Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at the Annual Gareth Evans Lecture on the Responsibility to Protect and Mass Atrocity Prevention

8 Dec 2016 0:0

Thank you for the honour to be invited to deliver the Annual Gareth Evans Lecture on the Responsibility to Protect and Mass Atrocity Prevention.   Thanks also to Dr Adams and his Global Centre and to the Irish mission for hosting this event.

Gareth, you and I have been friends and colleagues on many international barricades over the years.  And all of us in this room know you have been a champion of the crucial cause of preventing violent conflicts. By your pioneering work with the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty in 2001, you and your colleagues built the foundation for the deliberations on this subject at the World Summit in 2005.  

These deliberations, which I was proud to preside over, led to the landmark adoption of the principle and norm of Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) with its three pillars (i) national responsibility to protect, (ii) international assistance to States to meet that responsibility, and (iii) international action.

It was not an easy and comfortable journey leading up to this, I dare say, historic decision.    In the summer of 2005 I recall being in a basement room with the outgoing President of the General Assembly Jean Ping, negotiating a 170 paragraph document with 400 proposed amendments.    One of the outstanding issues in these discussions was the RtoP and its relationship to state sovereignty and non-interference on one hand, and, on the other, the universal nature of human rights and solidarity with people in desparate need.  It was, I would say, an important conceptual discussion which took a lot of work before we could agree on the final text. 

As we repeatedly witness atrocity crimes around the world, the question I often meet is whether RtoP has failed. Given the life-and-death stakes for so many millions of people, it is deeply painful to hear this question, even if it is legitimately raised. 

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