United Nations, peacekeeping, responsibility to protect

Image source: Flickr (United Nations)

Tackling humanitarian challenges and the responsibility to protect

3 October 2016

ANU Conference tackles international humanitarian challenges

Today, over 65 million people around the world are forcibly displaced by instability and armed conflict – with political and sectarian violence having a disproportionate impact on civilian populations.

In order to address this – the academic, policy, and international humanitarian community will gather at ANU to investigate atrocity prevention and civilian protection through the lens of “the Responsibility to Protect (R2P)” – a framework that aims to protect populations from the atrocities of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

Conference Convenor, Dr Cecilia Jacob from the Department of International Relations at the Coral Bell School of Asia and the Pacific says the conference will provide an important opportunity to reflect on the current and future direction of R2P. “As the humanitarian challenges that confront the international community today are vast - this conference aims to develop practical solutions to better-develop the implementation of R2P.

“We’re getting together to better-understand what countries like Australia can do in terms of practical measures and to ensure we are meeting our commitments to the underlying principles pf R2P” said Dr Jacob.

Dr Jacob says that while there are great challenges with implementing R2P, since its origins in 2001 – there have been successful case studies that can inform best practice. “When governments uphold the rule of law, respect human rights and address grievances among populations caused by intergroup tensions or structural discrimination, R2P is working. When states are unwilling or unable to protect their populations from targeted violence, then responsibility falls to the international community to assist and protect vulnerable populations” said Dr Jacob.

Specific case studies of successful international R2P prevention include deescalating post-election violence in Kenya from 2007 – 2008 through preventive diplomatic efforts,” “Of course it’s always more complex than this. There have been instances of using military-force for averting atrocities, such as in Libya 2011 – these remains highly controversial and reinforce the need to support prevention and peacebuilding initiatives as early as possible” Dr Jacob said.

Dr Jacobs says the conference is a unique platform linking academia and policy. “Academia plays an important role for shaping policy, in the R2P context, empirical research enables us to understand the causes and dynamics of atrocity crimes in order to formulate appropriate and effective responses.

“Academic enquiry also probes into the legal, social, political and ethical questions surrounding our responsibilities to avert or alleviate unnecessary human suffering. These insights combined help shape the way we think about significant issues, and how we need to prioritise and engage with the world around us”.

The conference will include speakers such as Professor the Hon Gareth Evans AC QC, Chancellor, ANU and Mr Ivan Šimonović, Special Representative to the UN Secretary-General on the Responsibility to Protect.

This conference will take place at ANU on 27 and 28 October 2016. Purchase tickets.

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