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Estonia Feels Countries Should Be Responsible for Protecting Citizens in Crisis Situations


Nr 347-E

At a meeting of the ministers of the R2P (Responsibility to Protect) initiative in New York, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said that at the core of the “responsibility to protect” principle is a state’s responsibility to ensure its population’s security, even during a crisis situation. “For example, the events of the Arab Spring have clearly raised this issue,” Paet noted. “A state’s responsibility to protect its people is just as important as effective aid or intervention from the international community,” he added.

The Estonian foreign minister emphasised that prevention is a major component of the responsibility to protect concept. “It means combating poverty, avoiding discrimination, ensuring rule of law and human rights and freedoms,” said Paet. “On the practical level, the accessibility of free internet, social media, and technological measures must increase, as this can help draw attention to the prevention and identification of crimes.” He added that national, regional and international parties must all play a role – this includes civil society and the media.

Paet stated that the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is essential in punishing those responsible for acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. He added that Estonia feels it is important to expand the role of the International Criminal Court and the global jurisdiction of the court. “The court currently has 121 members, but we hope that the number of members will grown significantly,” Paet noted.

Estonia would like to be a member of the Responsibility to Protect group, Paet said. Responsibility to Protect is an initiative created by the UN in 2005. It is a collection of standards based on the idea that sovereignty is not a right, but a responsibility. The initiative focuses on hindering and preventing genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing. There are three pillars of the concept: 1) a state carries the primary responsibility for protecting its populations from crimes against humanity; 2) the international community has a responsibility to encourage and assist states in fulfilling this responsibility; and 3) if a state fails to protect its populations, the international community has a responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other means (such as economic sanctions) to protect populations from these crimes. Military intervention is considered only as a last resort.


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