Responsibility to Protect
Delivered to the General Assembly by Ambassador Ron Prosor on 8 September 2014
Our shared duty to protect one another is reflected in a long historical and moral tradition that dates back millennia and spans cultures and continents.
Jewish tradition teaches ואהבת לרעך כמוך to ‘love your neighbor as you love yourself.’
The Christian faith teaches the responsibility to assist others in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
Islam teaches אָחיבָּא ליאָח'יקָא מָא תוּחיבָּא לינָפסיקָא or ‘Wish for your brother, what you wish for yourself.’
Despite these common teachings, we live in a world that saw the horrors of the Holocaust – and despite the pledges of ‘Never Again’ – went on to witness the killing fields of Cambodia, the massacres at Srebrenica, and the genocide in Rwanda.
Israel supports the view that in cases of atrocity crimes, the international community cannot stand by and has a responsibility to protect. Israel welcomes the opportunity to engage in this dialogue so that we may advance the protection of all people.
For this reason Israel agrees with the observation that the question is not whether or not the responsibility to protect applies in a given situation, but rather how to best tailor an appropriate response in every circumstance. Since every situation is unique, maintaining the international community’s flexibility with R2P is crucial for ensuring its effectiveness.
Each of the three pillars that make up the R2P framework adopted at the 2005 World Summit are of equal importance. At the same time, international R2P efforts must emphasize the strengthening of existing tools and mechanisms rather than creating new ones. Israel also believes that the R2P doctrine – along with its three pillars – is intended to reinforce, but not undermine the principle of state sovereignty.
Pillar two, which is the focus of this year’s report, reflects the commitment of states to assist one another in focusing on prevention. Yet the international community continues to focus its attention and resources on reaction rather than prevention.
The cost of inaction can be seen in the hundreds of thousands of lives lost in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. In these places - where radical extremist groups like ISIS are slaughtering innocent civilians - there is little responsibility and certainly no protection.
R2P has the potential to shield the vulnerable against the most serious of crimes, but we must ensure that it does not become a tool that is misused and abused. In particular, while the use of force must remain part of the toolbox, it should be regarded as a measure of last resort.
Winston Churchill once said, “It is no use saying, 'We are doing our best.' You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”
What is necessary is to unite our efforts around education. After all, education is the key to ensuring that the failures of the past do not become the tragedies of the future. Tolerance and mutual understanding must be fostered in homes, taught in schools, nourished by leaders and woven into the very fabric of society.
As a family of nations, our responsibility to one another stems from our common humanity. Our moral imperatives supersede whatever politics, religion or geography may divide us. From the jungles of Africa to the rain forests of South America, we must stand together to ensure people everywhere have freedom, opportunity and dignity.
Let us never lose sight of our fundamental responsibility to our fellow human beings.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.