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altRtoP included in Protection of Civilians resolution, heavily featured in Security Council POC debate

UN Photo/Sophie Paris
The Security Council began the POC debate by unanimously adopting resolution 1894, which reaffirms RtoP.

Resolution 1894 reaffirms commitment to RtoP
The Security Council convened on Wednesday 11 November 2009 for the eighth open debate on the Protection of Civilians (POC) in armed conflict.  Reaffirming its commitment to prevent the victimization of civilians in armed conflict and ending ongoing violence against civilians, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1894.  It is important to recall that back in 2006, Resolution 1674 on the Protection of Civilians was the first historic resolution to recognize and reaffirm the Responsibility to Protect as endorsed by all States during the 2005 World Summit. Similarly, this new Resolution contains the following paragraph related to RtoP: 
Reaffirming the relevant provisions of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document regarding the protection of civilians in armed conflict, including paragraphs 138 and 139 thereof regarding the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity (…)
RtoP a significant theme of the debate

Fifty-six Member States in addition to Palestine and Malta, the Non-Aligned Movement, the EU and the African Group participated in the debate. RtoP principles were significantly featured during the debate by fourteen States. In fact, Italy called RtoP a “cardinal achievement of the UN and Ireland “an important vehicle” for advancing the Protection of Civilians agenda. Many States from all regions of the world mentioned the primary responsibility of each State to protect civilians from mass atrocities, and the role of the international community to assist States in fulfilling their protection obligations. Some States, mainly European, also welcomed the 
July 2009 GA debate on RtoP and the consequent GA resolution on RtoP. Only Sudan and Sri Lanka, while recognizing the responsibilities of each State towards the protection of populations, called on the international community to respect the principle of sovereignty.  
Themes discussed during the POC debate
Echoing the July GA debate on implementing RtoP, the POC debate discussed three important themes related to the norm, namely
  • A focus on the prevention of mass atrocities and on the need to strengthen UN early warning mechanisms.
  • A majority of States mentioned the need to fight impunity by addressing violations of international humanitarian law and holding individuals accountable for mass atrocities, through national mechanisms or international ones such as the ICC. 
  • States called on the Security Council to act without selectivity to protect civilians from mass atrocities, emphasizing on the context of the crisis in Gaza. 
Other themes in the debate included the need to provide peacekeeping operations with more effective protection mandates, training and resources and the need to obtain access and security for humanitarian groups in nations experiencing armed conflict, as expressed in the latest report of the Secretary-General (S/2009/277).
The relationship between POC and RtoP

Since 2006, the open debates of the Security Council on the Protection of Civilians have been a consistent opportunity for States to express their support for the norm, reflecting on the development and implementation of the norm. RtoP and the Protection of Civilians’ agenda share the same foundation, namely the protection of individuals under international humanitarian law, refugee law and human rights law. Neither can be reduced to the sole use of force but promote the prevention of conflicts and a wide range of measures. Yet, while complimentary, the two concepts are not synonymous. In terms of the scope of protection, RtoP is only a brick in the broader agenda of protecting civilians in armed conflict, focusing on four crimes only, namely genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The POC agenda cares for the welfare of citizens caught in armed conflict beyond the protection of mass atrocities. However, while the POC agenda addresses the protection of civilians in the context of armed conflict, RtoP is focused on preventing and halting the four crimes, regardless of where and when they may occur.  
Please visit our page on the Protection of Civilians refer to the Global Centre’s report on the relationship between RtoP and POC.

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