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Policy Brief and Workshop: Operationalizing the Responsibility to Protect: Building Trust and Capacities for the Third Pillar Approach
Madariaga - College of Europe Foundation, International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect, Global Action to Prevent War, Global Governance Institute
26 April 2012

In preparation for this year’s United Nations (UN) General Assembly dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect, which will focus on the broad range of measures available under the norm’s third pillar, ICRtoP in collaboration with the
Madariaga College of Europe Foundation, Global Action to Prevent War, and the Global Governance Institute held a workshop on 26 April at the Vesalius College in Brussels entitled Operationalising the Responsibility to Protect – the Challenges of the Third Pillar Approach.  The full day, two panel event culminated from a call for papers launched in January.  Workshop coordinators also published a policy brief on the subject ahead of the workshop, which includes policy recommendations.
 
The workshop opened with remarks by Ms. Gillian Kitley, Senior Officer of the UN Joint Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect.  Ms. Kitley began by reflecting on the use of RtoP in UN rhetoric by various actors over the course of the past year, including Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, and in numerous country specific situations including Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, and Syria.  Ms. Kitley emphasized that the third pillar of the Responsibility to Protect includes a wide range of humanitarian, economic, and political measures, with the use of military response only as a tool when peaceful means have proven unable to protect populations.  Reflecting on the cases of Côte d’Ivoire and Libya, she noted the importance and increased involvement of regional organizations to prevent mass atrocities.  In closing, Ms. Kitley quoted the Secretary-General, stating that ‘the world has embraced RtoP not because it’s easy but because it’s right’. 
 
Panelists in the workshop’s morning session focused their presentations on the methods and policy options available to improve timely and decisive response, answering key questions such as what more could be done by regional actors if called upon to protect populations as well as the pressing subject of how to enhance the UN Security Council’s ability to act in situations where there is an imminent threat of mass atrocities and increase the legitimacy and consistency of such responses.  Emphasis was placed on the need to increase trust in UN institutions and amongst civil society actors as well as to diversify the voices involved in discourse on RtoP.  In discussing the case of Libya, the preventive and reactive responses employed to protect populations were examined, as were the questions and concerns that arose from the implementation of various measures.  The role of specific actors was central to the morning session as speakers analyzed China’s capacity to respond to the threat of atrocities as well as the country’s reluctance to certain aspects of the norm, particularly tools within the third pillar; the responsibility of the business community as an actor within the RtoP framework; and the role of regional organizations in responding to the threat of mass atrocities and the questions and challenges that arise with the ‘regionalisation’ of the norm. 
 
Following lunch, the afternoon panel centered on assessing civilian and military tools available under the norm’s third pillar, particularly discussing the effectiveness of conflict prevention capacities of the UN and regional organizations, assessing the role of peacekeeping forces in preventing or halting crimes within the norm’s scope by reflecting on past country cases, and analyzing the use of coercive measures as response mechanisms to mass atrocities.  The importance of engendering response was emphasized in this session as it is imperative that women not be viewed as victim populations, but as crucial actors across the norm’s spectrum.  In an effort to promote the full continuum of RtoP measures as well as reduce the selectivity of the norm’s application, standards were introduced to identify situations of mass atrocities in early stages of crises.  Noting that non-military tools under pillar three have not received a great deal of attention, international justice mechanisms and the use of sanctions were analyzed with emphasis on the importance of responsibly implementing such measures.  Discussion also focused on the development of regional response forces, with particular focus on the capacity of the European Union’s ‘battlegroups’ format and the challenges that remain for the regional body in rapidly responding.
 
The workshop’s concluding remarks were provided by MEP Franziska Brantner of the European Parliament.  Ms. Brantner noted that discourse on RtoP has emphasized the prevention of crimes under the norm’s framework and rebuilding following crises and intervention, with little debate on the implementation of non-military measures.  Focusing on Brazil’s recent concept of ‘responsibility while protecting’ (RwP), Ms. Brantner stated that RwP should be viewed as a positive contribution to RtoP’s normative development but reflected that the call for criteria for the use of force, the need for clear mandates when authorizing military missions, and the importance of assessing such mandates during and following implementation are points emphasized in the ICISS report and other areas of international law. 
 
A podcast of the workshop will become available in the coming weeks.

The following is an excerpt from the policy brief:
 
(…) Operationalizing RtoP: Trust and Capacity-Building
 
As the principle of Responsibility to Protect moves further away from discussions on norms and towards operationalization, further thinking and clarity needs to be developed on the civilian and military capacities needed for a timely and decisive response under pillar three of the RtoP principle. This is particularly important given the concerns raised by intervention in Libya, the recent United Nations report on “The Role of Regional and Sub-Regional Arrangements in Implementing the Responsibility to Protect” (27 June 2011), and the upcoming 2012 UN interactive dialogue on the operationalization of RtoP. Pillar three of the principle focuses on the international community’s responsibility to take timely and decisive action to prevent and halt genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in those instances where a State is unable or unwilling to protect its own populations. Action is not just about military intervention, but includes a broad range of political, economic and humanitarian measures.
 
Indeed, NATO’s activities over Libya in pursuit of UNSC Resolution 1973 have again raised questions over the timeliness, legitimacy, proportionality and effectiveness of military action. Such issues have now been made more acute given the emphasis on the operationalization of the RtoP principle, which has strong support from regional actors such as the EU. There is a need to analyse the consistency, legitimacy and effectiveness of civilian and military tools under RtoP, especially in terms of how they impact and complement both preventive and re-building strategies. Recalling that armed intervention is only a very small part of the broader RtoP process, boosting prevention and re-building efforts with expertise and financial resources is a key way to avoid intervention in the first place. Here, multidimensional regional organizations such as the EU and its newly created European External Action Service could play a decisive role in generating early-warnings and promoting long-term solutions to deep-seated structural problems in a variety of potential conflict zones.
 
There is a need to focus on methods and policy options for improving the legitimacy and consistency of the third pillar approach. It is necessary to understand what more can be done by regional players such as the EU, the African Union (AU), the League of Arab States or the Gulf Cooperation Council, if required and sanctioned by the UNSC, to boost the legitimacy of last-resort intervention when used to uphold RtoP. There is also a need to analyse what more can be done by the UNSC to ensure greater trust in the RtoP principle through the consistency of its approach. Analysis should also cover how the UNSC can ensure that it has in place the correct capacities to act when faced with crises or, better still, is seized of potential crises when prevention is still a viable option. Alternative suggestions, such as boosting the RtoP role of the UNGA through its 'Uniting for Peace Resolution', also require critical evaluation.
 
Another important element of the upcoming UNGA dialogue is the political feasibility of a range of tools, including conflict prevention and peacekeeping and peacemaking forces to stop mass atrocities at the earliest stages of violent conflict, or to keep societies that have emerged from violence from falling back into cycles of violence. Critical assessment of the relevance and effectiveness of current UN and regional early-warning and conflict prevention capacities for RtoP is also essential. Furthermore, there is scope to critically appraise the military and civilian tools available for the UN and regional bodies such as the EU to react to atrocity crimes. In this context, it is important to take into account the lessons identified from previous experiences with and of global and regional rapid reaction tools (such as the Standby High Readiness for UN Operations, the EU Battlegroups, the European Gendarmerie Forces, the NATO Response Force or the Qatari 'HOPEFOR' proposal) in order to advance a more sophisticated debate on what has worked and what has not worked in the field of rapid reaction tools for preventing mass atrocities. (…) 
 
For more information on the workshop see here, or read the policy brief.

 

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