Minister for Overseas Development, Mr. Peter Power T.D. stresses importance of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine
Minister Peter Power, addressing the Royal Irish Academy Committee for International Affairs Annual Conference 2008, set out in detail for the first time Ireland’s approach to the development of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) concept, which was accepted by all States at the 2005 World Summit. This concept recognises that every State has a responsibility to protect its population from atrocities but that, if it proves unable, or unwilling, a wider responsibility lies with other members of the international community to assist in preventing or stopping atrocities from taking place.
Speaking at the conference the Minister said,
“This doctrine represents potentially one of the most significant developments of international law to emerge in recent years. We must ensure that the 21st century does not repeat the catastrophes of the 20th. We can work to address causes of conflict that, if left unchecked, could lead to the commission of serious crimes as well as human rights violations, without in any way undermining the role of the sovereign state.
The development of the doctrine of responsibility to protect cannot atone for past failures. But it can ensure that every stakeholder – governments and their leaders, the international community and the Security Council – is aware of their roles, obligations and responsibilities when faced with the threat of the four specific crimes of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity
The establishment of a Conflict Resolution Unit (CRU) within the Department of Foreign Affairs underlines our determination to assist the international community’s efforts under R2P. The CRU is contributing to the R2P objective of assisting States develop their own capacity to protect their populations through, for example, early warning and conflict prevention.”
Note to editors:
Edward Luck, Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General, in cooperation with Francis Deng, Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, is currently preparing a Report examining how to operationalise R2P for submission by the Secretary-General to the current session of the General Assembly.
The basic premise of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is a
three-part obligation to prevent 4 specified crimes. The
principle applies to genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity
and ethnic cleansing. Obligations fall into three inter-related
a. responsibility on States to protect persons on their territory/within their control from the 4 relevant crimes;
b. responsibility on the international community to assist States in ensuring that protection (capacity building etc);
c. Where States are manifestly failing to meet this obligation, responsibility on the international community to ensure protection in accordance with international law by all means including, as a last resort, the use of force under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
R2P is not intended to extend the circumstances in which the use of force is lawful under international law. The two bases for the lawful use of force remain self-defence and action authorised by the Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to maintain or restore international peace and security. R2P is not intended to constitute an alternative basis to legitimise military action outside those circumstances. Military intervention is seen as a measure of final resort in the R2P framework, and even then only with Security Council authorisation and in accordance with the UN Charter.
The concept of R2P is relatively new, having first arisen in 2001 and subsequently adopted at the World Summit in 2005. The impetus for the concept was the failure by the international community to prevent and halt war crimes and genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia. However, the concepts behind the principle are more long-standing and are based on international humanitarian law (also referred to as the “laws of war”), human rights law, international criminal law and the UN Charter.
21st November 2008.