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Cultural Diplomacy and Human Rights

Remarks by Mag. Marko Rakovec, Minister Counsellor, International law Division, Slovenia, at the Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy and Human Rights 2013

Marko RakovecRemarks by Mag. Marko Rakovec, Minister Counsellor, International law Division
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia

Distinguished participants,
Ladies and gentlemen,

At the outset let me congratulate the organizers, in particular the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy (ICD) and the Budapest Centre for convening this very timely Symposium on Prevention of genocide and Mass Atrocities in Practice. I regret that I was not able to be with you today at this important discussion. However, I hope this video-intervention will provide a useful input to the debate. Enhancing transatlantic collaboration of civil society is an extremely important issue, and in particular we should explore ways how NGOs might help the transatlantic cooperation of Governmental Organizations.

I will focus in my presentation on three points.

1. Tools governments have at their disposal for genocide prevention.
2. Responsibility to Protect concept.
3. The way forward with special emphasis on the role of the civil society.

Turning to point 1.
It suffices to look at this conference’s programme to see how many non-governmental organizations are involved in the genocide prevention activities. However, governmental part is much less developed in this area, although we should commend the progress made by the international community over the last two decades after having witnessed genocides in Srebrenica and Rwanda. The UN has established the Office of the Special Adviser to the UNSG on the Genocide Prevention, the UNSC has established two international criminal courts and international community subsequently established the first permanent international criminal court which today counts 122 members. In addition, many other UN offices and agencies are closely linked to the genocide prevention activities such as peace building and rule of law programmes. We should recognize also the important role of regional organizations which have also adopted their activities aimed at genocide and other mass atrocities prevention.

Regrettably, despite this progress the international community has still not made an end to genocide and mass atrocities. Even today we are still hopelessly observing mass atrocities being committed on a daily basis. How can we go above this? The answer to this question is not easy, but this does not mean we shouldn’t stop thinking of how to improve our action. There were several proposals presented in the last few years, all of which, in my view, deserve our close attention. Let me just highlight two of them: Responsibility to Protect concept and the initiative of the former Prime Minister of Slovenia Mr. Janez Janša “The Genocide Free World”. The later initiative, developed together with the ICD, aims to combine existing activities in this area and to give them a strong political support for possible formal adoption.

Let me now turn to my second point – the Responsibility to Protect concept (R2P).
Slovenia has been a staunch R2P supporter since its historical endorsement at the 2005 World Summit where our then Permanent Representative to the UN co-facilitated its adoption. The R2P shifts the understanding of the principle of sovereignty as States’ exclusive right to sovereignty to an obligation of States to protect their populations from genocide and other mass atrocities. All states must assist each other in performing this obligation, and international community must act if a state manifestly breaches its obligation to protect. However, we can see that there is a lot of misunderstanding on the R2P concept. During the very well attended first European regional R2P Focal Points meeting held in Slovenia on 10 April earlier this year and the subsequent international academic conference organized by the Law Faculty, where we were honored also by the presence of the UN Special Adviser Mr. Dieng, we have noticed that R2P is often wrongly understood only as another way of a military intervention.

This is wrong! The R2P aim is primarily to work preventively. States must address with due care conditions conducive to genocide and other mass atrocities. Mass atrocities do not erupt from a vacuum. There are always clear indicators that violence will emerge and atrocities will be committed. Military intervention, while being the most visible part of the R2P, comes only as a last resort. We should be clear that military intervention is not the difficulty of the R2P concept, but it is the difficulty as such, irrespective whether it is part of the R2P or not.

The R2P concept is therefore yet to reach its full potential. No difficulties can serve as an excuse not to continue advancing consensus and improvements to R2P implementation. It is precisely through dialogue and cooperation of all the stakeholders (States, international and regional organizations as well as, and let me stress, also civil society), that we can build bridges and remove gaps between policy and delivery. In particular, Pillars I and II of the R2P deserve greater focus in the future. We need a constant dialogue and the role of civil society in this process is indispensable.

Let me also take this opportunity to assure you that Slovenia will support at its best such a discussion and will remain an active player both in the multilateral fora and bilaterally through development and technical assistance programs along with our participation in the security sector. Last October the Slovenian government appointed me for the national R2P focal point. We have seen that this is highly beneficial for the implementation of the R2P concept. Focal points can exchange best practices and assist each other in developing policies that will lead to improvements in the implementation of R2P and effectively prevent potential occurrence of mass atrocities. We would therefore urge all states and international organizations to appoint such focal points.

Turning now to my final point 3 – The way forward with special emphasis on the role of the civil society.

Before, I have mentioned that my government together with the GCR2P hosted the first European meeting of national R2P focal points. The meeting brought together representatives of almost entire European region, representatives of international and regional organizations as well as civil society. The meeting was convened with the aim to assess existing structures and capacities for the implementation of R2P pillars I and II in Europe and identify additional steps to be taken. One of the conclusions was that the role of civil society in this process should be strengthened.

The civil society poses expertise and in depth knowledge of the problems but most importantly it often bears also a personal experience of the atrocities being committed. Slovenia has witnessed such atrocities recently in its neighborhood. This gives us a particular moral obligation to do more in order to prevent future crimes. Civil society should persuade all governments to be morally accountable for their actions or non-actions that lead to mass atrocities. In my view, public pressure is paramount to change international behavior regarding situations where mass atrocities are or are likely to be committed. We must develop zero tolerance policy for such criminal actions and the international community should be capable to take up early action already in the phase when military action is not needed. We should learn from each other and share best practices. We can see that transatlantic cooperation on these issues is highly beneficial.

The US Government has through a prominent civil society project established a robust Atrocities Prevention Board which has many tools at its disposal to effectively address genocide and other mass atrocities. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum has recently presented a draft Atrocities Early-Warning System which could be used worldwide. The EU is also carefully considering the ways on how to improve its response to mass atrocities and recently established a Conflict Prevention Board. Further, let me recall recent excellent Report of the Task Force on the EU Prevention of Mass Atrocities initiated by the Budapest Centre. The report is an example of a very productive cooperation of the governments and civil society. This process was in my view able to objectively analyse the current situation and to make many useful recommendations on how to improve the existing structures and strategies. We all should therefore aim to promote such good examples of cooperation.

To conclude, I call on every participant to take an active stance, to learn about the genocide and mass atrocities prevention, advocate for its goals and contribute to their best abilities towards the mass atrocities prevention. Such complex and broad issue requires and relies on hard work and determination of each and every actor. Each and every one of us, present here today, can contribute to the global cause of Atrocities Free World – a world where the almost famous “never again” exclamation will turn into reality.

I wish you a very productive discussion.

Thank you for you attention.

Center for Cultural Diplomacy Studies Publication
Institute for Cultural Diplomacy


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