Broad­en­ing the de­bate on in­ter­ven­tion

Mustafa Qadri

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Feature -

‘ 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

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