Security Council passes landmark resolution – world has responsibility to protect people from genocide

Published: 28 April 2006

New York: The United Nations Security Council today passed an historic resolution that confirms the agreement reached by world leaders at the UN World Summit in September on their collective responsibility to protect civilians from genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

International agency Oxfam said this was the first resolution approved by the Council to include the World Summit agreement on the collective "responsibility to protect". The commitment establishes a joint understanding among all governments on their responsibilities for the protection of civilians at the national and international level.

The Summit agreement and Security Council resolution affirm that national governments have the primary responsibility to protect their civilians from genocide, crimes against humanity and other similar atrocities. The international community has the obligation to support these efforts and prevent such crimes, and if national governments fail to protect their people, the international community must act.

Nicola Reindorp, head of Oxfam International's New York Office, said the resolution was an important moment for the protection of millions of people caught in violent and deadly conflicts.

"The Security Council has today said that in the twenty-first century, the world will not tolerate genocide or crimes against humanity. It is a landmark resolution that, if implemented effectively, should save countless lives," Oxfam's Reindorp said.

"All governments are responsible for protecting their own people, but if a government fails to do so, the Security Council has today committed to act to prevent genocide or ethnic cleansing."

At September's World Summit in New York, United States President George Bush, UK Prime Minister Blair, and Russian President Vladimir Putin joined world leaders from over 180 other nations in signing an historic measure on their collective responsibility to where the government of the people fails to do so. Putting this commitment into practice would prevent another Rwanda.

The specific paragraph on the responsibility to protect was included in the resolution on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, in Operative Paragraph 4: Reaffirms the provisions of paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document regarding the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Contact Information

For more information, please contact:
Caroline Green on +1 202 321 7858 in Washington DC
or Nicola Reindorp on +1 646 246 5448.