Libya and R2P
Canadian International Council
23 June 2011
Jennifer Welsh is a professor of International Relations at Oxford University and is a fellow of Somerville College. She is the author, co-author and editor of several books and articles on international relations. One of her current research projects includes the evolution of the notion of the Responsibility to Protect.
(…) The international response to civilian deaths in Libya (and the imminent threat of mass atrocities) is unusual in three keys respects. First, Security Council Resolution 1973 authorized “all necessary measures” to protect civilians without the consent of the “host” state. This is the first time the Council has ever done (though of course it came close in some other cases, such as Somalia and East Timor). The Council’s intentions, and actions, could not be interpreted as anything other than coercive.
Second, in contrast to other crises involving alleged crimes against humanity (most notably Darfur), diplomacy produced a decisive response in a relatively short period of time. The resolution’s passage was made possible by the fact of regional support (i.e., the request from the Arab League, and was passed by a Security Council whose composition is very much in line with that recommended by advocates of Council reform (non-permanent members included Brazil, Germany, India, Nigeria and South Africa). Thirdly, the effort was not led by the United States; France and the UK proposed the resolution, and Lebanon was a key figure in security support for it. These three features suggest that many analysts of intervention (including myself) need to revise their previously pessimistic assessments of what is possible in contemporary international politics.
What is less clear, however, is how the crisis in Libya—and NATO’s on-going aerial campaign—will affect the fortunes and trajectory of the principle of R2P. (…)
There is clearly a need to increase the capacities of states to protect their own populations, and to develop non-coercive tools that third parties can wisely employ to address the deep causes of mass atrocity crimes. But there is also an urgent need to elaborate the more targeted and coercive tools that the international community can employ as part of so-called pillar III (the international responsibility to protect populations when national authorities ‘manifestly fail to do so’) —whether those tools are being employed preventively (to avoid an imminent catastrophe) or as part of a response to large-scale atrocities that are ongoing. (…)
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