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OAS Special Adviser on Responsibility to Protect Launches Report

  September 15, 2022

The Organization of American States (OAS) Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) Jared Genser today released a report that provides recommendations to the General Secretariat and the OAS as a whole on how to further work in the field of atrocity prevention and response. The report is guided by the feedback the Special Adviser received from consultations with 45 officials from 30 OAS Member States; 40 officials from different OAS organs, agencies, and entities; and 20 civil society and international organizations.

The 75-page report entitled “The Responsibility to Protect and the Organization of American States: A Path Forward for Atrocity Prevention and Response in the Americas” is issued under the mandate of the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, whose main objective is to design a framework that will empower the Organization to better act to prevent and respond to mass atrocities in the region. As the first regional organization in the world to establish such a position, it has the unique opportunity to set a global standard for regional engagement with R2P – the report intends to be a landmark step in that direction.

The report:

• Defines the principle of R2P, including explaining its origins and development, legal context, and options for implementation.

• Considers the context of R2P in the Americas, including the kind of regional support that exists for R2P today.

• Elaborates on the relationship between R2P and the OAS: legal frameworks, existing work of the OAS on human rights and conflict prevention, and the creation of the position of the OAS Special Adviser on R2P.

It also makes three recommendations:

• The General Secretariat could support the creation of an early-warning mechanism, coordinated by the Special Adviser, to ensure states and other OAS organs are proactively informed about situations of concern as they arise, along with recommendations for their consideration.

• Member States could commit to having an annual dialogue in the OAS General Assembly about R2P in the region, modeled on the annual Interactive Dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect that takes place at the UN General Assembly. This dialogue could both be focused on discussing regional implementation and ensuring complementarity with UN efforts on R2P.

• The Organization could affirm its commitment to R2P through a Permanent Council or General Assembly resolution. Of course, it will be up to the permanent representatives of Member States to decide if they wanted to propose and seek the adoption of such a resolution.

In response to the issuance of the report, Secretary General Luis Almagro said: “Peace means equilibrium in the region. It is also a fundamental principle and value governing relations between the countries of our Hemisphere, a principle that must be preserved at all costs, because it underpins the dynamics of political balance in the region. In particular, we must avoid reactionary politics, as that opens the way for unwanted possibilities in the framework of the Hemisphere’s political agenda; the responsibility to protect must be completely aligned and consistent with this principle.”

OAS Special Advisor on R2P Jared Genser added: “I am very grateful for the leadership of Secretary General Almagro to focus on regional implementation of R2P. More than 15 years after the adoption of R2P, it remains clear the UN is not and cannot be the exclusive venue through which to address mass atrocity crimes. R2P has always envisioned a critical role for regional organizations to play. I look forward to working with Secretary General Almagro and Member States to advance implementation of the recommendations in our report.”

R2P is a principle of international law adopted at the United Nations 2005 World Summit that affirms that all states have an obligation to prevent and respond to four mass atrocity crimes: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing. It is, first and foremost, a national obligation – states have a duty to protect their own populations. However, R2P also reaffirms the international community has the responsibility to encourage and assist individual states in meeting that responsibility. And when a state is manifestly unwilling or unable to protect its own populations – or is the author of such crimes – the international community must take appropriate collective action, with a timely and decisive response, consistent with the requirements of the UN Charter.

Special thanks for their assistance in helping develop and support the launch of this report are due to Monika LeRoy of the General Secretariat and OAS R2P Focal Point; Hilary Anderson and Allison Kielhold of the Inter-American Commission of Women; the law firm Paul Hastings LLP, which provided pro bono support to research and develop this report including their lawyers Hanna Ali, Carolina Gonzalez, Daniel Holman, Eduardo Morande, Renata Parras, Jay Schuffenhauer, and Thomas Sines, as well as in-kind support for translation; Jim Pitofsky and Amy Proulx of the John Templeton Foundation, which provided financial support to translate and present this report publicly; and Michael Russo, Brian Tronic, Stephanie Herrmann, Emmanuel Orozco Castellanos, and Juan Felipe Wills of Perseus Strategies, who also provided pro bono support to research and develop this report.

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Reference: E-050/22