike the relatively more urgent responses of the international community to atrocities in former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, East Timor, Sudan and perhaps Burma in the future, Cambodia’s atrocities occurred nearly three decades ago and have gone largely unaddressed until now.
 
(…) Almost unanimously, survivors passionately and angrily ask why it is that no one responded when such horrendous crimes were occurring in the country. Memory and accountability, inextricably tied together in this case, remain under-researched in Cambodia.
 
Yet another factor stood out during interviews with survivors and the children of survivors (whom I subsequently tagged as the “post-conflict generation”): their stoicism was merely a thin layer over the memories of violence and the still vivid sense of personal suffering. (…) Existing tools are insufficiently shaped to understand the particular context of suffering in Cambodia and that even words like “memory”, “trauma” and “reconciliation” become embedded with multiple meanings when they are translated into Khmer. (…)
 
At any rate, countries like Cambodia and East Timor are now becoming test cases where we are witnessing the impact (or the lack thereof) of post-conflict tribunals or truth and reconciliation commissions. While it’s vital to pay attention to the legal and political implications, scholars would do well to more keenly focus their attention on social memory and the role of civil society organizations in these countries. It’s certainly evident that they are making waves in Cambodia, which has social and cultural consequences for the future.
 
 
Thanks to Lan Shiow Tsai for compiling this website.
 

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