Never again? UNA-UK publishes guide to R2P
22 April 2015
After the slaughter of 800,000 people in Rwanda in 1994, the international community vowed “never again”. 20 years on, people are still being massacred, from Iraq to South Sudan. Genocide, war crimes, mass rape – these “crimes against humanity” diminish us all. Intrinsically unacceptable, the fall-out from such atrocities can also threaten our security. We cannot afford to say that these crises do not concern us. The United Nations Association – UK (UNA-UK) believes that the UK public has the right to be informed about global issues that affect their lives, and to hold decision- makers to account on how these issues are being dealt with.
This guide aims to equip the general public with the information about international efforts to prevent atrocity crimes and the UK’s contribution to them. It introduces the concept of the ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P) and outlines why you should take an interest in the government’s policies aimed at protecting vulnerable populations. It also suggests ways for you to get involved and support UNA-UK to raise awareness and support for the R2P principle and the prevention of atrocity crimes.
From the Holocaust to the genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda to crimes against humanity in the former Yugoslavia, East Timor, Sri Lanka and Darfur – these situations demonstrate the horrific consequences of the failure to respond to atrocity crimes. Contemporary crises, in countries like Syria and the Central African Republic, have challenged world leaders, presenting them with complex choices regarding when and how to intervene. In 2000, then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan understood the need for change in the world’s approach to these crimes. He asked: “if humanitarian intervention is, indeed, an unacceptable assault on sovereignty, how should we respond to a Rwanda, to a Srebrenica — to gross and systematic violations of human rights that offend every precept of our common humanity?”.
R2P is the international community’s answer. Military interventions can spur disagreement and mistrust among UN member states, such as the 2003 Iraq invasion and Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008. Even when a majority of states support intervention it is not without controversy. In hindsight, many states believe that NATO’s 1998 action in Kosovo, which did not secure UN Security Council authorization, was legitimate and served to protect civilians. But many states now question whether it was right to intervene in Libya in 2011, despite Security Council backing and what was perceived as an imminent risk of atrocities.
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