75 UNGA: Statement of the delegation of Cuba at “Plenary meeting on the responsibility to protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”. New York, 17 May 2021

Mr. Chairman,

The delegation of Cuba would like to thank you for your good offices in the holding of this plenary meeting.

We also thank the Secretary-General for his efforts in preparing the latest Report on the Responsibility to Protect, on which we will make some observations.

First of all, my delegation believes it is a mistake to refer to the Responsibility to Protect as a principle, since it is neither a foundation nor an axiom of international law. This so-called “responsibility” is just a notion, whose scope, implementation rules and evaluation mechanisms are still far from being defined and agreed upon by Member States.

In this regard, it is inappropriate to speak of strengthening the implementation of the responsibility to protect without the existence of a consensus on its implications, which resolves differences of interpretation, guarantees its universal recognition and acceptance and grants legitimacy to the proposed actions for its implementation.

  The report presented defines in a footnote the term “atrocity crimes”, framing it within the four crimes agreed upon in Resolution 60/1. In this respect, we recall once again that several delegations have voiced their disagreement with the use of this term or “mass atrocities”, due to the lack of consensus on their definition, which derives from the will of Member States.

This is not the first time this room has heard concerns about the selective use and for political purposes of these terms to refer to manifold situations that are sometimes conceived as “new challenges that require protection”, and which can be easily manipulated, especially if they are not unanimously accepted by this Assembly.

Nor do we consider it wise to grant mandates to other bodies such as the Human Rights Council to evaluate States on matters that are still being studied and lack consensus. The duty of the international community lies, where appropriate, in encouraging and assisting States to discharge that responsibility which is theirs in the first place.

Mr. Chairman,

More than fifteen years after the Millennium Summit, the issue of the responsibility to protect continues to raise serious concerns for many countries, in particular small and developing countries.

In an international system as undemocratic as the one that prevails today, it is crucial to determine who decides when there is need to protect; who determines that a State does not protect its population; who and under what criteria the forms of action are determined; and how to prevent the issue from being used for intervention purposes. There is absolutely no clarity on how to ensure that the option to take action is implemented with the consent of the affected State, to avoid using this concept as a justification for an alleged and non-existent "right to intervene."

International efforts to prevent the occurrence of acts of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing o crimes against humanity, an objective that Cuba has always shared, should contribute to strengthening the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and international law, particularly sovereign equality, territorial integrity and self-determination. However, the ambiguities of this concept and the implications of the exercise of its so-called "three pillars" contradict those purposes and principles. Therefore, the preeminence of the principles of voluntariness must be recognized, upon the request and consent of the States in the context of the responsibility to protect.

If the intention is to prevent, then the root causes of these situations should be attacked, such as underdevelopment and poverty, the unjust international economic order, inequality and social exclusion, marginalization, food insecurity and other structural problems that determine the outbreak of conflicts that escalate to extreme situations, which unfortunately are not promoted with the same force by many of those who advocate the advance of this concept.

Mr. Chairman,

Preventing the international community from remaining impassive in the face of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity is a noble endeavor that Cuba supports. However, in many cases, the promotion of the responsibility to protect only hides the interest of having one more tool to facilitate interference in internal affairs, change of regime agendas and subversion in third countries, usually small and developing countries. Unfortunately, world history has plenty of examples to prove this concern.

Thank you.