Youth at the Symposium - Venezuela

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Youth representatives with WFUNA staff in Caracas, Venezuela (WFUNA 2012). Not pictured: Erly Munoz, Freddy Jara Coello
Youth representatives with WFUNA staff in Caracas, Venezuela (WFUNA 2012). Not pictured: Erly Munoz, Freddy Jara Coello

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Youth at the Symposium - Venezuela

Five of our youth representatives from UNAs in Latin America joined our R2P Program Officer in Caracas, Venezuela, to not only participate in, but host and facilitate the Third Dag Hammarskjold Symposium. The symposium was held in collaboration with the UN Association of Venezuela and the Embassy of Sweden in Bogota, Colombia, responsible for Venezuela and Colombia. 

We asked these youth representatives from UNA-Venezuela, UNA-Colombia, and UNA-Mexico to share their experiences and thoughts on R2P. More stories coming soon!


Freddy Jara Coello, UNA-Venezuela

Freddy Jara Coello, Venezuela

"It's been for quite some time I've known R2P and studied it in relation to many things, however I have come to even better understandings and also considered how we, civilians, are probably the most important stakeholders in matter of responsibility to protect." 

What did you learn about R2P that you did not know before going to the symposium? 

Ever since I have studied R2P, it came to my understanding that the norm was directed towards the defense of civilians from the actual states that in principle should have been there to defend them, as a norm that would allow the international community to have a hand at defending legitimately Human Rights in matters that any Nation would naturally shield behind domestic concerns and sovereignty. R2P in essence is directed towards international inaction on palpable human rights violations. Nevertheless, with this symposium it has come to my understanding that civil society has a primary role for being precisely the target that R2P wishes to protect, and what better way to fight for human rights of a state than from within the state; what better way to suppress violations than to make understand society that they have a responsibility and it is their role to aid the state as well. 

What is one thing you are going to do differently when talking about R2P?

What I will do differently will be how I refer to R2P as a norm for states. I will speak of it not only as an international norm to avoid nations from neglecting their responsibilities from their intrinsic right of sovereignty, but I will also speak of it as a type of philosophy for a person's life, an understanding that one must get involved in the defense of human rights. I believe it may seem idealistic, nevertheless idealism has shaped our world by laying down objectives for us to attempt to accomplish and make not a perfect world, but without doubt a better and just one.

Sebastian Gonzalez, UNA-Colombia

Juan Sebastian Gonzalez, UNA-Colombia

Thoughts on R2P

Since I have never heard about R2P before, I was very curious about what exactly it involves. So I started questioning whether it might be a law and how it would be possible to enforce it if so. I also wondered whether it might even threaten the principle of sovereignty or actually involve military intervention. Does allowing international intervention in domestic issues threaten sovereignty? R2P makes clear that the right to sovereignty also carries a big responsibility and a commitment to respecting the rights of your own population. The world must serve as a guardian of this responsibility. It goes beyond borders. This is our commitment as human beings.

Can R2P be applied to any country?

Colombia is a country with a legitimized government that claims the will to protect civilians from the harms of the armed conflict we are undergoing for about 50 years. But still, there are civilians dying every day. And I wondered if R2P could be applied to my country. The short answer is: yes. R2P applies to every nation in different ways depending on the national context.  I was happy to understand that R2P also involves the responsibility of people to protect other people. We have to protect each other. If we all do so it will be the best way to prevent not only mass atrocities but any kind of violence: R2P means solidarity.

The meaning of protection

When we hear the word “protect”, the first association might be the deployment of armed forces. Somehow it happened to me automatically, just like a reflex. But in the symposium I learned that R2P comprehends more than that. The key aspect of R2P concerns prevention based on advocacy and other mechanisms excluding force in order to avoid mass atrocities. This is very important, because usually there is a military intervention after massacres occurred. By applying R2P as an international norm we couldn´t only be able to stop but also prevent humanitarian crisis and save hundreds of thousands of lives.

Pablo Angulo, UNA-Venezuela

Pablo Angulo, UNA-Venezuela 

What did you learn about R2P that you did not know before going to the symposium?

Before the Symposium, I can now say, I had a superficial comprehension of the R2P norm. I knew it existed, I had discussed it and understood it, but I did not know about some details and its profound implications. For example, Laura Spano, the R2P Program Officer, stated that the R2P norm does not actually give more power to the Security Council and that even countries like Argentina were huge promoters of the norm. Moreover, R2P is not a new idea on the prevention of mass atrocities. It is just a new framework to implement prevention in a more effective way. 

What is one thing you are going to do differently when talking about R2P?

R2P is somewhat polemic. Particularly in my country because Venezuela is maybe the main opposer of R2P in the UN. When talking about R2P I would definitely say that is mainly focused on prevention and that a big part of the resources are directed towards this. I would also talk about the concept of sovereignty and how it is a mistake to think that sovereignty is only a responsibility of the State. Sovereignty is also a responsibility of the people. Like Mr. Bonian Golmohammadi [Secretary-General of WFUNA] said, today's problem are simply to big and complex to leave them only in the hands of governments. 

R2P in Venezuela

I have witnessed in Venezuela that the position of our government towards R2P is of extreme distrust. This distrust is fueled by many misconceptions about R2P. We, as youth, have to engage in the promotion of the norm and create platforms of discussion where we can explore the pros and cons of R2P. Our main motivation simply has to be that there should never be more Rwandas. 

Erly Munoz, UNA-Venezuela

Erly Munoz, UNA-Venezuela

What did you learn about R2P that you did not know before going to the symposium? 

One of the most important aspects of prevention is detection. What worries me is the fact that in Venezuela we have been losing the ability to detect when our human rights are been violated and when our lives are not being respected. We have been using adaptation as a tool to survive in an unsettled environment.

Even when the R2P norm applies for the prevention of mass atrocities only, it is important to learn how to recognize the elements that activate the cycle that begins with social unrest and in some cases ends with mass atrocity. Aspects like sovereignty, prevention, and human rights must be the pillars of our initial education. It is important to understand sovereignty as a privilege a country can gain rather than receiving it without any merit.

What is one thing you are going to do differently when talking about R2P?

First, I will reinforce the fact that R2P is a norm of prevention mainly. In places that are in conflict at the moment the norm is not being used or understood properly, sometimes it is used this way on purpose to benefit one side. In Venezuela tensions arise when discussing these topics and in some other countries to open to these discussions are taken as an intromission to their beliefs; however I agree with Professor Jo-ann Peña when she states that the right to life is not something we can question. 

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