A single person can bring about world changes

The responsibility to protect, or R2P, is (on paper) a very logical and thorough approach to protecting vulnerable populations from the most heinous atrocities of the world.
It places on each country the responsibility to do everything possible to prevent and peacefully end such atrocity crimes, within and beyond national borders, in a timely and decisive manner.
The principle itself is well-accepted around the world. Where it gets tricky is the “doing everything possible.” What exactly does this entail, and what are the limits?
Can one person really make a difference? How can we as individuals, and Canadian and global citizens, turn such words into actions?
Let’s begin on the scale of the international community. The International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) has defined two types of actions to be taken: upstream and downstream prevention measures.
Upstream prevention measures are meant to be taken by individual countries to create a stable and safe society for citizens to live in. The categories are listed as economic, governance, human rights, security, and social actions.
Economic upstream prevention measures include general goals such as reducing poverty and deprivation while promoting economic growth.
Supporting democracy and the sharing of power is considered a powerful measure in governance, and working with the International Criminal Court is a big step that promotes accountability for violations of human rights and greatly can reduce the risk of atrocity crimes.
Creating a secure society by, for instance, strengthening the rule of law, and encouraging small arms control, also reduces the risk of such crimes.
Finally, promoting diversity, tolerance, and freedom of thought and expression are examples of social upstream prevention measures. These are, obviously, very broad and ambitious goals, and are not always entirely effective, but having these big goals is essential to the success of R2P.
If these upstream prevention measures are unsuccessful, downstream prevention measures come into play. These are examples of peaceful measures to be taken by the international community after a conflict or atrocity situation has, or very nearly, begun.
Diplomatic measures such as arbitration and unbiased “fact-finding” can be useful in resolving the conflict peacefully. Turning to the ICC or International Court of Justice are important legal steps to be taken.
Preparing for collaborative and appropriate military action, as well as imposing economic, trade, or travel bans and sanctions, can be incentives to end a conflict.
There are lots of things the international community as a whole, and a country as an individual, can do to enact R2P. But the principles of R2P go far beyond the crises of the world, the U.N. headquarters in Geneva and New York, or even Parliament Hill.
R2P can be a controversial concept, and not everyone may agree with its implementation. However, as citizens of Canada and the world, we have the obligation to educate ourselves on the world beyond our town and our national and continental borders.
This means to be socially responsible, and to form opinions about the major humanitarian issues of our time, in Canada and the world.
When an injustice occurs, awareness, sensitivity, and understanding are the most essential steps towards a resolution. A single person with an idea, an opinion, a stance can change the way someone else thinks, and from there, a social movement begins and change occurs.
I write this in the hope that you, the reader, will realize a similar passion for human rights that I have, and that you will use that passion to do good in the world.
R2P is big. The world is big. One person is small but powerful.
For more information on R2P, visit ccr2p.org or e-mail me at mira.c.donaldson@gmail.com
Editor’s note: Mira Donaldson is an intern for the Canadian Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (CCR2P) and recently has taken on her new position of Youth Ambassador.
She is the daughter of local residents Kelly and Guy Donaldson.

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