In 2015 the Global Centre opened a second office in Geneva, launching its efforts at advancing the institutionalization of R2P within the UN in Geneva, particularly at the Human Rights Council. In doing so, the Global Centre seeks to encourage and advance the consistent implementation and operationalization of R2P across the entire UN system.
The Human Rights Council can and should play an essential role in implementing R2P through its procedures and mechanisms, including through the Universal Periodic Review, which serves to assess the human rights situations in all countries. The Human Rights Council’s work, including through its special procedures mechanisms, has been critical in highlighting the need for effective and early action aimed at halting and preventing the commission of mass atrocity crimes. At the same time, there is a need to address the critical gap between New York and Geneva in comprehensive understanding and institutionalization of R2P. As the UN Secretary-General said in his 2015 report on R2P:
“International human rights bodies provide another important form of encouragement and can help to reduce the political sensitivities that often preclude early prevention. The Human Rights Council, special procedures mandate-holders and commissions of inquiry have all referenced the Responsibility to Protect in recent years. However, there are opportunities to more systematically include atrocity crime risk factors and national efforts to address them in the universal periodic review process, in human rights reporting and in the proceedings of the human rights treaty bodies. Expanding this form of encouragement will also better connect deliberations in New York and Geneva, thereby ensuring a more comprehensive and consistent approach across various United Nations bodies.”
Mainstreaming R2P within the Human Rights Council will require commitment and engagement on behalf of a dedicated group of member states, in particular a Geneva-based Group of Friends (GoF) on the Responsibility to Protect. The GoF-Geneva, co-chaired by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Republic of Rwanda, was officially launched on 20 November 2015, with 35 member-states attending the inaugural meeting.
The challenge and the goal, then, is capitalize on the conceptual clarity developed in New York since 2005 to create another hub for R2P in Geneva, where both New York and Geneva can work together to ensure the UN system as a whole is responding appropriately to mass atrocities.
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Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies
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