In the midst of the ongoing horrors with countless people around the world dying or being displaced from their homes, it can be difficult to notice the important progress made in our movement to prevent and stop mass atrocity crimes like genocide and crimes against humanity. However, thanks to focused and resolute civil society advocacy, including by efforts by many Members of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP), governments from around the world made several major commitments to fulfill their Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P) civilian populations at several recent United Nations meetings last month.
These UN commitments included a Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, which contains measures to stop the use of rape as a weapon of war; the signing of the Arms Trade Treaty by eighteen additional countries; and the first-ever Security Council resolution on Small Arms and Light Weapons. Both of these agreements on arms will lead to tougher regulations on the trade of conventional weapons that fuels atrocities. These agreements, along with many government statements in the General Assembly in support of RtoP, also demonstrate a strengthened commitment to prevent and respond to mass atrocities.
Most significantly, a long-awaited diplomatic breakthrough on the Syria crisis at the UN and in the Security Council could be an important signal of the international community’s increased willingness to take unified action to both protect the people of Syria and work towards a political solution to the crisis. Even though ICRtoP called for preventative action two years and more than 100,000 deaths ago, this recent measurable progress inspires the ICRtoP and its network of over 65 organizations to continue calling on governments to strengthen their resolve to both respond rapidly to grave crises, as well as to implement long-term strategies to prevent the commission of atrocities in the future.
ICRtoP is partnering with our members to implement innovative initiatives to prevent and respond to grave crimes, including through the promotion of women’s inclusion in all aspects of atrocity prevention and response; calling on governments and regional bodies to assess and strengthen their capacities to halt RtoP crimes; and supporting the process of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of combatants in post-conflict communities affected by RtoP crimes. The ICRtoP Secretariat is working to bridge the voices from civil society at the local, national and regional and international levels and serve as a critical liaison between the United Nations and civil society.
Yet, there is much work to be done in order to uphold our moral obligation to protect civilians in communities still ravaged by conflict. Are the flames of another Syria smoldering in another crisis that the international could prevent by taking concerted early action?What more is needed to address ongoing mass atrocity crimes situations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Burma, and elsewhere? Given that the hope of the RtoP is prevention more than reaction or intervention, these are questions to which we must continue to seek concrete answers.
ICRtoP is committed to working with civil society, like-minded governments, the UN, and other partners to mobilize political will and ensure action is taken to meet our Responsibility to Protect the populations of these countries. But we need the help of individuals like you.
Make your own individual responsibility to protect heard by supporting ICRtoP and amplifying the voice of civil society around the world. Our collective response will help ensure that the cry of “never again” does not ring hollow.
Sapna Chhatpar Considine
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