Preventing Mass Atrocities: How Can the UN Security Council Do Better?

26 September 2015

The Elders, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, and the International Peace Institute co-hosted a high-level panel event discussing ways to improve the Security Council’s ability to prevent and halt the commission of mass atrocity crimes.

Speakers included Gro Harlem Brundtland and Hina Jilani from The Elders; Jan Eliasson, the UN Deputy Secretary-General; Jean-Marie Guéhenno, President and CEO of the International Crisis Group; Salil Shetty, Secretary-General of the Amnesty International. The discussion was moderated by Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.

Brundtland and Jilani made clear that the Permanent Five (P5) states must be more responsible in using their veto, especially during a crisis where people are threatened with genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing or crimes against humanity.

Gro Brundtland said:

“The veto power should not be seen as a ‘right’ or reward for the P5, but a mark of the heavy responsibilities these countries bear for the maintenance of international peace and security. This responsibility is particularly acute when the Security Council considers how to prevent mass atrocities.”

Hina Jilani stated:

“No government, no matter what the circumstances, should be allowed to commit mass atrocities and escape accountability. The UN Security Council must put aside individual political interests and focus on a responsible, collaborative approach to the enforcement of international law.”

The Elders have proposed four steps to strengthen the UN in its key task of maintaining peace and security worldwide, including a requirement that P5 members do not use their veto without explaining their decision and proposing an alternative plan in accordance with international law that can achieve the same goals.

The event comes as two complementary initiatives aimed at the UN Security Council have been launched. The first, by the governments of France and Mexico, calls for the P5 to refrain from using their veto in mass atrocity situations. The 26-member Accountability, Coherence and Transparency  group of states has also launched a ‘Code of Conduct’ which applies to all Council members – permanent and elected – as well as aspirant members, and urges them to not block action that seeks to prevent mass atrocity crimes.

For more information, contact Evan Cinq-Mars, Advocacy Officer at the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (+1 (212) 817-1931 or or Jennifer Woodside, Director of Communications at The Elders (+44 7880 230 977 or

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