Broadening the debate on intervention
‘ NEVER again’’ was the world’s reaction to the horrors of Hitler’s concentration camps: more than six decades later, those words ring hollow.
In this timely book, Gareth Evans, Australia’s foreign minister in the Hawke and Keating governments, charts international attempts to put an end to mass atrocities once and for all.
Since his retirement from politics in 1998, Evans has worked tirelessly on this problem and this book is a summation of his efforts so far. It is as much a handbook for identifying crises as a template for solving them, the most realistic approach to preventing and responding to mass atrocities. Neatly compiled and full of useful case studies and practical insights, it is an important resource for practitioners and interested citizens.
Evans relies heavily on analysis and thinking generated from within the UN system, aiming, it appears, not to reinvent the wheel but to refurbish it. He is an unashamed multilateralist and cites several situations, from Burundi to Macedonia, where multilateral organisations such as NATO and the European Union have stepped in before atrocities might have occurred.
‘‘ Responsibility to protect’’ is the term used to describe nations’ obligation to respond to and prevent mass atrocities. Under this doctrine, all states bear primary responsibility to protect their citizens from such crises.
In addition, where a population is suffering serious harm, the otherwise inviolable territory of a state yields to the international responsibility to protect.
After a brief but informative introduction to mass atrocities throughout history, the first section of the book covers the development of the concept of the responsibility to protect. The second, more substantial section deals with the application of this responsibility before, during and after a crisis has occurred.
Evans coined the term ( abbreviated to R2P in keeping with the taxonomy of the 21st century) during proceedings of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, which he co-chaired. Established by the UN in 2001, the ICISS was given the task of bridging the gap between the need to respond to mass atrocities and respecting the territorial integrity of sovereign nations. As a member of the UN Secretary-General’s high-level panel on threats, challenges and change in 2003, which included elder statesmen from every corner of the globe, he continued to champion the principle.
It is a testament to Evans’s clout and persistence that, although the R2P debate foundered following the events of September 11, it was eventually adopted by the 2005 World Summit, a meeting of the world’s leaders hosted by the UN in New York. To this day, however, many nations refuse to accept that the concept has international standing, particularly nonWestern states that fear foreign intrusion.
Evans goes to great lengths to convince the reader why R2P is not a Trojan horse for legitimating Western excursions into the global south, such as the US’s invasion of Iraq in 2003. But there is no doubting that it is the global south that is the focus of this work and it is the West