Two decades ago, leaders from around the world had a moment of reckoning. The images and news reports of genocide in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia were still fresh memories, and many countries recognized they hadn’t done enough to respond or prevent the violence. So diplomats at the United Nations had a bold idea. That countries have a collective responsibility to protect their people from war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. This responsibility includes using diplomatic, humanitarian, and other peaceful means to help each country protect its own citizens, but nations also agreed that they were “prepared to take collective action” when peaceful means prove inadequate and national authorities fail to act.
Today, the responsibility to protect, or R2P as it’s often called, is being tested as mass atrocities occur around the world – from Ukraine to Myanmar to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But, whose responsibility it is to protect – or act – is uncertain.
Even at the U.N., no clear direction has emerged. In June, the U.N.’s top official on R2P, George Okoth-Obbo, said he would resign from his role as Special Advisor after just 17 months. Okoth-Obbo isn’t alone. The previous two R2P Special Advisors left after less than 3 years. The Special Advisor’s short tenure leaves people facing atrocity crimes without an ally and advocate at the U.N.
Joining the show to discuss the R2P Special Advisor’s role, and why the office has seen so much turnover, is Rebecca Barber. Up until recently Rebecca was a research fellow at the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, and she is also an honorary senior research fellow at the University of Queensland.
Listen to the podcast by clicking below.