The Responsibility to Protect: What Next?
NEW DELHI - On Monday, October 8 WFUNA and the Indian Federation of United Nations Associations (IFUNA) invited civil society members, academics and UN and government officials to a day-long Conference on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in New Delhi, India. This event was a follow up to the Symposium Series WFUNA held in 2011 and the beginning of 2012 in Kenya, China and Venezuela in conjunction with the Government of Sweden which looked at the Responsibility to Protect and its added value to mass atrocity prevention framework. Believing that more outreach to the regions, particularly where conflict is taking place and where individuals can better respond to escalating violence, is essential WFUNA partnered with its local UNA in India to expand the global debate on R2P and to encourage discussion on the issue in India. Over 60 participants from nearly all states in India, including Ambassadors and government representatives from Denmark, Norway, UK, the Arab League and Tunisia, and 10 media outlets turned up for the day.
The Conference took up the theme of this year's General Assembly Informal Dialogue on R2P which focused on third pillar measures. While governments, including India, generally accept R2P as an international norm, in the light of the recent developments in Libya and Syria questions have emerged as to how the international community should employ their responsibility and when third pillar measures should be used. R2P, and in particular, its third pillar which calls for timely and decisive action by the international community either diplomatically, humanitarianly, peacefully and as a last resort by stronger measures if the state in question fails has received increasing criticism. To mediate criticisms and improve the implementation of R2P, countries such as Brazil have taken a leading role in developing ideas by introducing the concept of “responsibility while protecting” (RwP) – which looks at the responsibility of states while intervening under the R2P framework. Under the premise that India as an emerging and influential power should play a larger, more pro-active and constructive role in the debate on implementing R2P the Conference sought to ask key members of the UN community, civil society members and government officials if, when and how it is suitable for the international community to intervene to protect civilians from mass atrocities.
After hearing from WFUNA's Secretary-General Bonian Golmohammadi and R2P Program Officer Laura Spano a number of panels took place. The Conference consisted of four panels beginning with an introduction to both R2P and RwP from Ms Ana Paula Kobe, Head of Political Sector Embassy of Brazil. She made it clear that R2P and RwP were complementary concepts that should evolve together and be used to guide further discussion on how third pillar and military intervention is applied but highlighted the need to ensure all peaceful means are exhausted before military intervention is considered an option. The second panel heard from Ambassador Kishan Rana, a former Indian Ambassador and Mr. Osuga from the Japanese Embassy who identified the challenges and gaps to R2P, the need for flexibility in its implementation and emphasised the importance of reflecting and learning from the way R2P has been implemented in the past. This was not without celebrating its success as a norm to date. In panel 3 participants heard from Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam, the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to India, Ambassador Deepak Bhojwani, a former Indian Ambassador and Mr. Thoralf Stenvold, Head of Political Affairs for the Royal Norwegian Embassy of India. Each panellists presented varying views on the third pillar measures, questioning the legitimacy and legality of R2P, and intervention and who decides when force should be used. Mr. Stenvold importantly noted that Pillar 3 is not just about military intervention but a number of other tools exist and more discourse should focus on how these can be used in situations of mass atrocity. The final panel, which included Mr. Sheshadri Chari, a journalist and consultant to the UN and Jyoti Malhotra, a distinguished political commentator, spoke on the future of R2P and the need for global citizens to shape the debate and be apart of the dialogue to strengthen its implementation.
There was no doubt that all agreed that prevention was the best policy yet understood that in situations of mass atrocity the international community has a responsibility to act. Concerns were raised over the “'double standards” in applicability of R2P and the concept of sovereignty was heavily debated. Many participants and panelists identified the current structure of the Security Council, and in particular the veto power, as the main prohibitor in effectively implementing R2P and called for UN reform. It was clear from both the panellists and audience that it is essential that India plays a larger role in the debates. Advocacy and awareness raising was cited a number of times as important for pushing the norm forward in a more effective way. This can only be achieved by reaching out and providing increased knowledge on the issue to key stakeholders - politicians, policy makers, academics, civil society and media. Once individuals are aware of the nuances of the norm and where gaps exist, only then can policy makers make better policies for more effective implementation of R2P and only then can civil society put pressure on governments to uphold their obligation to protect populations from mass atrocities through effective policy making.
WFUNA and IFUNA aims to continue building the capacity of these stakeholders in India to be more involved in the debate but can only do so with the support and participation of governments, media and civil society themselves.