The Global Citizen: Syria
The Oxford Research Group has reported that 11,420 children have been killed in the ongoing Syrian civil war. This number is absolutely staggering and yet represents only 10 percent of the estimated 100,000 fatal casualties of the war.
Letters to Jake Series, Letter #2
At the wonderful age of 2, you are now a big brother! I can’t believe you have twin sisters! Annette and Clair are lucky to have a big brother like you to love, support and protect them. Perhaps with two little sisters you’ll treasure even more the idea of ending war on planet earth.
In my first letter I explained the idea that the way to peace is through establishing global law with justice so that conflicts between nations can be resolved in a court of law and bad people will be held accountable for their actions if they break the law by invading or attacking others.
What if you could help prevent the next Rwanda, Darfur or Syria? Would you?
Time and time again as atrocities unfold, the United Nations Security Council is called upon to act but cannot due to the threat of a veto by one of the permanent members. It’s time for that to change.
It’s time for countries to agree that permanent Security Council members have a “Responsibility Not to Veto” when it comes to genocide and other mass atrocities.
GlobalSolutions.org has just launched a petition to asking President Obama to be part of a discussion about the responsible use of the veto at the Security Council.
We envision a Security Council that works. Imagine a Security Council that pledged not to use the veto in situations of genocide and other mass atrocities. That’s a world we want to live in. Unfortunately, permanent Security Council members have used (or threatened to use) their veto power far too often. The veto power stopped immediate life-saving action in the Rwandan genocide, Darfur, and Syria.
It's United Nations Day! Sixty-eight years ago, the U.N.'s charter came into being "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war... to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights... and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom."
But this is not just a day to celebrate what the U.N. has accomplished. It is also a time to recommit to working for a U.N. that can actually accomplish its visionary goals.
What if you could help to prevent the next Rwanda, Darfur or Syria? Would you? GlobalSolutions.org is pushing for the P5 - the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia and China - to agree not use their veto in the Security Council when dealing with genocide and other mass atrocities. It has happened too often:
Last week, Saudi Arabia was one of five states elected to the UN Security Council for a two-year term. In a surprise move, they released a statement to the press the next day rejecting their seat. In what follows, I'm going to explore their decision and why the hierarchical nature of the Security Council is frustratingly difficult to overcome. That hierarchy has a real effect on smaller, less powerful, or historically disadvantaged states, and the Saudis' frustration is the latest sign that Security Council reform has a long way to go.
Following a dramatic month of bluster and diplomatic turmoil, the Security Council unanimously passed a resolution demanding the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons. But it still has done nothing to halt the traumatic civil war that has so far killed over 100,000 and displaced over 7 million Syrians.
During the lead up to the agreement, US Ambassador Samantha Power complained, "The Security Council the world needs to deal with this urgent crisis is not the Security Council we have." Her words are too true. Since 2011, Russia and China have vetoed three different Security Council resolutions condemning the Syrian regime's violence or promoting a solution. This year Russia has blocked at least three statements calling for humanitarian access to besieged cities and four resolutions or statements condemning or expressing concern over the use of chemical weapons. Prior to the current resolution, the Security Council could not even agree to put out a press statement expressing its disapproval over the use of chemical weapons.
Credibility has been the watch word in the run up to a possible, and now delayed, U.S. missile strike against Syrian governmental targets. In the words of John Kerry the issue of retaliation by the United States for a chemical weapons attack, attributed to Syrian forces by a new U.N. report, is "directly related to our credibility and whether countries still believe the United States when it says something." But whether the United States attacks the Syrian government or not, the real issue is not the believability of U.S. follow-through on threats of the use of force. As history has shown, it is clear the United States will back up any threats of military intervention with action.
The Syria question continues to dominate both domestic American politics and international affairs. The biggest opponent to U.S. involvement is Vladimir Putin and Russia. But while the Kremlin calls for diplomatic and political methods for peace in Syria, it continues to be the biggest seller of weapons, vehicles, and munitions to Assad's government.
Prior to the start of the civil war, Russia accounted for 50% of all Syrian arms imports. The Russian government did halt weapons sales in the beginning of the conflict but resumed earlier this year when relations between the Kremlin and Washington turned sour. Since then, according to Reuters, over 9 trips have been made between Damascus and the Ukrainian port of Oktyabrsk, which is the main port utilized by the Russian state arms company, Rosoboronexport. The ships shut down their radar systems while leaving the port, indicating that Russia desired to keep the shipments secret. The ships most likely contained small arms and more anti-tank Kornet missile launchers and missiles, a system that Russia has fulfilled 6 or 7 contracts for since 1998.
There was a recent political drawing in the International Herald Tribune which showed high piles of skulls with signs on them which said "Killed by Assads Machine Guns", "Killed by Assads Tanks" and two men with UN on their coats saying "If they really were killed by chemical weapons we’ll have to stop Assad."
The accusations of the recent use of chemical weapons (cw) in the Syrian conflict has led to a UN investigation as well as discussions at the UN and in national capitals as to the appropriate response to what has been called "a clear violation of international norms." Yet there has been little discussion of why chemical weapons are prohibited and not tanks, and machine guns which in practice have killed many more people in Syria. To be more accurate, the drawing should have also shown piles of skulls with signs saying "Killed by armed opposition machine guns, snipers etc".
A short review of the prohibitions on the use of chemical weapons, the UN response, and the use of chemical weapons in conflicts in the Middle East may be useful as background to a discussion of appropriate responses.
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."
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