Statement by Ambassador Dr. Maleeha Lodhi at the General Assembly Plenary meeting on the ‘Responsibility to Protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity’ (25 June 2018)

Mr. President,

My delegation thanks you for convening this plenary meeting of the General Assembly on the ‘Responsibility to Protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity’.

Even though the General Assembly is holding its first formal meeting since 2009, it has remained seized of the matter, albeit, in an informal manner.

My delegation was among those who preferred the continuation of our discussion within the existing framework, for we were not fully convinced of the utility of a one-off formal meeting of the General Assembly on an issue that evokes such divergent viewpoints on its nature, scope and application.

In any case, we believe that the onus should not be on the modalities of our discussion, but instead, on the substantive nature of differences in our perspectives and viewpoints.

This view, of course, in no way diminishes my country’s abiding commitment to the safety and security of all our citizens. This is, in fact, an obligation inherent in the nature of sovereignty and national responsibility.

Mr. President,

In recent days, the issue of protection has come into renewed global spotlight, in particular, by the grave situation in Palestine.

It is also in Palestine that the failure of the international community to uphold these norms has been most manifest and telling.

Thus, as the killing fields of Gaza were drenched in the blood of over 130 innocent Palestinians including countless women and children, the Security Council stood as a silent bystander to the plight of the long-suffering Palestinian people.

Even more so, while safety and protection of Palestinian civilians throughout the occupied territory, is a right expressly recognized by several Security Council Resolutions, yet, the Council failed to reaffirm this right on 1st June.

As a result, on 13 June, the General Assembly had to step in, yet again, to fill the void left by the Security Council’s inaction.

Mr. President,

The edifice of the Responsibility to Protect, stands on more tenuous ground today, than ever before, for decisions taken by the international community, have often failed the test of the highest standards of objectivity and impartiality.

This masquerade of political expediency posing as high-flowing idealism has meant that resultant actions have lacked the legal and moral legitimacy to gain wider acceptability.

After all, if we are selective in our approach – expressing indignation at some transgressions while choosing to willfully ignore others, any ‘norm’ will be quickly turned into mere ‘pretense’.

Against this backdrop, calls for accountability would invariably smack of double standards and selectivity, especially when egregious crimes including killings and mass-blinding are being committed in full view of the international community.

Many of these tragic victims including in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, have the further indignity of living under an illegal occupation.

What is therefore, needed, is not an abdication from our collective responsibility to prevent these grave crimes, but to apply consistent and uniform standards of moral outrage to them.

Mr. President,

The 'will' of the international community, in particular, the permanent members of the Security Council, is crucial.

This is particularly important to address the issues of permissibility of actions and to ensure their consistency.

For we have seen that in the face of divisions within the Council, unilateral actions have led to situations characterized as ‘illegal but legitimate’. We should neither attempt nor accept any artificial duality between the twin imperatives of legitimacy and legality.

We should also be mindful that the notion of ‘Responsibility to Protect’ does not become a mere re-enactment of the discredited ‘humanitarian interventions’ of the past.

For we know all too well that such eventualities would only be ‘reserved for the most powerful states and might actually lead to ‘preventing’ the administration of justice itself.

Mr. President,

At its core, the responsibility to protect, is not a license to intervene in external situations, but, is instead, a universal principle of ‘non-indifference’, in keeping with historical context and cultural norms of respective settings.

It is predicated on the express recognition that the responsibility for the protection of civilians lies first, and foremost, with member states. Set against the overarching principle of state sovereignty, the R2P cannot become a basis to contravene the principles of non-interference and non-intervention or question the national sovereignty or territorial integrity of states.

In a world beset by growing socio-economic inequalities, situations leading to responsibility to protect, are more often than not the result of under-development and poverty. Renewed commitment in helping states build their capacity including through governance and judicial reforms is therefore, essential.

Long-term commitment by the international community including mobilization of adequate resources for sustainable development and poverty eradication – as also reflected in the 2030 development agenda – is the best investment in prevention.

As rightly noted by the Secretary General in his latest report, it costs far more to pick up the pieces after a crisis than it does to prevent it.

What is therefore, needed is a surge in diplomacy, not war, to achieve the goal of preventing grave crimes against humanity.

I thank you.