School of Politics and International Studies

Responsibility to Protect Student Journal

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R2P is Unable to Protect the Stateless; It Is Time for the United Nations Security Council to Step Up

By Dimitra Protopsalti and Timothy Lionarons

Dimitra and Timothy are Master’s students at Leiden University in the Netherlands, currently enrolled in the two-year Advanced Master’s programme lnternational Relations and Diplomacy. This Master’s programme is taught in collaboration with the Clingendael lnstitute. @DProtopsalti 

 

The United Nations (UN), established in 1945 to promote world peace, instated the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in 2005 to shield humankind from mass atrocities. However, the shortcomings of R2P are a product of its exclusionary nature. The UN, and subsequently the R2P, fail to protect an approximated 10 million of the world population: the stateless. R2P’s reliance on the states’ notion of citizenship has revealed a weakness in protecting the stateless. The Turkish invasion of the Kurdish region of Syria demonstrated exactly how the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) was unable to safeguard those most in need. Hence, it is vital that the UNSC broadens the inclusiveness of the R2P in order to protect stateless peoples.

 

R2P and the Problematic Interpretation of the UNSC

Contrary to humanitarian intervention, R2P places the primary responsibility to protect citizens from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing on the state itself, in accordance with Pillar I. If a state is unable or unwilling to provide this protection, it is encouraged and pressured by the international community through both aid and sanctions (Pillar II). If the aforementioned measures still do not suffice, Pillar III entails the responsibility of the international community to intervene militarily.

When discussing the necessity to intervene in conflict-stricken states, the UNSC tends to refer to and rely heavily on a state’s primary responsibility to protect. All statements and resolutions by members of the UNSC since 2011 have emphasized Pillar I responsibilities and, by extension, have understated Pillars II and III that denote international responsibility. This is because international responsibility can cause infringement of state sovereignty.

However, sovereignty grants independence and inalienable rights that enable a state to determine who is granted citizenship and, by extension, the right to protection. The stateless, by nature, are deprived of citizenship and hence fall between the cracks of protection by both the state in which they reside and the international community.

 

Left to Their Own Devices: The Kurds, the Rohingya and the Bidoon

The Turkish invasion of Kurdish-occupied North Syria once more underlined the R2P’s inability to protect the stateless. With president Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from the Rojava region, Turkey was given free rein to set up a so-called ‘safe zone’ in Syria. This posed a direct threat to the Kurdish population of the region, yet their cries for help were unheard. The largest stateless population in the world was left subject to the Turkish government – the same government that deems the Kurds and any affiliated political organizations to be terrorists of nature. What ensued was the killing of more than 70 individuals and forced displacement of 300,000 Kurds from the region.

Similarly, the Rohingya, residing in the Rakhine State of Myanmar, have been systematically targeted by the Myanmar government. As a result of R2P’s failure to protect the stateless, many died and thousands were forced to seek refuge in Bangladesh. As of 2017 Bangladesh counts an estimated 900,000 Rohingya refugees.

In Kuwait, the stateless Bidoon population (“bidun jinsiyya”, meaning ‘without nationality’) suffers the same fate as the Kurds and the Rohingya. They, too, are devoid of basic human rights and the protection against crimes as underlined in R2P.

These examples are often accompanied by vocabulary signalling genocide and/or ethnic cleansing. President Trump justified the invasion in North Syria as a process of “cleaning out” the region, whilst the Myanmar government initiated “clearing operations” against the Rohingya. The Rohingya were characterized as “roaches” to be “exterminated” and the Bidoon were deemed “illegal residents” by the Kuwaiti government. History has demonstrated that all too often such language results in atrocity as populations become stripped of their humanity.

Still, R2P fails to include the stateless in its protective framework.

 

Intervening to Intervene: A More Inclusive R2P

To prevent these conflicts from escalating further and resulting in atrocities which violate R2P principles, the UNSC must take immediate action. Specifically, the UNSC ought to adopt a new resolution which foresees the protection of all individuals within a state, regardless of their (lack of) citizenship. The final responsibility and decision to intervene lies with the UNSC. Yet, the UNSC has the ability to veto proposed R2P interventions and has done so in the past. Thus, it is critical that the UNSC demonstrates its ability to act as a unified actor and that Member States set aside personal interests to protect all of humankind. By adopting a new resolution that includes the responsibility to protect all people residing within the borders of a state, not just those granted citizenship, the UN will be able to prevent the stateless from falling between the cracks of R2P protection by the state and the international community. This enables Turkey-Syria, Myanmar, and Kuwait to be held accountable for their negligence to protect the Kurds, the Rohingya, and the Bidoon, respectively.

If the UNSC decides not to adopt the amendment, the remaining member states of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) should invoke Resolution 377, also known as the ‘Uniting for Peace Resolution’, to proceed to its adoption without the consent of the UNSC. Under the Charter, this resolution allows the UNGA to take collective action in order to protect and maintain international peace and security if the UNSC fails to do so. In this case, it enables the UNGA to protect the stateless.

To reiterate, we have proposed two distinct manners in which a new resolution can be adopted to ensure the inclusion and consequent protection of the stateless, by complementing the existing R2P regime.

 

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Black Lives Matter

Broadcast your voice. Share your experience. Start the conversation. 

Call for Conversations is a project which aims to broadcast diverse experiences through creative works. In solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, we’re looking to open conversations about social issues affecting communities globally. Regardless of where you are in the world, we’d love to hear from you.

R2P Student Journal is accepting creative works to publish on our blog. Some of the creative pieces we are accepting are: 

  • Blog posts 
  • Personal accounts and experiences 
  • Book reviews
  • Photography
  • Poetry
  • Songs/music 
  • Videography

…but we are not limited to these categories. If you have an idea that isn’t included in this list or want to submit a creative piece, get in touch via email at: r2pstudentjournal@gmail.com. 

Eligibility

Anyone and everyone is eligible to submit. You do not have to be affiliated with a school or institution. 

How to submit 

Send an email to our team at: r2pstudentjournal@gmail.com. Write CFC BLM in the email subject line with your creative work attached. A member of our team will follow up with you.  

We aim to create a space for open, respectful and constructive conversations through visual and written creative works. Share your experience on how the Black Lives Matter movement has impacted you. Show the world what’s going on in your community. Tell us your story. We can’t wait to hear from you.

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Atrocity Prevention, 15 Years Since the Adoption of R2P: Interview with UN Special Adviser on R2P Dr. Karen Smith

Interview by Georgiana Epure, Charlotte Abbott and Emma Bapt

 

In 2005, governments unanimously agreed that they have both an individual and a collective responsibility to protect (R2P) populations, not just citizens, from four crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing. In 2008, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon established the position of the Special Advisor on the Responsibility to Protect and since 2009 the Secretary-General has been publishing annual reports on R2P clarifying and developing what this concept means and what ‘tools’ it needs in order to be implemented more effectively. Fifteen years after the adoption of the R2P, we talked with Dr. Karen Smith, the UN Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Responsibility to Protect. Our interview touched on a series of issues that range from how the coronavirus pandemic affects atrocity prevention efforts to the role that religious leaders have in countering incitement to violence, and the relation between R2P and the Women, Peace and Security agenda – the topic of the Secretary-General’s upcoming report on R2P.

 

COVID-19

Recently, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for an end to the ‘tsunami of hate and xenophobia’ sparked by the coronavirus pandemic. What is the state of the R2P norm in an age of increasing nationalism where more and more leaders legitimise hate speech, which may lead to hate crimes and other early warnings of atrocity crimes?

The rise in hate speech that we have seen accompanying a rise in nationalism and populism in many parts of the world underscores the fact that R2P is as relevant as ever. States – including their leaders – must be reminded of the responsibility they have, and the commitment they made in 2005, to protect their populations (including minorities and migrants). It is important to note that no country is immune from hate speech and its potential violent effects. During the current global pandemic, we have seen a worrying trend in which already vulnerable populations are targeted by hate speech and sometimes violent behaviour, based on accusations related to the spread of the coronavirus. The UN Secretary-General recognised the importance of addressing rising hate speech when, at the beginning of last year, he tasked the Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide to coordinate the development of a UN-wide Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech, which is currently being rolled out, and has recently been supplemented by a guidance note on addressing COVID-19 related hate speech. Importantly, the Strategy and Plan of Action calls for more rather than less speech, underlining the importance of protecting freedom of expression whilst addressing hate speech that incites violence.

  

In May, the UN Security Council was close to voting on a resolution calling for a global ceasefire that would enable the international community to focus on ending the coronavirus pandemic. Conflict, fragile societies and the threat of atrocities may severely impact nations’ ability to confront COVID-19. Do you think the pandemic will reshape the way in which the international community thinks about global responsibilities and basic universal rights?  

The COVID-19 pandemic clearly has serious implications for the responsibility to protect, not least because it is likely to significantly increase the risk to already vulnerable populations. We are already witnessing that those parts of the population who already face high levels of risk – including ethnic, religious and sexual minorities, refugees, the poor, and women, are facing increased risk to their safety and their livelihoods. In many countries minorities have become the target of hate speech and in some cases even violence, based on their alleged association with the spreading of infections. In the development of national and global responses to the crisis, it is essential that any action takes into consideration the potential implications for the risk of atrocity crimes. Some of the lessons being learned in dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak are also relevant for atrocity prevention. These include the obvious, but consistently under-prioritised, fact that prevention is better than cure. Similarly, the importance of early warning – whether with reference to conflict, pandemics, or atrocity crimes, has been underlined. Like many other global governance challenges, the virus does not respect borders and therefore a multilateral, collective global response is really the only viable solution. Worryingly, over the past few years there has been a trend towards weakening multilateral institutions and, as part of growing nationalist and populist sentiments around the world, a general questioning of multilateralism. We must therefore also see the current crisis as presenting the international community with an opportunity to reflect on the nature of the current global order, and which issues should be prioritised, in the interests of building a better world.

 

Role of religious leaders

More and more attention is directed towards bringing religious leaders into efforts to prevent and counter incitement to violence, including identity-based violence. Last year, Ms Federica Mogherini, then European Union High Representative of Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, announced a new EU-sponsored Global Exchange on Religion in Society to connect and empower civil society actors who are working on faith and social inclusion. Notably, in 2017, under the stewardship of the UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect,  the UN Secretary General launched the Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actors to Prevent Incitement to Violence that Could Lead to Atrocity Crimes. Where do we factor in an approach to R2P that mobilises members of civil society and focuses on particular areas (i.e. religion) for prevention purposes within the more common state-centric R2P approach? Is this a sign of a shift in approach, or R2Psimply diversifying its prevention ‘toolkit’?

While it remains the primary responsibility of states to protect their populations from atrocity crimes, this is not to the exclusion of other (non-state) actors. Particularly with regard to prevention, it is obvious that individual governments cannot build tolerant, resilient societies without the support of civil society. Many civil society actors can and have been playing important roles. These include women, youth, and religious leaders. As mentioned earlier, we have witnessed a disturbing rise in hate speech in recent years, much (but not all) of which targets religion. It is here that religious leaders can be particularly important in promoting tolerance and preventing incitement to hatred amongst their followers. As part of its Plan of Action for Religious Leaders, the Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide has worked with religious leaders from across different world regions and faiths to come up with a strategy that outlines specific targets aimed at preventing hate speech through enhancing education and capacity building, fostering inter-and intra-faith dialogue, and strengthening collaboration with traditional and new media. Religious leaders are undoubtedly essential partners in the fight against atrocities.

  

R2P focal points

Last year the Global Network of R2P Focal Points welcomed its second regional focal point (after the EU): the Organisation of American States. Why is it important that states and regional actors have such a focal point? What does the fact that most, if not all, R2P focal points are based in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs say about R2P? Doesn’t this pattern in a way contradict R2P’s focus on domestic prevention?

The global focal points initiative is another stepping stone to wider implementation of R2P. The idea behind having such focal points in governments and regional organisations is that they are tasked with raising atrocity prevention as a priority across the work of governments, whether that be conflict prevention, development assistance, or education. While it should, in essence, matter less which ministry the focal point is based in, but rather how active they are, the fact that most focal points to date have been appointed in ministries of foreign affairs does tell us something about how most states still view R2P. While the international community’s responsibility to assist prevention efforts and respond to the commission of atrocities in all states is of course an important element of R2P, this should not override the primary responsibility of states to protect their own populations. In this regard, more needs to be done to emphasise the importance of thinking of R2P in domestic terms – even in states where the commission of atrocity crimes seems unlikely. As mentioned above, we are seeing a worrying rise in intolerance, hate speech and incitement to violence in many countries, and these risk factors should be taken seriously and addressed appropriately.

  

Women, Peace and Security agenda

Many scholars and practitioners have noted that R2P lacks a gender lens. Where do you situate the Women Peace and Security agenda in the process of making the R2P norm more gender sensitive? Given R2P scepticism, do you think that moving towards merging these two agendas might risk bringing down the WPS agenda’s consensus power?

The criticism of R2P lacking a gender lens is partly justified. While explicit reference to gender is, for example, limited in tools such as the Framework for Analysis, in practice, there is greater emphasis on the role of gender inequality, gender-based violence, and the role of women in particular in assessments that are done using this tool. Having said that, there is certainly room for improvement, and a need to think more systematically about how to incorporate gender more effectively into R2P but also – and this is important – to make atrocity prevention an integral part of the WPS agenda. To this end, this year’s SG report on R2P will focus on this exact issue. It is particularly relevant given the significance of 2020 for both agendas – 25 years since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action for women’s rights, 20 years since the passing of the UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, and 15 years since the adoption of the R2P during the World Summit in 2005. I don’t think that highlighting the areas of complementarity have to mean merging the agendas. It is more about recognising the potential for mutual reinforcement that already exists.

 

Measuring R2P success

Despite the rich literature on R2P, much of it documents where R2P went wrong, and numerous scholars argue that it is obsolete or a “hollow norm”. Are there any success stories? The bigger question is: how do you measure R2P success today?

It is always easier to identify and focus on where things went wrong – this is also how we have been trained by the global news cycle. The focus on where R2P has not been successful is also linked to the emphasis on the use of military force to respond to atrocities. If we agree that the ultimate aim of R2P is to prevent atrocities from occurring in the first place, this is where we should measure success. This, however, is difficult, as it often leads us down the path of counterfactuals. Conflict averted and atrocities prevented are not newsworthy, and it is often difficult to say what would or could have happened had certain steps not been taken. There are, however, some examples of where collective action by states, regional actors and the international community successfully prevented the likely commission of atrocities. One often-cited case is Kenya, following election violence in 2008. Another is The Gambia. When the outgoing president Jammeh refused to hand over power to his elected successor and ordered troops to be deployed to act against the civilian population, ECOWAS deployed a mediation team. They were supported by the UNSC, the AU, EU and key states. When the mediation failed, ECOWAS deployed a coalition of military forces to protect the civilian population. Eventually President Jammeh stepped down, and ECOWAS forces remained to oversee the transition of power. These are two clear examples of the responsibility to protect in action.

 

A word for young people working on atrocity prevention

What advice do you have for young scholars and practitioners who are interested in working in the field of atrocity prevention?

I would strongly encourage anyone interested in this field to pursue it – there is much work that remains to be done, both on the academic side and in practice. In terms of students working on R2P and atrocity prevention: while there is certainly a place for theoretical work on issues such as norm evolution and contestation, my experience has been that there is an even greater need for policy-oriented research that can help to advance the implementation of the responsibility to protect in a very practical way. For example, this year’s Secretary-General’s report will focus on women and R2P. While there is evidence-based research showing a clear link between gender equality and women’s rights and a state’s propensity for conflict, much research is still needed to explicitly highlight the links between these issues and atrocity prevention in particular. Similarly, there is still much to learn about what causes atrocity crimes to be committed, and what types of responses are effective in preventing them in different contexts. More research is essential if we want to strengthen our prevention efforts. With regards to working in the field of atrocity prevention, I would underline that there is a need for individuals who are committed to prioritising atrocity prevention across all fields, so do not be discouraged if you do not find a job in an organisation specifically dedicated to it. What we need is for atrocity prevention to be mainstreamed and prioritised across domestic and foreign policy making, development cooperation, education, and so forth.

 

After a series of thought-provoking answers from Dr. Karen Smith, the interview came to a close with the R2P Student Journal engaging in role reversal. We invited Dr. Smith to state the most important and redundant questions regarding R2P today. In her opinion, the most important question related to the norm’s implementation: ‘How can we ensure effective prevention of atrocity crimes?’, whilst the most redundant question is: ‘Is R2P still relevant?’.

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The Responsibility to Protect and Sub-Regional Organisations: The Case of The Gambia

By John Bosco Nizeimana

John Bosco Nizeimana is currently a visiting researcher at Georgetown University-School of Foreign Services in the Department of African Studies (Washington DC, US). Bosco holds a Master of Science degree in International Relations from the University of Zimbabwe. He previously worked as full-time Associate Lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, in the Deptartment of Political and Administrative Studies.  He is a PhD student in South Africa, at Rhodes University, researching the implementation of the Responsibility to Protect norm in Sudan and Libya.

 

The outcome of the December 2016 Gambian presidential elections took the world by surprise. After 22 years in power, Yahya Jammeh was voted out of office. In July 2017, Gambians celebrated Jammeh’s political announcement in which he accepted the election results, conceded defeat, and congratulated the new President, Adam Barrow, promising a smooth transition of power. Jammeh’s decision was applauded worldwide and was seen as the most important step towards democracy in Africa, and in The Gambia in particular, since the country has achieved no peaceful transition of power through national elections since its independence.

Two of the major electoral promises made by Barrow were to reverse The Gambia’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court and to reinstate the country’s membership of the Commonwealth. Barrow’s promises angered Jammeh who soon after he accepted defeat went against his initial declaration and declared that, ultimately, he was not going to accept the election results. He vowed to fight against what he called “external interference in the politics of The Gambia” and threatened bloodshed if force was used to eject him from office. His declaration was followed by the announcement of a 90-day countrywide state of emergency.

Across The Gambia, there were fears of political unrest, civil war, and massive human rights violations. The UN Security Council, the African Union, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) expressed their concern and called for Jammeh to step down. Despite this, Jammeh’s refused to step down, creating a situation that brought The Gambia at the centre stage of global attention.

The situation in The Gambia was of concern to the international community, particularly ECOWAS and the UN.  In his June 10th, 2016, statement, the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, noted that President Jammeh referred to the Mandinka, an African ethnic group with a strong presence in the Gambia, as “enemies, foreigners, and threatened to kill them one day and place them where even a fly cannot see them”. Dieng condemned Jammeh’s “public stigmatisation, dehumanisation and threats against the Mandinka” and warned about the danger of such statements that can contribute to dividing populations, feed suspicion and serve to instigate violence against communities based solely on their identity. Continue reading

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To sever or salvage? Disaggregating the coercive military component of the R2P

By Jamal Nabulsi 

Jamal Nabulsi is a Master of International Relations (Advanced) student at the Australian National University. He is interested primarily in the ethics of war and normative International Relations theory. His Master’s thesis is on the ethical theory around preemptive and preventive wars.

The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine is not dead, but one of its limbs is gangrenous and in dire need of amputation to save the body from infection. This article will argue that, in light of the 2011 NATO-led intervention in Libya, the coercive military component of R2P must be disaggregated from the body of the doctrine. This will allow for the consensus around R2P to widen, strengthening its normative force, while the debate about coercive military intervention can carry on outside of the R2P framework. This article will outline the R2P doctrine, describe its implementation in Libya and the consequences thereof, explain why proposed solutions fall short, before offering disaggregation as a solution.

The R2P was first articulated in the 2001 Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) as the notion that a state’s sovereignty is contingent upon its fulfilment of its responsibility to protect its population from avoidable catastrophes, and that when a state fails to fulfil this responsibility (either through inability or unwillingness), the responsibility falls on the international community (ICISS, 2001, viii). The R2P was further clarified in the 2005 United Nations (UN) World Summit Outcome document, as well as being unanimously adopted by the UN Member States (United Nations, 2005, p.30). The 2009 Report of the UN Secretary-General on implementing R2P outlined a three-pillar strategy for implementation. Pillar one is the responsibility of states to protect their populations from the atrocities of ethnic cleansing, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Pillar two is the international community’s commitment to assist states in protecting their populations from such atrocities. Pillar three is the UN Member States’ responsibility ‘to respond collectively in a timely and decisive manner when a state is manifestly failing to provide such protection’ (United Nations, 2009, p.9). This includes non-violent measures under Chapter VI of the UN Charter, collaboration with regional organisations under Chapter VIII and/or coercive military intervention under Chapter VII (United Nations, 2009, pp.8-9).

The 2011 NATO-led intervention in Libya was a watershed moment for the R2P doctrine (Evans, 2013). It was the first time that coercive military intervention under Chapter VII was authorised by the UN Security Council against the express will of the state in question with the stated intention of protecting a population from falling victim to mass atrocities. This authorisation was granted in the context of the ‘Arab Spring’—a wave of popular, anti-authoritarian, pro-democracy demonstrations that swept the Middle East and North Africa from the end of 2010. In contrast to the relatively peaceful transitions of power that occurred in Egypt and Tunisia, the protests in Libya quickly turned violent (Glanville, 2013).

Muammar al-Qaddafi, then leader of Libya, promised to ‘show no mercy’ in crushing the ‘cockroaches’ protesting his rule (as quoted in Glanville, 2013, p.333). Such dehumanising language, echoing that used by genocidaires prior to the Rwandan genocide, was a key factor in spurring the Security Council into action (Hehir, 2013, p.138). Another key factor was the condemnation of the Qaddafi regime’s human rights violations by relevant regional organisations (African Union, 2011), and subsequent calls by some of them to establish a no-fly zone in Libya (Council of the League of Arab States, 2011; Glanville, 2013, p.334).

On February 26, 2011, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1970, which condemned the Qaddafi regime’s violence against civilians (invoking Libya’s responsibility to protect its citizens) and imposed an arms embargo on Libya, among other measures (United Nations Security Council, 2011a). Subsequently, on March 17, 2011, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1973 which, most notably, implicitly authorised coercive military intervention in Libya through the enforcement of a no-fly zone, aimed at preventing the Qaddafi regime’s air force from attacking Libyan civilians (United Nations Security Council, 2011b). This resolution was passed by a 10-0 vote, with China, Russia, Brazil, Germany and India abstaining (Silander, 2013, p.269). The reservations expressed by these countries were in relation to the dubious effectiveness of coercive intervention and the lack of specificity regarding the exact form that the military action would take (Odeyemi, 2016, pp.11-12).

Upon NATO’s implementation of Resolution 1973, these concerns were borne out with disastrous consequences for the Libyan people. Rather than focussing strictly on protecting the population, the NATO mandate quickly evolved to include overthrowing the Qaddafi regime (Bachman, 2015, p.56). This was justified on the grounds of its necessity for protecting Libyans in the long-run, however, Kuperman (2013) convincingly argues that regime change was sought as an end in itself, not as a means to the end of protecting the population. NATO forces engaged in actions that were inconsistent with protecting the population but that sought regime change, such as attacking Qaddafi regime forces that were in retreat and failing to pursue offered ceasefires (Kuperman, 2013, pp.113-115).

NATO airstrikes in Libya were markedly discriminatory, with independent estimates of civilian casualties ranging from 55 (Amnesty International, 2012) to 72 (Human Rights Watch, 2012), resulting from 9,700 strike sorties. However, NATO support for Libyan rebel groups facilitated the incidence of countless war crimes and crimes against humanity. During the conflict, for instance, it has been reported that the NATO-backed rebels were committing similar human rights violations to those perpetrated by the Qaddafi regime (Bachman, 2015, pp.61-62).

But the most egregious crimes by the rebels have been committed since NATO evacuated, all but shirking their responsibility to properly see through the transition to democratic government and to help in rebuilding Libya. These crimes include the racially-targeted expulsion of Tawergha’s 30,000 inhabitants (Human Rights Watch, 2011a), the summary execution of Qaddafi and widespread reprisal killings and torture (Human Rights Watch, 2011b). The first elected Libyan Prime Minister lasted one month, before being removed with a vote of no confidence (Bachman, 2015, pp.63-64). Today, Libya remains deeply divided as competing militia groups continue to fight for control over the country amidst widespread lawlessness and economic collapse (Amnesty International, 2017, p.233). The ongoing human suffering that this situation entails is incalculable.

Would Libya have been better off without a NATO-led intervention? According to Kuperman’s (2013, p.123) plausible counterfactual, the NATO-led intervention magnified the death toll by seven to ten times. Regardless of the accuracy of this estimate, the NATO-led intervention evidently led to untold human suffering, and its ramifications continue to endanger the lives of countless Libyans.

The disastrous outcome of the NATO-led military intervention in Libya has inflamed the controversy around the coercive use of military force to achieve the humanitarian goals of R2P. This has, in turn, damaged the international support for the R2P doctrine as a whole. The Libyan intervention drew sharp criticism from the BRICS states—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—among others. Their foremost concerns were that NATO grossly overstepped its mandate (outlined in Resolution 1973) by pursuing regime change, that disproportionate force was used, that opportunities for political dialogue and peaceful settlement were ignored, and that the arms embargo was breached by supplying weapons to the rebels (Bellamy, 2015, p.179). This controversy around the coercive military aspects of R2P’s third pillar has meant that the consensus around the doctrine as a whole has frayed. This is evident most clearly in the rhetoric used by Russia to reject authorising intervention in Syria (regardless of Russian intentions behind this rhetoric) (Gifkins, 2012).

The positions of the BRICS countries become increasingly important as the global balance of power continues to shift in their favour (Morris, 2013, p.1280). In response to the perceived excesses of the NATO-led intervention in Libya, and the damage that this did to the credibility of the R2P doctrine, Brazil have proposed the concept of ‘responsibility while protecting’ (RWP). While endorsing the basic principles of R2P, RWP calls for establishing a set of guidelines for implementing R2P. These include the strict chronological sequencing of the three pillars, limiting the resort to force and holding intervening states to account for breaching the guidelines (Kenkel, 2016).

With similar intentions and content, China proposed the concept of ‘responsible protection’ (RP). RP requires that the goals of intervention are outlined more clearly, the means of protection are limited, the intervenors are responsible for post-intervention rebuilding, and mechanisms of supervision are put in place to hold intervenors accountable for any breaches of their defined mandate, among other measures (Zongze, 2012). Both RP and RWP were thus, at least ostensibly, attempts to bridge the widening gap between R2P supporters and sceptics.

Although RWP and RP are well-thought-out attempts to address the serious concerns with R2P that arose in the wake of the Libyan intervention, they have ultimately failed to make a significant impact on the doctrine (Bachman, 2015, p.64). If a set of rules governing an R2P intervention, like those presented in RWP and RP, could be strictly enforced by an international authority, perhaps they would sufficiently alleviate the ailments of R2P. However, in the current international system, where no such authority exists and national interest-driven ulterior motives for intervention are inevitably present, RWP and RP are insufficient and have failed to gain traction among Western powers.

The presence of such ulterior motives makes R2P interventions prone to expanding their objectives, even if this works against the supposedly primary objective of protecting populations (Kuperman, 2013, p.135). Evidence of national interest-driven ulterior motives being a necessary condition for R2P intervention can be seen in the inconsistency with which R2P has been applied. For instance, it is suggested that the US interest in Libya’s rich natural resources and geostrategic importance were decisive factors in choosing to intervene there (Hehir, 2013, p.156). On the other hand, US interests in its regional alliances have led to an almost diametrically opposite response to the similar situation in Bahrain, where pro-democracy protestors have been brutally tortured and killed (Graubart, 2015, p.214). This is not to claim that humanitarian concerns are not considered whatsoever, but that they are overridden by national interest. These ulterior motives not only negatively impact the effectiveness of interventions to protect populations, but also have negative reputational costs for the R2P doctrine, as evidenced by the current aversion of BRICS and other states to the doctrine (Paris, 2014). This aversion is primarily due to their concerns with the coercive military aspects of pillar three, despite their fundamental agreement with the underlying principles of R2P (Stuenkel, 2014).

The problem of ulterior motives has led Graubart (2015) to advocate for eliminating the coercive military component of R2P entirely. He argues that normatively legitimating military intervention to protect populations is effectively establishing a new category for resorting to force. This new category is ripe for manipulation and its net impact in being implemented will only be more national interest-driven interventions that will ultimately cause more suffering than they will prevent (Graubart, 2015, pp.210-217).

A strong argument against the case for eliminating the coercive military component is that such interventions are going to happen either way, so it is better that we have a set of norms governing these interventions, rather than allow them to be driven entirely by national interest. It is argued, for instance, that the ‘pragmatic appeal of R2P is that rather than be paralysed by geopolitical hierarchies, it carves out a category of mixed-motive, status quo friendly interventions that nevertheless save lives’ (Graubart, 2015, p.204). In response, it is argued that military interventions are inevitably going to be driven by motives of national interest, but R2P increases the prevalence of these interventions by providing a humanitarian cover for these motives, thus reducing the normative hurdles in front of intervening militarily (Graubart, 2015, p.217).

This fiery debate around coercive military intervention, which was stoked by the Libyan intervention, will continue to rage on. But rather than eliminating the coercive military component of R2P completely, the lesson that should be drawn from the Libyan case is that the coercive military component should be disaggregated from the rest of the R2P doctrine. This will allow for the military intervention debate to continue outside of the framework of R2P, while allowing the consensus around R2P to strengthen significantly, ultimately leading to increased protection of populations in the future.

There is seemingly a trade-off between R2P’s ability to not allow states to act indifferently in the face of looming mass atrocities and its not providing states with an excuse to engage in national interest-driven interventions under the guise of humanitarianism. Removing the coercive military component from R2P softens this trade-off. It prevents R2P from being used as an excuse for military interventions driven primarily by national interest. However, without its coercive military component, R2P can still encourage the international community to act in the face of mass atrocities. For instance, Gallagher (2015, pp.1268-1271) highlights the utility of international assistance under pillar two for addressing threats posed by non-state armed groups.

Coercive military intervention is by far the most contentious part of the R2P doctrine as it is invariably where states’ interests are the most at stake. The use of force ‘will always be politics all the way down’ (Morris, 2013, p.1282). Removing the coercive military component will purge R2P of the most corrosive national interest-driven motives. This will allow the protection of populations to remain the primary objective of R2P implementations.

Moreover, this will strengthen the consensus around the R2P doctrine. There is widespread agreement on the basic principles of R2P (Morris, 2013, p.1283), even among the BRICS and other sceptical countries (Odeyemi, 2016, p.14). States will no longer fear that the ‘soft’ pillar three actions (such as sanctions) will constitute the thin end of the pillar three wedge, which will be used to open the door for military intervention; a fear that Russia and China have expressed in justifying their vetos on Security Council Resolutions regarding Syria (Morris, 2013, p.1276; 2016, p.206). So, removing its coercive military component will allow for an expanded consensus to build around R2P, solidifying it as an international norm, increasing its breadth of cascade and depth of internalisation among states. This will ultimately lead to more consistent application of R2P and therefore more widespread and systematic protection of populations globally.

The huge hit that R2P’s credibility took in the wake of the Libyan intervention will be deflected, allowing the doctrine to protect populations from mass atrocities into the future. It will do so by focussing on solidifying the norms around sovereign responsibilities under pillar one, providing support to states to prevent mass atrocities under pillar two, and using nonviolent means to convince states to uphold their responsibilities under pillar three. It is acknowledged that some situations, such as the 1994 Rwandan genocide, do require coercive military intervention to stop mass atrocities from occurring. Therefore, the debate around military intervention should continue outside of the R2P framework, and R2P might still be able to trigger the doctrine that will potentially come out of this debate. The content of this debate is outside the scope of this article, but Ramesh Thakur (2013, p.63) suggests that, since interventions are likely to occur in developing countries, this debate should initially take place between the governments and civil societies of developing countries, and then between developing and developed countries.

Disaggregating the military intervention component of R2P is not a panacea and is likely to be met with significant opposition. Firstly, it does not address any of the concerns about decisions to intervene militarily. However, it does prevent these concerns from impacting the R2P doctrine as a whole, thereby saving the body of the doctrine from normative contamination (Morris, 2013, p.1283).

One counterargument to this disaggregation proposal is that R2P is built on three mutually-reinforcing pillars of equal length (Welsh, 2016, p.5) and that this disaggregation would essentially be to saw off half of pillar three, causing the entire R2P edifice to collapse. R2P was born out of the urge to prevent mass atrocities such as those that occurred in Rwanda and Kosovo, atrocities that would have required military intervention to prevent. So, to remove the military intervention component would be to rob the doctrine of its core content and render it ineffectual in addressing the problems that it was designed to prevent. However, ‘the true essence of R2P is the understanding that sovereignty denotes responsibility rather than license’ (Morris, 2013, p.1283). R2P’s real power is in its normative force to encourage states and the wider international community to ensure that this responsibility is fulfilled (Morris, 2013, p.1283). Moreover, the debate around military intervention would not be jettisoned entirely, just removed from the R2P framework. The (perhaps once reasonable) desire to maintain the conceptual holism of R2P has become a demand for unattainable perfection (Morris, 2013, p.1280).

Another counterargument is that this proposal would simply be rejected, especially by Western powers. However, there is reason to believe that disaggregating coercive military intervention from R2P would gain wide support in the UN General Assembly (Graubart, 2015, p.218). If this support was not forthcoming, a potential weaker solution could be to remove coercive military intervention from pillar three and make this the fourth pillar of R2P. This may go some way in addressing the problems with R2P that were highlighted by the case of Libya. However, considerations around the conceptual implications of this solution are outside the scope of this article.

In light of the disastrous humanitarian situation that has resulted from the military intervention in Libya and NATO’s perceived abuse of its mandate, the future of the R2P doctrine is in question. The key lesson that should be drawn from the Libyan case is that the coercive military component must be disaggregated from R2P. The controversial debate around military intervention will rage on, but this solution will salvage the R2P doctrine, strengthening its normative force and, ultimately, allowing for more people to be protected from mass atrocities in the future.

 

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Bachman, J. 2015. R2P’s ‘Ulterior Motive Exemption’ and the Failure to Protect in Libya. Politics and Governance. 3(4), pp.56-67.

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Gallagher, A. 2015. ‘The promise of pillar II: analysing international assistance under the Responsibility to Protect’. International Affairs. 91(6), pp.1259-1275.

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India’s stand on the Responsibility to Protect: The UN Security Council and the Libya crisis

By Heena Makhija 

Heena Makhija is a student at Centre for International Politics, Organizations and Disarmament at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, undertaking an MPhil in International Organizations.

 

Jawaharlal Nehru’s idealism and commitment to the maintenance of international peace and security has remarkably influenced India’s response towards international conflicts. In the Security Council, in its capacity as a non-permanent member, India has been a supporter of peaceful and responsible policy decisions for conflict resolution. In the past few decades, international intervention in conflict zones for the protection of civilians from war crimes on account of the failure of domestic state machinery has been a matter of debate in mainstream academia. Though India has been one of the largest contributors to the UN Peacekeeping Missions, its approach to the idea of ‘Responsibility to Protect’ has been cautious.

This paper seeks to analyse India’s approach to the principle of ‘Responsibility to Protect’, especially with regard to where it stands in the UN Security Council discussions. The first section traces India’s evolving stance on the principle of ‘Responsibility to Protect’. The second section analyses India’s stance on the use of R2P in Libya and its reasons for abstaining in the UN Security Council voting on the issue of intervention. The third section seeks to evaluate India’s response and strategy after the military intervention in Libya. The concluding section attempts to bring out the lessons India drew from the Libyan experience and its influence on India’s present-day approach to R2P.

 

Humanitarian intervention, R2P and India

Though the idea of humanitarian intervention in conflict zones has existed for decades, its conceptualization under the aegis of ‘Responsibility to Protect’ is fairly new. India, given its experience with colonialism, inherited a divided, exploited and dependent society that was vulnerable to internal dissension and external interference (Ayoob, 2004, p. 99). Therefore, India accorded utmost priority to the principles of democracy and sovereignty whilst dealing with international actors. India’s apprehensions were triggered immediately after independence, as when it referred the issue of Jammu and Kashmir to the UN Security Council, instead of a fruitful resolution, Cold War politics shadowed the UN leading to a deadlock. In the light of the Kashmir issue, Indian leadership began to resist approaching multilateral institutions to intervene in conflict areas fearing a threat to its state sovereignty (Ganguly, 2016, p. 363). India’s response to the concept of international intervention in states’ affairs has been fluctuating over the years. In the 1960s, while India was quick to defend its intervention in Goa to drive out the Portuguese by force, on the other hand, it was highly critical of the Anglo-French intervention in Egypt over the issue of the Suez Canal. At the United Nations, India actively caucused with Asian and African nations for supporting the resolution demanding compliance with the UN resolutions and a ceasefire (Nayudu, 2016). Following an idealist and moral approach, while India continued to criticize the Western bloc at international forums for its interventionist policies, India itself came under fire for its semi-interventionist conduct in its immediate neighbourhood. When the domestic turmoil in East Pakistan led to a huge influx of refugees, India argued that Pakistan’s internal conflict had become a grave concern for India’s security (Bass, 2015, p. 232). Indira Gandhi decided to intervene militarily in view of the failure of diplomatic efforts and Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation in 1971. India justified its interventionist role on the grounds of self-defence as Pakistan had initiated the war (Ganguly, 2016, p. 364). India’s armed involvement in East Pakistan in 1971 is viewed as one of the world’s foremost successful attempts at humanitarian intervention against genocide (Mehta, 2011, p. 100). Side-lining its ethical commitment to state sovereignty, India also briefly intervened in Sri Lanka’s civil war between the armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 1987. Thus, despite its strong commitment to the principle of upholding state sovereignty, India’s stand was based on its own national interest and on the merit of each case.

However, in the 1990s, several incidents of mass atrocities on civilian populations emerged. As evidence of heinous crimes against unarmed populations started surfacing in the international arena, demands for humanitarian intervention increased. No principled approach or international law existed for handling cases such as Somalia, Rwanda, and Kosovo. Disagreements emerged on whether the international community exercised a right to intervene. If yes, then how should it be carried out and under whose authority? (Evans & Sahnoun, 2002). The ‘Responsibility to Protect’, or the R2P norm, emerged from the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) report in 2001 and was codified in the World Summit Outcome document in 2005 (Bloomfield, 2015). The UN Secretary General’s 2009 Report ‘Implementing the Responsibility to Protect’ placed the three pillars of the R2P principle in the public discourse. Pillar One focused on the protection responsibilities of the state, Pillar Two dealt with international assistance and capacity-building, and Pillar Three enshrined timely and decisive response from the international community (Assembly, 2009). However, international intervention in domestic conflicts for the protection of civilians from genocide, war crimes, and ethnic conflict has been under normative criticism and contestation since its very inception (Mahdavi, 2015, pp. 8-9).

India approached the principle of R2P with suspicion and caution. Given the international climate that favoured a decisive policy to curtail domestic atrocities, India did not resist the first two pillars of R2P as they were in coherence with India’s foreign policy. India favoured a ‘soft’ approach where policy-makers supported measures such as diplomatic missions and unarmed ceasefire monitoring missions (Bloomfield, 2015, p. 31). However, India rendered strong opposition to the third pillar of R2P, describing it as an unnecessary interference in domestic concerns of a state and a tool of powerful nations to topple over existing regimes and threaten the state sovereignty. Nirupam Sen, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations until 2009, openly voiced his criticism of the R2P principle in UN meetings and portrayed it as military humanism and re-emergence of humanitarian intervention in a new facet (Teitt, 2012, p. 200).

 

India’s approach as a UN Security Council non-permanent member and the Libya crisis

In 2009, Hardeep Singh Puri, the new Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, took charge and continued to adopt a pragmatic approach to R2P. However, maintaining its firm stand on treating intervention as the last resort, India did accept the peacekeeping principle of PoC (Protection of Civilians) while stressing its preference for Pillar One and Pillar Two of R2P (Bloomfield, 2015, pp. 33-34). India was running for non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council in the forthcoming year, thus flexibility and a pragmatic stance was in coherence with its aspirations. India was selected as a non-permanent member of the Security Council in 2010 with a record result of 187 affirmatives out of 191 votes (Krause, 2016, pp. 24-25).  India entered the Security Council in 2011 as a non-permanent member after a gap of 18 years. Undoubtedly, India wanted to prove itself to be a worthy contender for a permanent seat at the horseshoe table. Adding ‘value’ to the proceedings by acting as an objective bridge between member states and active participation was a necessary medium to strengthen its claim (Mishra and Kumar, 2013).

At the beginning of 2011, the escalating crisis in Libya was one of the crucial challenges encountered by the Security Council. Rebellion groups under the umbrella of ‘Arab Spring’ that had engulfed the Middle East revolted against Muammar Gaddafi, leading to a civil war in the country (Shrivastav, 2011, p. 3) The matter was brought to UN Security Council’s attention by a faction of revolting Libyan officials as reports of gross violations of human rights and a crackdown on civilians began surfacing. Gaddafi already had a turbulent history as sanctions were imposed over his role in the 1988 terrorist attack on the Pan American Flight 103 (Puri, 2016, pp. 59-60). The public opinion was full of rage and contempt for the Libyan leader and there was ample evidence that mass atrocities were being inflicted on the civilians by the state.

Resolution 1970 was passed by the UN Security Council on 26th February 2011 after a marathon 12-hour session (Puri, 2016, p. 69). The resolution called for an end to violence in Libya with immediate effect, an arms embargo, and referred the conflict to the International Criminal Court (ICC). India, along with China, Brazil, and South Africa had their reservations about the ICC referral and favoured a calibrated approach of first threatening with a referral in a future date (Puri, 2016, p. 71). Despite the initial reservations, India went ahead and voted in favour of resolution 1970. India’s affirmative stand can be attributed to two major reasons. First, India was at the table after a long hiatus and abstaining or voting negatively on an issue of heinous crimes against civilians while international community including African and Non-Aligned Movement nations favoured strict action, it would have served as a setback for India’s aspirations. Secondly, closer ties with the United States might have had a role to play in shaping India’s decision (Ganguly, 2016).  

In March 2011, the UN Under-Secretary-General stated that the Gaddafi Regime was using heavy artillery and air and naval assets against civilians and rebels (Puri, 2016, p. 81). This marked the onset of an official intervention in Libya through Resolution 1973 and the US encouraged promulgating Chapter VII of the UN charter for authorizing the use of force. Resolution 1973 was adopted by the Security Council on 17th March 2011, with 5 members – Brazil, Russia, China, India, and Germany – abstaining (Puri, 2016, p. 90). Resolution 1973 was one of the most debated and controversial decisions in the history of R2P (Bellamy, 2011). India, though voted in favour of Resolution 1970, abstained from voting on Resolution 1973. In order to understand the reasons behind India abstention, it is necessary to understand the contents of Resolution 1973. As stated in the official press release of the UN Security Council (2011),

Demanding an immediate ceasefire in Libya, including an end to the current attacks against civilians, which it said might constitute “crimes against humanity”, the Security Council this evening imposed a ban on all flights in the country’s airspace — a no-fly zone — and tightened sanctions on the Gaddafi regime and its supporters. Adopting resolution 1973 (2011) by a vote of 10 in favour to none against, with 5 abstentions (Brazil, China, Germany, India, Russian Federation), the Council authorized Member States, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, to take all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory — requesting them to immediately inform the Secretary-General of such measures.

As Indian representative Hardeep Singh Puri pointed out, India was highly skeptical of the ground realities in Libya and in absence of official clarification it did not want to take any decision in haste. Moreover, the mandate of the UN and ceasefire procedures to be implemented were vague and threatened the sovereignty of Libyans. India was also deeply concerned about the safety of its nationals in Libya, as only a third of them had been evacuated (Puri, 2016, p. 85). Internationally, India did not want to support a resolution that might lead to a regime change and escalate the crisis in absence of any certainty on how a military intervention would shape. Domestic concerns also played a pivotal role in shaping India’s stand. Supporting a precedent that validates intervention might have backfired given the conflicts and secessionist tendencies within India. Also, aiding the Western democracies to intervene in a Muslim state carried a threat of backlash from the Muslim population within India (Ganguly, 2016). Since there was no clarity about the end goals of this operation, it would have been difficult for the Indian government to justify its support for this resolution to its coalition partners and domestic constituencies (Shrivastav, 2011).

Despite numerous justifications for abstaining on Resolution 1973, some critics consider it to be a lost opportunity where India could have supported the Western powers and substantiated its claim of being a compelling democratic rising power in the international fora (Ganguly, 2016, p. 369). India is also criticized for ‘inaction’ and its unwillingness to take strong decisions and act as a responsible power (Pillai, 2012). However, the critics must take into consideration that not following the West on a resolution that was against India’s ethical foreign policy approach as well as its national interest, India exercised its autonomy in foreign affairs. Moreover, India did vote in favour of Resolution 1970, thus its commitment to the protection of civilians in Libya cannot be questioned (Shrivastav, 2011). Though India had serious concerns about the procedures to be adopted under Resolution 1973, it still abstained from voting rather than putting in a negative vote, thus paving the way for the passing of resolution without acting as a hindrance. A liberal approach of supporting democracy and protection of human rights guided India’s policy as India’s abstention achieved a middle ground – it did not degrade its relations with the West or the Arab world (Bloomfield, 2015, p. 41).

 

India’s response post-Libya intervention

As soon as Resolution 1973 passed, NATO warplanes surrounded Libyan airspace dropping their lethal arsenal. Indiscriminate bombing and full-scale military intervention made it very clear to the international community that the resolution aimed at regime change rather than putting an end to the cycle of violence.  Resolution 1973 had five major goals – a ceasefire with the mediation of the African Union, use of all necessary means to protect civilians, a no-fly zone, an arms embargo, and targeted sanctions. Notably, with the passing of the resolution, members of NATO side-lined the African Union and the sole focus was on the use of all necessary means by bombing Libya (Puri, 2016, p. 92). Within a month, it became clear to the Indian policymakers that NATO was pursuing a regime change in Libya (Puri, 2016, p. 103).

India was highly critical of the way the operation was unfolding in Libya. In the subsequent Security Council meetings, Indian UN Representative Hardeep Singh Puri was actively denouncing the manner in which Resolution 1973 was being implemented. In a sharp exchange of words in April 2011, he pointed to the Council that the reports showcased arming of the rebel groups by the NATO forces. It was also increasingly clear that the goal of regime change was getting the better of all objectives, but that was neither mentioned per se in Resolution 1973 nor was it approved by the Security Council (Puri, 2016, p. 102). He concluded that Libya gave a bad name and raised serious questions about the credibility of the principle of R2P. Violation of human rights did not appear to be the reason for intervention in the state affairs, rather deeper strategic issues such as oil fields and incompatible leadership emerged as motivating factors for the operation (Khandekar, 2015, p. 121). NATO’s military action in Libya followed the official passage of Resolution 1973, setting a dangerous example on how the official channels were used to authorize an operation that did not end the violence or civil strife in Libya rather it sowed seeds for a turbulent future in the region.

As the Libyan crisis broke out, though India was voicing its opposition, it came under scrutiny within India from media, public, and the opposition who actively analysed India’s stand on the matter. Indian media was quick to point out the direct impact of Libyan crisis on the oil prices and the plight of Indians who were still stranded in the war-torn country (Bloomfield, 2015, p. 9). Policymakers extensively questioned India’s abstention on the resolution. Left-oriented parties with their anti-Western rhetoric saw India’s inability to vote against the resolution as its failure to give structure to its anti-imperial foreign policy ideals (Chishti, 2011). On the other hand, realists pointed out that India might not be willing to intervene directly in the internal affairs of states but its support for the resolution that might stabilize the region would have served its long-term interests in international forums (Rajamohan, 2011).

It was evidently clear for India that the UN Security Council resolution 1973 was not implemented and formulated in a way that was in sync with the noble cause of R2P. As a policy approach, the Libyan experience brought back India’s serious concerns with Pillar Three of R2P. India did try to mould its position by voting in favour of Resolution 1970, but the aftermath of NATO’s intervention in Libya made India reiterate its initial hostility towards Pillar Three. India’s long-standing scepticism about the Western powers and the limited ability of a military intervention to solve humanitarian crisis were validated by the Libyan experience (Krause, 2016).

 

India and the future of R2P

Resolution 1973 advanced the debate on the principle and implementation of R2P. In hindsight, it is possible that the Security Council might not have authorized the resolution had it known that it would be used in a selective manner for military action in Libya (Puri, 2016, p. 103). India’s fears were proven right with the breakdown of the Libyan state after the intervention. During its two-year stint as the non-permanent member of the Security Council, India maintained a calculated and pragmatic approach towards intra-state conflicts. With respect to R2P, India’s lessons learned from Libya’s experience were clearly visible in its approach to the crisis in Syria. It was very evident that critics of the resolution 1973 were not going to throw Syria down the same road. In October 2011, when a resolution to condemn the actions of Bashar-al-Assad in Syria was put for vote in the UN Security Council, China and Russia used their veto and India abstained with a view to prevent any further Western intervention. India was not in denial of the disturbing situation in Syria but wanted to pursue a calibrated approach. It is evident from the fact that under the presidency of India, the UN Security Council issued an initial statement on Syria that condemned the use of force on the civilians by the authorities (Puri, 2016).

Towards the end of its term, India did vote in favour of putting non-military sanctions against the Assad regime, but Russia and China continue to use their vetoes to block the resolutions. Overall, during its term in the UN Security Council, India depicted active support for the first two pillars of R2P. It never voted in negative and fluctuated between abstaining and voting in favour of the resolutions. India was clear about not endorsing any narrowly worded document that might be twisted by the Western nations as it happened in Libya (Bloomfield, 2015). At the beginning of 2013, with the rise of the Islamic State as the situation in the Middle East took a critical turn, it became evidently clear that the means to implement R2P had not succeeded in Libya.

If we analyse India’s role in the Libyan conflict and larger debate on R2P, it had been wise on India’s part to remain on the side-lines. Libya was a test case and its outcome rightly hardened India’s aversive stance to the idea of military intervention in conflict zones. It also paved way for a renewed debate on the concept of R2P. India argued that responsibility does not end with a military response. When the principle is applied, it must respect the fundamental aspects of the UN Charter including the sovereignty and integrity of member states (Mishra and Kumar, 2013). Thus, India supported the Brazilian proposal for the ‘Responsibility while Protecting’ (Krause, 2016, p. 35). Protection of civilians from autocratic and abusive regimes is undoubtedly essential, but it should not compromise on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state.  

To conclude, India’s initial critical stance towards the principle of R2P softened in the prelude to its membership of the UN Security Council in 2011. Whether it was the international pressure or the desire to take a strong stand, India though maintained its practical demeanour, it did flirt with the idea and partially supported Pillar Three of the R2P. The disastrous outcomes of the NATO intervention in Libya where regime change and Western aspirations overshadowed the positive dimensions that R2P aimed to achieve, brought India back to its calculated and cautious approach. In the post-2012 scenario, India has time and again stressed the anomalies in the system of international intervention aspect of R2P. As a post-colonial state, India, especially after the Libyan experience, finds it difficult to endorse Western interventionist policies. Though India asserts the highest value to the territorial integrity of a state, India’s stand on R2P cannot be consistent and might fluctuate on the case to case basis in the future, keeping in mind its national interest and aspirations (Ganguly, 2016).

 

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Nayudu, S. K., 2016. India’s moment in the Suez Canal crisis. s.l.:The Hindu Business Line.

Pillai, R. 2012. India’s Libya Shame will haunt It. s.l.:The Diplomat.

Puri, H. S. 2016. Perilous Interventions: The Security Council and Politics of Chaos. Delhi: Harper Collins Publisher, India.

Rajamohan, C. 2011. It’s not West vs the rest. s.l.:s.n.

Shrivastav, S. K. 2011. India’s Response to the Libyan Crisis. Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, 13 April.

Teitt, S. 2012. ‘Paper Tiger or Platform for Action? South Asia and the Responsibility to Protect’. In: A. Knight & F. Egerton, eds. The Routledge Handbook of the Responsibility to Protect. London: Routledge.

United Nations Security Council. 2011. Security Council 6498th Meeting. [Online]
Available at: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2011/sc10200.doc.htm.
[Accessed 5 April 2017].

 

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Volume 3, Issue No. 1

Download Vol 3 Issue 1 2018

Dear readers,

Diversity and heterogeneity of academic debate is critical to our journal. Our efforts are focused towards creating a virtual academic platform that allows a plurality of young voices to speak about important subjects such as responses to mass violence and international criminal justice. In doing so, we are continuously extending the scope of the journal to cover and engage with critical perspectives on tangential subjects such as human rights and gender. The diversity of our publications is proof that this journal’s scope goes beyond its name. This is not a journal that advocates for or against R2P, but an inclusive intellectual space that allows young voices to critically engage, unpack and make their contribution to some of the most pressing debates in the field of responses to gross human rights violations.

Such a project would not be possible without interrogating the very nature of human rights. This issue opens with a paper on human rights by Matthew Moore, who argues that the emancipatory potential of human rights is undermined by their liberalism, because enforcing bourgeois, economic rights reproduces coercive relations of production, thus exacerbating structural issues rather than emancipating individuals from them.

Several of the articles in this issue concentrate on the contentious issue of the International Criminal Court’s role in Africa, through critical investigations of the al-Bashir case. Oliver Cotton examines the African Union’s (AU) relationship with the ICC by focusing on the investigation in Sudan. He criticises African governments’ vexation towards the ICC for pursuing cases despite AU opposition based on the AU’s failure to expound the necessity of deferrals in the interest of peace, and some African states’ incompatible and flawed belief that incumbent heads of state should enjoy impunity, given that the ICC was set up to end immunity for mass violence of all individuals under its jurisdiction and remit.

Margot Tudor and Zeinab Drabu’s articles give two different perspectives on the al-Bashir case and of the charge of racism and imperialism the ICC repeatedly has been faced with. Drabu’s article argues that frustrations often articulated by African states towards the ICC are juridically unjustified, because they stand in opposition to structural limitations imposed by the Court’s jurisdiction as outlined in the Rome Statute. She subsequently argues that existing frustrations are politically motivated, meant to delegitimise the ICC in order to serve the political interests and objectives of the concerned African states.

In contrast, Tudor’s article sheds light on how colonial continuities within the operations and ideologies of the international justice system have present implications. She argues that there indeed is an anti-African bias and neocolonialism in the structures of the ICC. Additionally, she argues that the historical roots of these imperial legacies and their contemporary double standards have given political weight to those attempting to evade international law, and that current transitional justice processes exclude victims from the production of justice through legalistic and technocratic approaches which present Western approaches to justice as superior, thus divorcing victims from their access to the judicial process.

Lastly, two papers focus on the military intervention in Libya. Heena Makhija uses the Libya crisis as a case study to analyse India’s approach to the principle of ‘Responsibility to Protect’, especially with regard to where it stands in the UN Security Council discussions. Jamal Nabulsi examines the military intervention in Libya too in relation to the future of the R2P. He argues that the R2P is not dead, but that in light of the 2011 intervention “one of its limbs is gangrenous and in dire need of amputation to save the body from infection”, which will strengthen the consensus on and normative force of the doctrine in future atrocities.

We hope that you will enjoy reading the articles we selected for the Journal’s fifth issue.

Georgiana Epure and Kristin Smette Gulbrandsen

Co-Editors-in-Chief

Download Vol 3 Issue 1 2018

Articles

  • The human right to be enslaved: how human rights’ coercive liberalism was masked as emancipatory

    By Matthew Moore

    Human rights are portrayed in legislation as universal, inalienable and apolitical, which diverts intellectual discourse from the discussion of its theoretical, normative principles and the bearing this holds on the human rights corpus’ emancipatory potential. Liberalism is defined by its principles, tracing back to Locke, who reasoned that states hold a duty to protect humanity via upholding the principles of “lives, liberties and estates” (Locke,1988, p.180). Vitally, for Locke these principles are ontologically assumed as natural rights, the realisation of which is sufficient for the emancipation of individuals. For something to be emancipatory, it must, akin to what Trotsky noted “increase the power of man over nature and … [abolish] the power of man over man” (Trotsky, 1938). In order to be considered emancipatory, human rights must be demonstrated as liberating to mankind, while simultaneously being free from coercion in its means and ends, the presence of which would negate the former. This is echoed by Marx who considered emancipation to be located in the individual wherein “individual man” must “reabsorb in himself the abstract citizen” and “man recognise and organise his ‘own powers’ as social powers” (Marx, 1843). The argument advanced here claims human rights are intrinsically liberal, ontologically and substantively, and that the emancipatory potential of human rights is entirely undermined by this liberalism.

  • African states’ frustrations with the ICC: justifiable or misdirected and overstated?

    By Oliver Cotton

    Despite the significant role that African states have had in both the creation of the ICC and its ongoing support, African nations and as a collective, the African Union (AU) have become increasingly frustrated with the International Criminal Court (ICC). This essay, primarily focusing on the ICC’s Sudan investigation, posits that African states have two core complaints and that neither is justified. The first complaint is that the ICC undermines African peace and violates the immunity of heads of state, particularly those not party to the ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, through continuing to investigate African conflicts when the African Union requests deferral. For instance, several African states’ have argued that the ICC hampers peace processes by compromising leaders’ immunity through indictment. It will be asserted, however, that this frustration is unjustified in two ways. Firstly, the structural inequalities of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) would be a more appropriate target for criticism, because African states were primarily concerned with deferral in the case of Darfur, which was a UNSC failing. Secondly, the AU’s request for deferrals of ICC investigations on the grounds of stability are unjustified because their premises are ill-defined and erroneous. The second core complaint from African states is that the Court unfairly targets and discriminates against Africans. However, despite the disproportionate number of investigations within Africa, the fact that many African states trust the ICC’s judgement brings this claim into question.  

  • Torn between political interests and upholding legal responsibilities? A critical examination of African states’ frustrations with the International Criminal Court

    By Zeinab Drabu

    The International Criminal Court is currently facing its most serious reputational crisis concerning its role and impact in relation to international criminal justice within the international arena. Nowhere is this crisis more profound than amongst African States that are both party to the International Criminal Court as well as the Constitutive Act of the African Union. Criticisms articulated by African states, including the labelling of the International Criminal Court as an ‘International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of colour, especially Africans’ (Al Jazeera, 2016) by the Gambian Information Minister Sheriff Bojang, are above all symbolic of the mounting frustrations that African states exhibit towards the Court. This essay will assess whether and to what extent such frustrations are justified in terms of their credibility and legitimacy. For this, the analysis will seek to determine whether these frustrations have been elicited due to the Court’s inability to fulfil its aims and objectives as outlined in the Rome Statute. Firstly, frustrations surrounding the Court’s alleged bias in terms of its selection of predominantly African cases will be reviewed. This essay will then critique frustrations regarding the International Criminal Court’s relationship to the United Nations Security Council, particularly through an examination of the case of the indictment of Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir. As the ‘Court operates at a crossroads between law and politics’ as noted by scholars such as Arbour (2014, p.201), this essay will contend that existing frustrations articulated by African states towards the International Criminal Court are on the whole juridically unjustified, as they stand in opposition to structural limitations imposed by the Court’s jurisdiction as outlined in the Rome Statute. Furthermore, this essay will demonstrate that existing frustrations are principally politically motivated, with the purpose of delegitimising the Court to serve the political interests and objectives of African states inherent in the Court’s handled cases.

  • ‘This delicate mosaic may be shattered at any time’: The ICC, technocracy and the liberal West’s moral imperialism

    By Margot Tudor 

    This article argues that the colonial continuities present in the operations and ideologies within the structures of the international justice system have diplomatic implications. By investigating the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) attempts to prosecute the President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, it seeks to verify accusations of anti-African bias and neo-colonialism. Additionally, the historical roots of these imperial legacies and their contemporary double standards have provided political weight to those attempting to evade international law. This project presents a uniquely holistic and interdisciplinary approach to unite the fields of global justice, transitional justice and post-colonialism through utilising the frameworks and literature from international law, history, international relations and politics. It intends to build upon the burgeoning literature considering the connections between ‘new imperialism and histories of humanitarianism’ (Edmonds and Johnstone, 2016, p. 1). It will be argued that the transitional justice process excludes victims from the production process of justice through legalistic and technocratic approaches which present Western approaches to justice as superior. This, therefore, divorces victims from their access to the judicial process. In this way, this project hopes to build upon post-colonial frameworks and use them to view the power sources within global structures and institutions, particularly those within the morality industries (humanitarian, governance or judicial).

  • India’s stand on the Responsibility to Protect: The UN Security Council and the Libya crisis

    By Heena Makhija 

    Jawaharlal Nehru’s idealism and commitment to the maintenance of international peace and security has remarkably influenced India’s response towards international conflicts. In the Security Council, in its capacity as a non-permanent member, India has been a supporter of peaceful and responsible policy decisions for conflict resolution. In the past few decades, international intervention in conflict zones for the protection of civilians from war crimes on account of the failure of domestic state machinery has been a matter of debate in mainstream academia. Though India has been one of the largest contributors to the UN Peacekeeping Missions, its approach to the idea of ‘Responsibility to Protect’ has been cautious.

  • To sever or salvage? Disaggregating the coercive military component of the R2P

    By Jamal Nabulsi 

    The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is not dead, but one of its limbs is gangrenous and in dire need of amputation to save the body from infection. This article will argue that, in light of the 2011 NATO-led intervention in Libya, the coercive military component of R2P must be disaggregated from the body of the doctrine. This will allow for the consensus around R2P to widen, strengthening its normative force, while the debate about coercive military intervention can carry on outside of the R2P framework. This article will outline the R2P doctrine, describe its implementation in Libya and the consequences thereof, explain why proposed solutions fall short, before offering disaggregation as a solution.

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Challenging the Establishment: A discussion regarding the normative status of the Responsibility to Protect

Nikita Sinclair, University of Leeds, UK

Nikita Sinclair graduated with a BA in Politics and Parliamentary Studies from the University of Leeds in 2016.

 

Focusing on norms as “an aspiration for a new reality” (Ralph and Souter 2015, p. 68), the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) appears established, as the “normative aspiration” it represents is almost universally accepted (Ralph and Souter 2015, p. 68). Characterised as “a disarmingly simple idea”, R2P aims to embed the notion that “sovereign states have a responsibility to protect their own populations” from the four atrocity crimes of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity, advocating that this responsibility must be upheld by the international community if a state can or will not fulfil this duty (Bellamy, 2015, p. 2). With widespread support for the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document (WSOD) and continued commitment demonstrated through annual UN General Assembly debates, the suggestion that R2P is an “established ideal” seems robust (Evans, 2016). However, when considering R2P as a norm indicating “an existing social reality” (Ralph and Souter, 2015, p.68), there is far more contestation. Like much of the academic literature (Badescu and Weiss, 2010; Knight, 2011; Negrón-Gonzales and Contarino, 2014; Shawki, 2011), this essay focuses on this second concept. According to Finnemore and Sikkink’s (1998, p. 904) influential Norm Life Cycle theory, an established norm would exhibit third stage internalisation, demonstrated by the habitual adherence of actors. Dominant debates within the literature characterise R2P as an emerging norm between stage one (emergence) and two (cascade) of the Norm Life Cycle, hence suggesting R2P has not yet reached the status of established norm; automatic conformity appears a distant aspiration.

However, this assessment appears impacted by the high expectations placed on R2P, creating an “expectation gap” between idealised prospects and capabilities (Gallagher 2015, pp. 5-6). The tendency to view “applications in practice and examples of compliant behaviour” (Badescu and Weiss 2010, p. 357) as evidence of norm establishment means consistent intervention is seen as testimony for R2P’s consolidation. As suggested by Luck (2010), assessment is dependent on whether we view the spirit of R2P to be “state’s commitment to prevention and protection” or “legitimation of a military response to mass atrocity crimes” (p. 118). If we agree with Luck’s (2010) first statement and suggest “the true essence of R2P is the understanding that sovereignty denotes responsibility rather than licence” (Morris 2015, p. 1283), this may enable us to manage expectations surrounding the concept. Rather than focusing on intervention, it is more appropriate to view R2P as the “responsibility to consider a real or imminent crisis involving mass atrocity crimes” (Welsh 2013, p. 368). Henceforth, this essay will highlight four factors which constitute unrealistic demands, restricting our ability to perceive R2P as an established norm. These include the expectation of linear development, emphasis on consistent application, lacking appreciation of competing international norms, and overconcentration on pillar three. These aspects limit our nuanced consideration, feeding into the unrealistic expectation level. This must be managed to enhance standing, focusing on the potential of Welsh’s (2013) notion of the responsibility to debate action.

 

Expectation of linear norm development

If we base our assessment on Finnemore and Sikkink’s Norm Life Cycle theory, it seems R2P has not yet reached the third stage of internalisation where norms “achieve a “taken-for-granted” quality that makes conformance with the norm almost automatic” (1998, p.904). This linear model presents norm development as a process where entrepreneurs shape and promote the norm, which is gradually adopted by recipient states (pp.900-901). R2P has engendered a variation of responses; including acceptance, misapplication, localisation and feedback (Negrón-Gonzales and Contarino, 2014, p.259). Following the linear model, this suggests R2P has not yet reached cascade stage, as there is significant contestation indicating the norm is still being shaped (Badescu and Weiss, 2010; Knight, 2011; Shawki, 2011). However, although influential, Finnemore and Sikkink’s (1998) model has since been challenged, as it promotes a “moral cosmopolitanism view of norm diffusion” which fails to explore the crucial role of local actors (Acharya, 2004, p.242). The Norm Life Cycle model appears too simplistic, suggesting dispute signifies a norm must be stuck in stage one. This ignores the notion that “norms are not objective truths, but rather inter-subjectively held beliefs” which continue to be debated and transformed through practice and according to context (Welsh, 2013, p.380). Acharya’s (2013, p.469) “norm circulation” theory provides a more complex explanation, highlighting a “two-way process” of diffusion where global norms are shaped through their localisation and feedback. Norms are not passively adopted by norm-takers, but tailored to fit local needs and contexts (Acharya, 2013, p.467). Hence, assessment based on the Norm Life Cycle model produces an unrealistic expectation for R2P’s development, suggesting it should diffuse in a clear linear fashion until it appears established as an automatic impulse. By adopting this concept, the agency of states is portrayed as evidence that the norm is still developing. Instead, the input of states should be seen as part of a continual process of norm circulation, rather than a boundary to consolidation. Feedback, such as Brazil’s proposal of ‘Responsibility while Protecting’, should not be framed as exemplifying that the norm is still emerging; rather this illustrates Brazil is embracing the core normative value of protecting populations (Negrón-Gonzales and Contarino, 2014, pp.267-268).

 

Emphasis on consistency

Many within the literature highlight the inconsistent application of R2P as evidence the norm is not internalised (Capie, 2012; Hehir, 2013); it is still reliant on strategic calculations based on national interest and political will. Negrón-Gonzales and Contarino’s (2014, p.262) study demonstrates that for salient states who are likely to be impacted by R2P events, support is primarily influenced by national interest calculations. This can lead to inconsistencies in state responses, with countries such as India displaying a “normative ambivalence”, reflected in its voting record in relation to Libya and Syria (Negrón-Gonzales and Contarino, 2014, pp.264-266). India has held a shifting position on these two cases, initially voting in favour of Resolution 1970 which highlighted Libya’s own responsibility, but abstaining on Resolution 1973 which proposed military intervention (p. 266). Moreover, in response to Syria, India abstained on numerous resolutions before supporting sanctions in July 2012 (p.267). This incongruity could suggest R2P is not yet established, as its application is still impacted by political vested interests.  Furthermore, UN Security Council (UNSC) discussions on invoking R2P obligations can be presented as fuelled by political will, rather than an internalised normative dedication to the concept. For Hehir (2013, p.137), UNSC action in Libya and inertia in Syria demonstrates that R2P does not impact state behaviour; in actuality the UNSC is just continuing with its “record of inconsistency”. Libya exemplifies this, and is “best understood as an instance where humanitarian necessities converged with political will” (Loiselle, 2013, p.341). The support of regional institutions, such as the League of Arab States, was viewed as integral to securing abstaining votes from China and Russia; demonstrating how the political context was a key factor in enabling the passage of Resolution 1973 (Hehir, 2013, p.149). For Hehir (2013, p.137) this is characteristic of the UNSC, with Libya representing a rare instance “of resolve and timely action” which should be accredited to political will, rather than the normative strength of R2P. These inconsistencies promote the argument that compliance has not become automatic, hence R2P cannot be deemed fully established.

However, this evaluation of inconsistency is once again influenced by the great expectations placed on R2P which shroud comprehensive understanding (Gallagher, 2015). In relation to a Pillar III case of military intervention, paragraph 139 of the 2005 WSOD specifically calls for consideration “on a case-by-case basis” and “in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council” (United Nations General Assembly, 2005, p.30). This highlights how inconsistency is in-built into R2P; the policy enshrines a commitment to consider all cases on an individual basis, encouraging a cost-benefit analysis to ascertain whether intervention is an appropriate route (Gallagher, 2015, p.13). Therefore, the assertion that R2P is limited by its varying application must be refuted; this only fuels an irrational expectation that a Pillar III response should be invoked immediately when a state fails to prevent one of the four crimes (Gallagher, 2015, p.8). Hence, as inconsistency is embedded in R2P, it should not be seen as measurement for norm consolidation. Irregularity in application should not be problematic, so long as the UNSC demonstrates a coherent approach (Gallagher, 2015, p.13). Arguments made by the likes of Capie (2012, p.83) exemplify this demanding expectation, viewing Vietnam’s position on R2P as highly selective with support for pillar 3 “much more cautious, calling only for the UNSC to review such incidents on a case by case basis”. Vietnam’s position clearly matches the ‘case-by-case’ requirement outlined in the WSOD, yet Capie (2012) characterises this as an example of limited support. This illustrates how a lack of understanding about R2P places high demands on this normative concept, which in fact contradict one of its key components, the case-by-case consideration. If we tackle this misconception, inconsistency may come to signify that R2P is alive; actively influencing UNSC discussion on individual cases, rather than inciting claims of the norm’s demise.

 

Lacking appreciation of competing international norms

Moreover, the requirement of consistent application fails to appreciate that R2P does not operate in a vacuum, it exists amongst other normative and non-normative considerations which also have a valid impact on states’ behaviour (Welsh, 2013, p.388). It is unreasonable to suggest R2P should be the core motivating factor as it is not the only norm at the table. Morris (2015, p.400) highlights the UNSC’s “special dual responsibility” comprising the “original obligation to preserve international peace and security” with the R2P norm. This has engendered an “acute normative tension” as the Council must weigh up these two duties which are often found in contradiction (Morris, 2015, p.421). UNSC deliberations regarding R2P should be understood in light of this dual tension; rather than exemplifying the lacking normative clout of R2P or inciting claims that the UNSC is merely fuelled by duplicitous political motives (Morris, 2015; Welsh, 2013). Furthermore, since 2005 the debate has not focused on whether the UNSC has the right or responsibility to protect, but rather how to respond; the existence of a responsibility is not disputed (Marlier and Crawford, 2013, p.409; Morris, 2015, p.209). In this sense, the grounding element of R2P appears uncontested in the UNSC; the norm appears established as it continues to engender debate over how to fulfil our responsibility to protect. Still, decisions over how to respond are influenced by a range of factors, from capability to the protection of international order. Promoting an appreciation of this fact may help to temper the unrealistic demands placed on R2P, enabling us to view the consideration of the R2P norm amongst others as evidence of established practice.

 

Overconcentration on Pillar III

Finally, as Pillar III is deemed most controversial, it has received greatest attention with the aspect of military intervention at the forefront of discussions. This overconcentration on pillar three places intervention at the focal point of assessment, encouraging a reductive analysis of the norm’s development (Shawki, 2011, pp.180-186). This phenomenon is demonstrated by academic discussion of Libya and its impact on Syria which has focused on the current reluctance to support intervention by force, suggesting R2P is “woefully short of forward momentum” post-Libya (Morris, 2013, p.1277). However, the primacy of pillar three was never intended, illustrated by Ban Ki-Moon’s (2009, p.2) assertion that R2P “relies on the equal size, strength and viability of each of its supporting pillars”. Therefore, Pillar III should not be deemed as a more important measure for norm consolidation; greater focus should be placed on the non-coercive pillars to foster more manageable expectations (Shawki, 2011, p.189). It should be clear that “R2P should not be seen narrowly; it is not only about the use of military force and is not a synonym for ‘‘humanitarian intervention”” (Badescu and Weiss, 2010, p.367). What is truly at the root of R2P is a requirement to debate how the norm should be realised in practice (Welsh, 2013, p.387). With a wide range of responses available in the R2P toolbox, it is inappropriate to base our assessment of the norm’s trajectory upon what course of action is followed (Welsh, 2013, p.387). By framing the essence of R2P as a “duty of conduct” (p.387) to identify cases involving the four crimes and consider the range of possible responses, Welsh (2013) may provide a useful antidote for the illogical focus on intervention. By this assertion, R2P could be seen as established so long as the UNSC upholds this “responsibility to consider a real or imminent crisis involving mass atrocity crimes” (Welsh, 2013, p.368). This represents a far more realistic expectation for the norm, rather than promoting ambitious assertions such as Luck’s (2010, p.123) claim that “neither an encouraging debate, a consensus resolution, nor even a summit-level declaration constitutes a consolidated norm”. With extensive R2P measures available, it is irrational to focus on the one tenant of military intervention by force; this restricts our understanding of R2P’s broader implications. As the debate and discussion of implementing R2P is an aspect which is relevant for all R2P-defined cases, this is a sensible indicator to assess its robust nature. Therefore, by focusing on R2P as a “duty of conduct” rather than a norm of intervention, we may reach the assessment of ‘established norm’ (Welsh, 2013, p.387).

 

Conclusion

The idealist aspirations underpinning R2P may appear as universal and established. However, when assessing R2P as “an existing social reality” (Ralph and Souter, 2015, p.68), there is a larger debate to unpack. Following Finnemore and Sikkink’s (1998) Norm Life Cycle model, R2P would most likely be classified between emergence and cascade, disputing the claim it is established. However, this assessment seems impacted by the tendency to “demand too much” from the R2P concept, with a slightly hyperbolic “birth/death narrative” used to mark the norm’s perceived rise or demise (Gallagher, 2015, pp.255-256). Hence, this essay has explored four key areas where unrealistic expectations of R2P must be managed, in order to uphold its position as a consolidated norm. Firstly, the Norm Life Cycle model promotes an unachievable expectance for linear norm diffusion, which does not show an appreciation for more contemporary models of norm circulation (Acharya, 2004; 2013). Secondly, the tendency to discredit R2P based on inconsistency is tackled, demonstrating how inconsistency is in fact a requirement and hence should not be used as criticism. Moreover, this condition for consistency fails to appreciate how other global norms conflict with R2P; it does not operate in a vacuum and so constant application may not be possible. Finally, the preoccupation with pillar three is cited as another damaging expectation; R2P includes an extensive list of possible actions and assessment should not be based on the most controversial of these. By engaging with these four arguments, this essay attempts to reign in the overwhelming standards placed on R2P, potentially enabling the norm to be viewed as established. Ultimately, to uphold this perception, we must adopt a more rational and appropriate assessment such as that proposed by Welsh (2013), which suggests debate and discussion on R2P should be seen as indication that the norm is intrinsically shaping behaviour.

 

Bibliography

Acharya, A. 2004. ‘How Ideas Spread: Whose Norms Matter? Norm Localization and Institutional Change in Asian Regionalism’. International Organization. 58. pp 239-275.

Acharya, A. 2013. ‘The R2P and Norm Diffusion: Towards A Framework of Norm Circulation’. Global Responsibility to Protect. 5(4). pp. 466-479.

Badescu, C. and Weiss, T. 2010. ‘Misrepresenting R2P and Advancing Norms: An Alternative Spiral?’. International studies perspectives. 11(4). pp. 354-374.

Bellamy, A. 2015. Responsibility to Protect: A Defense. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Caipe, D. 2012. ‘The Responsibility to Protect Norm in Southeast Asia: Framing, Resistance and the Localization Myth’. The Pacific Review. 25(1). pp. 75-93.

Evans, G. 2016. ‘How to rid the world of genocide’. The Washington Post [online]. [Accessed 18th February 2016]. Available from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-theory/wp/2016/02/15/how-to-rid-the-world-of-genocide/

Finnemore, M. and Sikkink K. 1998. ‘International Norm Dynamics and Political Change’. International Organisation. 52(4). pp. 887-917.

Gallagher, A. 2015. ‘The Responsibility to Protect Ten Years on From the World Summit: A Call to Manage Expectations’. Global Responsibility to Protect. 7(5). pp. 254-274.

Hehir, A. 2010. ‘The Responsibility to Protect: Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing?’. International Relations. 24(2). pp. 218-239.

Ki-moon, B. 2009. ‘Implementing the Responsibility to Protect (12th January 2009)’. [online]. A/63/677. [Accessed 10th March 2016). Available from: http://responsibilitytoprotect.org/implementing%20the%20rtop.pdf

Knight, A.W. 2011. ‘The Development of the Responsibility to Protect- From Evolving Norm to Practice’. Global Responsibility to Protect. 3. pp. 3-36.

Loiselle, M. 2013. ‘The Normative Status of the Responsibility to Protect after Libya’. Global Responsibility to Protect. 5(3). pp. 317-341.

Luck, E. 2010. ‘Building a norm: the responsibility to protect experience’. In: Rotberg, R. (ed) Mass Atrocity Crimes: Preventing Future Outrages. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press. pp. 108–27.

Marlier, G. and Crawford, N.C. 2013. ‘Incomplete and Imperfect Institutionalisation of Empathy and Altruism in the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ Doctrine’. Global Responsibility to Protect. 5(4). pp. 397-422.

Morris, J. 2013. ‘Libya and Syria: R2P and the Spectre of the Swinging Pendulum.’ International Affairs. 89(5). pp. 1265-1283.

Morris, J. 2015. ‘The Responsibility to Protect and the Great Powers: The Tensions of Dual Responsibility’. Global Responsibility to Protect. 7(3-4). pp. 398-421.

Negron-Gonzales, M. and Contarino, M. 2014. ‘Local Norms Matter: Understanding National Responses to the Responsibility to Protect’, Global Governance: A review of multilateralism and international organizations. 20(2). pp. 255–276.

Ralph, J. and Souter, J. 2015. ‘Is R2P a Full-Fledged International Norm?’. Politics and Governance. 3(4). pp. 68-71.

Shawki, N. 2011. ‘Responsibility to Protect: The Evolution of an International Norm’. Global Responsibility to Protect. 2. pp. 172-196.

United National General Assembly. 2005. ‘Resolution 60/1: 2005 World Summit Outcome (24th October 2005)’. [Online]. A/RES/60/1. [Accessed 10th March 2016]. Available from: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/ods/A-RES-60-1-E.pdf

Welsh, J. 2013. ‘Norm Contestation and the Responsibility to Protect’. Global Responsibility to Protect. 5(4). pp. 365-386.

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Shortcomings of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’: An Analysis of the Saudi-led Coalition Intervention in Yemen

Melly Hu, King’s College London, UK

Melly Hu is a current International Conflict Studies MA student at King’s College London. She holds a BA degree in Economics and Communication from the University of Washington. Her previous professional background includes experience in the investment management and digital marketing fields.

 

More often than not, the subject of international intervention seems to exist in a state of paradox. Due to the lack of an international response, tragedies such as the Rwandan genocide are allowed to occur. Conversely, the international community is also held culpable when the perception is that too much action had been taken, such as in Libya. When the United Nations created the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) doctrine, it aspired to address the need for human protection in armed conflicts (but not only) in the most altruistic manner. However, for states fraught with mass atrocities, R2P brings to light the limitations of its impact as well as its intentions. Today, the situation in Yemen represents a case worth analysing through the lens of R2P.

The Yemeni Civil War began in 2015 between the Houthi rebel movement forces seeking to reinstate former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the government forces of current President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. The deadly crisis has since affected millions of Yemenis who are currently facing a humanitarian disaster in the war-torn country. When the Saudi-led coalition was formed that same year, the prospect of an international intervention was welcomed in the hope of ending the civil conflict and stabilising the country. Now, more than a year on from the coalition’s first air campaign, Yemen is in an increasingly worsening state, with millions of civilians either displaced or in desperate need of humanitarian assistance (GCR2P, 2017). To blindly accept Riyadh’s actions as R2P activism is optimistic, if not naïve. Although the concept of R2P is encouraging progress towards improving human protection, the international intervention in Yemen calls into question R2P’s infallibility from misuse.

This paper will proceed in the following parts. The first section of this essay will contextualize the design of R2P by briefly summarising its inception and its core assumptions regarding international intervention. The second section will examine some of R2P’s major design flaws that leads to a polysemous interpretation of this principle, hindering its ability to establish normative best practices during international interventions. This ultimately gives way for states to exploit the doctrine to their best interest, as Saudi Arabia is doing. The third section will assess how Riyadh’s incursion into Yemen is exacerbating the conflict and explores underlying motivations for its involvement, further illustrating that its actions do not conform to the expectations of what R2P was created to achieve. The paper will conclude that R2P has serious shortcomings that render it vulnerable to abuse in the self-interest of states, especially in international interventions.

 

Background and Core Assumptions of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’

The ‘Responsibility to Protect’ principle was first introduced into the United Nations in 2005, adopted by all the Heads of State and Government and has been reaffirmed several times since. R2P consists of three pillars that are “equally weight[ed] and nonsequential”: 1) states hold the responsibility to protect their populations from mass atrocities such as genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity; 2) the international community has the obligation to assist and encourage states to meet that responsibility; 3) when a state has failed to protect its citizens, the international community holds the responsibility to take timely and decisive action to prevent the mass atrocities from occurring (GCR2P, 2017).

The first and foremost concern in the introduction of R2P was its potential infringement upon Westphalian state sovereignty. The principle was criticized as being a liberal cosmopolitanism agenda, used by major Western powers to impose their ideals and power over ‘weaker’ states (Kurtz and Rotmann, 2015, p. 6). To counter, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (2008) stressed that “R2P is an ally of sovereignty, not an adversary”, by placing the primary responsibility of protection on the state concerned. However, the fact that the pillars are equally weighted and nonsequential, as stated above, demonstrates otherwise, as Pillar III then legitimizes intervening states to ‘meddle’ (Badescu and Weiss, 2010, p. 361). Nonetheless, in the evolution of the R2P norm, the anti-imperialist view (primarily held by Venezuela, Belarus and Cuba that asserts state sovereignty should be preserved without fail) conceded to the prevalent agreement that action should indeed be taken in the wake of mass atrocities. More than a decade later from R2P’s conception, the matter of establishing a norm for best practices is still an issue at hand.

While liberal cosmopolitanists support R2P as it is in alignment with their desire for “increasingly strong and comprehensive international treaties and institutions”, the realist approach is sceptical of the states’ “conflicting interests of power” (Chandler, 2014, p. 65; Kurtz and Rotmann, 2015, p. 12). From the latter perspective, the concern is that states could abuse “humanitarian justifications for other political interests, such as regime change” (Kurtz and Rotmann, 2015, p. 15). Especially regarding international military interventions, Paris (2014, p. 572-573) claims that “decisions to use armed force almost always involve a mix of motives, including self-interest”. This is especially applicable in Yemen’s case, as it could be argued that the driving force behind Riyadh’s decisions is primarily (if not exclusively) self-interest, masked behind thinly-veiled altruism.

At the core of R2P is the fundamental assumption that centers on human protection. For the purposes of analysing R2P, Ban Ki-moon (2011) has differentiated human protection from the larger concept of human security; human security includes the security of states, while human protection “addresses more immediate threats to the survival of individuals and groups”. While there is less debate about whether or not human protection should take place, there is still disagreement on how it should manifest operationally. Notably, Pillar III of R2P requests action to be taken by the international community when the situation requires it. Although the UN has stressed a “strong preference for dialogue and peaceful persuasion”, Pillar III also encompasses coercive action (United Nations – Report of the Secretary-General, 2009).  While coercive measures could include “political, economic, or judicial steps,” most states tend to interpret it as coercive military action (Evans and Sahnoun, 2002, p. 103). This poses a challenge because, as Thakur (2013, p. 61) points out, “the use of force – no matter how benevolent, enlightened, or impartial in intent – …is inherently controversial”. Recalling the case in Libya, the heavy bombardment in civilian-populated areas “did not look, resemble, or feel, like humanitarian protection” (Dunne and Gifkins, 2011, p. 516). Therefore, whether the use of force is an asset or a liability to human protection remains tentative; the case of Yemen, however, seemingly demonstrates the latter.

Another assumption is the expectation that no state is ever exempt from R2P. Since adopting the principle in the 2005 UN World Summit, states have been bound to this permanent duty. Therefore, Bellamy (2013, p. 10) concludes, “the question is never one of whether or not RtoP ‘applies’ – because this wrongly implies that there are situations in which states do not have a responsibility to protect their populations – but of how best to realise its goals in any given situation”. Indeed, this assumption that holds this perpetual burden over states invokes a whole set of challenges. As the UN chose to implement R2P without requiring explicit oversight, who is to say what the ‘best’ way to act in an international intervention? This in turn also poses additional challenges to establishing normative standards in practice.

 

Implementation Flaws of R2P

Although the implementation of R2P happened in rapid succession from when it was first introduced, it was not without adjustment before reaching a consensus from member states. First, early drafts of the doctrine had to be revised in order to appease some permanent member states (in particular China and Russia). Ban Ki-moon ultimately ‘softened’ the language in the doctrine, settling for a universal feel that did not bend favour to Western states (Bellamy, 2010, p. 145). Any mention of the International Criminal Court, condemnation of torture, or sexual violence again women and children were ultimately not included in the final draft. In addition, the UN has admitted that the doctrine’s language does not effectively “grapple with the practical implementation of protection standards” (UN Security Council Report, 2005). Consequently, the final agreed-upon language of R2P was less specific than earlier drafts of the doctrine, rendering it more liable to manipulation. More importantly, how the discourse is used continues to be an influential factor in shaping the international norm of R2P, as will be exemplified in the case of Yemen.

Second, Ban Ki-moon also rejected including any guidelines on the decisions to use force by states in the case of an international intervention that has not been mandated by the UN Security Council (Bellamy, 2010, p. 143). The implication to leave this clause out is that states can then proceed with independent decision-making as well as freedom from UN oversight. Although states favoured this because it respected principles of state sovereignty, it does not lend any progress towards establishing a norm for the use of coercive measures under R2P. Both of these concessions will ultimately result in the outcome of how the intervention in Yemen was justified.

Finally, Bellamy (2010, p. 143) additionally calls for attention to the inconsistent manner in which the principle has been applied, citing Russia’s intervention in Georgia (where there were no apparent mass atrocities) to contrast the lack of action taken by the international community in countries where mass atrocities have been ascertained such as Somalia or Iraq. Termed “selectivity of engagement” by Kurtz and Rotmann (2015, p. 16), the discrepancies in the use of forceful interventions result in what appears to be a double standard, further feeding the realist view that states will only involve themselves when there is self-gain. Indeed, Riyadh has some obvious ulterior motives that serve in its best interests that will be explored in the following sections.

 

Riyadh’s R2P-style Rhetoric as Justification for the Intervention in Yemen

Riyadh might have considered these identified limitations of R2P when it made the decision to intervene militarily. In Yemen’s case, R2P was not formally invoked by the UN but it nevertheless was an important aspect when Riyadh announced its justification for the intervention in Yemen. On March 25, 2015, Riyadh issued a statement to announce the launch of its military intervention into Yemen as its ‘responsibility’ to “protect the people of Yemen and its legitimate government from a takeover by the Houthis” (Saudi Ambassador Al-Jubeir, 2015). Announcing the next phase of the campaign, the Saudi-led coalition’s goals again were “continuing to protect civilians, continuing to fight terrorism…and to intensify relief and medical assistance to the Yemeni people” (Abdul, 2015).

Although the statements used rhetoric associated with R2P, any mention of the ‘mass atrocities’ occurring in Yemen that explicitly allows international intervention to act on behalf of the concerned state is glaringly absent. Amidst all of the recognized ambiguities of R2P, surely the clause to protect civilians from mass atrocities should be clear. It is no coincidence that Riyadh has omitted any inferences to mass atrocities; it would have undoubtedly drawn more international criticism towards the hard-line air campaigns that it conducted indiscriminately toward civilian areas, rendering it more difficult to justify the intervention on the grounds of R2P.

From Riyadh’s perspective, it could be reasoned that they were simply acting upon what the R2P doctrine had asked of the international community, in a both timely and decisive fashion. Yemen was already on the brink of collapse due to the ongoing civil war, thus Riyadh viewed itself as the much-needed proponent to defeat the Houthi rebels and end the war, ultimately ‘protecting’ Yemenis (Perkins, 2016, p. 314). Moreover, the international community – including U.S., UK, and France – has affirmed its support for the Coalition, further corroborating Riyadh’s rationale. While critics deduct that political and economic interests, in terms of weapons sales and oil trade, are the primary reasons for Western support of the intervention, Saudi Arabia is nevertheless emboldened by the lack of international criticism for its coercive operations. In essence, the very same doctrine that was designed to protect civilians has equally protected Riyadh’s from international condemnation.

 

Assessing Riyadh’s Underlying Motivations for the Intervention

Beyond Riyadh’s rhetoric, the actual military behaviour in the course of the intervention also raises doubt that the Coalition is acting on behalf of R2P principles. Since the beginning of the Coalition’s aerial bombardment in March 2015, Human Rights Watch (2016) have reported up to 4,000 civilians killed and another 7,000 wounded. In addition, schools, markets, and hospitals have all been targeted by the airstrikes led by Saudi Arabia. The situation seems to take a turn for even worse when reports of child soldiers being armed by Saudi Arabia emerged. This is in addition to the grave humanitarian crisis that over 80% of the population in Yemen is faced with – both Houthi and Coalition forces have been accused of restricting food and medical supplies from civilians (Human Rights Watch, 2016). As the number of civilian deaths, injuries, and displacements continue to rise, it is becoming more and more apparent that the international intervention led by Saudi Arabia is exacerbating the conflict.

Assuming the cynicism from a realist perspective, the logical inclination is to infer that Riyadh has ulterior motives other than the responsibility of protecting civilians in its interventionist goals. First, the geostrategic location of Yemen is of paramount importance to Saudi Arabia. As part of the Arabian Peninsula and sharing a border with Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s instability would threaten the flow of the five million barrels of Saudi oil exports per day that pass through the Arab Gulf (Cordesman, 2015, p. 11). Additionally, sustainable stability will ensure that the war does not spill over from its coterminous neighbour as well as prevent any surge of refugees into Saudi Arabia. As long as Saudi’s wealth depends on its oil exports, its geopolitical interests will remain a priority in its grand strategy.

The high geopolitical stakes at hand then lead to the belief that the larger strategy and motive for the Saudi intervention is to establish hegemony in the Middle East. As Iran is Saudi Arabia’s greatest competitor for regional dominance, the mutual contention between the two states therefore manifests as a race to exert their respective influence over the other less powerful states in the region. Not only is Iran excluded from the Saudi-led Coalition, Iran stands allegiant to the Saudi-opposed Houthi rebels. In this regard, dictating the outcome of the civil war will result in a Yemeni government favourable to the respective state. Since Yemenis have long enjoyed employment opportunities in the oil-rich Saudi Arabia, they already hold a “strong incentive to defer politically to Saudi Arabia” (Okruhlik and Conge, 1997, p. 558). Thus, the escalation of the civil war was then “sufficient for Saudi Arabia to seek patronage” for Yemen, much in the same way it holds political leverage over Bahrain (Matthiesen, 2013, p. 29).

Along with political and economic implications, there is also a religious aspect to the rivalry. While both Iran and the Houthi rebels are Shia majority, Saudi Arabia is overwhelmingly Sunni. Thus, the struggle for the control of the jurisdiction of Yemen has become a proxy war over influence of the Muslim world. With Yemen under Riyadh’s control and ultimately reinstating the ousted President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, Saudi Arabia would gain leverage over Iran. While sectarian conflicts in the Middle East are not uncommon, the strife over Yemen illustrates a case of political sectarianism in which the political economy of the Gulf is inseparable from sectarian affiliation (Matthiesen, 2013, p. 8).

Returning to the matter of R2P, it would be problematic to view Riyadh’s actions in Yemen without larger consideration of its overarching political goals. From a realist point of view, the existence of a legitimizing doctrine such as R2P has only made it easier to justify the Coalition’s aggressive military intervention for the sake of self-gain. However, this is not to say that Riyadh’s actions are absolutely barren of human protection interests, only that there are pre-existing motivations that cannot be ignored in the assessment of the intervention.

 

Conclusion

Despite the shortcomings of R2P, the creation of the doctrine has brought about significant progress for human protection. The purpose of this analysis is not to suggest that R2P is a doomed concept nor was it to blame Saudi Arabia for Yemen’s ongoing civil war. By critically evaluating the Saudi-led coalition’s military intervention, it becomes apparent that the design of R2P is susceptible to misuse. As Kurtz and Rotmann (2015, p. 19) summarize, “the strategic use of the R2P concept to frame and justify certain diplomatic or military interventions underscores the pitfalls of vague principles in international politics”. The implications reach far beyond the war in Yemen; generally, when there is a flexible normative structure for policy on an international level, exploitation is likely to occur. In summary, R2P should be taken as a dynamic doctrine that the international community collectively continues to critique, develop, and ultimately, improve.

 

Bibliography

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Pillar II in Mali: Endless Interference or Making a Difference?

Katie Gabriel, University of Leeds, UK

Katie is a final year undergraduate at the University of Leeds studying International Relations, with a particular interest in the Responsibility to Protect.

 

On 25 December 2012 under Resolution 2085, the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) commitment was invoked by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in reaction to the mounting crisis in Mali (UNSC, 2012). The Resolution permitted an African-led support mission in Mali (AFISMA), which later converted into the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA) under Resolution 2100 (Global Centre for R2P, 2013; UNSC, 2013). As it was the Malian government who requested the international assistance, the nature of the mission falls under Pillar II of R2P.

The previous United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, identified three broad categories of intervention under Pillar II, (a) “encouraging states” to fulfil their Pillar I obligations, (b) capacity building to “prevent atrocity crimes”, and (c) “assisting states to protect in situations of emerging or on-going crisis” (UNSG, 2014, p. 8). Although Ban Ki Moon’s interpretation of Pillar II evidently encompasses a range of attractive components, the Mali crisis exposes its broad character as overreaching, especially considering R2P’s short lifespan.

This essay is divided into the following sections: firstly, a brief overview of the Mali crisis and how R2P has been invoked to assist Mali’s government in fulfilling its Pillar I responsibilities; secondly, an evaluation of R2P’s short-term contributions in Mali; and thirdly, an evaluation of R2P’s long-term contributions in Mali. Ultimately this essay argues that R2P has made a difference, although the evaluation is far from straightforward. In particular, it questions whether Pillar II, while offering a ‘broad umbrella’ of assistance (Gallagher, 2015, p. 1264), has such a broad scope that it in fact damages its ability to make a long-term difference in humanitarian crises. Finally, it also questions whether R2P has actually had the time to have a prolonged impact on Mali.

 

The Mali Crisis and Pillar II

In March 2012, a military coup took place against the Malian government, resulting in the formation of a transitional government. In the midst of such political instability, the ethnic Tuareg separatist group, the National Movement for Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), seized the Northern part of Mali (Global Centre for R2P, 2013, p. 11). They were followed by a number of armed Islamist groups, who then side-lined the MNLA. These groups have been accused of committing offenses listed under the R2P, which covers four crimes: genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

The intervention was originally an African-led military intervention headed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU). Nevertheless, when Islamist groups threatened to progress towards the South, Mali’s Interim President requested immediate military assistance from the French (Global Centre for R2P, 2013, p. 12). Since then, other European states have also contributed assistance through MINUSMA.

In relation to the Mali crisis, the first category under Pillar II is less controversial because the government requested international assistance. Therefore, this essay primarily focuses on the second and third categories. The second category, titled ‘capacity building’, is aimed at the prevention of the four crimes by helping states to identify, manage, and prevent the risk factors that may lead to the outbreak of atrocity crimes (ICRtoP, no date). Ban Ki-moon specified two sets of capacities; the first is aimed at creating “effective, legitimate, and inclusive governance”, and the second is directed at strengthening institutions and actors within a state so that they can prevent the escalation of crises (UNSG, 2014, p. 10). This includes political institutions, the legal system, security sector, and the media (ICRtoP, no date). The third category under Pillar II, titled international assistance or protection assistance, represents a ‘toolbox’ (Gallagher, 2015, p. 1264). It includes expertise in dispute resolution, human rights monitoring, law enforcement and criminal investigation, protection of refugees and the internally displaced, and protection of civilians in humanitarian emergencies (ibid). Undeniably, Pillar II offers a diverse set of useful tools to assist states with protecting its populations from the four crimes, not simply in the short-term, but over an extended period.  Nevertheless, the second section of this essay questions whether Pillar II’s broad scope provides opportunity to protect populations and prevent mass atrocities, or whether it simply sets expectations too high, ultimately undermining R2P’s credibility. Beforehand, it is important to discuss R2P’s more immediate successes in Mali.

 

The short-term

This first section addresses why R2P should be considered as having made a significant difference in the Mali crisis. The primary area of success has been the military intervention from the French, the European Union (EU), and MINUSMA. European counterparts provided a vast range of military equipment such as troops, arms, aircrafts, intelligence, and engineering capacities. MINUSMA, for instance, was composed of 11,200 military personnel and 1,440 police personnel at full capacity (ICRtoP, 2015). This was the third largest UN peacekeeping mission, with an approved six-month budget of US$367 million. The European Union Training Mission for Mali (EUTM Mali) also included 550 staff, 200 instructors, and a 15-month budget of €23 million (Weiss & Welz, 2014, p. 898). This demonstrates a huge international response and commitment to the protection of Mali’s populations. It was also a successful military campaign in the short term. The French intervention alone forced Islamist groups out of Timbuktu, Kidal, and Gao. The primary aims of Resolution 2100 were a “strong commitment to the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Mali” and “swift action by the French forces, at the request of the transitional authorities of Mali” (UNSC, 2013, p. 1). The primary aims of the mission therefore reflected the central tenets of Pillar II: state sovereignty and ‘swift and decisive’ action taken by the international community (Gallagher, 2015, p. 1272). However more importantly, both of these aims were achieved. Due to the successful efforts of the interveners, the main population centres of the North were regained in “just a few weeks” with the exception of Kidal (Karlsrud, 2016, p. 791).  Furthermore, the mission successfully protected Malian populations from war crimes and crimes against humanity such as rape, amputations and executions (Human Rights Watch, 2012). These outcomes suggest a considerable difference has been made.

In addition to military assistance, multi-lateral efforts by the AU, ECOWAS, and the UN were made to address political, security, human rights and humanitarian concerns (UNSG, 2013, p. 3). The European Union also created the Capacity Building Mission in Mali, a civilian mission to “deliver strategic advice and training to the three internal security forces in Mali – the police, the gendarmerie, and the national guard” (Karlsrud & Smith, 2015, p. 4). Further, the European Union Training Mission for Mali (EUTM Mali) included training on human rights, international humanitarian law, and the protection of civilians (Global Centre for R2P, 2013). And finally, aside from the EU’s efforts, the AU and ECOWAS successfully deployed 50 human rights monitors to Mali alongside 30 monitors from the UN (ibid). Therefore, it can be concluded that Pillar II’s third category, its ‘toolbox’ of international assistance, was effectively utilized to tackle the Mali crisis in the short-term.

However, the enactment of R2P in Mali could be criticised for its slow orchestration and weak implementation. Although there are strong grounds for this argument, the reasons for the mission’s slowness do not lie with R2P in principle, rather they lie with the various different components of the mission beyond its control. The first is the dangerous nature of the mission, whereby the interveners were dealing with non-state armed groups, not violence committed by the State. Reports found the environment encountered by MINUSIMA “became more challenging than most other UN peacekeeping missions”. They faced many “ambushes, complex attacks, and other asymmetric and terrorist tactics, such as suicide attacks and improvised explosive devices (IEDs)” (Karlsrud & Smith, 2015, p. 4). Although R2P was originally a state-based principle; parallel to non-state armed groups becoming more prominent, Pillar II has become more relevant as a potential framework for tackling these groups. The Mali crisis proves that governments may seek international assistance to protect their populations from groups committing the four crimes under R2P, highlighting Pillar II’s potential for taking on this role (Gallagher, 2015, p. 1270). The new, and highly dangerous environment posed by Mali may have hindered the speed and effectiveness of the mission. Nevertheless, R2P was not designed with the intent to tackle non-state armed groups. Therefore, the overall success of the military interventions should be recognized for their ability to adapt to new threat types. To turn this question around, the crisis in Mali could be argued as having made a notable difference to the future use of R2P, as it has demonstrated its capacity to tackle non-state armed groups with some future improvement.

The second reason for slow and weak implementation can be pinned to the lack of cooperation between the interveners. Bank Ki-moon once stressed the importance of “partnerships” when invoking R2P. Indeed, multilateral approaches contribute to the effectiveness and legitimacy of any intervention (UNSG, 2014, pp. 6-7). Still, without “a harmony of interests” they can be counterproductive (Gallagher, 2015, p. 5). Thomas Weiss and Martin Welz found there were tensions between the AU and ECOWAS over who should lead AFISMA to begin with, largely because the AU became involved after ECOWAS and “had to play catch up” (2014, p. 890). After the later transfer from AFISMA to MINUSMA, tensions surfaced between the AU and the UN. The AU felt sidestepped by the UN when “essential deliberations and decisions were made” (Weiss and Welz, 2014, p. 898). Conversely, the UN and European counterparts became frustrated over the cooperation of troops from the AU and ECOWAS. It was claimed they were inadequately trained and ill-equipped for such a mission (ibid). Again, this helps to emphasize the challenging environment facing the interveners. Although incorporating regional actors within R2P missions is essential; without an upgrade in capacities across the African continent, these “partnerships” will always face difficulties. ­ Jennifer Welsh wrote that “while regional organizations are often touted as the legitimate and preferred actors in crises such as Mali, they cannot always fulfil their mandate. Capacity and politics get in the way” (Welsh, 2013). From this, it can be concluded that in Mali, the incorporation of regional actors hindered R2P’s implementation. Again, this could be argued is no fault of R2P in principle. Nevertheless, if “partnerships” are to become a vital feature of R2P missions, work should be undertaken to prevent the same occurrences in future crises.

In spite of the disagreements between interveners, and the complexities of the mission, the primary aims of the mission, alongside the central tenets of Pillar II, were still successfully achieved. Therefore, this essay holds the firm view that R2P has made a difference in Mali.

 

The long-term

Despite the short-term successes, the mission has been further criticised for failing to address the root causes of the crisis, subsequently failing to make an overall difference. This section is going to address these concerns, with the overriding view that R2P is not set to deal with such underlying problems. Or if it is, then it certainly is not able yet.

The Malian government’s call for renewed assistance in January 2015 indeed signals that R2P has failed to have an enduring effect in Mali (Gallagher, 2015, p. 1272). While the intervention was able to dissipate the mass violence, restore democratic elections and aid refugees, major concerns persist over the reality of the situation. Malians have since specified many failings of its ‘restored democracy’, such as “systemic corruption, a failing and corrupt judicial system, weak political parties and no opposition, and… lack of civility within communities” (Wing, 2013, p. 479). In the months leading up to the March 2012 coup there were forestalled presidential elections, a Tuareg rebellion, and a resentful military (Wing, 2013, p. 476). Since, the interveners have helped orchestrate the election of a new president and assembly; however, there are claims that it remains ‘business as usual’ (Gallagher, 2015, p. 1272). People are still protesting against the “poor governance performances of state officials” (Vliet, 2014, p. 66). Wing (2013) argues that if Mali’s dysfunctional political system continues, “it is unlikely peace and democracy will return”. In addition to the democratic deficit, there remains the on-going conflict between the Malian government and the ethnic Tuareg’s (Wing, 2013; Wing, 2013, p. 476). This conflict is known to be “one of the fundamental causes of the crisis”, yet it “remains to be addressed” (Global Centre for R2P, 2013).

It is not hard to refute that the root causes have been addressed by R2P, as the entirety of the evidence suggests it has not. However, should R2P be faced with such issues? The premise of the principle is to react and protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity (UNGA, 2005, p. 30). It was not created to then combat the vast multitude of deeply rooted issues that perhaps trigger those four crimes, such as weak and corrupt political systems, poor legal systems, and food insecurity. For instance, although the UNSG put forward capacity building as a category within Pillar II, its duties completely breach the four crimes R2P was employed to tackle. As previously mentioned, capacity building may range from introducing educational initiatives, opportunities for dialogue, supporting political institutions and the media, to establishing truth commissions. Not only does it encompass a range of protective measures, its primary focus is towards prevention. Prevention represents a whole other dimension of R2P. Critics such as Thomas Weiss argue that prevention “is superficially attractive but highly unrealistic way to try and pretend that we can finesse the hard issues of what essentially amounts to humanitarian intervention” (2012, p. 113). Doing so increases expectations and sets R2P up for inevitable failure, as it lacks the capacity to tackle such intricate and complex problems. Further, prevention obscures “the most urgent part of the spectrum of the responsibility: to protect those caught in the crosshairs of war” (ibid). As highlighted in the first section, the ‘most urgent’ purpose of R2P was achieved in Mali; its ‘territorial integrity’ was restored and the mass violence dramatically decreased.

Furthermore, the third category, protection assistance, also encompasses a broad range of measures, including dispute resolution, humanitarian intervention, and military intervention. Both categories have opened up the floodgates to an overwhelming and diverse set of eventualities. Even without the preventative dimension of capacity building, the range of protective measures remains ambitious. Consequently, the overreaching scope of Pillar II has created a sense of disillusionment over what R2P is able to achieve. Such disillusionment and high expectations will inevitably damage R2P’s credibility. Before increasing Pillar II’s range of responsive measures, perhaps efforts should be directed towards finessing the more pressing issues surrounding R2P’s implementation. This could include ensuring cooperation amongst the intervening bodies, or strengthening R2P’s capabilities to protect populations from non-state armed groups.

Finally, if Pillar II should in fact represent this ‘broad umbrella’ of both preventative and protective measures, could we not then question whether R2P has had adequate time to make a difference in Mali over a long period? John Karlsrud points out that the intervention under R2P can only be considered a “short-term success” (2016, p. 791). However, after only five years since the crisis began, of course R2P can only be considered a short-term success, it certainly cannot be labelled as anything else. Finding a sustainable solution to the fundamental causes of the crisis, such as a settlement between the Malian government and the Tuaregs, may take decades to achieve. Not only did the crisis take place five years ago, but R2P itself is only twelve years of age (Bellamy, 2015). Again, expectations must be managed over R2P and what it is able to achieve at present.

Meanwhile in Mali, the UNSC renewed the mandate of MINUSMA in June 2015, the EUTM Mali is still in place, and steps are being taken to strengthen Malian capacities through supporting the justice sector and addressing corruption (Human Rights Watch, 2015). If we are to accurately measure the extent R2P has made a difference in Mali, perhaps we should allow it the chance to do so first.

 

Conclusion

This essay has clearly identified the positive achievements of the French, AFISMA, and MINUSMA military campaigns, indicating their notable successes. Besides military assistance, the interveners effectively tapped into some of Pillar II’s ‘toolbox’ to provide humanitarian assistance and human rights training, allowing for a more rigorous resolution to the crisis. Whether or not R2P has made a difference long-term by dealing with the deeply embedded causes of the conflict is where this question loses clarity. Mali’s ‘restored democracy’ remains highly dysfunctional, reeking with corruption and nation-wide discontent, as well as the on-going tensions between the government and the ethnic Tuaregs. Nevertheless, this essay has questioned whether R2P should have to address these issues, because they stretch far beyond the four crimes it was engineered to combat. I have specifically contested the inclusion of ‘capacity building’ within Pillar II of R2P on the grounds that it distracts focus away from the four crimes, and opens R2P up to another dimension of prevention. Even without the second, the third category alone contains an ambitious set of protective measures. On the other hand, this essay has argued that if in fact Pillar II should be employed to deal with such intricate and longstanding issues, it is far too early to judge R2P’s long-term potential.  With this in mind, this essay concludes that R2P has made a significant difference to Mali in the short-term: partly because of the swift humanitarian successes and partly because we have not yet entered the long-term.

 

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