Report of the Secretary-General’s Internal Review Panel on United Nations action in Sri Lanka
I. The Secretary-General’s Internal Review Panel
On 22 June 2010 the United Nations’ (UN) Secretary-General established a “Panel of Experts on accountability in Sri Lanka” (Panel of Experts) to advise him on accountability during the final stages of the war in Sri Lanka. In addition to its conclusions regarding the need for accountability for violations by the parties to the conflict, the Panel of Experts also concluded that there was a need for the UN to review its own actions. On 12 April 2011, the Panel of Experts presented its report to the Secretary-General, along with a memorandum stating its view that while many UN staff had distinguished themselves during the final stages of the conflict, some agencies and individuals had failed in their mandates to protect people, had under-reported Government violations, and suppressed reporting efforts by their field staff. The memorandum said that the UN “did not adequately invoke principles of human rights that are the foundation of the UN but appeared instead to do what was necessary to avoid confrontation with the government.” The memorandum described the failure to act by Member States as a low mark for the UN.
In response, the Secretary-General established an Internal Review Panel on UN actions in Sri Lanka (the Panel) tasked with: (i) providing an overview and assessment of UN actions during the final stages of the war in Sri Lanka and its aftermath, particularly regarding the implementation of its humanitarian and protection mandates; (ii) assessing the contribution and effectiveness of the UN system in responding to the escalating fighting and in supporting the Secretary-General’s political engagement; (iii) identifying institutional and structural strengths and weaknesses, and providing recommendations for the UN and its Member States in dealing with similar situations; and (iv) making recommendations on UN policies or guidelines pertaining to protection and humanitarian responsibilities, and on strengthening the system of UN Country Teams (UNCTs) and the capacity of the UN as a whole to respond effectively to similar situations of escalated conflict. The Panel began work in late April 2012 and submitted the present report to the Secretary-General in early November 2012.