This year, we celebrate to 15th anniversary of the Responsibility to Protect. Ever since the UN member states unanimously committed to protect populations from atrocity crimes at the UN World Summit in 2005, R2P has argued that while states or governments have the primary responsibility for protecting their own people from mass-atrocity crimes, the international community also has a shared responsibility to prevent and protect people from the most heinous atrocity crimes – genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
Today, when we look around the world – from Syria to Yemen, from the Central African Republic to North Korea – we are confronted with millions of ordinary people who fear for the security of their lives every day. The grim reality of today’s ongoing crises is a stark reminder of the need to redouble efforts to effectively implement the responsibility to protect. This is why it is so important that R2P is – by way of example – a standing item of every General Assembly session. And this is why we so very much welcomed the recent Human Rights Council Resolution on R2P at the 44th session, the first thematic resolution on R2P.
Over and above its sudden and massive health, economic and social impact, COVID-19 has acted as a "great accelerator" of geopolitical trends and challenges. In line with our broader ambition to ‘build back better’ towards a green, digital and resilient global recovery, we must also develop a comprehensive strategic response to the wider geopolitical trends and challenges shaping the world today. This includes the prevention of mass atrocities.
As the UN Secretary-General righty points out in his latest R2P report, effective atrocity prevention requires us to take holistic action, including by strengthening gender equality as part of upstream atrocity prevention and by promoting women’s participation as a key part of fulfilling their responsibility to protect populations against atrocity crimes.
There is no doubt that advancing transitional justice can contribute to the prevention of mass atrocities and promote peace and security, in particular to transitions, conflict prevention and sustainable peace. In this regard, I welcome the efforts undertaken by Belgium and others to put transitional justice on the Security Council agenda this year.
Over the past 15 years, R2P has served as a powerful reminder that we cannot just be bystanders, when the most serious crimes are being committed before our eyes. That is why the EU and EU Member States, working together with the Group of Friends of R2P both in Geneva and in New York, will continue striving to enable effective and operational action on R2P at the UN, not least by supporting the French / Mexican initiative on veto restraint where a mass atrocity has been ascertained.
The EU, with the support of Member States, will continue to use Conflict Analysis and the EU conflict Early Warning System to identify R2P issues and work for early action. We will also continue to support the important role of the UN Special Adviser on R2P. We live in a world challenged by interconnected and compounding dangers posed by economic turmoil, social-economic inequality, gender inequality, the impacts of climate change and pandemics - all of which can contribute to the increasing possibility and severity of violent conflict and human suffering. We need to be vigilant and do all we can to prevent that conflicts driven by these factors result in mass atrocities.