What's In Blue

Posted Thu 10 Dec 2015

Arria-Formula Meeting: Responsibility to Protect and Non-State Actors

On Monday (14 December), Council members are scheduled to hold an Arria-formula meeting, co-hosted by Chile and Spain, on the responsibility to protect (RtoP) and non-state actors. The meeting is open to all member states, observer missions and civil society. Panelists will include Jennifer Welsh, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on the Responsibility to Protect; Edward Luck, International Advisory Board member of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect; and Luis Peral, Senior Analyst of Global and Strategic Affairs, Club de Madrid.

The meeting’s focus on non-state actors builds on discussions held at the fifth annual meeting of the Global Network of RtoP Focal Points in Madrid on 23 and 24 June, which included representatives from a geographically diverse group of 50 states. One of the themes from that meeting, which was co-hosted by Chile and Spain in collaboration with the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect and the Stanley Foundation, was that “as a result of the responsibility to protect being a largely State-based principle, conceptual gaps remain in our collective understanding of how the principle relates to…[non-state armed] groups and how to respond effectively to the atrocities they perpetrate” (S/2015/815).

According to a concept paper drafted in preparation for Monday’s Arria-formula meeting, the discussion is intended to analyse both positive and negative roles played by non-state actors with regard to atrocity crimes. The paper notes that non-state actors—e.g., civil society organisations, community and religious leaders, media and the private sector—working in conjunction with the local and national authorities, can play a constructive role in preventing atrocity crimes. On the other hand, it underscores that non-state armed groups such as Boko Haram, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Al-Shabaab, the Taliban, and the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda, among others, “are among the most serious perpetrators of mass atrocities.”

Given the blatant ways in which non-state actors have committed atrocity crimes in recent times, the concept paper argues for a comprehensive approach to tackling the problem that combines coercive measures with diplomatic, humanitarian, economic and other means. It calls for efforts to address socio-economic inequality and discrimination, as well as the development of inclusive institutions that “foster tolerance and respect among different ethnic, national, cultural and religious groups.” The organisers would like a discussion during the meeting of concrete strategies that can be taken to improve implementation of RtoP, including the use of Chapter VI and VII tools.

There has been significant normative progress over the past decade with regard to the responsibility to protect. The principle has been invoked in 30 Security Council resolutions and 10 presidential statements since it was endorsed in the World Summit Outcome Document in 2005. Furthermore, nine current Council members—Angola, Chile, France, Jordan, Lithuania, New Zealand, Spain, the UK and the US—have appointed RtoP focal points, who strive to strengthen RtoP nationally and enhance international cooperation on the issue. These members believe that more can be done to move the concept from the normative level to practical application. However, some Council members continue to remain concerned about the potential of RtoP to undermine state sovereignty.

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