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Mass Atrocities and the UN Security Council

Mass atrocities constitute threats to international peace and security, the enforcement and maintenance of which is the primary responsibility of the UN Security Council. Yet, the United Nations Security Council has regularly failed to protect populations from such crimes. Most shockingly, veto powers are regularly used to block collective action in situations of mass atrocities. In one current example, since 2011 the Veto has been used thirteen times on resolutions to address ongoing atrocities in Syria, which include the frequent use of chemical weapons.  In recent years two initiatives have been launched to encourage Veto restraint from the P5 on resolutions intended to halt or prevent mass atrocities (The France/Mexico Initiative and the ACT Code of Conduct, both of which have well over 100 state signatories). Furthermore, the General Assembly and other organs of the UN have increasingly stepped into action when faced with Security Council paralysis. This panel will discuss the root causes and consequences of the use of veto in situations of mass atrocities, and also comment on the ways in which the international community has been striving to overcome these divisions.

Roméo Dallaire, Canadian former General Senator, served as Force Commander for UNAMIR in Rwanda between 1993-1994, Senator for Quebec between 2005-2014, noted humanitarian and also founder of The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, which helps to protect children from recruitment and use of child soldiers.

Federica D’Alessandra, Executive Director of the Oxford Programme on International Peace and Security at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford.

Ambassador Stephen Rapp, Former United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice between 2009-2015, Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone from 2007 to 2009, where he led the prosecution of former Liberian President Charles Taylor; former Senior Trial Attorney and Chief of Prosecutions at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

This event is co-hosted by the Centre for Geopolitics at the University of Cambridge and the Oxford Programme for International Peace and Security. More information about can be found here.

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Event details

Event date:
June 3, 2020

Event time:
7:00 pm



Roméo Dallaire, Federica d’Alessandra and Stephen Rapp