The need to protect people from acts of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing is a global responsibility. This panel will look at what can be done before such atrocities are carried out so that states can focus on prevention rather than response, examining international inactivity, proactivity and reactivity in response to atrocities. Where the principle of ‘responsibility to protect’ confers no legal obligation, it has succeeded in creating an emerging norm that acknowledges a political commitment to a collective approach to preventing atrocities.The effectiveness of the ‘responsibility to protect’ principle risks being undermined by apathy and the controversy of its perception as effectively enabling state intervention ‘by the back door’. Could an alternative approach, focused on and wider stakeholder engagement, garner international support and re-energize a failing norm? How can world powers be proactive, rather than reactive, in the fight against ethnic cleansing? How can we balance a proactive approach alongside state autonomy?
Ewelina U. Ochab is the co-founder of the Coalition for Genocide Response, human rights advocate, and author. Ochab works on the topic of persecution of minorities around the world, with main projects including Daesh genocide in Syria and Iraq. Ochab has made oral and written submissions to several international bodies, including the UN Human Rights Council, Council of Europe and the European Parliament. Ochab authored the initiative and proposal to establish the UN International Day Commemorating Victims and Survivors of Religious Persecution. Ochab works on her PhD in international law, human rights and medical ethics at Kent Law School.
James Smith is the co-founder and President of the UK National Holocaust Centre. He co-founded the Aegis Trust in 2000 and remains the Chief Executive Officer. In 2002 he staged the first major international conference on genocide prevention with the UK Foreign Office. He was awarded the CBE in the New Years Honours List in 2014 for services to Holocaust education and genocide prevention.
Dr Chloë M Gilgan is an Associate Lecturer at York Law School, and her PhD dissertation examined the link between the UK's commitment to the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) norm and the UK's resettlement policies on Syrian refugees fleeing mass atrocities. During her PhD studies, she provided legal policy advice to the UK government and to NGOs on matters of humanitarian intervention, R2P and refugee protection.
Alex de Waal is executive director of the World Peace Foundation and a research professor at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.