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Earlier this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (pictured here) gave the keynote address at a symposium hosted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), in partnership with the Council on Foreign Relations and CNN, entitled Imagine the Unimaginable: Ending Genocide in the 21st Century. Foreign Policy blogger and USHMM fellow Michael Dobbs attended the event, of which he writes, “The consensus among the speakers, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was that the most effective kind of intervention is long-term preventive action. Once the killing starts, whether in Bosnia or Rwanda or Syria, it is virtually impossible to prevent it.” According to the USHMM, “In the coming decades, environmental challenges and resource scarcity could aggravate ethnic conflicts, affecting why genocides happen and how they are addressed.” Holocaust scholar and Yale historian Timothy Snyder expounded on this idea at the symposium. According to the New York Times, Snyder said,
“We’ve entered into this moment of ecological panic. Global warming will itself almost certainly directly cause mass killing, but it will likely indirectly cause it” as major states like China and the United States seek to feed their citizens, possibly touching off shortages elsewhere, in places that would then be at risk. China has already begun to act and, in a potential harbinger of future problems, has been investing in farmland in Ukraine and in parts of Africa for a few years.
These views and fears were shared and discussed by AIPR Executive Director Tibi Galis’ talk at the Carnegie Council last month, “What Does It Mean to Prevent Genocide?” All of which leads one to wonder, how is the United States addressing genocide? Here are strategies highlighted by Secretary Clinton:
- Creation of Atrocities Prevention Board, “an interagency body that generates strategy and coordinates various agencies’ atrocity prevention work.”
- Officers in “at-risk countries” to receive training to prepare them to be more alert to warning signs and provide real-time analysis. Also, expansion of “civilian surge capacity” with new focus on atrocity prevention.
- Leveraging innovative technologies to identify and respond to mass atrocities.
- Redoubling efforts to work with women to attain information about sexual and gender-based violence, particularly in “at-risk” regions.
- Perpetrators of genocide and mass atrocities to be pressured through coercive measures and clearly warned that they “will be held accountable.”
- Expanded partnerships with governments, organizations, and the private sector to bolster tools to prevent and counter atrocities. For instance, the administration will work to expand “connections with the private sector because companies that respect human rights foster an environment in which atrocities are less likely to occur.”
Today, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect released the fourth issue of their bimonthly bulletin, R2P Monitor. This issue features Syria, Sudan, and DR Congo, all in “Current Crisis,” and Libya, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Burma/Myanmar, South Sudan, Somalia and Central Africa, with situations of “Serious Concern.” Current crises are those where mass atrocity crimes are occurring and urgent action is needed; serious concern indicates that there is a significant risk of occurrence, or recurrence, of mass atrocity crimes within the foreseeable future if effective action is not taken.
In analyzing the violence in Syria, the Centre touches upon mounting sectarian divisions (which we wrote about here back in February), as well as divisions within the United Nations Security Council. While they call on the Syrian government to “immediately cease attacks on civilians and adhere to [Kofi Annan’s] six-point plan,” collective action must also be taken by the Security Council, General Assembly, and the whole of the international community.
Similar necessary action is laid out for Sudan, where the government “should allow immediate and unhindered humanitarian access to all areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Crimes against humanity and war crimes perpetrated in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, Abyei and Darfur should be thoroughly investigated by a credible and independent body authorized by the UN.” The Security Council is also urged to take steps beyond an investigation in order to better secure a long-term conflict resolution.
In the case of Congo, the brunt of the responsibility for addressing the threat of terrorist factions and militias falls on the government and the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). Other parties charged with acting in this instance are international donors and countries with whom DRC shares borders.
As one would anticipate given the name and nature of the Centre and its publication, the key recommendations appear to be structured parallel to the pillars of R2P:
1. The State carries the primary responsibility for the protection of populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.
2. The international community has a responsibility to assist States in fulfilling this responsibility.
3. The international community should use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means to protect populations from these crimes. If a State fails to protect its populations or is in fact the perpetrator of crimes, the international community must be prepared to take stronger measures, including the collective use of force through the UN Security Council.
Last week, Alex Bellamy, who writes regularly on issues of responsibility to protect, authored a blog post (on a relatively new blog, Protection Gateway) entitled, Stopping genocide and mass atrocities–the problem of regime change. He opens by positing the question, “Should international action to protect people from genocide and mass atrocities ever result in regime change?” before laying out five potential checks to guard against governments justifying armed intervention to pursue their own self interests via regime change “whilst recognising that regime change may sometimes be necessary to save lives.”:
- Intervention must have a mandate from the United Nations Security Council.
- States that champion intervention should be expected to demonstrate their humanitarian intent by acknowledging – through their words and deeds – a duty to prevent genocide and mass atrocities and respond in the most effective ways possible.
- The third test relates to the use of humanitarian justifications and their relationship to the known facts of the case. The simplest test of an actor’s intention is to compare what they say they are doing with what is known about the case.
- The calibration of means and ends. Would-be interveners should select strategies that enable them to prevail without undermining humanitarian outcomes.
- States that intervene in the affairs of others ought to recognise a duty to help the country rebuild its infrastructure, restore its autonomy, and re-establish its self-determination.
While much discussion, debate, and reporting currently focuses on the third pillar of R2P and conflates this with military intervention, the fact is that under R2P, the international community has three main responsibilities: the responsibility to prevent, the responsibility to react, and the responsibility to rebuild. In a sense, the fifth check is a reformulation of these responsibilities. Bellamy writes that interventions which satisfy these five conditions would assuredly be “pursued primarily with humanitarian intent” while also safeguarding that ” instances of protection induced regime change remain, as they have to date, rare and exceptional.”