Critics of UN's New Doctrine Put Ideology before Welfare of Victims of Atrocities

Cape Times (South Africa), August 3, 2009 | Go to article overview

Critics of UN's New Doctrine Put Ideology before Welfare of Victims of Atrocities


R2P IS NOT the name of a cute robot in a sci-fi movie but a new doctrine, the "Responsibility to Protect", which is agitating the international community.

If accepted by the UN, R2P would give the UN the right to intervene in a country, militarily if necessary, to prevent genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or ethnic cleansing.

The world endorsed the principle of R2P at the World Summit at UN headquarters in 2005.

But now several nations and personalities like Noam Chomsky and UN General Assembly president Miguel D'Escoto Brockman, a Catholic priest and former foreign minister of left-wing Nicaragua, have mounted a rearguard action.

They say the doctrine could be abused by powerful nations to justify invasions of smaller states for ulterior purposes.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon strongly defended R2P before the UN General Assembly.

He emphasised that collective military intervention would be an absolute last resort, preceded by lesser measures, such as helping the countries concerned to deal with their humanitarian problems themselves, diplomacy and sanctions.

And military action would require UN Security Council approval.

Ban urged the General Assembly to "resist those who try to change the subject or turn our common effort to curb the worst atrocities in human history into a struggle over ideology, geography or economics".

He accused the R2P critics of offering "rancour instead of substance, rhetoric instead of policy, despair instead of hope" to the "victims of mass violence". Very pertinent words by a man who does not waste them.

And more pertinent still is that South Africa, which has been as wary as any about big powers throwing their weight around, backed Ban and R2P.

The issue presented something of a dilemma for South Africa as the African Union (AU) backed R2P, while another one of its favourite clubs, the Non-Aligned Movement, generally opposed it.

The AU backed it with good reason, for R2P was inspired as much as anything by a profound desire to avert another genocide like that in Rwanda in 1994. …

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