The Responsibility to Protect (R2P)

Shaping UK strategy on atrocity prevention

Professor Jason Ralph engages civil society organizations, especially the United Nations Association-UK and Protection Approaches, which form part of the UK Working Group on Atrocity Prevention, informing their advocacy work on human rights and the Responsibility to Protect. This started with his 18,000 word report Mainstreaming R2P in UK Strategy, which was published by the UNA-UK in April 2014 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. The report was launched at a one-day workshop hosted by the British Academy, and was the subject of a dual presentation to All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the United Nations with the then Special Adviser the UN Secretary General, Jennifer Welsh. The report found that despite strong rhetorical support for R2P, and despite strong cross-departmental cooperation guided by the Building Stability Overseas Strategy (BSOS), the UK government operated without an ‘atrocity prevention’ lens. The government’s claim that atrocity prevention obligations were met through its conflict prevention policy missed the fact that atrocities can take place outside situations of armed conflict, and that some conflicts are more prone to atrocities than others. This pointed to the need for a more discriminating approach and a finer-grained analysis. The report recommended mainstreaming atrocity prevention in the practices of the Joints Analysis of Conflict and Stability (JACS) and the Conflict, Security and Stability Fund.

These shortcomings have since been recognized by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. Following its December 2017 report on the violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar, and its September 2018 report on the R2P and Humanitarian Intervention (to which Professor Ralph submitted evidence), the Committee called for the Government ‘to act urgently to produce a comprehensive atrocity prevention strategy and implementation plan to ensure it moves beyond words and towards concrete actions’. Foreign Office Minister Lord Ahmed subsequently identified JACS as ‘a particularly useful tool’, which helps ‘the government to identify situation-specific interventions that are most likely to prevent conflict, build stability and prevent atrocities’. In its most recent engagement with the Foreign Affairs Committee, the European Centre for the Responsibility to Protect has proposed that the government build on this by relocating the R2P Focal Point from the Foreign Office to the National Security Council, making it the responsibility of a Deputy National Security Adviser. Professor Ralph has also engaged the EU’s External Action Service on similar topics, most recently presenting his research (with Eglantine Staunton) on the failure to prevent atrocities in Myanmar.