Syria crisis: Ban Ki-moon criticises Security Council's ‘paralysis’

Thursday, September 06, 2012
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon
[Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider] 
New York: A timely and decisive response is vital in the face of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, top United Nations officials stressed at the United Nations in New York, highlighting the need to act when a state fails to protect its own people.

"Never again" is the oft-heard cry", Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told delegates at an informal interactive dialogue of the General Assembly on the principle of the responsibility to protect. He said "the responsibility to protect is a concept whose time has come. For too many millions of victims, it should have come much earlier.'

At the 2005 World Summit, world leaders formally accepted the responsibility of each state to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Leaders also agreed that when any state failed to meet that responsibility, all states (the "international community") were responsible for helping to protect people threatened with such crimes.  

Ban cited the brutal legacy of the 20th century, including the Holocaust, the killing fields of Cambodia, the genocides in Rwanda and Srebrenica, and other large-scale tragedies where individual states failed to live up to their protection responsibilities.

Pointing to the immense human cost of failing to protect the population of Syria, where more than 18,000 people, mostly civilians, have died since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began 18 months ago, Ban remembered how six weeks ago, while he was visiting the memorial at Srebrenica, he said he "did not want my successors to apologize years from now for what we failed to do today in Syria."

Ban commended the General Assembly for its proactive response to the Syrian crisis, but added that the Council's "paralysis" has done the Syrian people harm, damaged its own credibility and weakened a concept that was adopted with such hope and expectations.

"Let us by all means continue to talk through the responsibility to protect in all its aspects. Each year we achieve greater precision and common understanding," he stated. "But let us recognize that we face an urgent test here and now. Words must become deeds. Promise must become practice."

The newly appointed Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng who was among the other participants in today's day-long dialogue stressed that the responsibility to protect is a collective one and therefore, he said, "the responsibility to protect called for each of us, member states, international, regional and sub-regional organizations, civil society to do what we can without distant roles and capacities to protect populations at risk".

Newly appointed Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson reminded delegates that the responsibility to protect could not be applied by one state, that it had to be done on the basis of collective action. He said, "let's remember that. And that is very important because sometimes you see that in press debates an even political discussions that individual states think that they can take that right".

This dialogue was the fourth held since 2009 and focused on timely and decisive responses – the third pillar of the responsibility to protect. -UNifeed
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