Guest post: Two Decades of Atrocity Prevention - Aneta Peretko - winner of the British High Commission R2P essay competition
Winner essay of British High Commission R2P student competition
Two Decades of Atrocity Prevention: The Last Ten Years and the Next Ten Years of the Responsibility to Protect
Guest post by Aneta Peretko
Cambodia was a wise choice to hold the ‘Responsibility to Protect at 10 Years’ Conference in February of this year, to celebrate ten years of R2P, and to consider the next ten years in the global quest to prevent mass atrocity crimes. The significance of Phnom Penh as the host city could not be lost, for it perfectly represented the bitterest failures of humanity, the need for atrocity prevention and the hard won successes of R2P.
This perspective highlights just how important the Asia-Pacific is in the promotion of R2P, and the ripe leadership role that regional insiders need to take. They should fear not, for more developed and well-resourced advocates like Australia and Great Britain are eager to assist. And there is a lot of room for assistance, a full spectrum of tools capable of overcoming old sources of reluctance and promoting R2P in the coming decade. One is to acknowledge the centrality of states as actors in this sphere – the international community can and should encourage states to fulfil their existing atrocity prevention obligations, including through national and international legal frameworks, through technical assistance and through education. Another is in capacity building, a rich theme in the R2P framework and an alluring offer for those hesitant countries, especially in the form of development assistance that targets inhibitors to the occurrence of mass atrocities. A third is to collaborate in crisis situations, aiding in investigation as well as humanitarian and military assistance.
These ideas need to be championed in the coming years, particularly as the UN and the US experience leadership changes that could determine whether or not R2P remains on the international agenda. If it does, there is much work left to do. While sovereignty is no longer accepted as the universal shield for horrendous human rights abuses, the principle of non-intervention continues to be invoked against R2P, and it is certainly not the only cause of the stranglehold. Some challenges to the doctrine are operational – modern civil wars feature both sides engaging in mass atrocities and groups with sectarian agendas flaunt their disregard for humanitarian standards, including through social media. Other challenges are conceptual – enforcing R2P consistently and acknowledging all three pillars of the doctrine. And others still are practical – engaging with R2P on the long-ignored local and individual level rather than just nationally and internationally.
The Asia-Pacific has experienced all four of the mass atrocity crimes, and in this era of great human rights awareness, it cannot in good conscience allow history to repeat itself. The scope of atrocity prevention has come far in the last decade, as Cambodia shows us, but not far enough to rest easy. Tackling the remaining deficiencies of the R2P framework and utilising its preventative measures in full capacity needs to be the number one priority in eradicating the world’s most egregious crimes.
Aneta Peretko attended the ‘R2P at 10’ conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, thanks to the support of the British High Commission, Canberra. Aneta wrote the winning entry in the High Commission’s R2P essay competition for Australian students held in December 2014.