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The major powers must unite behind the UN

UN Photo: Jeroen Bouman

The International Court of Justice at The Hague, Netherlands in 2005.

The failure of the major powers to overcome their narrow, short-term interests has crippled the UN’s ability to enforce the peace and security of the world.

 

Embassy Magazine, Ottawa, September 17, 2014

 

Douglas Roche
Published: Wednesday, 09/17/2014 12:00 am EDT
Last Updated: Wednesday, 09/17/2014 1:08 am EDT

 

Outside, the headlines blared the new war on the ISIS extremists in Syria and Iraq, but inside the United Nations headquarters in New York, the focus was on building a culture of peace and forging an agenda to wipe out the worst forms of poverty by 2030.

Destroy. Create. 

The tensions inside me were fierce as I watched debates play out in the one place charged by international law to protect the peace and security of the world.

The speeches were exhortatory. It was like standing on a mountain and reveling at the sight of the green fields below. But, at the same time, people over the horizon were being slaughtered by barbarians who have not the slightest regard for elementary humanitarian law.

For three days, I watched UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon open various meetings with words of encouragement, while he himself and the world body he represents were being completely ignored by United States President Barack Obama and the other kingmakers as they formed a new coalition to rout Middle East extremists.

I had come to New York to speak at a day-long forum to mark the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Programme of Action on the Culture of Peace. This set of actions centering on non-violence and an end to all forms of discrimination, taken up by hundreds of civil society organizations and not a few governments, was eclipsed by the militarism that followed 9/11.

The Iraq and Afghanistan wars, with their devastating consequences, including giving birth to the extremists now running amok in the Middle East, have set the UN back. Yet the UN goes on planning for a better tomorrow.

Article 24 of the UN Charter is clear: "In order to ensure prompt and effective action by the United Nations, its members confer on the Security Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security."

Present-day politicians don’t seem to remember that, in 1961, US president John F. Kennedy and Soviet Union leader Nikita Khrushchev authorized their principal arms control negotiators, John McCloy and Valerian Zorin, to negotiate a framework for comprehensive disarmament. The superpower leaders agreed to “support and provide agreed manpower for a United Nations peace force.” The framework agreement was unanimously endorsed by the General Assembly, but the document was overtaken by the Vietnam War.

In 1992, former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali returned to the subject in hisAgenda for Peace, in which the Security Council would control a permanent force to deter aggression. Two years later, the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Armed Conflict recommended the establishment of a UN rapid reaction force of some 5,000 to 10,000 troops, the core of which would be contributed by members of the Security Council. So the idea of the UN Security Council acting to protect innocent civilians from atrocities is not new.  

The idea was further refined in the UN’s 2005 Responsibility to Protect doctrine, in which, if peaceful means fail, collective military action can be taken on a case-by-case basis under the authority of the Security Council. The UN has actually tried to exercise the Responsibility to Protect in Mali, the Great Lakes region of Africa, and Libya, but it is hampered by the veto system in the Security Council, in which any of the five major powers can unilaterally stop a proposed action. Thus the Security Council has not acted to stop the slaughters in Syria and Iraq.  

The failure of the major powers to overcome their narrow, short-term interests has crippled the UN’s ability to enforce the “peace and security” of the world. President Obama, although a reluctant warrior, is trying to put together a coalition that is sure to worsen the anti-Western feeling among Muslims and sow the seeds of a new generation of extremists.

The fact that the major powers will not unite to enforce an end to the barbarism of 2014 is a tragedy for the UN. The present weak leadership at the top of the institution is a further disturbing factor. I cannot imagine Dag Hammarsjkold or Kofi Annan allowing themselves to be silenced at the rupture of the charter they are sworn to uphold.

The UN has a bag of tools, not the least of which is the International Criminal Court, to protect civilians and enforce justice. The countries of the world need to get behind the UN at this moment of crisis, which I fervently hope Prime Minister Harper will keep in mind when he addresses the General Assembly in a few days.

The thinking I have been expressing here is described by some self-appointed realists as flawed. They argue that terrorism defines the 21st century and can only be met by a so-called war on terror. I disagree.

There will always be individuals willing to give their lives to attack an enemy. But terrorism is an aberration, not a system of change in people’s lives and attitudes toward one another. There are not civil society groups by the thousands coalescing around terrorism, rather there are civil society groups by the tens of thousands implementing at ground level, in many ways, the values of the culture of peace.

This huge and often unsung movement, which rejects war, is driving the present transformative moment for humanity. The movement to the culture of peace—however soft it may appear on the surface compared to the hard decisions of warfare still lingering in the militarists’ offices—is the real power of the 21st century. This is the power the UN charter represents. If the charter is continually overridden, the UN will be reduced to a social welfare agency.

Don’t get me wrong. Through its economic and social programs, particularly the Millennium Development Goals, the UN has lifted millions out of poverty and is a blessing for the world for that reason alone. But it was meant “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”

Though my latest visit to the UN has produced tensions within me, I dare not lose hope in the power of the only world body we have to contribute to building a safer, more equitable world. 

Former Senator Douglas Roche’s latest book is Peacemakers: How People Around the World are Building a World Free of War.
edior@embassynews.ca

 

 

A Thought from William Pace: 

 

Excellent article and inspiring in the wake of so much lowest-common-denominator thinking and the terrible diminishment of reporting on global peace and security governance issues.

 

The “no fly zone”/”no boots on the ground” peace enforcement strategy is catastrophic – instead of a protection of civilians approach it is leading to one that converts societies into armed rebels along sectarian or ethnic lines.  An international peace force is even more needed in 2014 than 1960.

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Citizens for Global Solutions NY Chapter Event: Nuclear Abolition: Is it possible without also abolishing War?

Nuclear Abolition: Is it possible without also abolishing War?

6:30pm TUESDAY APRIL 28, 2015

 Brearley School, 610 East 83rd St, NY 10028

A discussion amongst influential thinkers and the public about the United Nations, world security, nuclear disarmament and the abolition of war.

Held in conjunction with the 2015 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

Speakers:

Jim Barton (USA)

Director of the Smith Mill Creek Institute

Civil society movements acting to eliminate war

Alyn Ware (New Zealand)

Coordinator of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament

From the NPT to Nuclear Abolition – a UN Facilitated Process

Tad Daley (USA)

 Author of Apocalypse Never

The global architecture that could lead to the abolition of war

Rimma Velikanova (Latvia)

Basel Peace Office, Coordinator of Global Wave 2015

Youth, nuclear abolition and war in the 21st Century

Also invited:

Senator Harris Wofford, founder of Student World Federalists and a leader in civil rights campaigns

 Co-sponsored by:

Centre for War/Peace Studies, NY Citizens for Global Solutions, UNFOLD ZERO, World Federalist Association, World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

For information and to register contact: Lucy Law Webster, Ph: +1 607 437 0887, lucylawwebster@gmail.com

A Call for Just Security, By Don Kraus, WFM Executive Committee Member

Co-chairs Albright and Gambari launching the report at the Peace Palace in The Hague 

Photo credit: http://www.globalsecurityjusticegovernance.org/

We are in danger of losing the most pressing global security and justice challenges of our times. That’s what motivates a prestigious blue ribbon panel, co-chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright and Professor Ibrahim Gambari, the former Foreign Minister of Nigeria and UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs.

Fragile or corrupt governments have allowed conflicts to fester and terrorism to run rampant. Climate change is melting ice caps, raising sea-level and changing weather patterns setting off increased conflicts and a rapidly growing population of climate refugees. Internet accelerated globalization has increased our connectivity, but leaves us open to illicit trade, spying and theft.

In response to these threats, the Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance brought together 14 high level statespersons from around the globe to offer comprehensive recommendations. Their goal is to build an accountable and effective international system that can better safeguard international human rights and promote sustainable peace.

The Commission’s report, Confronting the Crisis of Global Governance, offers a broad menu of recommendations to, according to Secretary Albright, develop “more capable tools of global governance, with different kinds of public, private, and mixed institutions designed for twenty-first-century challenges.” Co-chair Gambari said at the report’s launch that “much more is needed from the United Nations and, indeed, other global institutions dealing with, for example, security sector reform and the rule of law to economic and social recovery and the promotion of human rights…”

The Commissions’ recommendations include:

• Next-generation U.N. conflict mediation and peace operations capacity, with a greater proportion of women, and increased capacity to deploy civilian, police, and military personnel to meet urgent peacekeeping requirements

• Strengthening the Responsibility to Prevent, Protect, and Rebuild

• Innovate climate governance through more meaningful engagement between government, civil society and business

• A green technology licensing facility within the Green Climate Fund

• Establishing a G20+ within a new framework for global economic cooperation to avert financial shocks and deliver on the Post-2015 Development Agenda

• A global network of cybercrime centers and increase Internet access in the Global South through enhanced capacity-building

• Improving the selection procedure for the next Secretary General with a call for nominations by Member States, parliaments, and civil society organizations, a formal list of selection criteria and a clear timetable for selection.

• Expanding U.N. Security Council membership and nontraditional engagement while restraining the use of the veto.

• Creating a U.N. Peacebuilding Council (to replace a weak Peacebuilding Commission)

• Strengthening the International Court of Justice, International Criminal Court, and the U.N. Human Rights Council

• A U.N. Parliamentary Network to “develop a transnational democratic culture”

This is an extremely ambitious report that has been launched in advance of the United Nations’ 70th Anniversary Summit in September. For the last few decades similar reports have been issued in response to the dramatic global challenges that humanity faces in the 20th and 21st centuries. Our Global Neighborhood, was issued in 1995 in conjunction with the U.N.’s 50th anniversary. In 2004, A more secure world: Our shared responsibility was prepared by then Secretary General Kofi Annan’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change.

While only some of the proposals in these reports came to fruition, each advanced the capacity of an evolving global community to better manage an increasingly interconnected world. For example, the Responsibility to Protect and the Peacebuilding Commission were proposed in Annan’s report. (Confronting the Crisis of Global Governance actually recommends improvements to both of these proposals.)

The authors of this latest report have also learned from their predecessors and have proposed a number of steps to promote the adoption of their recommendations, including marking the U.N.’s 75th anniversary in 2020 with a “World Conference on Global Institutions” which would be the culmination of a 3 year multilateral negotiation process with every effort made “to engage the voices and ideas of civil society at the most local level, as well as under-represented groups, in the lead-up to the World Conference.”

In the Commission’s “Call to Action” they correctly note that:

“In seeking to forge a mutually supportive system of good democratic governance and sustainable peace globally through the intersection of security and justice, just security offers a unique prism for understanding and responding to some of the most pressing global concerns of our time.…we must all refuse to accept mediocre solutions that rely on institutions and mindsets from another era. Only when men and women from diverse places and backgrounds rally around a shared, inherent need for security and justice—always felt locally but created at many levels—can these powerful actors be nudged toward what is needed, as well as what is right.”

2015 is a year where many global efforts to secure a more livable future are coming to a head. The Sustainable Development Goals will be considered by U.N. members in September and will shape the future of international development. The U.N. climate conference, to be held in Paris in December is considered by many to be a make or break moment in humanity’s ability to address climate change. Confronting the Crisis of Global Governance should be read, analyzed and acted upon by all who are engaged in these efforts and by all who understand that today’s global challenges-- mass violence in fragile states, climate change, and the possibility of devastating cyber attacks initiating global economic shocks -- must be addressed by new kinds of tools, networks and institutions.

Global support for UN Parliamentary Assembly

By Till Kellerhoff

Within the last seven months, the Campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) has been gathering additional support from around the world.

As of November 2015, over 1,400 current and former lawmakers from more than 100 countries, and hundreds of renowned personalities from politics, science, cultural life and civil society, signed the campaign’s international appeal that urges the United Nations and its member states “to establish a Parliamentary Assembly at the United Nations.” The appeal and the list of endorsements was presented to the President of the 70th UN General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, in New York. On this occasion, the coordinator of the campaign, Andreas Bummel, said that a parliamentary assembly could help to revitalize the UN’s main body and could enhance the world organization’s democratic legitimacy.

An encouraging step was made on the African continent. The Pan-African Parliament called on the African Union and Africa's governments to support the creation of a UNPA. In a resolution adopted by consensus in May by the plenary, the parliamentary body of the African Union states that "a UNPA is necessary to strengthen democratic participation and representation of the world’s citizens in the UN." The president of the Pan-African Parliament, Nkodo Dang from Cameroon, added, "More than 70 years after the establishment of the United Nations, global interdependence has made us all world citizens. It is long overdue that 'We, the Peoples,' as the UN Charter begins, have more say in global affairs. For this purpose, a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly needs to be established. I am happy to confirm my personal support of the international campaign that works towards this goal."

At the European level, support was voiced by Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs. Speaking at an event in Rome in February, she said that a UNPA could be a very useful tool and would be able to “strengthen the link between a system of global governance, which is remote by definition, and a citizenship that includes a global dimension."

Progress has also been made in several individual countries.

In October 2015, the German Parliament adopted a joint motion of the coalition parties CDU/CSU and SPD, urging the government under Chancellor Angela Merkel to support efforts to reform the United Nations that aim at making the world organization more efficient and more transparent. The democratic legitimacy of the UN needs to be guaranteed through modernization, the motion says. "This includes to examine the establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly," the parliament stated.

The proposal for a UNPA was also presented at an international conference on South-South cooperation, SSC, that was held in New Delhi in March. In a session on "One World Global Citizenship," the representative of the UNPA campaign in India, James Arputharaj, suggested that South-South politics should pursue the goal of democratizing global institutions.

Following the federal elections of October 2015, members of the Canadian House of Commons and the Canadian Senate came together in April in Ottawa to re-establish a joint all-party group that deals with UN matters. The purpose of the Canadian Parliamentary Friends of the United Nations is to “support the UN’s current mandate and Canada’s involvement in the UN.” As the group’s co-chair Don Davies, a parliamentarian from Vancouver, explained, the group intends to explore support for a UNPA.

In late April, around fifty students from Germany, Europe, and around the world came together in Halle (Germany) in order to simulate international negotiations on the establishment of UNPA. The chairman of Germany’s Green party and patron of the event, Cem Özdemir, wrote in a message to the participants that he supported the idea of a UNPA from the beginning. Another supportive note was received from Germany’s Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel.

Support for a UNPA also took a step forward in Sweden. At its national congress, the Swedish Green Party Miljöpartiet de gröna, which is part of the governing coalition, adopted a motion calling "for a democratic United Nations." The motion was accepted by an overwhelming majority of the congress delegates. It expresses the party's support of the UNPA campaign and calls on the Swedish government to advance the proposal at the UN.

Besides this news from parliaments and politicians around the world, positive developments also took place in the academic realm. In June, around twenty researchers and practitioners met for two days at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, to discuss "the practical politics of global integration." According to the convenors of the World Government Research Network, Luis Cabrera of Griffith University and James Thompson of Hiram College in Ohio, "over the past two decades, some of the world's leading International Relations theorists, normative political theorists, international law scholars, economists and sociologists have turned their attention to the concept of world government. They have assessed the prospects for full global integration, and in many cases identified reasons to support it." The establishment of a world parliament was one of the topics discussed at the workshop.

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"What would US cuts to the UN look like?"

In President Donald Trump’s most recent budget proposal, there were explicit calls to reduce United States’ funding to several United Nations organizations. While the US is the largest funder of the general UN system, not every affiliated organization benefits from US monetary support to the same extent. In an article recently published by the Brookings Institute, authors John McArthur and Krista Rasmussen discuss the implications for individual UN organizations as well as for the US should the latter significantly reduce its support in the upcoming fiscal year.

In 2014, the last year for which data is available, the US gave nearly $10 billion to the UN system. The five organizations that received the biggest share of US money were the World Food Programme (WFP), UN Peacekeeping Operations (UN PKO), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nation’s Secretariat, with the remainder spread across 24 other organizations in varying amounts. Thus, if the US reduced funding to any of these five major organizations, it would enable the country to save the most money.

However, each organization derives a varying percentage of their budgets from the US, so even small changes in how much the US contributes could have a disproportionate effect on their ability to function. For example, both the WFP and the UNHCR receive over 40 percent of their total funding from the US, so any reduction in funding could be destabilizing. Additionally, all five organizations to which the US gives the most rely upon this support for at least 20 percent of their budgets, emphasizing that there is no easy path to significantly reducing spending. Even smaller agencies to which the US gives relatively little can still depend largely upon US support. For example, less than two percent of US spending goes to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but this relatively small dollar amount still constitutes 30 percent of this organization’s budget.

McArthur and Rasmussen argue that the most disastrous route would be for the US to cut funding for the WFP, which would result in international humanitarian and geopolitical crises. Because the US gives a large amount of absolute dollars to the WFP, and this amount also makes up a significant portion of the WFP’s budget, other UN Member States would probably struggle to fill the extensive gap. The only possible replacement source would be an emerging power like China, and losing its status as the leading funder for such prominent UN organizations would not be ideal for the US in terms of global influence. Although it is unclear how the US will proceed, simply reducing monetary support could have unintended and unfavorable consequences for both the country and the UN as a whole.

You can read McArthur and Rasmussen’s article “What would US cuts to the UN look like?”, originally published by The Brookings Institution, here.

 

 

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WFM-NGO Discussion on UN2020 - 4 May 2017

 

 

On May 4th, 2017, WFM-IGP held a meeting with nearly two dozen civil society representatives regarding the upcoming 75th anniversary of the United Nations. The informal gathering intended to establish the best course of action to take in 2020. The UN celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1995, in the wake of the Cold War. States, civil society and other key stakeholders came together to imagine what the UN would look like in a post-Cold War global climate, and proposed significant projects and agendas for peace, development, security. Ultimately, little came from both the 50th and the subsequent 70th anniversary, despite these expectations.

The UN and global political agendas of recent years, including the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement, and the Responsibility to Protect, call for a push from civil society in 2020. The question now is to determine what kind of action should be undertaken for the anniversary. Different propositions and approaches were raised during WFM’s meeting, such as the need for the coordination of as many civil society stakeholders as possible, inclusive discussions with UN officials and government representatives, emphasis on prevention, the need for reform, and ultimately—whether or not the anniversary is the right opportunity to raise these questions.

WFM, through the voices of Executive Director William Pace and WFM-Canada’s Executive Director Fergus Watt, introduced their approach and preparatory work to participants: the challenges faced by civil society, some possible strategies for coordination, overviews of recent meetings held with Ambassadors and UN officials. Through the fruitful discussions, it was agreed upon that it is not too early to start preparing now but may be too premature to start putting concrete proposals on the table just yet.

These opening remarks were followed by fruitful discussions and active participation from the wide variety of civil society representatives in the room. It was first recalled that a number of agenda points are up for review between now and 2020. For instance, the end of the 4-year cycle for reviewing progress on SDGs, the High Level Political Forum review, the review of the General Assembly; 2020 is the next Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review to be negotiated. The upcoming American Congressional (2018) and Presidential (2020) might also reshape the outcome and the stakes of this UN anniversary - and may even have further implications for the international community beyond that.

The issue of whether or not to push reforms was undoubtedly the core of the discussion. The reforms brought up included the Security Council reform (regarding the veto and P5), the General Assembly reform, and the process on the ban of nuclear weapons, among other. Several participants also mentioned taking a different approach by celebrating achievements of the UN, not only focusing on the challenges it faces.

In short, the meeting was the catalyst for what will hopefully be active and inclusive discussions on the future of the UN at its 75th anniversary. Participants across the board agreed that it is above all important to engage and coordinate a united civil society that will be prepared to tackle the UN2020. In this context, additional consultations will be held in July and September.

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Letter from the NGO Task Force on the ACT Code of Conduct to the UN Security Council on the Worsening Situation in Yemen

20 July 2017

 

To United Nations Security Council Ambassadors,

 

Re: Worsening crisis in Yemen and need for United Nations Security Council Action

 

Following the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) briefing on 12 July, where senior UN officials warned of a dramatic worsening of the crisis in Yemen, we felt compelled to write to you as the NGO Task Force on the Code of Conduct regarding Security Council action against genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.

 

The Special Envoy for the Secretary-General has warned an escalation in violence is causing an 'appalling' humanitarian situation in Yemen. The Chief of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O'Brien, reported that 7 million people are at risk of famine, and highlighted that the UNSC has primary responsibility for this conflict and member states must do more. Other officials reported that the cholera outbreak, which has already killed over 1800 people, is unprecedented (affecting 22 out of 23 governorates) and warned that the disease will kill many more due to the collapse of basic health services and the fact that nearly 15 million people – over 55% of the population – do not have access to basic health care or clean water. 

 

The dire humanitarian situation in Yemen is a man-made catastrophe – not a natural disaster. The ongoing armed conflict and the manner in which it is being fought only contributes to and exacerbates this humanitarian crisis. We call on all members of the UNSC to take immediate action to end violations of international humanitarian law by the parties to the conflict, prevent further deterioration of the humanitarian situation and ensure accountability. 

 

113 UN member states – including eight current Security Council members – have endorsed the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) group Code of Conduct and in doing so have pledged to support timely and decisive UNSC action to prevent or end the atrocity crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. Yemen is clearly an atrocity situation, as multiple briefings by senior UN officials have confirmed. Human rights organizations have gathered information showing that all parties to the conflict, including the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and the Houthi armed group and allied forces as well as anti-Houthi forces, have committed serious violations of international humanitarian law, which may amount to war crimes. 

 

It is time for the UNSC to end its paralysis on Yemen and to take concrete steps to prevent mass atrocity crimes and thereby uphold its collective responsibility to maintain international peace and security as mandated in the UN Charter.

 

Specifically, we call on UNSC members to:

 

Ensure that measures related to protection of civilians and addressing the humanitarian crisis in the 15 June Presidential Statement (PRST) become actionable and are implemented in an expeditious manner. The UNSC must demonstrate its commitment to Yemen by asking the Special Envoy to report on progress made on each action point of this long-awaited statement. Thus far, in the five weeks since the statement was adopted, no action has been taken nor has a timeline been set for implementation; 

 

Expand the UN arms embargo established under Resolution 2216 to prohibit the direct or indirect supply of weapons, munitions, military vehicles, spare parts and other military equipment or technology, or logistical and financial support for such supplies or in support of their military operations, to all parties to the conflict in Yemen, including the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, as long as a substantial risk remains that such arms could be used to commit serious violations of international law; 

 

Demand the re-opening of the Sana'a airport for commercial flights so that additional humanitarian supplies can enter the country and people in need of medical treatment can be evacuated. Ensure that access to Yemen is granted for human rights researchers and journalists; 

 

Demand that all parties to the conflict in Yemen fully comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law by ensuring that civilians and civilian objects are not targeted and that no indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks are carried out. All parties must allow and facilitate impartial humanitarian relief and protect vulnerable populations without discrimination on grounds of tribal, religious or political affiliations;

 

Demand that the parties to the conflict comply with their obligations under international human rights law and release all people who are arbitrarily detained, allow civil society organizations to operate freely, and investigate violations and ensure accountability for those responsible.

 

Sincerely,

 

Amnesty International

FIDH - International Federation for Human Rights

Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Human Rights Watch

International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect

World Federalist Movement Institute for Global Policy

 

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