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After Libya, What Now for R2P?
Tim Dunne and Jess Gifkins, Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
The Interpreter: Lowy Institute for International Policy
24 October 2011
(…) When it became obvious that the then Libyan Government was targeting civilians rather than protecting them, the Australian Government used its diplomatic leverage to ensure the UN Security Council and other key regional bodies exercised their collective responsibility to safeguard Libyan civilians. With no clear national interests at stake and no hard power to reinforce its diplomatic message, Australia nevertheless mobilised significant normative power, reserves of which had been built up over many years of R2P activism.
The Libya case shows that state-based advocacy for R2P makes a difference. If we doubt that making 'noise' matters, consider the views of Anthony Lake, national security advisor to President Clinton during the Rwandan genocide: in Lake's words, 'it was seen as impossible to contemplate American intervention, because nobody was for it'.
Australia adopted a pro-intervention policy that was, in the words of one official, 'early, clear, and consistent'. The joint press release by Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard on the death of Qadhafi refers to Australia's role as one of the first countries to support a no-fly zone. Australia engaged in extensive diplomacy advocating the authorisation of a no-fly zone with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Gulf Cooperation Council. Foreign Affairs Minister Rudd made a strong statement in the Human Rights Council calling on states to uphold their responsibility to protect in Libya.
The combined effect of the resolution agreed to by the League of Arab States, and the strong position taken by Australia and others, helped to create conditions where coercion was considered a serious option. Having R2P front and centre in early the debates over Libya made the 'business as usual' justification for doing nothing harder to advance. (…)
It is unlikely Libya will remain an exceptional case for long. Custom and precedent are powerful forces in the international legal order. In the meantime, there is a job of work to be done by R2P advocates to reassure sceptics that doubts about legitimacy can be addressed through clearer operational guidelines about how humanitarian interventions are to be conducted. It is not enough for the Security Council simply to authorise intervention; it has to elaborate mechanisms by which it exercises greater control over the implementation of its resolutions.
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