ABU DHABI, 26th February 2016 (WAM) — Since the UN’s establishment some 70 years ago, perhaps our greatest failure has been our inability to always protect civilians against atrocity crimes, Mogens Lykketoft, President of the 70th session of the General Assembly, said Friday.

Addressing the GA thematic panel discussion on R2P “From Commitment to Implementation: 10 Years of the Responsibility to Protect”, he said genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity have wide-ranging costs and long-lasting effects.

He said the protection of populations constitutes one of the main challenges facing our world and the United Nations today. “The images of those atrocities; the terror and pain felt by vulnerable populations, are embedded in the minds of citizens around the world.”

“Over the last ten years, the results have been mixed. Regrettably, we continue to see atrocities happen on our watch, including those taking place in on-going crises and conflicts today.”

At the same time, atrocities have been averted; and the Secretary-General has set out a framework for implementing this solemn commitment based on three mutually reinforcing pillars.

The president of the UN General Assembly highlighted that it is the responsibility of each individual State to lay the foundations for the protection of populations from these crimes and violations.

This focus on prevention and resilience-building, he noted, requires long-term and sustained commitment, as well as targeted policies and actions.

It entails building societies based on inclusiveness, transparency and accountability; building government institutions based on the rule of law and with full respect for human rights and it includes developing appropriate early warning systems in order to adequately respond to potential threats.

Today’s meeting was held to engage in a frank discussion on this issue and reflect on the progress made by the United Nations to date, on current and emerging challenges, and opportunities to accelerate implementation at the global, regional and national levels.

Lykketoft said it was clear that an early, collective response can dampen the determination of potential perpetrators to commit atrocity crimes.

“Non-military tools have made a tangible difference in responding to the commission of atrocity crimes and preventing their escalation, according to Lykketoft.

This includes tools, such as mediation, preventive diplomacy, fact-finding missions, special envoys and rapporteurs, referrals to the ICC and targeted sanctions, as well as action by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.

“Above all, we must ask ourselves what each of us, individually and collectively, will do to address the fundamental weaknesses in international action that have allowed genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity to occur over the past decade?”, said the president of the UN General Assembly.

WAM/MMYS