By Thalif Deen
28 February 2008
(...) The international failure to respond aggressively to the killings in Sudan, and more recently in Kenya, is threatening the spread of genocide and ethnic cleansing in other parts of Africa, [Mark Lattimer, executive director of Minority Rights Group International (MRG),] a London-based human rights organization[,] warns.
(...) He says that over half of the 20 countries in the world where people are most under threat of genocide are in Africa, including Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Chad and the Central African Republic.
(...) In Asia, MRG singles out three countries -- Burma (Myanmar), Afghanistan and Pakistan -- as potentially dangerous, while Iraq is described as the "most dangerous" in the Middle East.
(...) The threat of mass killings comes at a time when the United Nations is seeking to implement the principles of "Responsibility to Protect" (R2P), adopted by the 192-member U.N. General Assembly at the 2005 World Summit in New York.
(...) William Pace, executive director of the New York-based Institute for Global Policy [and convenor of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC)], told IPS that after the "historic and very surprising endorsement" of R2P by the heads of all states, and the backing of R2P in two Security Council resolutions in 2006, R2P lost momentum in 2007 due to a variety of reasons.
This, he points out, was mostly connected to "the always difficult transition from one (U.N.) secretary-general to a new one"-- from Kofi Annan who ended his term in December 2006 and Ban Ki-moon who took over in January 2007.
However, with the appointment by Secretary-General Ban of Francis Deng from Sudan as the new special advisor/representative for the prevention of genocide, and Ed Luck from the United States as special advisor to advance the implementation of R2P inside the U.N. institutions, "We expect important progress in 2008".
(...) He pointed out that the recent launching of the new Global Centre for R2P, with Andy Knight from Barbados as its new leader, is the first of several major NGO initiatives to support R2P, "in what is hoped will become a vital new tool for peace in our new century."
(...) [C]ivil society from all regions are committed to making old peace tools, like the United Nations, and new tools like the International Criminal Court (ICC), and R2P work, so millions of lives will be saved, he added.
(...) Asked if the U.N. appointments of Luck and Deng would advance the cause of R2P, Lattimer of Minority Rights Group International told IPS: "The U.N. special representative on the prevention of genocide and now the new special advisor on R2P are the first U.N. mechanisms with a specific mandate on genocide prevention and have a great potential to focus early U.N. action to prevent killing".
(...) Perhaps the first practical example of the United Nations acting to implement R2P is in the current situation in Kenya, he argued.
Although much of the debate around R2P has focused on armed humanitarian intervention, the greatest chance for the United Nations in general, and these two posts in particular, to make a difference is in preventive diplomacy at an early stage to stop mass killing before it starts. (...)
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