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The United Nations Security Council passed an historic resolution on Friday that confirms the agreement reached by leaders at the UN World Summit in September on their collective responsibility to protect civilians from genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
International agency Oxfam said this was the first resolution approved by the council to include the world summit agreement on the collective "responsibility to protect." The commitment establishes a joint understanding among all governments on their responsibilities for the protection of civilians at the national and international level.
"It is a landmark resolution that, if implemented effectively, should save countless lives," said Nicola Reindorp, head of Oxfam’s New York office." The Security Council has said that in the 21st century, the world will not tolerate genocide or crimes against humanity."
The summit agreement and Security Council resolution affirm that national governments have the primary responsibility to protect their civilians from genocide, crimes against humanity, and other similar atrocities. The international community has the obligation to support these efforts and prevent such crimes, and if national governments fail to protect their people, the international community must act.
At September's world summit in New York, United States President George Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Russian President Vladimir Putin joined leaders from more than 180 other nations in signing an historic measure on their collective responsibility to act when the government of the people fails to do so. Putting this commitment into practice would prevent another genocide like that in Rwanda in 1994.
"All governments are responsible for protecting their own people, but if a government fails to do so, the Security Council has today committed to act to prevent genocide or ethnic cleansing," said Reindorp.