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GA / RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT

At a General Assembly debate on the 'responsibility to protect' (R2P), US political activist Noam Chomsky argues that it is linked to humanitarian intervention which he says has been abused throughout history, while former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans urges UN member states not to reopen negotiations on a principle adopted in 2005 to help solve the world's "most ugly" problems. UNTV / FILE
Description

STORY: UN / RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT
TRT: 2.42
SOURCE: UNTV / ICTY / UNICEF / UNAMID
RESTRICTIONS: NONE
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH / NATS

DATELINE: 23 JULY 2009, NEW YORK CITY / FILE

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Shotlist

RECENT, 2009 - NEW YORK CITY

1. Wide shot, exterior United Nations headquarters

23 JULY 2009, NEW YORK CITY

2. Wide shot, General Assembly meeting
3. Wide shot, podium
4. SOUNDBITE (English) Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, UN General Assembly President:
“Recent and painful memories related to the legacy of colonialism, give developing countries strong reasons to fear that laudable motives can end up being misused, once more, to justify arbitrary and selective interventions against the weakest states.”
5. Pan right, panel assembling at podium
6. 8. SOUNDBITE (English) Noam Chomsky, Professor of linguistics and political activist:
“Virtually every use of force in international affairs has been justified in humanitarian terms, including the worst monsters.”
7. Wide shot, audience
8. SOUNDBITE (English) Gareth Evans, Former Foreign Minister of Australia and President of the International Crisis Group:
“Indeed the whole point of the responsibility to protect is to open up a universe, a whole universe of policy options, policy responses by relevant players in a way that makes the issue of coercion in any shape or form hopefully something which will only very rarely arise.”

FILE - DATE UNKNOWN, CAMBODIA

9. Various shots, skulls on display in museum

FILE – ICTY – CIVILIAN FOOTAGE 10 JULY 1995

10. Wide shot, refugees UN Srebrenica
11. Various shots, Srebrenica town shots former Yugoslavia 1993

FILE – 1994, RWANDA

12. Various shots, dead bodies on road

FILE – UNICEF – FEBRUARY 2008, NAIROBI, NAKURU, MOLO, KENYA

13. Various shots, burned buildings and vehicles, rubble

23 JULY 2009, NEW YORK CITY

14. SOUNDBITE (English) Ngugi wa Thion’o, Kenyan author and Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of California:
“I knew that what was happening in my beloved Kenya had already been enacted in Rwanda, Bosnia, Iraq, reminding me of Shakespeare in Julius Caesar where the assassins, after bathing in the blood of their victims, ask how many times shall this our deeds be done in nations and states as yet unborn?”

FILE – UNAMID – 18 MARCH 2009, ELFASHER, NORTH DARFUR, SUDAN

15. Wide shot, newly arrived internally displaced people in camp
16. Med shot, a child eating food
17. Med shot, IDPs outside makeshift shelters at Zam Zam camp

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Storyline

The principle of ‘responsibility to protect,’ the international understanding to intervene to stop atrocities from taking place, could pose a threat to national sovereignty, General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto warned today (23 July).

Agreed to by world leaders in 2005, responsibility to protect – sometimes known as ‘R2P’ – holds states responsible for shielding their own populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and related crimes against humanity, requiring the international community to step in if this obligation is not met.

In a statement to the Assembly’s thematic dialogue on the issue, D’Escoto said that the legacy of colonialism gave “developing countries strong reasons to fear that laudable motives can end up being misused, once more, to justify arbitrary and selective interventions against the weakest states.”

A panel discussion among experts was part of the General Assembly thematic debate.

Panelist Noam Chomsky argued that the responsibility to protect, as a “cousin” of humanitarian intervention, needed to be viewed in a historical context. Chomsky said that “virtually every use of force in international affairs has been justified in humanitarian terms, including the worst monsters”, and cited as examples Japan’s attack on Manchuria, Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia, and Hitler’s occupation of parts of Czechoslovakia.

Fellow panelist Gareth Evans, who was involved in developing the principle of R2P, dismissed humanitarian intervention as “dead”, but said that the responsibility to protect was very much alive.

Responding to the General Assembly President’s concerns, Evans underlined that R2P was a “universal doctrine with universal application”, adding that potential problems with the exercise of the veto by the permanent members of the Security Council was a constraint affecting the UN’s entire role in peace and security, but was “not made worse in any sense at all” by the R2P.

“Indeed”, he said, “the whole point of the responsibility to protect is to open up a universe, a whole universe of policy options, policy responses by relevant players in a way that makes the issue of coercion in any shape or form hopefully something which will only very rarely arise.”

Earlier this week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon presented to the General Assembly a series of measures designed to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and related crimes against humanity, stressing it was “high time to turn the promise of the responsibility to protect into practice.”

The Secretary-General’s proposals, under consideration by the 192-member Assembly, rest on three pillars: State responsibility; international assistance and capacity-building; and timely and decisive response.

At today’s panel discussion, Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o recalled that international efforts culminating in mediation by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had eventually helped stop the flow of blood when Kenya erupted into ethnic violence following disputed elections in late 2007.

Ngugi said events in Kenya had reminded him of those in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Iraq, and reminded him of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar “where the assassins, after bathing in the blood of their victims, ask how many times shall this our deeds be done in nations and states as yet unborn?”

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