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“Responsibility to Protect: An Emerging Principle”
IPI Policy Forum
28 June 2011
Ambassador Herman Schaper, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands issued a statement on the Responsibility to Protect at the IPI Policy Forum.
The Netherlands is, together with IPI, co-organizer of this luncheon discussion, so I would like to express our appreciation that so many of you have accepted the invitation to participate in this discussion.
Two years ago the SG described operationalizing the Responsibility to Protect as one of the cardinal challenges of our time, and particularly now that R2P has become a hot issue on the international political agenda, with the crises in Libya and Ivory Coast, we thought it is important to promote an open discussion on these issues between the MS of the UN, but also with the general public. The Netherlands is one of the co-chairs of the Group of Friends of R2P and we are therefore very interested in hearing your views.
I’ll keep it short therefore, and try to stay within the 10 minutes. I’ll limit myself to two subjects: what R2P means for the UN, and the decision of the Security Council to authorize a military air campaign in Libya to protect the civilian population.
1. Responsibility to Protect is based on two principles that were already fimly established when the World Summit of 2005 embraced R2P, that it is the responsibility of Governments to protect their populations against gross violations of human rights, and that the promotion and protection of human rights are a legitimate concern of the international community.
What the World Summit did was that it narrowed this responsibility to the cases of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, and at the same deepened it by agreeing that the international community should assist States in exercising this responsibility and in building their protection capacities. It also confirmed that the international community was prepared to take collectively action on a timely and decisive manner when a State was nevertheless manifestly failing in protecting its populations from these four mass atrocities. -and even more so of course when a State was itself committing these atrocities against its own population.
Since 2005 the discussion on the implementation has progressed, first somewhat hesitantly and slowly, but over the last two years with increasing momentum. Last years’s debate in the General Assembly focused on early warning, this year’s theme is the role of regional organisations. An appropriate subject for a third GA-debate would be the mainstreaming of R2P within the whole UN system, here in New York, in Geneva and in the field.
The UN is already involved in many activities which have a direct effect on the prevention of R2P. These are often not labelled as such. For example, support to conflict prevention does also contribute to the prevention of the four crimes. Similarly, many development activities focussed on governance have a positive impact o R2P. These activities could however take R2P more explicitly into account.
The joint office in the UN’s Secretariat headed by Francis Deng and Ed Luckhas a special responsibility in this regard to mainstream R2P and advise UN entities on ways to address R2P in their regular work. But many UN actors also have their own responsibility to develop and implement their support to R2P.
On early warning, the cooperation between the office, UN-missions and their SRSG’s, UN Country teams, DPA, DPKO, and OCHA could be enhanced. Improvements of collection and sharing of information is also necessary to facilitate assessments of possible R2P-crimes in an earlier stage. This should include sending fact finding missions to specific countries.
DPA could also extend its engagement with countries during critical political events, such as elections, to support the prevention of mass atrocities. Addressing hate speech is crucial in these stages, but is not always seen as a priority, as its considered to be “only talk”. DPA could also extend the training on mediation for regional organisations by including specific modules on R2P. A deepening of the cooperation with these organisations in actual mediation efforts would also be a step forward.
DPKO and DPA could integrate R2P into their respective missions on the ground. In political dialogue with governments, the SRSG’s have to stress the responsibility of the state and non-state actors to protect populations. SRSG’s also have an important role to play in local conflict mediation and resolution. Support for SSR, DDR could explicitly take into account R2P, including civilian oversight. Special attention should be given to capacity building for the Rule of Law, which needs more support.
UNDP plays a central role in these areas, as it does in a more general sense through their country programs. They could for instance integrate training for state actors and civil society on prevention of mass atrocities in their programming.
This substantial and broad agenda is for the moment overshadowed by the debate about Libya, but it remains as important as it was from the beginning of the discussion about the implementation of R2P.
2. On then to my second subject: the implementation of R2P in the case of Libya. This was the first time that the international community through the Security Council, in its resolutions 1970 and 1973, intervened strongly in a domestic crisis of a member states, while referring to R2P. Both resolutions were based on the grave concern of the Security Council at the violence and use of force employed by the Libyan Governement against civilians, and recalled the Libyan authorities responsibility to protect its population.
In resolution 1970 the SC first tried to deal with the developing crisis in Libya by putting pressure on Gadaffi and his regime by taking a series of non-military measures: referral to the ICC, an arms embargo, a travel ban for 16 individuals, and an asset freeze.
When the situation quickly worsened, however, and these steps did not have the desired effect, the Council decided three weeks later on resolution 1973 which authorized member states to take all necessary measures to enforce a no-fly-zone and to protect civilians and civilian populated areas in Libya, while excluding however a foreign occupation force of any form. This last element is generally interpreted as no troops on the ground, at least no fighting units.
After these decisions were taken and the air campaign with its bombarments of targets on the ground had started, the question was raised whether the Responsibility to Protect should have been invoked when authorizing the use of military force. The answer to that question is simple I think: the eventual use of military force, as a last resort, has always been included in R2P. The concluding document of the 2005 World Document speaks about collective action, should peaceful means be inadequate.
A second, more difficult question, is whether NATO, which took on the task of executing the mandate provided in resolution 1973, overstepped its mandate to enforce a no-fly-zone and protect civilians and civilian populated areas. One hears different stories about the degree to which the Security Council discussed what the military implementation of resolution 1973 would entail, Ambassador Puri knows more about that, so perhaps he can shed some light on that..But anyhow, there was of course very little time as Gadaffis troops were racing towards Benghazi.
One thing is clear, however there was nothing like the careful and detailed process of preparation for decisionmaking on military operations which take place in for instance NATO, through a concept of operations, further operational planning, rules of engament etc.
There are several reasons for this, beginning with a simple lack of capacity in DPKO to do this kind of work. But the point I want to make now is that this lack of detailed and careful preparation, together with the different political positions on resolution 1973, made it nearly inevitable that a debate would start on what exactly the resolution authorized.
At the same time limiting the military campaign to air operations, did’nt make it easier for the military. Sometimes an aerial bombardment can make all the difference, as would have been the case in Srebrenica, but in the case of Rwanda it would have been inadequate; in that case ground troops were called for, but the UN troops on the ground were withdrawn instead of reinforced.
In Libya it became rapidly clear, that the mandate to enforce a no-fly-zone and to protect civilians through an air campaign, for which there were of course strong political and practical reasons,would not bring the Gadaffi regime to resolve the crisis through peaceful means and serious dialogue, as resolution 1973 called for. The intervention of the international community was certainly timely, but not decisive. For that it was too limited.
At the same time resolution 1973 allowed all necessary measures in the air campign As Secretary of Defense Gates for instance, had already made clear before the vote on the resolution, it meant taking out Gadaffi’s air defenses on the ground. It also means taking out command and control centres of the Libyan military, and attacking Gadaffis troops threatening rebel-held cities and territory, thereby preventing Gadaffi from regaining control of rebel-held territory. In practice this meant assisting the rebels, but it is difficult to see how this could have been otherwise.
At the same time the debate on the military campaign in Libya could have as a consequence that the Security Council will in the future be more hesitant to invoke R2P in future crise. It could therefore perhaps be useful to start a dicussion, which hopefully would contribute to informed decisionmaking, on principles for military intervention on R2P. The International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, which popularized the concept of R2P in its 2001 reporty, has included in its report a series of such principles, such as: Right intention, last resort, proportional means, incrementalism in the application of force, clear objectives, and reasonable prospects of success, to name a few of them.
I am not saying that these should then be enshrined in some kind of formal framework for decisionmaking. The 2005 World Summit clearly stated that decisionmaking on R2P would be on a case by case basis, and members of the SC would not want to have their hands bound by a formal framework, but it could still be usefull to have such a discussion, I think, to deepen our understanding of the possibilities and impossibilities of the use of military force in the protection of civilians. thereby hopefully also contributing to the poltical support for R2P.
I thank you for your attention.

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