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Assemblea Generale – Dibattito su “Responsibility to Protect”

Discorso pronunciato dall’Italia al Dibattito dell’Assemblea Generale su “The responsibility to protect and the prevention of genocide war crimes ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” —

Mr. President,

At the outset, I would like to thank the President of the General Assembly and the Secretary-General for their interventions and for the advocacy on R2P that the Secretary-General continues to provide, including through his annual reports. I would also like to congratulate Australia and Ghana for making today’s formal debate possible.

Italy aligns itself with the statements delivered by the European Union and the Group of Friends on R2P that we have the honor to co-chair this year together with Qatar, and would like to make a few remarks in a national capacity.

The growing number of attacks against civilians, schools, hospitals, humanitarian workers and peacekeepers, the forced displacement of millions of people, today’s unprecedented refugee crisis, as well as the widespread and systematic use of sexual and gender-based violence as a deliberate strategy by state and non-state actors, are a stark reminder that we need to close the gap between our commitment to the R2P principle and our action. Mass atrocities can and must be prevented. Back in 2005, we made a commitment; early warning mechanisms do exist; now it is time for action.

The Responsibility to Protect lies with the national authorities in the first place. Therefore, R2P should start at home and inform our policy decisions, at the national and international level. In this regard, I would like to highlight three concrete examples of Italy’s endeavors.

First, as a non-permanent member of the Security Council in 2017, Italy has spared no effort in pursuing the core objective of the Council and ultimately of the UN, that is the protection of civilians. We promoted a more systematic handling of cross-cutting issues and transnational threats on the part of the Security Council, in light of their repercussions on international peace. We highlighted the need to implement a holistic approach that combines security, development and protection of human rights. In this regard, let me recall the briefings dedicated to the issue of refugees and of threats to the stability of the Mediterranean posed by terrorism, organized crime, migration and human trafficking; the adoption of resolution 2347 on the impact of destruction of cultural heritage (as a way to destroy national identities) on international peace and security; the adoption of resolution 2388 on trafficking, with its victim-centered approach; the adoption of resolution 2382 to strengthen the role of the United Nations police in protecting civilians, including by providing assistance and support to local authorities.
We encourage members of the Security Council to continue to hold regular debates on the threat of atrocity crimes, strengthening the Council’s role in prevention, also through briefings from the Secretary-General’s Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and on the Responsibility to Protect, from the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and from civil society representatives.

Second, last January we launched the “R2P in schools” project that we developed together with the Netherlands as a concrete delivery of our mandate on the Security Council and in order to raise awareness of the importance of protecting fundamental rights and freedoms and of establishing international principles for the prevention of mass atrocities. Through a role-playing game, students are faced with a fictitious but realistic scenario, where the civilian population is exposed to mass crimes and atrocities. Through the game, they also become aware of the complex dynamics that happen in real life: a Government that systematically violates the rights of part of its population; the UN that cannot intervene because it has not been authorized by the Security Council; the specific interests of some countries; the crucial role played by civil society and the media in raising awareness of the tragic situation, through news, detailed reporting and, above all, images. We will promote the project in more Italian schools and start collaborating with other governments to replicate the course internationally.

Third, as the top Western Troop-Contributing Country for peacekeeping operations, Italy immediately endorsed the Kigali Principles on the Protection of Civilians. We invite other Member States to do the same. We believe that effective protection of civilians requires properly trained troops, adequate equipment, and a strong political commitment. Italy will continue to do its part, redoubling its efforts in providing training and offering capacity building to military, police and judicial officers from all over the world. Since 2005, through the Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units in Vicenza, COESPU, we have trained more than 10,000 units of police personnel, many of whom are deployed in peacekeeping operations in Africa. Our personnel are regularly trained on human rights, sexual and gender-based violence, protection of children in armed conflict and R2P. Last year, we also joined the Circle of Leadership against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, launched by the SG, to heighten commitment to preventing and prosecuting cases of sexual exploitation and abuse also among our military personnel.

Mr. President,

In light of all the above, we truly believe that with simple measures, that are in reach, we can effectively implement R2P. There is no excuse. In this regard, we see the added value of including R2P as a standing item on the agenda of the General Assembly to allow the UN membership to properly and formally debate this topic, to share best practices and to discuss our different opinions on this subject.

I thank you.