Responsibility to Protect
Silence in Face of Human Suffering Should Not Be Option in Twenty-First Century, Secretary-General Says, Marking ‘Responsibility to Protect’ Adoption Anniversary
24 September 2020
Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video statement for the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of the responsibility to protect, today:
Fifteen years ago, at the World Summit, at a pivotal moment in our common pursuit of peace, leaders from every region unanimously adopted the responsibility to protect. Unable to prevent the horrific experiences of the previous decade, the world accepted the collective responsibility to do far more to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, and their incitement.
Since this landmark step, significant progress has been made in advancing the conceptualization and operationalization of the responsibility to protect. Yet, there continues to be a gap between words of commitment and the grim reality of vulnerable populations around the world. In far too many countries, we continue to see systematic and grave human rights violations; widespread impunity; hate speech, exclusion and discrimination. These can all increase the risk of atrocity crimes, including war crimes and crimes against humanity.
This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the risks faced by marginalized populations, including ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, the forcibly displaced and those affected by armed conflict. There remains an urgent need to accelerate efforts to fulfil the aspiration of the responsibility to protect and turn it into a fully fledged reality.
Greater investment in prevention is critical; building a culture of respect for human rights is equally imperative; my Call to Action for Human Rights, in which both objectives are central, can help point the way.
In this century, silence in the face of human suffering should not be an option. Fifteen years on, let us not only reaffirm our commitment to protect populations from atrocity crimes, but live up to the unanimous call for action enshrined by the responsibility to protect.