About the Author: Mark Schlachter serves as Deputy Director for Public Affairs in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs.
On Friday, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Esther Brimmer participated in a high-level Ministerial Meeting in New York in parallel with the UN General Assembly entitled "Fulfilling the Responsibility to Protect." The meeting was co-hosted by the Foreign Ministers of Denmark and Ghana in cooperation with the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is an emerging international norm that outlines a state's responsibility to protect its citizens from genocide and other crimes against humanity. It further stipulates that when a state is unable or unwilling to do this, the responsibility to act falls to the broader international community.
Assistant Secretary Brimmer's remarks at the meeting underscored the U.S. commitment to the ideals and concepts framed by the Responsibility to Protect -- a commitment made clear in the President's National Security Strategy: "The United States is committed to working with our allies, and to strengthening our own internal capabilities, in order to ensure that the United States and the international community are proactively engaged in a strategic effort to prevent mass atrocities and genocide."
Assistant Secretary Brimmer noted that the United States is "…working with the United Nations to bring concerted international pressure to bear against perpetrators of atrocities, providing humanitarian assistance and protection to victims, and supporting in appropriate cases international and hybrid tribunals to bring perpetrators to justice."
This meeting, which featured voices from governments and civil society, was an important opportunity to focus attention on the need for global consensus on the meaning and implications of R2P. As repeated by more than one participant, advancing the goals embedded in R2P will require redoubled efforts to mobilize political will and public understanding.
What do you think about the R2P concept? Does the international community have a responsibility to protect when governments do not?