The Community of Nations Must Rally Around the Responsibility to Protect [fr]
Reponsibility to Protect - Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent representative of France to the United Nations - General Assembly - 8 September 2015
I would like to thank the President of the General Assembly for organizing this debate, and the Secretary-General for his report on the third pillar of the R2P. I also want to pay tribute to the Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, and the Special Adviser for the Responsibility to Protect, Jennifer Welch. Your work and your commitment are highly appreciated.
Ten years ago, in 2005, the responsibility to protect was enshrined in a document at the World Summit, along with these three pillars: the primary responsibility of the State to protect its own population; the duty to strengthen the capacity of States to carry out this responsibility; and the international community’s duty to take action should the State fail to uphold its responsibilities. For mass atrocities inflict deep trauma upon the United Nations, a trauma that is proportionate to the organization’s collective responsibility in such situations.
In fact, we do much more, in this area, than our debates might sometimes lead one to believe, by strengthening the rule of law and the fight against impunity. The International Criminal Court is an excellent example of this. It is based on the principle of complementarity and exercises jurisdiction only when the competent State itself cannot or will not prosecute those responsible for the gravest crimes. France supports the work of the International Criminal Court; indeed, we promote the universality of the Rome Statute in all international bodies, particularly within the United Nations Security Council, but in all of our bilateral relationships as well.
The responsibility to protect is a working principle. It must sometimes be implemented in cases where the worst atrocities are present. We know that reconciliation will be long in coming, once hostilities have ceased in the Central African Republic. The intervention of foreign forces, including those of France, broke the cycle of violence. Now, the fight against impunity lies at the heart of that country’s recovery, which is why a special criminal court was established for the CAR, and the international community’s support for it will be crucial.
Alas, tragic situations still exist in which the United Nations remains impotent. Syria is the most flagrant example, even though the August 8th presidential declaration in support of UN efforts offers a ray of hope. The Syrian conflict has entered its fifth year, the humanitarian situation in the country is dire, the flow of refugees continues unabated.
Given the magnitude of the challenges, the Security Council must not be paralyzed. The veto is not a privilege; it is a matter of responsibility. The Council must be able to respond, particularly in cases of mass atrocities, and to fulfill its primary mission. That is why France has proposed a concrete measure: to suspend the use of the veto in cases of mass atrocities. In other words, the five permanent members would voluntarily and collectively agree to refrain from using their veto powers when mass atrocities are noted.
This initiative, as well as the ACT’s work on a code of conduct, is being broadly welcomed by Member States and civil society, a sign of its pertinence. I might mention that the Secretary-General is emphasizing the French initiative in his report on the Responsibility to Protect, aptly presenting it as a concrete action to prevent mass atrocities. That can only lend credence to this initiative, which we hope everyone will rally around.
That is why France and Mexico, which are co-chairing a high-level meeting on this topic on September 30 here in New York, have decided to let the Member States who support this initiative formalize their backing by signing a Declaration of Support. I encourage all Member States to do so, and thank those who have already offered their support.
The 10th anniversary of the Responsibility to Protect and the 70th anniversary of the United Nations must be seen as a strongly symbolic moment to work together to more effectively implement the Responsibility to Protect principle. I mentioned the ICC and the veto initiative presented by France and Mexico. Other tools also exist: the early warning system, commissions of inquiry, monitoring missions, mediation, preventive diplomacy, targeted sanctions and more. These tools must be used as part of a comprehensive operating strategy tailored to each situation. Similarly, we must consider, in detail, the conditions that make it possible, in crisis situations, to restore security and respect for the rule of law. In this regard, linking it with the fight against impunity is key to rebuilding lasting social fabrics and resilience to conflict. To that end, the Security Council and International Criminal Court must work together more closely. By rolling back the limits of what is acceptable, how can we not see that impunity breaks down entire societies?
The new challenges raised by the Secretary-General’s report, such as the fight against atrocities by non-state armed groups like Daesh, force us to adapt our strategy to confront this new threat. Daesh is pushing the boundaries of inhumanity, and it is therefore vital for us to act, and to act by offering protection. We must protect civilians, obviously, but we must also protect our values. A comprehensive strategy and coordinated action are crucial. France therefore believes it is important to formally place the Responsibility to Protect on the General Assembly’s agenda.
Mr. President, when we speak of the Responsibility to Protect, it is in no way a concept aimed at creating divisions. The protection of peoples, an ongoing concern, is a compass that guides us, that can bring the Community of Nations together, beyond our differences. By definition, an acting principle can always be taken farther. France will continue to contribute to keeping the peace at a time when the challenges facing our organization – including those relating to the climate – have never seemed more important.