HVENÆR OG HVERNIG Á ALÞJÓÐASAMFÉLAGIÐ AÐ BEITA SÉR GEGN HERNAÐAROFBELDI?
Eina ferðina enn stendur heimurinn agndofa frammi fyrir vopnaðri
valdbeitingu. Margir gera því skóna að Ísraelsríki sé með árásum
sínum á Gaza að grafa undan viðleitni sem nú verður vart á
vettvangi Sameinuðu þjóðanna að viðurkenna Palestínuríki.
Hvað sem kann að vera rétt í því efni vaknar enn á ný spurningin um ábyrgð alþjóðasamfélagsins gagnvart hernaðarofbeldi.
Slóvenía hefur tekið ákveðið frumkvæði í því að tala fyrir þeirri hugsun að alþjóðasamfélaginu beri skylda til að koma fórnarlömdum hernaðarofbeldis til hjálpar.
Það var því við hæfi að alþjóðastofnunin Institute of Cultural Diplomacy, sem hefur beitt sér fyrir því að örva umræðu af þessu tagi skyldi velja Ljubljana, höfuðborg Slóveníu, sem ráðstefnustað þar sem þetta viðfangsefni var brotið til mergjar. Í brennidepli voru hörmungarnar í Sýrlandi sem heimurinn hefur fylgst með án þess að hafast að. þessa dagana er svo Gaza aftur komið á dagskrá!
Stjórnmálin og fræðin
Mér var boðið að sækja ráðstefnuna sem
fram fór um síðustu mánaðamót og halda þar erindi um þetta efni. Ég
hef lengi verið áhugamaður um alþjóðamál - enda starfaði ég
sem fréttamaður í erlendum fréttum á fréttastofu Sjónvarpsins í
heilan áratug og hef allar götur síðan og reyndar einnig áður en ég
tók til starfa á Sjónvarpinu, lagt mig eftir því að fylgjast með
Ég hef leitað ráðgjafar í smiðju rannsókna og fræða á alþjóðasviði og ekki komið að tómum kofunum hjá Vali Ingimundarsyni, sagnfræðiprófessor við Háskóla Íslands. Hann hefur sérhæft sig í samtímasögu og ritað mikið um alþjóðastjórnmál. Eftir samræður mínar við sagnfræðiprófessorinn og aðstoð frá hans hendi hef ég sannfærst um að sagnfræði megi hæglega telja til hagnýtra vísinda! Get reyndar talað af eigin reynslu því sagnfræði nam ég á sínum tíma.
En þetta nefni ég nú, ekki aðeins til að leggja áherslu á samspil stjórnmálanna og fræðanna, heldur til að þakka sérstaklega framlag Vals Ingimundarsonar til ræðu minar í Ljúbljana á dögunum.
Ráðstefnuna sótti fjöldi fræðimanna og stjórnmálamanna, evrópskra og bandarískra og mun ég síðar greina nánar frá því sem þarna fór fram, þeirri stofnun sem að ráðstefnunni stóð og fyrrgreindu frumkvæði Slóveníu. Læt ég nægja að sinni að birta ræðu mína á ráðstefnunni hér á síðunni - en því miður aðeins á ensku.
Ljubljana-ræðan frá 30. október fylgir hér að neðan:
Between Geopolitics and Human Rights: On the "Responsibility to Protect"
I would like to begin by thanking the Institute of Cultural Diplomacy and its Director Mark C. Donfried and the Slovenian hosts for inviting me to this important conference, whose purpose is to issue a call for international responsibility to respond to mass atrocities. The ICD Initiative on the "Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide"-under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister of Slovenia, Janez Janša-reflects a strong will to break out of the geopolitical deadlock, which has, in so many instances, prevented international action and allowed the architects and perpetrators of mass murders to go unpunished.
While the Syrian Crisis provides the backdrop of this gathering, giving it immediacy and political urgency, there are many recent examples of the failure of the so-called "international community" to prevent acts of genocide-whether in Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Indeed, as the Slovenes know very well, the consequences of the wars in the former Yugoslavia-characterized by ethnic cleansing, mass killings and rapes-are still being deeply felt in this region and beyond. The question is not about a lack of knowledge about such atrocities, but about how to ensure that they are not committed in the first place.
In this talk, I will discuss some of the dilemmas, interests, and contradictions, which help explain why it has become so difficult to develop preemptive instruments or enforcement mechanisms to deal with mass crimes in the international arena. I do not pretend to know how to solve a problem that political leaders and international bodies have failed to do-and I come from a country that has been spared the experience of mass atrocities. But an engagement with core questions involved here-about human rights, the international order, geopolitics, history, sovereignty, military interventions and colonial legacies-is needed to find ways to act more responsibly, as individual citizens and as members of a collective or a global community, towards those who are in danger of being victimized as a result of extreme systematic violence.
The UN initiative the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP), which was rooted in the failure of the "international community" stop the Rwandan genocide, has become a central instrument here. The notion that sovereignty is not a right but a responsibility is based on three principles:
1) That a state has a responsibility to protect its population
from mass atrocities;
2) That the "international community" has a responsibility to assist the state to fulfill its primary responsibility;
3) That if the state fails to protect its citizens from mass atrocities, the international community has the responsibility to intervene through coercive measures such as economic sanctions or military intervention as a last resort.
The RtoP is what has been termed an emerging, if contested, norm, and it is not coded in international law. When it comes to implementation, the instruments are embedded in existing UN Security Council mechanisms, such as mediation, economic sanctions, and its war making power in the case of "the existence of any threat to peace, to breach of the peace, or act of aggression," as it it put in Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Thus, the authority to use force or engage in military intervention rests solely with the UN Security Council and the General Assembly. And it is here where there is no consensus on how to interpret or enforce the norm provided for in RtoP. The current deadlock in the Security Council on the Syrian crisis exposes the crux of the dilemma when humanitarian concerns clash with geopolitical interests. That the Syrian conflict is a civil war is not disputed. It may be argued that it has not reached genocidal levels in the sense of the 1948 "Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide," which defines the crime as "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such."
But there is no doubt that the Assad regime is engaged in a war against various groups of its own people. The opposition has also been engaged in atrocities, but in view of the immense power disparities, it is not comparable to those perpetrated by government forces. As the experience of other civil wars-in places such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras-show, a strong authoritarian government in control of the army is usually responsible for the vast majority of mass crimes committed in civil wars.
Yet, despite the violence, the Security Council has not been able to agree on an effective response. The efforts of UN Special Envoy Joint Special UN and League of Arab States Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, to explore a political solution to the crisis should not be discounted. But it is clear that Russia and China want to use the Syrian crisis to draw a line in the sand: to oppose international intervention on the grounds that it violates state sovereignty and to decouple the notion of the "responsibility to protect" from "regime change". To them, the West overstepped the UN-sponsored humanitarian mandate in Libya by using the responsibility to protect norm to topple the Gaddafi regime. According to this reading, the principle of sovereignty is, in the last instance, more important than that of protecting populations.
The attitudes of Russia and China have to be put within the context of their own foreign and domestic political agendas: in the case of Russia, the opposition to Islamic secession movements in the North Caucasus and Russia's political and strategic interests in Syria. Russia's policy is also consistent with its opposition to the 1999 military intervention in Kosovo, which was justified on humanitarian grounds. The Russians claimed to be respecting the sovereignty of a defunct Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and were also motivated by a desire to protect their historical relationship with the Serbs. Similarly, China's policy is under the influence of its own sovereignty concerns in the Syrian crisis-the need to stifle any secession or self-determination attempts in Tibet-a stance that was also present in its opposition to Western military intervention in the Balkans in the 1990s.
In the case of the Kosovo crisis, the UN Security Council was very much aware of an impending humanitarian catastrophe; hence, Chapter 7 powers were activated-actually with Russian and Chinese support in 1998 or a year before the war-on the grounds that the grave situation threatened regional stability. In the case of Syria, however, Russia and China have refused to grant any such authority and repeatedly vetoed resolutions that would have punished the Syrian government with economic sanctions for failing to carry out a peace plan. Yet, as recent events in Turkey and Lebanon demonstrate, there is no longer any doubt that the Syrian civil war is threatening regional stability. Hence, when compared to the situation in Kosovo, Chapter 7 powers should have been evoked. But, as noted, Russia's and China's opposition reflects a stronger attachment to the principle of sovereignty based on the argument that the West misused its UN Security Council powers in Kosovo and Libya.
Needless to say, what all this shows is that norms such as humanitarian interventions or RtoP cannot be divorced from Great Power politics. It does, of course, not only apply to Russia and China; the United States and other Western powers, like France and Britain, are also motivated by such considerations. While the U.S. reluctantly took the lead in Bosnia and Kosovo, it has not been willing to commit itself to an intervention in Syria for various reasons. One can be traced to domestic politics: everybody has known that the Obama Administration would not take any foreign policy risks involving Syria before the U.S. presidential elections.
Another related point is the question of selectivity: why are some civil wars considered more important than others when the issue of intervention is put on the table? The failure to act in Rwanda is, of course, the most blatant example of double standards. Indeed, despite public commitments to ethical concerns about the "responsibility to protect," state behaviour is far more often driven by perceived national interest, power politics or cynicism-often justified in the name of international law, that is, the principle of sovereignty. This is not to say that state sovereignty is an an anachronism or a bad thing; on the contrary, it is one of the few weapons small states possess in their dealings with Great Powers and against colonial, neo-colonial or imperialist policies.
The Brazilian government-under the leadership of President Dilma Vana Rousseff-has attempted to break the impasse between those states that insist on the inviolability of sovereignty and those that see the responsibility to protect as overriding sovereignty under certain circumstances. Brazil has made it clear that it is against any efforts to use RtoP to further "regime change"-as was the case in Libya-or neo-colonialism, while being firmly in favour of upholding the norm itself against crimes against humanity and genocide. Instead, it has proposed a framework for sovereignty as responsibility dubbed "responsibility while protecting." Thus, Rousseff has introduced addendums to the RtoP doctrine designed to limit its misuse, while keeping the founding principles intact. It proposes that the authorization of force within the context of RtoP must be limited in its legal, operational and temporal elements and that the mandate must be conferred by the Security Council or General Assembly. In addition, as it exercises its responsibility to protect, the "international community" itself must show a high level of responsibility. Both concepts should evolve together based on an agreed set of fundamental principles, parameters and procedures.
The proposal has been criticized on the grounds that since Brazil tends not to support intervention in the first place-it abstained on the Libyan intervention and has opposed several others-it fudges the issue of when this new responsibility should kick in or when the UN should authorize force. It also leaves unclear in and what concrete difference this would make in places where intervention was being contemplated. Such criticism may be a bit unfair since the original "responsibility to protect" document is not particularly clear on the timing of intervention. And Brazil has not shirked from international responsibility and has been engaged in humanitarian efforts such as the UN led mission to Haiti.
What the Brazilian approach highlights is the need to move beyond the assumption that the only countries affected are the interveners and those being intervened in. There are often painful consequences of interventions that have aggravated existing conflicts, allowed armed conflict to emerge in places where it previously did not exist and given rise to new cycles of violence and increased the vulnerability of civilian populations. The Iraq War comes to mind in this context, even if it was not justified on humanitarian grounds.
In practical and ethical terms, the notion, as expressed in the Brazilian proposal, that RtoP should not be used for purposes other than protecting civilians, raises a host of questions. The counterargument can be made that it served the interests of the status quo by stabilizing and, indirectly at least, propping up governments that are responsible for mass atrocities. The experience of sending in UN peacekeepers to protect civilian populations into civil conflicts-where governments and paramilitary forces are strong-has, in some cases, proved disastrous. The Srebrenica genocide, which took place before the eyes of international peacekeepers, is a case in point. It can also be argued that the concept of sovereignty cannot be separated from another concept: that of legitimacy. Why should the sacrosanctity of sovereignty be accepted uncritically, if government power has been usurped illegally or by violent and undemocratic means. Why should the "international community" condone the right of a government to terrorize its own population if it reflects the interests of a small minority or ethnic group bent on ruling and controlling the majority population through coercion. The Assad government, for example, has no universal popular mandate or legitimacy. Why should the UN make it a precondition for any intervention that his regime be kept in power? One can make the case that by doing so, the "international community" is sheltering a war criminal. It has been suggested that the international stalemate can be broken by removing Assad from power, while maintaining the state machinery dominated by the Alawis. Such a Great Power compromise would take into account the Western demand of dethroning the head of the regime and preserve Russian influence in the country. But it would also give legitimacy to an elite responsible for grave crimes and defeat the purpose of the RtoP principle. The perpetrators would not only be able to stay in power but get away with committing mass crimes.
Brazil wants to adopt a middle position: while not aligning itself to the more interventionist states like the United States, France, Canada and Britain, it does not support Russia's and China's hard non-interventionist stance. The rejection of any international intervention on sovereignty grounds is not consistent with the UN emphasis on RtoP and is frankly untenable after the Rwandan genocide. But what the Brazilians have done is to try to focus more on the rules of engagement and on the terms of the implementation of RtoP operations. In that sense, the initiative is useful, even if the ethical question on intervention cannot, in the end, be divorced from the political will and capabilities of Great Powers. If Western governments want to get broad support from UN member states for the adoption and implementation of normative principles, such as the RtoP, to prevent genocide, they have to listen to such arguments.
As I have discussed here, the imperative to protect populations has usually been tempered by such factors as the nature of the conflict, dominant paradigms in international politics, geographical settings, balance of power interests, historical relationships between states and domestic and national political agendas. Two questions are central here: the nature of the intervention and its timing. Experience shows that the protection of the lives of the interveners is sometimes considered more important than those selected for protection. The Kosovo War is a case in point. By its exclusive use of air strikes and ruling out a ground offensive, NATO gave primacy to the "protection of Western lives" rather than the lives of "Others." Such a risk-free high-tech military intervention was ethically problematic, because it called into question its publicly stated purist motives and because it allowed continue ethnic cleansing to take place on the ground or before Slobodan Milošević decided to remove Serbian military forces from Kosovo. This points to the human costs of operations justified for humanitarian or "responsibility to protect" reasons. To be sure, the Kosovo Albanians supported Western intervention, for it gave them the hope of seeing and end to Serbian repression. But the human sacrifice was high and should not be discounted. The timing of an intervention is no less problematic: When has a threshold been overstepped that justifies sanctions or military interventions to protect populations? Is it too early? Or is too late? As experience shows, it never boils down to a humanitarian norm alone. Without the abysmal failure to stop genocidal policies in Bosnia by waiting too long, the Kosovo intervention would probably not have taken place. Decisions to respond to state-sponsored atrocities, as was the case in Bosnia and Sierra Leone at a late stage, have often been made when the UN Security Council has failed miserably. In retrospect, such interventions were justified, for they stopped wars and killings and laid the groundwork for a lasting, if fragile peace.
In the Syrian case, there are other predominant factors at work: Syria's ethnic diversity, population density, loyalty of the military, weakness of the opposition, lack of real Arab League support, and Russia's support for Assad-all these factors have deterred the United States and other Western countries to act with or without the UN mandate in the Syrian crisis. Such a geopolitical impasse favours inaction. And in such situations, the questions usually arises whether political leaders are considered part of the problem or the solution. Milošević occupied both roles: first, as the facilitator and signatory to the Dayton Accords putting an end to the Bosnian civil war and, later, as the troublemaker and sponsor of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Despite a strong will by the Western powers to get rid of Assad, the jury is still out on his role in ending the crisis.
One other possibility is military backing based on geopolitical interests-or proxy wars as it was called during the Cold War-when one sides arms the opposition and the other the government. In practice, strict humanitarian concerns are, thus, relegated to a second-tier status, even if arguments can be made for arming a population facing mass atrocities if there is no external willingness to intervene to stop them. Again, the Syrian conflict can take on such a function if the Great Powers fail to break the impasse.
To sum up: Despite the emergence of international norms, such as the concepts of "humanitarian intervention" and the "responsibility to protect," geopolitical and national interests have always conflicted with their meaning and use. Hence, it is doubtful that a clearly defined mechanism, with universal applicability, can be found for dealing, in a preemptive way, with impending crimes against humanity or genocide. That does not mean that the "international community" should accept the current failure at the UN Security Council or assume that inaction or passivity in the face of mass crimes should be tolerated.
Our discussion at this conference must take into account various
approaches to political action geared toward the upholding the
principle of the "responsibility to protect." This includes ways to
codify the norm in international law. It will not resolve the
tension between human rights and sovereignty principles. Yet,
any step in this direction would buttress the legitimacy of
international law. Paradoxically, we also need to take into
account the possibility of "excusable breach" in the case of lack
UN Security Council consensus on intervention if urgent political
and moral reasons, such as an impending genocide, call for
it. This requires a clearer definition of situations, where
populations face mass atrocities. This will be very
difficult, because each conflict has different dynamics, depending
on its nature, geography, proximity to-and interests of-other
stakeholding countries. Moreover, the history of interventions for
humanitarian purposes has been decidedly mixed. Such
scenarios have, therefore, to be treated with extreme care, because
they could undermine existing international legal codes protecting
civilian populations. Nonetheless, such questions cannot be
evaded for they are existential for those affected-the
victims. As the French sociologist and philosopher,
Jean Baudrillard, put it: "Forgetting the extermination is part of
the extermination itself, because it is also the extermination of
memory, of history, and of the social." The same applies to
vulnerable populations in crisis situations: By forgetting them,
the "international community" becomes complicit in crimes against
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