"In the past, the language of 'protection' was too often a pretext for expansion and aggression" Archbishop Celestino Migliore, said in a debate during the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly.
"In spite of the many advancements in international law, this same understanding and practice tragically continues today" he said.
"However, during the past year, there has been growing consensus and greater inclusion of this expression as a vital component of responsible leadership. The responsibility to protect has been invoked by some as an essential aspect of the exercise of sovereignty at the national and international levels, while others have re-launched the concept of the exercise of responsible sovereignty".
"By its nature and structure, the United Nations normally creates neither the events nor the trends, but rather, serves as a sounding board where events and trends are submitted for debate and a coherent, consensual and timely response", said the archbishop.
"This year has been dominated by a number of challenges and crises: natural and man-made calamities, staggering economies, financial turmoil and fuel prices, the impact of climate change, local wars and tensions. ... One of the clear facts recognised by all is that every crisis presents a mixture of natural factors and elements of human responsibility. However, these are all too often compounded by tardy response, failures or reluctance of leaders to exercise their responsibility to protect their populations.
"When speaking within these walls of the responsibility to protect", the prelate added, "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 'we the peoples' who formed the United Nations conceived the responsibility to protect to serve as the core basis for the United Nations", the archbishop concluded. "The founding leaders believed that the responsibility to protect would consist 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 mobilise the attention of governments, civil society and public opinion to find the causes and offer solutions".