World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

The Responsibility to Protect

16 March 2006

Letter to H.E. Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, 16 March, 2006


Your Excellency,
Dear Mr Secretary-General,

Greetings from Geneva and the World Council of Churches. We have just concluded
the WCC 9th Assembly and returned from Porto Alegre, Brazil. Let me, on
behalf of the Assembly, express our sincere appreciation for your inspiring message.

One of the statements adopted by the Assembly was a church and ecumenical
response to the challenge of the Responsibility to Protect. Enclosed please find
the statement.

During a visit to your offices in New York City in 1999, you requested my
predecessor, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Rev.
Dr Konrad Raiser, to contribute to the international debate on "humanitarian
intervention" by bringing a theological and ethical perspective on the issue of
intervention for humanitarian purposes. This visit initiated a study process among
the churches, a process which also benefited from the findings of the report of the
International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) on the
Responsibility to Protect.

Subsequently, during my visit to your offices in May 2004, the issue of the
Responsibility to Protect was again stressed during our discussion and we, the
WCC, committed ourselves to reach the final conclusions of our study process for
the WCC 9th Assembly.

The reflections on the Responsibility to Protect of the World Council of
Churches, concluded in the recent Assembly statement, are based on ethical and
theological consultations with our member churches. Churches support the emerging
international norm of the Responsibility to Protect. Our studies have shown
that although churches have different views on the use of force for human protection
purposes, they agree on one thing: the essential and primordial role of
preventive efforts in view of avoiding and, as much as possible, tackling the crisis
before it reaches deadly stages or when the options for constructive actions are
very limited.

From our church and ecumenical perspective, we believe that protection takes
place when prevention has failed. Hence, the Responsibility to Prevent is the
main dimension of the Responsibility to Protect that we, as churches, emphasize
the need to concentrate all our efforts on. The resort to force is primarily the result
of the failure to prevent what could have been halted with appropriate foresight
and actions. However, having acknowledged such failure, the world needs to do
what it can to limit the burden and peril that is experienced when such failure
occurs. Further details on the ethical and theological elaboration can be found in
the enclosed report, which was published after a consultation we had a year ago.

The study process on the Responsibility to Protect still remains at the centre
of our agenda. We look forward to working closely with the UN, having in mind
our common goals of justice, peace, and of the promotion and defence of human
rights and human dignity.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia
General Secretary