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Ministry Statements and Speeches 2011

Interactive dialogue of the UN General Assembly on the role of regional and sub-regional arrangements in implementing the Responsibility to Protect

Address by Hon Jim McLay, New Zealand Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations - 12 July 2011

The decision of world leaders in 2005 to agree the key elements of the Responsibility to Protect was regarded at the time as momentous.

But as the Secretary General has made clear to us both in his reports and in his comments today, it was hardly ground breaking, and certainly we were as a United Nations, a relative late comer to RtoP.

That’s because regional and sub-regional organisations, particularly the AU, ECOWAS and the OSC, were the real pioneers of international efforts to prevent mass atrocity crimes.

So it’s fitting that today we should acknowledge the fact and to discuss how we can learn from the experience of these regional and sub-regional organisations. How we can enhance the UN’s relationship with those groups.

That’s because, although there are many positive examples of global to regional to sub-regional cooperation in cases of mass atrocity crime, there is still a great potential for more to come.

In that context Mr President, I would like to make, if I can, five quick points.

The first is that there could be greater collaboration between regional groups and the organs of the United Nations, particularly the Security Council and the Peace Building Commission.

In capitals and in headquarters, there can be much greater discouragement of such crimes and the promotion of national responsibility and accountability.

In New Zealand’s own region Sir, there have been several positive developments and that’s because although RtoP language isn’t reflected in the formal documents of say ASEAN, or the Asian Regional Forum, one does find references to RtoP related principles and norms such as protection of human rights, rule of law, democracy, conflict resolution and preventive diplomacy.

In Fact, as the SG’s report points out, the 2004 Plan of Action of the ASEAN Security Community for example, promotes best practice for conflict management and resolution.

Secondly, given ASEAN’s unique perspective and experience, there could be benefits in a closer relationship between it and the Office of Special Advisors on Genocide and RtoP.

Mr President, it would be remiss to discuss RtoP without referring to recent events as there have been a number of lessons learned from the international community’s’ response to the threat of mass atrocity crime in Libya and Cote d'ivoire.

As the Secretary General’s report makes clear, one such lesson is that there is no well developed doctrine for the use of military assets, even in clear cases that require invoking the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect.

And I think Mr President, that we should be using this opportunity to have a constructive debate as to how such a doctrine might be constructed.

What are the rules of engagement? What is the end game? How do we simultaneous advance both military and political tracks?

Another lesson is that while RtoP’s third pillar gets the media coverage, Pillars one and two, are critically important.

There should be more emphasis on Pillar two, the sovereign responsibility of states to protect their populations, and on the responsibility of the international community to enable and assist those states to do those things.            

Libya and Cote d'ivoire have also taught us that RtoP is no academic debate. Following events in Libya and elsewhere, some very difficult questions must now be faced.

But we owe it Mr President, to the millions who have died as a result of genocide and mass atrocities, that we don’t shy away from discussing those difficult questions.

Rather, that we debate them in a spirit of constructive, positive engagement and mutual respect.

But above all, Mr President, it must be our commitment to those victims of mass atrocities that we, the international community will not allow such tragedies to be repeated.

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Page last updated: Wednesday, 09 January 2013 14:49 NZDT