Ban a champion of U.N.s role to protect
The Daily Yuimiori
10 March 2009
Ramesh Thakur is a key architect of the Responsibility to Protect and served as a commissioner in the 2001 ICISS Report.
One of former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Boltons parting gifts to the international community was the selection of Ban Ki Moon as U.N. secretary general. Among the chief qualities that Bolton was interested in in a candidate was a man of modest ambitions and talent to match in order to bury the conceit of liberal internationalism. Ban may yet surprise us all.
A bit more than a year before Ban took office, a summit of world leaders, meeting at the United Nations in autumn 2005, unanimously adopted he responsibility to protectow commonly referred to as R2Ps a powerful new global norm.
Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan described R2P as one of his most precious achievements. Ban has not been shy of adopting R2P as his own cause, confident enough of his own worth not to worry that he will merely be advancing his predecessors legacy. ()
Interestingly, Ban was the only candidate to refer to R2P during the yearlong campaign to seek Annans office. After Ban took office, his task was complicated as many countries saw him as Washingtons choice. The problem was compounded by choosing American Ed Luck as his special adviser, one with little professional background on the subject. ()
Drawing on Lucks wide-ranging consultations and reflections, on Jan. 12 Ban published his report on mplementing the responsibility to protect. It rightly takes as a key point of departure not our original 2001 report, but the relevant clauses from the 2005 outcome document. It clarifies and elaborates that orce as the last resort does not mean we have to go through a sequential or graduated set of responses before responding robustly to an urgent crisis. ()
The new report is effective and clever in repackaging R2P in the language of three pillars: The states own responsibility to protect all peoples on its territory; international assistance to help build a states capacity to deliver on its responsibility; and the international responsibility to protect. If the metaphor helps to garner more widespread support, all praise to Ban and his team. ()
More seriously, the report goes over the top in elaborating on the metaphor by insisting that the difice of R2P will tilt, totter and collapse unless all three pillars are of equal height and strength. This is simply not true. The most important elementhe weightiest pillaras to be the states own responsibility. And the most critical is the international communitys response to fresh outbreaks of mass atrocity crimes.
Mercifully, and contrary to what many of us feared, the report does not retreat from the necessity for outside military action in some circumstances. But it does dilute what was the central defining feature of R2P. The commission was called into existence to deal with the problem of brutal leaders killing large numbers of their own people. In this it built on the landmark Lakhdar Brahimi report of 2000 that noted the United Nations cant be neutral between perpetrators and victims of large-scale violence. Were all happy to assist the good guys build state capacity; the challenge is what to do with the bad guys, those intent on grave harm who use sovereignty as a license to kill with impunity. ()
On these key issues, we are no further ahead today: We seem to be recreating the 2005 consensus instead of operationalizing and implementing the agreed collective responsibility. The use of force by the United Nations against a states consent will always be controversial and contested. That is no reason to hand over control of the pace, direction and substance of the agenda of our shared, solemn responsibility to the R2P skeptics.