Professor Gareth Evans
Victoria Law Foundation and Melbourne Law School
22 September 2009
Gareth Evans is president and CEO of the International Crisis Group, a leading international nongovernmental organization advising on conflict prevention and resolution. Evans spent eight years as Australia’s foreign minister as well as co-chairing the Canadian-sponsored International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty that initiated the Responsibility to Protect idea in 2001.
The Responsibility to Protect (or R2P) concept was born in 2001 and embraced at the UN World Summit in 2005. The heart of this new international norm is the belief that if sovereign governments fail to protect their own people from genocide, ethnic cleansing, or other major crimes against humanity, then the wider international community must take whatever action is appropriate.
“There is one very simple message at the heart of what I want to say to you this evening, and have been saying to audiences around the world for the last decade: whatever else we mess up in the conduct of international affairs let us at least ensure that we never again mess up when it comes to protecting people from mass atrocity crimes - more specifically, genocide, ethnic cleansing and other major crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Let us get to the point that when another man-made humanitarian catastrophe like Cambodia, or Rwanda, or Bosnia, or Darfur looms on the horizon, as it surely will, we will never again have to look back after another disastrous failure, asking ourselves -- with a mixture of anger, incomprehension, and shame - how we could possibly have let it happen again. And let us get to the point that -- when the lives of thousands or more of men, women and children are again at risk because a country has shown that it is unable or unwilling to end a man-made humanitarian crisis within its borders -- the reflex response around the world is not to say, as countries have been saying for centuries, that it's none of our business, but rather to accept immediately that it is the business of all of us, and have the debate only about who should do what, when, and how…”