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Responsibility to Protect

The term “Responsibility to Protect” is used to describe the responsibility of individual states, international organizations and the international community as a whole to protect populations that come under threat from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

The Responsibility to Protect was set down for the first time in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document (paragraphs 138 and 139), from which it is considered to derive its legitimizing basis. Subsequently, in 2006, it was reiterated and reaffirmed in the text of UN Security Council Resolution 1674, and it has since gained ever greater importance and currency.

The UN Secretary General’s initial report (2009) on the implementation of Responsibility to Protect sets out three pillars: a) A state has a responsibility to protect its population from mass atrocities: genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. b) The international community has a responsibility to assist states to fulfill their primary responsibility to protect their populations. And c) if a state fails to protect its citizens from mass atrocities and peaceful measures have failed, the international community has the responsibility to intervene to protect populations, using appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other means, in accordance with the UN Charter.

On 11 July 2014, the UN Secretary General’s sixth Report was published, under the title “Fulfilling our collective responsibility: International assistance and the responsibility to protect”. The Report focuses on the second of the pillars of Responsibility to Protect set out above, stipulating a) the approach and principles that should guide efforts to assist States in the fulfillment of their protection responsibilities, as well as b) the various actors that could contribute to the international community’s fulfilment of its responsibility to assist. The core section elaborates on three main forms of pillar II support: encouragement, capacity-building and protection assistance. The report also provides examples of good national, regional and international practice. The report concludes by identifying challenges to the implementation of pillar II of the responsibility to protect and provides concrete recommendations on how this important agenda may be advanced. It also sets out possible next steps for Member States to continue considering the responsibility to protect, given the upcoming 10-year anniversary of the 2005 World Summit.

In his address during the unofficial interactive dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect, which took place in the UN General Assembly on 8 September 2014, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underscored the necessity of prevention of crimes against humanity, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes, in accordance with the UN Charter and other established principles of international law. Referring to the humanitarian crises taking place in Iraq, Syria, South Sudan and Ukraine, he noted the obligation of the international community and international organizations to assist countries that are unable to confront humanitarian crises in a timely manner. He clarified, finally, that the primary responsibility to protect resides with national authorities.

The EU supports the Responsibility to Protect and wants to maintain heightened interest in the Principle in question. In this context, and in particular ahead of the 10th anniversary of the 2005 World Summit, the EU supports that the international community’s commitment to the Responsibility to Protect should be strengthened, be linked further with the exercising of preventive diplomacy, become more operational, and be combined with other important pillars of the United Nations, such as development and human rights.

Greece is among the countries that have appointed a National Liaison for the Responsibility to Protect and always participates actively and in a constructive spirit in the relevant discussions, both within and beyond the EU.

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Last Updated Wednesday, 03 June 2015