General Assembly

General Assembly: 88th plenary meeting, 76th session…

The responsibility to protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity - Item 134.

While highlighting various ways to build inclusive societies and prevent atrocities, speakers stressed that the international community has failed to translate the responsibility to protect into reality, as the General Assembly concluded its first annual debate on the principle.  (For background information, see Press Release GA/12429.)

Myanmar’s representative said that, since the 2021 military coup, his country has faced unprecedented levels of violence, with widespread and systematic serious atrocities against the civilian population, including children.  The people of Myanmar are crying out for the application of the responsibility to protect, he stressed, asking:  “How many more innocent lives have to be sacrificed to have such decisive collective action from the Security Council?”

Iraq’s representative said that, despite the adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, atrocities continue.  The international community has failed to translate the goals of prevention into reality.  Therefore, legislative and legal methods must be adopted to implement that document.  Commending the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da'esh/ISIL (UNITAD) — which is collecting evidence for future prosecutions in national courts — he emphasized, however, that the responsibility to protect falls upon States, including countering all efforts to incite such crimes.

To that point, the representative of Ghana underscored the important role of media, noting that, ahead of his country’s 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections, over 600 youth journalists were trained in conflict sensitivities, including hate speech and inflammatory language — a measure that enabled the peaceful transition of power there.

The representative of the United States, in a similar vein, affirmed the need for education as a preventive measure.  Unlawful attacks on schools rob children of their education and hope for a better future, he said, adding that 100,000 children were killed or maimed in armed conflict since 2005.  He urged Member States to leverage education for the prevention of atrocities, highlighting the critical role of teachers in building societies that are inclusive and respectful of diversity

Uruguay’s representative said her country’s National Peace Operations Training Institute will include the issue of protection of children, positioning the country as a regional centre for training and capacity‑building for States engaging in peacekeeping missions.  Echoing other delegations, she voiced support for the declaration by France and Mexico that Member States should voluntarily refrain from using the veto in cases of atrocities.

Nonetheless, the Permanent Observer of the Sovereign Order of Malta stressed that the current geopolitical landscape is proof that insufficient steps have been made to mitigate crimes against girls, boys and adults.  Mechanisms at the United Nations are faulty, as well.  “Surely we can begin to try and make amends by acting swiftly in protecting and supporting the next generation in the fight against indiscriminate acts of genocide, ethnic cleansing and war crimes such as sexual violence,” he said.

Also speaking today were representatives of the Philippines, Israel, Egypt, Morocco, South Africa, Haiti, Ireland, Russian Federation and Ukraine.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Iran and Israel.