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No more Mr. Nice Guy: New U.N. policy or a phase?
Reuters
Louis Charbonneau
13 April 2011 
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations appears to be working hard to shed its duck-and-cover image -- deploying attack helicopters in Ivory Coast, backing rebels in Libya and lecturing Middle Eastern leaders on how to govern.
But diplomats and analysts say it is unclear whether the unusually aggressive recent U.N. approach to some of the conflicts on its agenda indicates a metamorphosis into a tougher, more pro-active world body or just a brief phase.
For years human rights groups and U.N. member states have criticized the Security Council for approaching world crises with too little too late. Its swift response to Libya and tough strategy on Ivory Coast are undermining that image.
David Bosco, professor of international relations at American University in Washington, said the U.N. has gone through phases of decisive action in the past.(…)
(…)According to Philippe Bolopion of Humans Right Watch, both U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council have set an ambitious precedent for future crises.
"With Ban more confident on human rights issues, and the Security Council finally living up to its responsibility to protect civilians at risk of mass atrocities, the U.N. appears stronger and has set new standards that it will need to uphold more consistently around the world," Bolopion said.(…)
(….)The new burst of U.N. assertiveness, during which Ban and Western council members have repeatedly invoked the doctrine of the "responsibility to protect," has left some analysts wondering why the United Nations has not taken a similar approach to other smoldering conflicts on its agenda.
One example is Sudan's western Darfur region, where for years rights groups have called for a Libyan-style no-fly zone to end aerial attacks by Sudanese government-backed forces against civilians and suspected rebels.
"Darfur needed this kind of muscular response back in 2003-2005," said John Prendergast, a former U.S. official and co-founder of the Enough Project, an anti-genocide group.
Other unresolved conflicts that the United Nations is involved in but are hampered by political deadlocks include Western Sahara, Cyprus and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
One council diplomat suggested that market relevance helped motivate the council to act in Ivory Coast and Libya. Libya is key for oil and gas markets, Ivory Coast for cocoa and coffee.
Not all countries are happy with an aggressive United Nations. South Africa's Ambassador Baso Sangqu said this week he was worried that French troops and U.N. peacekeepers in Ivory Coast were overstepping their mandate to protect civilians and providing military support to rebel fighters.
"We are concerned about that," he told Reuters. "The U.N. should be impartial." Other envoys said they worry the U.N. may be getting into the business of "regime change."
A driving force behind the "No more Mr. Nice Guy" approach has been French President Nicolas Sarkozy, U.N. envoys say.(…)
(…)U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq was asked whether there was any connection between the former South Korean foreign minister's candidacy for a second term -- which diplomats predict will be successful -- and his approach to Libya and Ivory Coast.
"Those aren't related issues," Haq said.
 

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