Holy See Denounces Misuse of Protection Principle

Says It Cannot Be Used as Pretext for Aggression

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NEW YORK, SEPT. 30, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Though a nation's responsibility to protect its people is a valid principle, it should not be used as a pretext for aggression, says the Holy See.



Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, affirmed this Monday at the general debate of the 63rd session of the General Assembly.

"When speaking within these walls of the responsibility to protect, the common understanding of the term is found in the 2005 Outcome Document, which refers to the responsibility of the international community to intervene in situations where individual governments are not able or willing to assure the protection of their own citizens," the archbishop clarified.

But, he lamented, the language of protection "was too often a pretext for expansion and aggression. In spite of the many advancements in international law, this same understanding and practice tragically continues today."

Nevertheless, Archbishop Migliore continued, even Benedict XVI, in his address to the United Nations, recognized that the "responsibility to protect has served and must continue to serve as the principle shared by all nations to govern their populations and regulate relations between peoples."

The prelate thus spoke out against a distortion of the principle as a justification for an arbitrary use of military might.

"This distortion is a continuation of past failed methods and ideas. The use of violence to resolve disagreements is always a failure of vision and a failure of humanity. The responsibility to protect should not be viewed merely in terms of military intervention but primarily as the need for the international community to come together in the face of crises to find means for fair and open negotiations, support the moral force of law and search for the common good," he said.

The Holy See official then recalled that the responsibility to protect was a core principle in founding the United Nations, but the principle was conceived as consisting "not primarily in the use of force to restore peace and human rights, but above all, in states coming together to detect and denounce the early symptoms of every kind of crises and mobilize the attention of governments, civil society and public opinion to find the causes and offer solutions."

It is this vision of the United Nations that still needs to be put into better effect, he said.

"The United Nations was not created to be a global government but is the product of the political will of individual member states," Archbishop Migliore affirmed. "Thus, it is the child orphaned by HIV/AIDS, the boys and girls sold or forced into slavery, those who wake each morning not knowing if today they will be persecuted for their faith or the color of their skin, who continue to cry out for an institution and leaders who will back their words with actions, commitments and results.

"These voices, which are too often ignored, must finally be listened to, so that we can move beyond political, geographical and historical divisions and create an organization which reflects our best intentions rather than our various failings."