The Responsibility to Prevent conflicts and atrocities from happening in the first place is the most critical component of R2P, and there are various prevention mechanisms that the international community can use. You will find below a collection of excerpts of articles exploring some of these mechanisms. In particular, please find excerpts on the following:
- An editorial on the new Human Rights Council and R2P by Jonathan Fanton;
- Two articles on the new Peacebuilding Commission, one by Olivia Ward and the second by Ramesh Thakur;
- The recent creation of an emergency fund for African crises by the European Union;
- UN-imposed sanctions on Hutu rebels in Rwanda;
- The recent General Assembly Resolution on the Kimberly Process, an effort to stop the spread of conflict diamonds;
- The trial of Saddam Hussein and its relation to sovereignty and humanitarianism.
Taking human rights seriously
January 10, 2006
By Jonathan Fanton
Jonathan Fanton is president of the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and a former chairman of Human Rights Watch.
On its Web site, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights describes itself as "the world's foremost human rights forum."
Unfortunately, given its membership and structure, the commission has become little more than a punch line for late-night comics. Its current members include Sudan and Zimbabwe, nations with their own dubious human rights records. In 2003 Libya, widely recognized as one of the world's most repressive governments, chaired the commission. The commission meets only once each year, failing to act on egregious rights abuses that occur between its meetings.
Politics, which should not be a consideration, have too often come to dominate the commission's work. For example, Sudan helped to water down language and constrain discussion of the flagrant human rights violations occurring in Darfur.
The UN must play a leading role in setting international standards and offering a forum to air and address human rights grievances. When governments fail to protect their citizens or abide by their obligations, the international community has a responsibility to act--a responsibility to protect the vulnerable and to hold nations accountable. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan proposed in September that human rights become the third pillar of UN activity, along with security and development. He recommended the current commission be replaced by a smaller council with new membership selection procedures to decrease the likelihood that human rights abusers would serve on the council.
Council membership must not be a tool for bad actors to avoid criticism or thwart international action. Members should be elected on an individual vote by a two-thirds majority. Regions should be required to nominate more candidates than there are slots, ensuring more competition in the voting. The council needs to meet more often to ensure public attention and international criticism is never far away for countries violating human rights.
We should be pleased the U.S. is backing such reforms. But we must not let slide this historic opportunity to reform the UN and strengthen its focus on human rights. American officials and other UN member states should be more forceful in advocating the importance of the Human Rights Council and should ratchet up their role in the negotiations, which resume Wednesday.
Stopping the slide back into war
The Toronto Star
January 7, 2006
By: Olivia Ward
War and peace are seen as absolute opposites, separated by an uncrossable line in the sand.
But in the past 20 years, nearly half the wars that were officially declared over have swept back again, dragging millions of innocent people into their undertow.
"Losing the peace" is an increasingly common slogan, as strife-torn countries like Iraq teeter on the brink of civil war, and the international community's lack of planning is blamed for large-scale death and displacement in countries where it has tried to intervene.
Last month, the United Nations took a historic step toward ending that catastrophic cycle, by passing resolutions to form a new Peacebuilding Commission which, says UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, "marks a turning point in our efforts to help states and societies manage the difficult transition from war to peace."
Officially, the new body will have only an advisory and co-ordinating role, making use of the UN's worldwide resources to "propose integrated strategies for post-conflict recovery."
It would ensure that the billions of dollars pledged for helping war-torn countries are spent in more effective and timely ways, and provide early warning of danger signs in countries still at risk from deep-seated tensions
The birth of the new commission is also symbolic of a new recognition that peace is a struggle as intensive as any war. Treaties and peacekeeping troops are only the beginning of that battle, experts say, and they must be part of a broad strategy designed to make strife-torn countries both peaceful and liveable for their citizens, many of whom are deeply traumatized, impoverished, sick and homeless.
"The stakes could hardly be higher," says Gareth Evans, president of the International Crisis Group, and a former Australian foreign minister.
"Failure to consolidate peace can result not only in more death and misery for those immediately involved, but the kind of instability and chaos that breeds and supports terrorism; aids trafficking in drugs, arms and persons; and helps the spread of pandemic diseases," Evans says.
To rebuild countries from the grassroots requires substantial funding - something historically easier to raise for wars than peacemaking activities. And, Evans points out, the UN made an "unhappy compromise" in allowing the activities of the commission to be paid for by a voluntary fund, rather than assessed contributions that would be mandatory.
"The risk is that a co-ordinating body without the resources to apply to influence actions on the ground may quickly become irrelevant," he says.
The new Peacebuilding Commission's administration will be set up from the UN budget, whose costs will be decided this spring. But its programs will be paid for by a trust fund, to which donors can give at their discretion
But, says Stewart Patrick, a fellow of the Center for Global Development in Washington, money alone cannot restore failed states without strong strategic planning.
Patrick, who helped to set up the U.S. State Department's Office of the Co-Ordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization, says major funders of reconstruction try to get the job done quickly. But they are bound by legislative restrictions that favour their own companies, at the expense of local contractors.
"It ends up creating a parallel economy, so the indigenous public sector has no support." As a result, the local economy is neglected, and when the big international projects are finished, it is in tatters. That sparks a volatile combination of poverty and resentment which can reignite war.
Quick political fixes, such as "transferring the formal trappings of power" to a hastily installed post-conflict government also fail, says Patrick.
Author Paris adds, it's a mistake to attempt hasty solutions in war-ravaged counties by applying Western ideals of democratic and economic reform.
UN observers conclude, whatever its shortcomings, the new Peacebuilding Commission is also a hopeful development in a long and chequered history of international conflict prevention
Peacebuilding architecture a step forward for U.N
The Daily Yomiuri (Tokyo)
December 27, 2005
By: Ramesh Thakur / Special to The Daily Yomiuri
A year that began with great hopes for major reform of the creaking U.N. machinery ended with something of a whimper. The results of the September U.N. summit were not terribly disappointing for the development and humanitarian side of the ledger. But they were less than inspiring for the peace and security side.
Yet amid the debris of even the peace and security reform proposals, there were two significant achievements. First, the world leaders endorsed the new norm of the responsibility to protect, which holds that states have the responsibility to protect the lives of their citizens. But when states default, as in Rwanda in 1994, the international community, led by the United Nations, must assume and honor the responsibility.
Second, the U.N. summit approved the creation of a new Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) to fill a critical gap in the institutional architecture for maintaining international peace and security, which is the primary mandate of the United Nations. The PBC was created by the General Assembly on Dec. 20. Although Japan was understandably disappointed at the failure to secure permanent membership of a restructured Security Council, as a country heavily engaged in promoting and underwriting peace all around the world, it should be pleased with the new PBC.
Research shows that almost half of all countries coming out of conflict relapse into armed violence within five years of a peace agreement.
The major advantages of the new setup thus will be that a dedicated body will try to anticipate postconflict requirements, preempt the collapse of peace settlements, promote reconstruction, reconciliation and institution-building through integrated strategies backed by necessary finances, and lay the foundations for sustainable development. As it gains experience and confidence, the PBC should also be able to identify and develop best practices on issues requiring close collaboration among political, military, humanitarian and development actors.
Most importantly, the PBC will ensure that there is a real link between the immediate postconflict efforts on the one hand, and long-term recovery and development on the other. By consolidating and strengthening the country's own capacity to recover after conflict, the PBC should reduce the need for recurring peacekeeping operations over the long term
Thakur is senior vice rector of the United Nations University in Tokyo. These are his personal views.
AFRICA: EU creates new fund for African crises
27 Dec 2005
The EU approved 165.7 million euros (US $196.4 million) on Monday for relief efforts in 10 African countries with humanitarian crises.
"[The funds are for] foreseeable needs in ongoing crises but there are also margins for unexpected catastrophes that may occur during the year," Amadeu Altafaj, the EU spokesman, said on Tuesday from Brussels
The funds will be managed by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid office which works with 180 implementing partners including UN agencies and the Red Cross movement.
The EU has apportioned 48 million euros ($56.9 million) of the funds for crises in Sudan and 38 million euros ($45 million) for crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The other beneficiary countries are Burundi, Chad, Comoros, Cte dIvoire, Liberia, Madagascar, Tanzania and Uganda.
U.N. sanctions Hutus
The Miami Herald
December 22, 2005
(AP) -- The U.N. Security Council has slapped a travel ban and arms embargo on Rwandan Hutu rebel leaders in eastern Congo who are impeding the disarmament and repatriation of their followers.
The council imposed the same sanctions on political and military leaders of Congolese militias receiving support from other countries who block the participation of their combatants in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs in Congo.
A resolution adopted unanimously by the council late Wednesday deplored the fact that foreign armed groups in eastern Congo have not yet laid down their arms and demanded they do so ''without any delay or preconditions'' and agree to voluntary repatriation and resettlement.
The resolution reiterates the council's serious concern at the continuing hostilities by militias and foreign armed groups in eastern Congo, ``and at the threat they pose to civilians and to the holding of elections . . . and to stability in the region.''
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UN Backs Kimberley's Role In Preventing Conflict
Global News Wire - Asia Africa Intelligence Wire
December 22, 2005
(Mineweb.com) The United Nations General Assembly Tuesday approved a resolution reaffirming the UN's support for the Kimberley Process, which has already improved the revenue-generating capacity of three nations formerly stymied by the conflict diamonds.
In an address to the General Assembly Tuesday in New York City, Russian U.N. Ambassador Andrey Denisov declared that "to date the Kimberley process has made substantial progress" as an effective tool to prevent conflicts. The Russian Federation currently chairs the Kimberley Process group.
However, Botswana, the in-coming KP chairman, stressed that the success of the process "depends on full compliance" of nations which produce rough diamonds. Nevertheless, Botswana's representative told the General Assembly that he was "encouraged by the general atmosphere and the willingness to work together" to solve the problems of conflict diamond sales finding their way into legitimate markets.
Fellow major diamond producer Canada emphasized that corporations representing 99.8% of total global diamond production are participating in the certification process. The Canadian representative noted that $32 billion in rough diamonds were produced in 2004 (up from $22 billion in 2003) while 156,000 KP certifications were issued the same year.
Canada's representative asserted that implementation of KP certification improved the revenue-generating capacity of Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sierra Leone. For instance, she estimated that the national government of the DRC earned $720 million from rough diamonds under KP, more than double the $395 million in diamond income reported in 2002. She noted that Angola and Sierra Leona are recovering from the damage of rebel forces funded by conflict diamonds, while Liberia--which is the process of implementing a Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS)--has recently elected a democratic government.
However, the Canadian representative warned that the UN "will continue to face the challenge of rebel diamond production in Cote d'Ivoire." She estimated that the conflict diamond trade in Cote d'Ivoire continues to "generate millions of dollars to destabilize the entire region."
Saddam puts West on trial
Geelong Advertiser (Regional Daily)
December 21, 2005
By: Mirko Bagaric
Saddam's trial should be used to put in place a clear framework regarding the international community's obligation to prevent governments slaughtering their own citizens. As international law stands, the main obstacle to getting rid of tyrants who kill thousands of their own citizens is state sovereignty. This concept, however, is overrated. Invisible lines on Earth's surface have no moral standing and can't trump moral standards, which are of universal application.
In reality, the main disinclination to stop preventable mass killings of strangers in other parts of the world is that they are strangers -- in other parts of our world. It's true the world has, on rare occasions, stepped up, drawn a line in the sand and said no to despots, stopping them from more mass killings of their citizens. The success of these interventions and absence of criticism demonstrate that state sovereignty is no barrier to humanitarian interventions.
At present, humanitarian intervention is opportunistic and expedient in nature. It's time for a fundamental global re-think to this approach. Humanitarian intervention should be transformed into a duty upon the world's nations.
If this problem is not expressly addressed now, legal and social commentators are likely to be addressing the same issue into the 22nd century. We should not wait until then. It's only reasonable to believe that waiting will result in future generations seeking solutions while lamenting the killing of another 170 million or more people by their own governments.
Humanitarian intervention should be mandatory in cases of large-scale, government-sanctioned killings. The UN Security Council should be given the authority and responsibility to muster coalitions of the willing, perhaps selected by ballot, to supply the necessary resources. If it fails in its role, citizens from countries ruled by despots should be conferred automatic citizenship rights to Security Council member nations -- nothing like self-interest to stimulate action.
Situations will continue to arise until humanitarian intervention is transformed from an expedient accident to a categorical imperative. Unless this occurs, the rest of the world should also stand in the dock when the next dictator happens to find himself in court.
* MIRKO BAGARIC is a Professor of Law and Head of the School of Law, Deakin University.
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