23 July 2009
General Assembly
GA/10847

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly

Interactive Dialogue

 on Responsibility to Protect (AM)


delegates seek to end global paralysis in face of atrocities as General Assembly


holds interactive dialogue on responsibility to protect

 


Concept Should Remain ‘Important Aspiration’, President

Says, Calling on States to Fix ‘Broken’ Collective Security System


Vowing to break the world’s paralysis in the face of mass atrocities typified by the Holocaust, the Khmer Rouge killing fields and the Rwanda genocide, delegates in the General Assembly grappled today with how -– and whether -– to implement the responsibility to protect (R2P) doctrine, during a half-day informal interactive dialogue.


In opening remarks, Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann ( Nicaragua) said the R2P doctrine called for solidarity in the pursuit of justice and sought to limit what States might do to their own citizens.  They must attempt to prevent such crises -– notably by dealing with their root causes –- and the United Nations should explore the true potential of preventive action.


While the R2P principle should remain an important aspiration, he said, States should begin by fixing “our broken system of collective security” and -– by restoring the global economic system -- prove that “we are indeed prepared to build a better world”.  The United Nations had the institutional instruments needed to deal with such challenges, but political constraints had prevented their full use.


Building on that sentiment, Edward C. Luck, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General stressed that today’s single objective was to consider the Secretary-General’s report, Implementing the Responsibility to Protect.  “The mandate could not be clearer,” he said, outlining the commitment made by Heads of State and Government at the 2005 World Summit to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.  The Assembly had unanimously adopted the Summit Outcome Document, while Security Council resolution 1674 (2006) reaffirmed the provisions of the responsibility to protect.  Implementation was now beginning.


Emphasizing that it was not the United Nations way to stand by in the face of unfolding mass atrocities, he said the search for a better way had led to the broader, more multilateral, more nuanced and more positive notion of the responsibility to protect, in which prevention and State responsibility would be of key importance.  Today’s speakers had the chance to dispel various myths about the concept, notably the old caricature that it was another form of military intervention, when it actually sought to discourage unilateralism, military adventurism and an over-dependence on military responses to humanitarian need.


The dialogue also featured a panel discussion, moderated by Raymond Wolfe (Jamaica), which featured four professors:  Jean Bricmont from Belgium, Noam Chomsky from the United States, Gareth Evans from Australia and Ngugi wa Thiong’o from Kenya.


In that discussion, Mr. Bricmont challenged the intellectual assumptions underlying the responsibility to protect, saying that the main obstacle to the concept was precisely the policies and attitudes of those who were most enthusiastic about it –- the Western countries, particularly the United States.  In the past decade the world had looked on helplessly as innocent civilians were murdered by American bombs in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  If the twenty-first century needed a new United Nations, it did not need one that legitimized such interventions by novel arguments.  It needed arguments that at least gave moral support to those striving to construct a world less dominated by the United States and its allies.


Reinforcing that point, Mr. Ngugi described two major fault lines in the world, saying that the first was between a minority of wealthy nations that relied on a majority of poor nations for 90 per cent of their resources.  The second division lay between a minority of “social haves” and a majority of “social have-nots”.  He said that, in the search for solutions, a view of development that focused on the middle class and above was questionable.  Only by closing major divisions could States begin to address the structural basis of crimes against humanity.


Representatives of the following Member States participated in the interactive discussion following the panel’s presentations:  Germany, Egypt, Sweden, Japan, Chile, Ghana, Djibouti, Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania, Morocco, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Saudi Arabia, Timor-Leste and Kenya.


Also taking part were representatives of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect and the People’s Coalition for Responsibility to Protect.


The General Assembly will reconvene in plenary at 3 p.m. today, 24 July.


Background


The General Assembly met this morning for a half-day informal interactive dialogue on the responsibility to protect.  (For further information, please see press release GA/10845 of 21 July.)


Opening Statements


MIGUEL D’ESCOTO BROCKMANN ( Nicaragua), President of the General Assembly, launched the informal interactive dialogue by noting that “all too many times” the world had stood still in the face of gross violations of the most basic sentiments of humanity.  That paralysis had led to shameful situations like the Holocaust, the Khmer Rouge killing fields and the genocide in Rwanda and the massacres in the former Yugoslavia, among others.  The question was how best to respond in a predictable manner and without preconditions and double standards that would unravel the credibility of the United Nations.


The doctrine of responsibility to protect (R2P) called for solidarity in the pursuit of justice and sought to limit what States might do to their own citizens, he said.  “It forces us to declare not only who we would become but also to look honestly at who we are today.”  States must attempt to prevent such crises -- through crisis management and by dealing with their root causes -- and the United Nations should pay due attention to exploring the true potential of preventive action.  In that pursuit, four questions should determine whether and when the collective security system was ready to implement the concept of responsibility to protect.


He said the first test would be whether the rules applied in principle and if they were likely to be applied equally to all States in practice.  Under today’s system, a few States applied rules entailing sanctions to which they were themselves not subject.  No system could be legitimate if it allowed justice principles to be applied differentially.  It was also important to ask whether the adoption of R2P in the practice of collective security enhanced or undermined respect for international law.  To the extent that the concept was applied selectively in areas where public opinion in “P5” [permanent Security Council members] States supported intervention –- as in Darfur -- and where it opposed intervention –- as in like Gaza -- it would undermine international law.


Thirdly, it was important to know whether the R2P doctrine was necessary and, conversely, whether it guaranteed that States would intervene to prevent “another Rwanda”, he continued.  The unfortunate reality was that the absence of the doctrine had not prevented the global community from acting in Rwanda.  “We chose not to act,” he pointed out.  Iraq raised a fourth test of the collective security system’s adequacy:  was there a capacity to enforce accountability upon those who might abuse the right that R2P would give States to use force against other States?  The capacity to hold accountable those who violated international law was fundamental to any functioning legal system, and it would be appropriate to insist that nations meet their obligations under existing law before giving them the chance to ignore new legal pledges.


“I wonder whether we are ready for R2P,” he said.  While it should remain an important aspirational goal, there were many ways to express concern for fellow human beings.  “Let us begin by fixing our broken system of collective security” and, by showing generosity in fixing the global economic system, prove “we are indeed prepared to build a better world”.  The United Nations had the institutional instruments needed to deal with such challenges, but political constraints had prevented their full use.  Hopefully today’s dialogue would contribute to a common understanding of the steps required to deal with those challenges.


EDWARD C. LUCK, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, said that today’s single objective was to consider the Secretary-General’s report, Implementing the Responsibility to Protect.  “The mandate could not be clearer or come from a higher authority,” he said, outlining the commitment made by Heads of State and Government at the 2005 World Summit to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, as well as their incitement.


He said the General Assembly had unanimously adopted the Summit Outcome Document and Security Council resolution 1674 (2006) reaffirmed the provisions of the responsibility to protect.  With the Secretary-General’s report, implementation was beginning, and today’s meeting was a welcome opportunity for Member States to begin discussing how best to make those provisions operational.  Efforts to turn back the clock, divide the membership or divert attention from that central task should be avoided, he said, adding:  “The world is changing.  Our thinking needs to evolve with it.”


Pointing out that it was no longer 1999, when the Assembly had addressed the concept of humanitarian intervention and found it wanting, he said unilateral armed intervention under the guise of humanitarian principles had been seen then ‑‑ and now -- as morally, politically and constitutionally unacceptable.  It was not the United Nations way, but neither was standing by in the face of unfolding mass atrocities.  The search for a better way had led to the broader, more multilateral, more nuanced and more positive notion of the responsibility to protect, in which prevention and State responsibility would be key.


But neither was it 2005, he continued, recalling that hard bargaining as well as astute and forward-looking diplomacy had presented an “integral package” of provisions in paragraphs 138 and 139 of the Outcome Document.  The Secretary-General’s mandate was to implement them all through the three pillars of his strategy.  Today’s purpose was to move forward by maintaining that balance and preserving unity of purpose.  The prominent theoreticians and academics gathered today had an opportunity to shed light where rhetoric had too often replaced reason and the spectacle of debate threatened the quiet search for common ground.


Today’s speakers also had the chance to dispel some of the myths that had clung to the concept of responsibility to protect, he stressed.  Among them were:  the old caricature that R2P was another form of military intervention, when it actually sought to discourage unilateralism, military adventurism and an over-dependence on military responses to humanitarian need; and the tired canard that it offered new legal norms, or would alter the Charter basis for Security Council decisions, when it was a political, not a legal, concept based on well-established international law and the provisions of the Charter.


He said other myths included the twisted notion that sovereignty and responsibility were somehow incompatible, when they were actually mutually reinforcing principles; and the recurring distortion that R2P favoured big States over smaller ones, when large countries had actually been the last to come aboard in 2005, and had their own sovereignty concerns, whereas efforts to bolster the rule of law and international institutions served the interests of all.  Indeed, the Secretary-General’s plan would strengthen State capacity rather than weaken it, he emphasized.


Welcoming the wide academic interest, he said rigorous scholarship would be an important ally in the quest for better means to prevent mass atrocities.  Much remained unknown and there was a need for more knowledge as well as keener analysis of the preventive measures that worked best and the kinds of assistance or capacity-building that would be most helpful to States seeking to forestall violence.  If the right questions were not asked, the right answers would never be found.  Over the years, the Assembly had arguably done more than any other body to advance international norms and standards, and had truly unique contributions to make.  The Secretary-General looked forward to the afternoon’s debate with a strong sense of optimism, pragmatism and conviction.


Interactive Panel Discussion


RAYMOND WOLFE (Jamaica) was the Moderator of the interactive panel discussion, which featured presentations by four professors:  Jean Bricmont from Belgium, Noam Chomsky from the United States, Gareth Evans from Australia and Ngugi wa Thiong’o from Kenya.


Mr. EVANS took the floor first, saying that the R2P principle sought to address the specific problem of how to address the mass-atrocity crimes of genocide, ethnic cleansing and other crimes against humanity, and war crimes.  It was not about conflict, human rights violations or human security more generally.  Nor was it about solving all the world’s problems.  It sought to solve a small subset of problems.  Many situations around the world of actual or potential conflict within or between States justified global concern, while no more than 10 to 15 country situations would justify concern on the same grounds at any given time.  They were nations where mass-atrocity crimes were being committed, appeared imminent, or carried a risk of being committed in the foreseeable future.


Until recently, there had been no consensus on how to respond, he said, adding that the prevailing notion had been that it was nobody else’s business if States murdered or forcibly displaced large numbers of their own citizens.  With the break-up of various cold war State structures, however, “conscience-shocking” situations had arisen repeatedly, above all in the former Yugoslavia and Africa.  Old habits of non-intervention died very hard and things had come to a head in 1999 with the new round of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.


He recalled that a fierce argument had raged throughout the 1990s, with the global North rallying to the cry of “humanitarian intervention” and arguing in favour of the right to intervene, while those in the global South had been more inclined to take an absolute view of State sovereignty.  That divide cried out for a new consensual approach.  The issue was not the right of big States to throw around their military weight, but rather the responsibility of all States to protect their people from atrocities, and to help others do so by all appropriate means.  The individual sovereign State bore the core responsibility and only if it was unable or unwilling to protect its citizens did the question of other States’ responsibility arise.  The core theme was not intervention but protection, he stressed.


The “four crimes and three pillars” of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document’s paragraphs 138 and 139 were described with great clarity in the Secretary-General’s report, he said, noting that the report provided an excellent description of the type of action that would be relevant under each of the pillars.  It also recognized that, while many States might wish to focus on the first two pillars -– prevention rather than reaction -– it was crucial that they be equally ready to act under the third pillar if circumstances cried out for that.


If the Security Council behaved in a disappointing way, he said, the task was not to find alternatives to the Council or to go around it, but rather to improve it.  The suggestion that atrocities committed within State boundaries could not threaten “international peace and security” was completely at odds with a long chain of General Assembly resolutions from the 1960s to the 1980s.  Today’s debate would be an opportunity to clarify conceptual misunderstandings about the scope of the responsibility to protect and explore policy options.  “Whatever else we mess up in the conduct of our affairs, let us ensure that we never again mess up -– as we have so terribly often in the past -– when it comes to protecting people from mass atrocity crimes”, he concluded.


Mr. CHOMSKY said discussions about the responsibility to protect and its “cousin”, humanitarian intervention, were regularly disturbed by the rattling of a skeleton in the closet:  history, to the present moment.  Throughout history, a few principles of international affairs applied quite generally.  Among them was Thucydides’ maxim that the strong do as they wish while the weak suffer as they must, and Adam Smith’s contention that policymaking in England amounted to merchants and manufacturers attending to their own interests no matter the effect on others.


He went on to say that when responsibility to protect or humanitarian intervention was described as an “emerging norm” in international affairs, it was worth recalling the historical record since that norm had been considered as far back as one went, from the founding of the United States to the Corfu Channel case, the first considered by the International Court of Justice 60 years ago.  In the latter, the Court had determined that it “can only regard the alleged right of intervention as a manifestation of a policy of force [which] would be reserved for the most powerful States and might easily lead to perverting the administration of justice itself”.


Citing other examples, he said the same conclusion had been reached repeatedly, including at the 2005 World Summit, which asserted the willingness “to take collective action […] through the Security Council, in accordance with the Charter […] should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their populations” from serious crimes.  That kept the skeleton in the closet if -- and it was a large if -- the Council was a neutral arbiter.  But a view of other doctrines underpinning other regional bodies, such as the African Union, the Organization of American States (OAS) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), suggested departures from the Corfu Channel principle and the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document.  When that principle was violated, it opened the door to the potential use of R2P as a weapon for imperial intervention at will.


He said the Corfu Channel principle in fact provided considerable insight into the selectivity and timing of applying R2P and humanitarian intervention.  There had been no thought of applying the principle to the Iraq sanctions administered by the Security Council, which had been condemned as “genocidal” by two directors of the oil-for-food programme who had subsequently resigned in protest.  The detailed study by one of them of the horrendous impact of the sanctions had been virtually banned in the United States and the United Kingdom.  Further, there was no thought today of protecting the people of Gaza.  That selectivity conformed to the maxim of Thucydides and the expectations of the International Court of Justice.


Describing the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia as the “most striking illustration of the radical selectivity”, he argued that the facts, which happened to be richly documented from impeccable official Western sources, revealed unequivocally that the bombing, far from ending the atrocities, had precipitated the worst of them.  The case of East Timor was also instructive.  Ending the atrocities there would not have required bombing or sanctions but only the act of withdrawal.  When the invaders had finally withdrawn, the United Nations peacekeeping force had been able to enter without facing an army.  That story had soon been interpreted as a vindication of R2P –- a reaction so shameful that words failed.


Returning again to the 2005 World Summit’s consensus and its adherence to the Corfu Channel principle, he said the Security Council was plainly not a neutral arbiter.  It was controlled by its five permanent members, who were far from equal in operative authority, as could be seen in the use of vetoes.  The United States was far in the lead in the use of veto power, with the United Kingdom second and no other country even close.  One way to mitigate that defect was to eliminate the veto, which was, incidentally, in line with the majority of opinion in the United States.


That picture of public opinion brought up a further consideration, he said:  that the maxims governing international practice were not graven in stone.  Indeed, they had become considerably less harsh over the years as a result of the civilizing effect of popular movements.  That softening suggested that R2P could be a valuable tool, much like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Although it did not enjoy universal adherence, the Declaration served as an ideal that activists could appeal to in educational and organizing efforts.  The major contribution of the debate on the responsibility to protect may be similar.


Questions and Comments


Germany’s representative said Mr. Chomsky had discussed the “cousin” and the “skeleton”, but not the responsibility to protect, and suggested that he concentrate on that issue.


Egypt’s representative, focusing on the relationship between the General Assembly and the Security Council vis-à-vis paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 Outcome Document, said crimes against humanity fell under the purview of the Council, but the fact that the General Assembly was to take up such issues was a sign of dissatisfaction with the Council’s handling of them.  It was important to draw clear lines between what the Assembly and the Council would do to implement the Outcome Document.  Paragraph 139 made it clear that the Assembly would take the lead, for example, in looking into early warning systems, he said, asking whether the Security Council would be subject to vetoes.  How would that impact the relationship between the two organs in terms of fulfilling commitments?


Sweden’s delegate said Mr. Chomsky was looking back into history, but the idea today was to work on the basis of the international consensus achieved in 2005, and to operationalize the R2P concept.  Would Mr. Evans share his thinking on early warning and on obtaining reliable information?  There was agreement that States should avoid becoming bystanders to events like the Holocaust.


Japan’s representative echoed remarks about the need to focus on future work.


Chile’s representative said the principle of non-intervention was enshrined in the OAS Charter, article 16 of which stated that the principle was without prejudice to respect for human rights and human dignity.  Indeed, it could not be understood without a defence of human rights and human dignity.  Washington had introduced changes to the Charter so as to allow suspension of OAS members when violations of democracy had occurred, as in the case of Honduras.  On the concept of sovereignty, he asked what to do when it was violated internally and accompanied by crimes against humanity.


Ghana’s delegate said there was a tendency to abuse the right of intervention, but what Mr. Chomsky had failed to address was abuse of the principle of non-interference.  R2P attempted to strike a balance between non-interference, and what the African Union called “non-indifference”.  How could the abuse of the non-interference principle be addressed?


Djibouti’s representative, wondering how States could respond to mass atrocities, said that to answer that question accurately, there was a need to define the Security Council’s role.  It was a political body and States did not act uniformly in cases of mass atrocities, which complicated the R2P norm.  Djibouti had no problem with R2P as long as it was applied uniformly.


Mr. EVANS, responding, said that the annex to the Secretary-General’s report on early warning systems provided useful information on how to build and improve such mechanisms.  What was needed was accurate information flow and effective analysis in order to choose what mattered and what did not.  Currently there was a real weakness in that regard within the United Nations system, and the aversion of Member States to building up that capacity must be overcome.  Indeed, it would be very helpful if the Organization would build some institutional capability, including by improving information flow.  Information from outside organizations, such as the International Crisis Group, should also be used.


He went on to say that the General Assembly’s significant and continuing role in the practical implementation of R2P was recognized in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document.  The Assembly had historically played an important role in norm-setting rather than in managing the details of a crisis.  It could also put pressure on other United Nations bodies, such as the Security Council, and its continuing participation was therefore crucial.  However, no role was provided for it to act at the expense of the Security Council.  Under the present rules there was no alternative to the latter’s management of certain crises.


It was particularly important not to overemphasize the extent to which the Council was a critical actor in applying the responsibility to protect, he said.  Many policy options could be implemented outside the Council within the R2P framework, including the mediation role of Kofi Annan or the ability of the International Criminal Court to threaten prosecution.  Such diplomatic and legal pressure did not require the Council’s participation.


Noting that there had been less than absolute clarity in the way Mr. Chomsky had treated the responsibility to protect and humanitarian intervention, he pointed out that the 1990s had not seen an emergence of a new norm, but had been instead a period of immense confusion, ending in catastrophic division.  The achievement since then had been ensuring that humanitarian intervention remained dead and buried.  To raise doubts about the responsibility to protect by describing how the right to intervene had been misused in the past was not helpful in the current debate.


Mr. CHOMSKY, reiterating that setting history aside was convenient for the powerful, stressed that it was not helpful for the powerless.  While he had presented a number of examples, one he had not mentioned was Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia, which had been filled with R2P rhetoric.  The new consensus about the responsibility to protect merely repeated the old consensus.  The question was whether regional alliances -- which in the nature of things meant NATO, not OAS -- took unilateral action within their own jurisdictions?  There was nothing controversial about the responsibility to protect, and the 2005 Outcome Document was fine, but the striking omissions in a historical review reflected selectivity in the application of the responsibility to protect.


There were clear cases in which R2P could be applied currently, among them cases of protected populations under the aegis of the United Nations, he said, noting that they were not being considered.  Also, the World Food Programme (WFP) had just announced that it had to cut back its activities by 25 per cent due to the inability of donor countries to meet their contributions.  That information about ongoing genocide should be considered in the current debate.  Moreover, there were very serious problems in leaving the right of forceful intervention to the Security Council, which was not a neutral arbiter.  One way around that was to eliminate the veto, he reiterated.


Mr. BRICMONT said he wanted to challenge some of the intellectual assumptions underlying responsibility to protect.  In a nutshell, his thesis was that the main obstacle to the concept was precisely the policies and attitudes of the countries which were most enthusiastic about it -– the Western countries, particularly the United States.  In the past decade, the world had looked on helplessly as innocent civilians were murdered by American bombs in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The world had also been a helpless bystander of the murderous Israeli onslaught on Lebanon and Gaza.  The humanitarian response was a desire to protect all victims, but how would the weak ever be protected from the strong?  The answer must be sought, not just in humanitarian or legal terms, but in political ones, since the protection of the weak always depended on political limitations on the power of the strong.


He said it was not the diplomatic aspects of responsibility to protect that were at issue, but the military part of the so-called “timely and decisive response” and the direct challenge that that represented for national sovereignty.  Furthermore, responsibility to protect was an ambiguous doctrine.  On the one hand, it was being sold as something essentially different from the right of humanitarian intervention, which had relied on the human tragedies of the newly-decolonized countries to lend moral justification to the Western Powers’ failed intervention and control policies and which had been universally rejected by the South.  On the other hand, responsibility to protect was being sold to the Western public as a new norm in international relations, which authorized military intervention on humanitarian grounds.  But if the “new norm” was introduced within the context of the current relationship of political and military forces, it would not save anyone anywhere unless the United States saw fit to intervene.


He went on to say that if it was also true that the twenty-first century needed a new United Nations, it did not need one that legitimized such interventions by novel arguments, but one that at least gave moral support to those who tried to construct a world less dominated by the United States and its allies.  Recent history suggested that Western Governments, media and non-governmental organizations, calling themselves the “international community”, would judge the responsibility for a human tragedy quite differently depending on whether it occurred in a country where the West was hostile to the Government or friendly towards it.


Arguing that the West should learn from its past history, he said it would start with, among other things, guaranteeing strict respect for international law on the part of Western Powers, implementing the United Nations resolutions concerning Israel, dismantling the worldwide United States “empire of bases”, and ceasing all threats of unilateral force, among other things.  Next, overblown military budgets could be used to implement a form of global Keynesianism and investments in education, health care and development in the developing world.  At the same time, any system of international justice or police, whether the International Criminal Court or in the context of the responsibility to protect, needed a relationship of equality and a climate of trust.  That relationship did not presently exist, and if some version of responsibility to protect were to work in the future, it would have to be built.  As such, responsibility to protect was not the beginning of a new era, but the end of an old one.


Addressing the representatives of the global South, he said the viewpoints expressed today were shared by millions of Westerners, who rejected war as a means of settling international disputes and strongly opposed blind support for Israeli apartheid.  They adhered to the goals of the Non-Aligned Movement of international cooperation within strict respect for national sovereignty and equality of all peoples, and they were the ones who, by opening their minds to the aspiration of the rest of mankind, carried on what was genuinely the value of Western humanist tradition.


Mr. NGUGI said the phrase “responsibility to protect” brought back painful memories of those who had died in Kenya’s “ethnic cleansing” earlier this year following disputed presidential elections.  The gruesome nature of those events had been captured in the story of a child fleeing a torched church, where he and his parents had sought refuge, only to be captured and thrown back into the flames.  Far away in California, responding to a call by the BBC, he had thought of the United Nations, the only body that could intervene, investigate and hopefully hold the perpetrators accountable.  As it turned out, it was former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan who had eventually helped ensure an uneasy peace.


Similar events had already unfolded in Rwanda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Iraq, he said, wondering how many times they would occur.  The Secretary-General’s report would provide an excellent basis for responding to that question, he said, adding:  “We have to free humanity from the scourges of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against its very human essence.”  However, the devil was in the context of implementation:  definition, history and the global situation.  Terms like “international community” sounded as if the West determined who was to be allowed into that group.  While emphasis on the United Nations was right, Security Council “blessings” had been used at times to overthrow regimes deemed intolerable by the West.  Patrick Lumumba of [the Democratic Republic of the] Congo had been killed while the United Nations forces he had invited looked the other way.


Emphasizing the need for humility on the part of all nations, big and small, he said “holier than thou” attitudes would not do, pointing out that the worst instances of genocide and wanton massacres had come from Europe.  Every colonizing nation had been involved in crimes against humanity.  In Kenya, the British war against the Mau Mau resistance movement had seen thousands placed in concentration camps.  “The past has lessons for us all,” he said.


Describing two major fault lines in the world today, he said they lay between a minority of wealthy nations and a majority of poor ones.  It was ironic that wealthy nations consumed 90 per cent of the poor world’s resources, a pattern that was often reproduced within nations.  The other division lay between a minority of “social haves” and a majority of “social have-nots”.  Again, the minority depended on the majority.  In the search for solutions, a view of development that focused on the middle class and above was questionable because the middle class did not constitute a nation.  What President Barack Obama called “development from the bottom up” should be the goal of all nations.  Indeed, only by closing major divisions could States begin to address the structural basis of crimes against humanity.


Interactive Discussion


Sudan’s delegate, noting that Mr. Evans had said responsibility to protect was not humanitarian intervention, which was in fact dead, wondered how humanitarian intervention was defined.  Indeed, if it walked like a duck and quacked like a duck -– wasn’t it a duck? 


The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said the toppling of Idi Amin was not limited to self-defence alone, but to the concept of the liberation of Africa.  That country had been participating in that effort and was welcomed by Ugandans as liberators.


Morocco’s representative asked for more clarification as to who would make the determination that other means of intervention had failed and force was needed, and by what criteria?  Further, how could something be considered an international norm if only a minority of States adhered to it?


Similarly, the representative Bosnia and Herzegovina asked how criteria could be devised for using military force and if the Security Council would determine that.  She suggested that the history of interventions in her region should be considered as part of that discussion.


Saudi Arabia’s representative said strong support was needed to build the backbone of an international tribunal.  Those who committed genocide and heinous crimes against humanity must know that they would be dealt with by the international community.  Efforts should be made to build strong consequences for the violators and should not be limited to creating an early warning system.  There should be less selectivity as to whom to move against, but as long as the Security Council had veto power, selectivity would persist.


Addressing Mr. Chomsky and thanking him for his comments on his country’s recent history, Timor-Leste’s delegate said he was 10 years old when he had run from American and British forces, wondering when Australia would come to the rescue.  Ironically, those same countries had come 10 years later.  Still, his delegation supported responsibility to protect precisely because it did not want what had happened in Timor-Leste to happen to others.  It was better to move forward, looking at how to implement the Secretary-General’s recommendations.


The representative of Kenya said her delegation wanted to make a small correction to Mr. Ngugi’s remarks.  Ethnic cleansing had a special definition in legal terms and at no time were the events last year in Kenya referred to as such.


A representative of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect said the world’s leaders had responded to a groundswell of public feeling when they had adopted the 2005 World Summit document.  The terrible experience of victimization lay at the heart of the norm and reminded the world of its responsibility to act.  It was too late to bring back the millions who had died, but unacceptable not to give meaning to the vow, “never again”.  While there were real reservations about the responsibility to protect, was it possible to say that the world would not respond to victims who cried out for help?


A representative of the People’s Coalition for Responsibility to Protect said African States had been thinking about the concept of the responsibility to protect for years before the 2005 World Summit.  The discussion had permeated the continent, and several regional organizations had recently adopted the concept, which was, thus, demonstrably not a Western norm.  The suspicion by those who criticized it that it could be misused was valid, however, but the risk of misuse was not a reason to discard the norm.  Rather, appropriate criteria should be set to prevent misuse. 


Mr. NGUGI, responding to the Kenyan delegate’s comments, said he had been talking about the reality on the ground, rather than the legal definition of ethnic cleansing.  While he was impressed with the Secretary-General’s report and the need to intervene, structural inequalities within and between countries should also be examined.


Mr. BRICMONT stressed that the essential question concerned who would intervene militarily if the responsibility to protect was adopted.  While he sympathized with the representative of Timor-Leste, he pointed out that, on the one hand, the delegate had fled bombs made by the United States and the United Kingdom but wanted to introduce a new norm that would give the United States and the United Kingdom more power.


Following up on that comment, Mr. CHOMSKY said there was controversy over how the right of forceful intervention was interpreted, or generally, how it would be implemented.  Would implementation take account of protected populations subjected to gross violations of basic human rights?  Would it be applied to protect children, particularly those in southern Africa who were dying at the rate of those in Rwanda?  The selectivity was always at issue.  The principles, however, were fine, and everyone should accept them.


Mr. EVANS said he was happy to hear that Mr. Chomsky endorsed the principles of the responsibility to protect.  Responding to the query from the United Republic of Tanzania’s delegate, he said a good moral argument for the overthrow of Idi Amin could have been made in terms of liberation and mass atrocity crimes.  His point was that, in the environment of the 1970s, those arguments had gained no traction.  Such was the absolute primacy of sovereignty and non-intervention.


In response to Sudan’s query, he said humanitarian intervention was only about coercive, military action.  There were no other policy options in that doctrine.  Intervention was not sensitive to the need to occur in accordance with the United Nations Charter.  However, military intervention in the context of the responsibility to protect was nuanced and multidimensional.  All were insistent that the rules of international order apply.  To say that they were the same concept was to compare “association” with Gaelic football.


As for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s question, he said application of military force must be in line with objective criteria.  He urged acknowledgment that, in some cases, as distasteful as it might be, military force was the option.  In Rwanda, it was obvious that without it, millions would have died -– which is what had happened.


To Morocco’s query about who would judge whether prevention had failed, he said the truth was that trying to chase down a single authority was impossible; there were multiple players capable of applying multiple policies across multiple Governments.  What was needed was an institutional gatekeeper in the Security Council.  States must create a mindset about the absolute need to be intolerant of mass atrocity crimes.  When they occurred they were everybody’s business.


As to whether the responsibility to protect was legitimate, he said that in the case of Rwanda, no one had wanted to know the real situation.  When the first news trickled out about mass killings in Kenya, the global reaction was strong.


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For information media • not an official record