UQ Centre puts spotlight on vulnerable citizens during COVID

27 July 2020

The impacts of COVID-19 on governments and their efforts toward atrocity prevention will be a new focus for The University of Queensland’s Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (R2P).

The University’s R2P Centre has secured a further $2.6m from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which will incorporate COVID-19 related work, and COVID-19 related contingencies, into the Centre’s next phase of activities.

UQ’s Director of the R2P Centre, Professor Alex Bellamy said that a regional working group on the implications of COVID-19 has been launched with the funding.

“The regional working group includes organisations from across the region to commission valuable case studies on national experiences,” Professor Bellamy said.

“Our experts will then make recommendations to governments, regional institutions, and non-governmental organisations about how they should respond to future challenges,” he said.

For over 10 years, the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect has engaged with partners across the region to protect vulnerable communities from atrocity crimes.

Professor Bellamy said the COVID crisis has created three particular challenges for atrocity prevention in the region

“It has exacerbated existing vulnerabilities and increased the risk of atrocity crimes. For example, amongst Rohingyas displaced from Myanmar and Uighurs oppressed in China,” he said.

"It has created new vulnerabilities where governments have used the crisis to impose strict rules sometimes backed by extreme force as in the Philippines.

“Further to these points, by distracting international opinion, it has reduced the international community’s willingness and capacity to address atrocity risks,” Professor Bellamy said.

The working group will report on their recommendations later this year.

Funded by The University of Queensland and the Australian Government's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Centre works to develop regional expertise on atrocity prevention and establish links between regional and global institutions.

The Centre sits within the School of Political Science and International Studies in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at The University of Queensland.