Saturday, October 19, 2013 8:52 am, | International News
Protecting human rights is a core purpose of the United Nations and defines our identity as an organization.
The consequences of failure to prevent serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law are all too evident, whether for individuals, countries or whole regions. The legacy can reverberate for generations. Protecting human rights helps prevent conflict. Deterioration of human rights can be a telling sign of impending crisis. Success in promoting and protecting rights, and in ensuring accountability for their violation, offer effective means to de-escalate conflict and to forestall the human and financial cost of humanitarian crises. Once conflict erupts, the imperative becomes to use all practical means to protect civilians. Respect for international humanitarian law is as critical as respect for human rights.
In 2009 the Sri Lanka crisis was a test. We failed it. It was − as characterized by the Internal Review Panel report that I commissioned − a “systemic failure”
The challenges that plagued us in Sri Lanka were not new: they have been with us for many years and in diverse situations. They include failure to communicate evidence of impending crisis and lack of strategies to address serious violations drawing upon the full range of our diplomatic, legal and operational capacities. We do not always deploy and empower colleagues
swiftly to address often rapidly changing circumstances, and back them up when they take risks. Lack of clear leadership at headquarters has resulted in mixed messages, reduced operational clarity and lost opportunities. Above all, we have not always been effective at getting Member States to reach agreement on concerted action.
The actions proposed in this plan form part of the UN’s responsibilities as set by the Charter and Member States. They may not be new. Many have been recommended before, but were not fully implemented. This time they must be. We must apply them right away to the situations before us, and I will hold accountable those responsible for their implementation.