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UNGA High-Level Virtual Event: “Fifteen Years of the Responsibility to Protect: A Collective Commitment to Humanity

Remarks by H.E. Mr. Volkan Bozkir,


Delivered by H.E. Ms. Tegan Brink, Chef de Cabinet to the President of the General Assembly

High-level virtual event “Fifteen years of the responsibility to protect: a collective commitment to humanity”

Thank you very much Karen and good morning everybody, distinguished colleagues.

I am really pleased to have the opportunity to address you today, on behalf of the President of the General Assembly, His Excellency Volkan Bozkir.

I think there is a real poignancy to the R2P commemoration this year, in the UN’s 75th year and you may recall at the Summit we held on 21st September, may world leaders recalled the origin of this organization, the United Nations which was established following the horrors of World War Two.

And it was established in significant part to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and in the worth of every human person, to prevent an event as appalling as the holocaust from happening again. But, as we’ve seen by subsequent atrocities in the Balkans and in Rwanda, and more recent events, we have not always been successful in this endeavor.

So, fifteen years ago Member States acknowledged that there was a gap between their existing obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law and the reality faced by populations at risk of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. And this has resulted in the unanimous adoption of the Responsibility to Protect Agenda at the UN World Summit in 2005. And I know we have a number of people here today who were there 15 years ago, and I am very much looking forward to hearing from them.

Now fifteen years later in 2020, the task of building peace, prioritizing prevention, and protecting populations is no less urgent and important than it was in 2005. Atrocity crimes are still happening, and they have devastating consequences for societies, communities and they have long lasting effects. The number of refugees and internally displaced persons have reached nearly 80 million. Multilateralism and protecting human rights are being challenged precisely when we need them the more.

This existing threat has been exacerbated by the COVID-19, this is something we are hearing a lot in discussions on human rights. Vulnerable populations around the world are exposed to heightened risks of serious human rights violations and atrocity crimes. Vulnerable groups are marginalized, they are discriminated against. And they are particularly exposed to increased intolerance, hate speech and discrimination. And this demonstrates that States must take urgent measures to protect their populations, including the most vulnerable because these are warning signs of risk of atrocity crimes. Protecting the vulnerable is a priority of this Presidency, and that is something you would have heard in many of the speeches that he delivered during the High-Level weeks.

Distinguished colleagues,

The Outcome Document from the 2005 World Summit has multilateralism and the commitment to protect at its center.

And it represents a really important commitment by all Member States:

Firstly, to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity

And second, and this is an important pillar, to accept a collective responsibility to encourage and assist states in meeting this responsibility. So to assist each other in doing what we have committed to do.

And thirdly, to take timely and decisive actions in accordance with the United Nations Charter and in cooperation with relevant international organizations, when national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations.

Now progress has been made, we often hear about the failures, but progress has been made, in protecting populations; however legitimate disagreements do still exist on the implementation of these important principles. And the President did take note of the exchange in the General Assembly upon the adoption of the Agenda item on R2P a few weeks ago. And I think in continuing these discussions on R2P in principle and on R2P in practice, it is worth remembering that what we are talking about here the commitment to prevent genocide, to prevent war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, which is something all Member States support and which all Member States endorsed fifteen years ago when the R2P agenda was adopted.

I think the successful implementation of R2P does warrant I think a renewed attention by the membership and renewed political commitment.

So to conclude, genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, these have devastating consequences and long-lasting effects. It is really important that this ambitious agenda, these principles that we are discussing today, are taken forward. They require trust, they require cohesion among Member States and regional and international organizations. And it’s my sincere hope that today’s panel discussion can help chart new ideas to help advance us in that direction.

I thank you.

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