On Monday, WFUNA had the privilege to attend and speak at one of the first conferences on R2P and the prevention of mass atrocities in the MENA region organized by the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect in collaboration with their partner in Lebanon, Permanent Peace Movement. The conference, being held on 17th and 18th of December in Lebanon, covers a number of issues related to R2P from an general introduction of the norm to developing a further understanding of R2P by looking at country specific cases in the region and complementary agendas.
Following an overview presentation by the ICRtoP this morning, WFUNA, represented by our R2P Program Officer Laura Spano, spoke under the topic of “Seven Years After the Summit: Operationalizing RtoP”. The presentation looked at the challenges to implementing R2P, the measures that have been identified to promote the implementation of the norm under each pillar and the involvement of key actors in advancing R2P. These presentations were followed by a very active discussion session covering the full spectrum of conflict resolution processes from the need to focus primarily on prevention to ensuring that the post-conflict reconstruction of a country is not neglected. It was importantly raised that engagement with multiple Middle East actors is necessary to understand when, and how to apply R2P in the region.
The afternoon session focused on the complementarity between R2P and the related agendas of gender and disarmament. In this session, Ms Fawziya Al Hani, from the Forum of Gulf Dialogue, spoke on engendering R2P and the important work of her organization in promoting women's rights. In the discussions following it was identified that women need to be involved more in the decision making process to become effective peacemakers while acknowledging their role as victims of conflicts. On the topic of disarmament Dr. Raouf Sayah, a General in the Lebanese Army, focused on the need for armies to have rules of engagement and comprehensive strategies that ensure civilian protection. It was at this juncture that issues concerning the widespread possession of small arms by civilians and its potential to escalate violence was raised to highlight the importance of disarmament.
The day ended with a discussion on national actors and the promotion of R2P and assessing regional organizations capacities to protect populations with a presentation given by President of the Permanent Peace Movement, Mr. Fadi Abi Allam. It was emphasized that understanding and developing mechanisms for early warning and early response are vital in the prevention of escalating violence. In addition the need to support dialogue to remove misunderstandings between parties is essential in order to find peaceful solutions to a conflict
A discussion on R2P in the MENA region could not take place without referring to specific cases in the region, the concerns over the perceived double standards in applying R2P to certain cases and not others, and the “hidden agendas” behind the application of intervention in R2P situations. While this is a much longer debate, the first day of the Conference was successful in furthering the understanding of R2P and advancing how implementation of the norm relates to the countries in the MENA region.
The conference continued in Lebanon today to look more in-depth at the issue of R2P in the MENA region. The day started with a thorough legal overview from Ms. Eli Smette, from the Joint Office of the Special Advisers on Genocide and R2P, on the four crimes under the R2P Framework – genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing – and the work of the Joint Office.
In the remainder of the morning session we heard from participants from Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen, Palestine, Libya and Syria who gave accounts of the situations in their respective countries and how it relates to the R2P norm. The discussion questioned what measure under the 3 pillars of R2P could be used to prevent and curb any escalating violence in each context – understanding that R2P is not the answer to all security problem nor is intervention the sole measure available. A number of common questions were raised during the presentations including questioning the protection role of civil society, how to disarm civilians protecting themselves, and what needs to happen post-conflict given the number of challenges and difficulties.
In the afternoon the participants broke up into groups to discuss the challenges to R2P in the region, how to overcome these challenges, the role of civil society in supporting the application of R2P and how their respective organizations can incorporate R2P in their work. A number of challenges to implementing different R2P measures were identified, depending on the country situation, from more broad challenges of the lack of awareness and understanding of R2P to more specific structural and political challenges, such as resistance from different groups, weapons proliferation and failure of institutions. Viewing the work of their respective organizations the participants identified a number of ways they can work on R2P from undertaking workshops, incorporating R2P into existing trainings and reports on related topics through to establishing committees on R2P and media plans for information dissemination.
The conference was not only valuable in furthering the awareness of R2P in the region, it presented a great opportunity to identify collaboration with those in the region and internationally working towards a more stable and peaceful society.
ICRtoP will also publish a report in the coming weeks. In the meantime click here to view the agenda of the Program.