R2P and Goals the Public Could Support

The Responsibility to Protect

The United Nations has been moderately successful at ending the scourge of war between its member states. It has also shown creative support for human rights by developing norms such as the Responsibility to Protect to assert that people are more important than states—that no member state is to commit gross abuses and violence against its people.

However, action to effectively ensure observance of the R2P norm has been blocked repeatedly by the veto possibility in the UN Security Council. The veto power and the status of Permanent Members of the Council given to the 5 victorious powers from World War II was seen as the only way to get agreement to the San Francisco Charter in 1945, but many scholars believe this was not intended as a permanent arrangement. In fact, the Charter provides that "A General Conference of the Members of the United Nations for the purpose of reviewing the present Charter may be held at a date and place to be fixed by a two-thirds vote of the members of the General Assembly and by a vote of any seven (later nine after the membership of the Council was increased from 11 to 15) members of the Security Council" . . . . "Any alteration of the present Charter recommended by a two-thirds vote of the conference shall take effect when ratified . . . . by two thirds of the Members of the United Nations including all the permanent members of the Security Council."

Because it was not possible for the Security Council to negotiate effectively to prevent the bombing of Kosovo in the 1990s, a coalition of the willing was formed to take action bypassing the veto. Now in Syria, some UN member states have been looking for a way to protect the insurgent groups in Syria against the bombing and the evident use of poison gas by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The US public knows this is a dangerous approach that could lead to a further escalation of conflict between the sectarian parties in Syria and spill over into the neighboring countries that support either Assad or the opposition factions. The UK public is also very wary of any such military action. The aim should not be to teach states, but to serve people.

The UN needs to develop a more nuanced approach that would work to protect PEOPLE, not just try to teach governments to honor international norms such as the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons. The UN needs to start a process to work for establishing a standing emergency UN Peace Force to take action to protect. A directly recruited UN Peace Force consisting of individuals with military and peacekeeping skills needs to be established and given authority by the UN General Assembly and Security Council to move into areas where there is gross violation of human rights (as now in Syria)—to see exactly what is happening, and to deter further violence.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the official policy of Citizens for Global Solutions.

Related Campaign

Women and children are often the earliest victims of mass atrocities. Support a code of conduct limiting use of the veto against early intervention in these situations.

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