Gareth Evans on the Syria Situation

Former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans is one of the godfather’s of the “responsibility to protect” (R2P) concept. In this essay in The Daily Star, he assesses the situation in light of previous developments in Libya and argues that “Security Council consensus about when and how to apply R2P, so evident in February and March 2011, has evaporated in a welter of recrimination about how the NATO-led implementation was carried out of the Security Council’s Libya mandate ‘to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack’.” He adds: “Renewed consensus on how to implement R2P in hard cases may come too late to help in Syria. But everyone understands that the alternative to Security Council cooperation is a return to the bad old days of Rwanda, Srebrenica, and Kosovo: either total inaction in the face of mass atrocity crimes, or action outlawed by the United Nations Charter. After all that has been achieved in the last decade, such an outcome would be heartbreaking.”

Can – and should – R2P be saved?

Read the full article by Evans here.

You may also wish to watch this video of Nayan Chanda, the editor of YaleGlobal Online, interviewing Gareth Evans about R2P.

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1 Comment

  1. Nadine

     /  17/02/2012

    As much as I’d like to see R2P expanded to cover, for example, environmental harms, it would be better for the credibility of R2P to have a limited scope. The definition of “harm to life” can be fairly culturally-fueled, after all. Islamic countries for example may claim that Hollywood is “harming” the morality its Muslim citizens. The Vatican may also justify intervention on countries with widespread abortion, if harm to potential life were to be included as well. But should any culture impose its norms on another? Instead of creating a list of harms that may cause R2P to arise, would it be easier to just have one rule, and that is, intervention is justified when the government is acting against the will of the people? After all, an element of ‘sovereignty’ in international law is the support of its people; if the people wants to overturn a government, or stop a governmental act, for any reason- be it inhumane or unsustainable or immoral practices- and the government won’t budge, then, in the spirit of democracy, the international community should intervene. That way it can also be ensured that the intervention only goes as far as to realize the will of the people.

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