13 August, New York, United States - On August 7, UNITAR New York office developed and organized a specialized one-day training programme for diplomats at the Permanent Mission of Malaysia to the United Nations on the Security Council, Protection of Civilians and the Responsibility to Protect. While the prime purpose of this training was to prepare the Malaysian diplomats for their upcoming membership at the Security Council, UNITAR also organized for expert speakers to discuss protection of civilians (PoC) and responsibility to protect (R2P) as topics of relevance for the agenda of the Council. These topics found special interest among participants because of the current situations in Iraq and Palestine and questions were raised about the implications of applying PoC and R2P in these situations.

The morning session with its focus on the general functioning of the Security Council was opened by Mr. James Sutterlin, Senior DPA Political Affairs officer at the Office of Security Council Affairs who introduced delegates to the procedures of and preparation for membership in the Council. He also discussed the provision of support available from the Office of Security Council affairs for new members entering the Council and from the Secretariat for different subsidiary bodies, sanctions committees and working groups. Ambassador Ahmad Kamal, senior fellow with UNITAR, then stepped in to provide his insight on the operation of the Council, including its politics and practicalities. While stressing the importance of output, Ambassador Kamal reminded the delegates of the relevant and influential role of a non-permanent member in influencing the work of the Council.

Brian James Walsh, Military adviser at the Permanent Mission of Australia to the UN and Michael Flores from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau for International Organizations carried out inter-active discussion on an agenda item that they may address - PoC and R2P. Once the speakers introduced the delegates to the definition and background of PoC and R2P respectively, discussions followed about the difference between the two and the challenges surrounding the application of PoC and R2P in the multilateral framework.

Challenges particularly persist because of the notion of military intervention involved and the subsequent implication that has for the confines of sovereignty. To this, the speakers pointed out that both PoC and R2P have brought about a shift away from the absolute understanding of sovereignty by making the international community responsible for the protection of civilians in case a state fails to do so by itself.  

In the end, Mr. Flores closed his discussion by citing examples of successful R2P operations in Libya, the Kenyan elections and East Timor and demonstrated the potential it holds for the future. Simultaneously, Brian Walsh raised a crucial question about the possibility of finding alternate, less aggressive avenues for PoC other than the known route of Peacekeeping missions. In the closing, diplomats thanked UNITAR NYO for this specialized training, pointing out just how much it gave them a fresh look on the responsibility that comes with being a non-permanent member on the Security Council.