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Realizing the UN’s Protection Promise: A Central Challenge for the Next Secretary-General

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Today the relevance, legitimacy and credibility of the United Nations are widely seen as a function of its efforts to end civil wars and prevent the worst mass atrocities. Despite advances in recent years, the UN’s protection record over the past decade is mixed. Considering the ever-growing global expectations of the UN to protect populations from large-scale violence, along with a rise in protection risks, these issues will naturally feature highly on the agenda of António Guterres when he assumes the post of Secretary-General in January 2017. He will need to overcome a number of daunting challenges to ensure the UN realizes its protection promise and restores the organization’s damaged credibility in this area. To achieve this, he will need to make progress on three fronts in particular: first, fostering a renewed consensus around the Responsibility to Protect norm; second, strengthening the ability of peace operations to implement protection mandates while ensuring that expectations are in line with what blue helmets can deliver; and third, improving the UN’s response to severe human rights violations in non-mission settings.

Affiliations: 1: United Nations University Centre for Policy Research, ; 2: United Nations University Centre for Policy Research,


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