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Statement by Counselor Yao Shaojun at the General Assembly Debate on the Responsibility to Protect and the Prevention of Genocide, War Crimes, Ethnic Cleansing and Crimes against Humanity

2018/07/04

Madam President,

The Chinese delegation has listened carefully to the presentation by the Secretary-General Guterres and taken note of the report submitted by the Secretary-General on the issue of the "responsibility to protect" and would make the following observations:

Firstly, we must uphold the principle that governments of countries have the primary responsibility to protect their citizens and the principle of leadership by member states. The responsibility for protecting the people ultimately rests with each government, which is consistent with the principle of sovereignty. Therefore, in addressing crises, the international community should fully respect the sovereignty of the countries concerned, abide by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, and uphold the principles of sovereign equality and non-interference in internal affairs. The international community should, on the basis of respecting the leadership of the countries concerned, provide constructive assistance when necessary. In the current context, all parties should foster a concept of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security and strive to build a community of shared future for mankind. This is the fundamental long-term approach to protecting the people of all countries.

Secondly, we must faithfully implement the Outcome Document of the 2005 World Summit. The Outcome Document states that the application of the "responsibility to protect" is strictly limited to genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. This formulation is balanced. It is a compromise negotiated by all countries. Therefore all parties should refrain from expanding or making arbitrary interpretation of this concept, let alone distorting or abusing it. The principle of leadership by Member States should be upheld in the discussion of the concept of "R2P".

Thirdly, we should attach importance to prevention and increase input in preventive diplomacy. China notes that in his report, the Secretary-General proposed a series of measures regarding early warning and early action, such as strengthening the capacity building of Member States, solving problems through political means, and fully leveraging the roles of UN agencies and regional and sub-regional organizations. This reflects the focus on prevention, which China appreciates. The countries concerned should, in light of the actual situation, strengthen prevention by identifying their own weaknesses, and try to tackle the root causes of the conflict so as to address both the symptoms and the root causes of the problem.

Fourthly, we must exercise caution in using forces and should strive to use non-military measures to protect civilians. The international community should give priority to dialogue, consultation, negotiation, mediation, good offices and other peaceful means to solve problems. The use of coercive enforcement measures and the authorization to use force should only be considered when all peaceful measures are exhausted, and should be in line with the provisions of the UN Charter.

The military actions taken by the international community to protect civilians must be authorized by the Security Council with strict conditions and methods of implementation.

Now that the Member States are paying heightened attention to the issue of the "responsibility to protect", we hope that the discussions in the UNGA will help Member States build consensus and avoid imposing controversial initiatives.

Thank you, Madam President.

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