GA: The responsibility to protect

Statement by Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden delivered by Ambassador Mona Juul on The responsibility to protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, 27 June 2019.

| General Assembly


I have the honor of delivering this statement on behalf of the Nordic countries, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and my own country, Norway.

The five Nordic countries continue to be firmly committed to the Responsibility to Protect. We welcome the inclusion of R2P as a formal agenda item on the UN General Assembly’s agenda of its 73rd session. This marks the third time we are having this important discussion in a formal setting, and we believe the GA should continue this practice of open and frank debate, as repeatedly recommended by the Secretary-General.

As this is the first time Ms. Karen Smith joins us in the General Assembly as the Special Adviser on R2P, we would like to extend a special welcome to her. We commend the work done by Ms. Smith and of the Special Adviser on the prevention of genocide, Mr. Adama Dieng.


Prevention of atrocity crimes remains at the core of all three pillars of the Responsibility to Protect. We welcome the Secretary-General’s approach to make the responsibility to protect an important part of his broader strategy to prioritize prevention across all pillars of the United Nation’s work. We believe that mediation and increasing mediation capacity at the local, regional and international levels – as well as at the UN – is an important part of working towards more effective conflict prevention.

It is also crucial to continue linking R2P to other related agendas, including Peacekeeping, the Protection of Civilians, Women, Peace and Security, Sustaining Peace and the Sustainable Development Goals. We especially emphasize the role of women and youth in the prevention of atrocity crimes, as they are crucial for early warning and peacebuilding, as well as the creation of more inclusive societies. We should take concrete steps to end all forms of discrimination on the basis of gender and to empower women, including by ensuring that all girls can go to school.

The growing number of attacks against civilians, hospitals, schools and humanitarian workers is unacceptable. The Nordic countries call on all member states to uphold all their obligations under international law, including international human rights, international humanitarian law and international refugee law at a time when a divided Security Council is unable to take needed action in many serious conflict situations.

While the Security Council is not able to act in many situations relating to international accountability, the General Assembly and Human Rights Council play an important role in responding to atrocity crimes. This is demonstrated by the establishment of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for crimes committed in Syria and the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar. These successes are a direct result of concerted efforts by Member States committed to holding perpetrators accountable for their actions. Ensuring accountability remains one of the most effective ways to prevent the recurrence of mass atrocity crimes.

We recall that states have the primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute international crimes committed within their jurisdiction. National accountability efforts should be encouraged and supported. The Nordic governments also strongly support the International Criminal Court as the most important institutional development in the battle to end impunity for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is well justified to discuss the role of the ICC also during this meeting since support to the activities of the ICC may also have a deterrent effect.


Upholding our collective responsibility to protect must remain at the center of our commitment to an international rules-based order. The multilateral system we have all worked so hard to create deserves our unwavering respect. We must urgently increase the speed at which we move towards a prevention-centered analysis, as well as a culture of earlier preventive action when signs of atrocity crimes are identified. There are no excuses for inaction.

I thank you, President.