Responsibility to protect R2P

Introduction and implementation, distrust and misuse, the R2P attempt failed miserably in Libya – Published on Current Concerns, by Dr h.c. Hans-Christof von Sponeck, May 8, 2012.

In a few months, the UN will be 67 years old. Initially, in 1945, there were 51 states that joined as a state community. Currently the UN includes 193 states. Southern Sudan is the youngest member. Quickly the new state has been accepted. Those in power at the moment wanted it that way. Palestine must go on waiting. Membership means acceptance of the UN Charter, which links binding covenants, conventions and other international agreements to a network.1   

UN Charter legislation has been created with the aim of “maintaining global security,” “taking effective collective measures” and “settling international disputes by peaceful means”.2 In many places the UN Charter refers to the “sovereign equality” of all member states. For the purposes of this sovereignty, the UN Charter is undoubtedly the Magna Carta of the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P).

The political debate in the UN Security Council continues in the direction that national sovereignty sets the limits to international interventions in events abroad. Many states, especially those with complex ethnic structures and large disparities between rich and poor cautiously insist on that approach. As you know, after the years of independence euphoria in the past century, conflicts between the states have more and more given way to internal conflicts in independent states.3 Responsibility to Protect (R2P), it is argued, refers to “international” law only4 and only has to do with “international” security. This means that national conflicts remain internal affairs. The more intra-national conflicts have emerged while inter-state confrontations have decreased, the louder the call for new approaches to the international Responsibility to Protect (R2P) has become.

Beginning of a new world order: … //

… The theory is called into question:

In the spring of 2012 the state of affairs is this: A new concept exists to protect humanity and the international community has accepted it. Proposals to operationalize that knowledge have not yet led to a reform of international law. The argument, Chapter VI and VII, and particularly Article 51 of the UN Charter were sufficient to implement the intra-state collective Responsibility to Protect, has not yet found worldwide acceptance. The United Nations’ position is that the question is not “whether” but “when” and “how” the international community should apply the Responsibility to Protect (R2P).23 Distrust of the introduction of collective Responsibility to Protect has remained and been reinforced after the NATO mission in Libya. The debate continues.

The gap between the inter-state rhetoric on one side and the actual use of power politics on the other was always great. Accordingly the consequences for human safety were disastrous. The experience of the crises in recent decades in the Middle East, Central and South Asia and in Europe clearly shows that protecting the civilian population, despite assertions to the contrary, has always been secondary. The decisive aspects were the internal and external self-interest of individual UN member states. Responsibility to Protect (R2P), as proposed at the UN Earth Summit in 2005, has – Iraq and Libya are good examples – become irresponsibility in the specific case. The attempted use of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in the case of Libya failed and illustrates why the international R2P distrust has remained so strong.

In early 2011 the UN Security Council decided that the government in Tripoli did not comply with its responsibility to protect internally and was also a threat to the international community.24 Resolution 1973 was adopted and legitimized international military action. Specifically, the resolution demanded, among other things: i) a flight ban in Libyan air space with the exception of relief flights, ii) the prohibition of foreign troops on Libyan soil, iii) an arms embargo, iv) freezing the assets of the government. In addition, resolution 1973 authorised “all measures taken to” ensure compliance with the ban on flights at national and regional level.25

Irresponsible action by the UN Security Council:

“Operation Unified Protector”, the R2P mission by 5 of the 28 NATO countries, Qatar, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, is over. It was meant to be about protecting the Libyan population, but aimed at a regime change. The arms embargo affected the government army. The opposition militias were armed with weapons. The government mercenaries were forbidden, and members of special military forces (in civvies) from NATO and other countries were allowed and took part in some of the opposition forces. NATO aircraft fought government forces and supported the resistance. The foreign accounts of the government were frozen, funds flowed to opposition forces from abroad.

NATO sees this differently, and concludes that the United Nations mandate has been complied with in all respects. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon agrees with this assessment: “The NATO military actions have kept strictly to UN Security Council Resolution 1973.”26 Such misrepresentations are disturbing and give rise to serious concern.

By authorising member states “to take all necessary means” in the Libyan crisis, the UN Security Council discharged itself from the responsibility to ensure that the resolution conditions were met. Such irresponsible actions by the UN Security Council have so far not been encountered in the history of the United Nations. London, Paris and Washington, and NATO headquarters in Brussels speak of the “big success” of R2P mission in Libya. If this is meant to mean the removal of Gaddafi’s government, there is justification for the claim to success. But that was not the stated goal of resolution 1973. The R2P test in Libya failed miserably. In addition, it should be pointed out that, like in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was only in the course of the military effort that the governments that participated in this undertaking realised what opposition groups in the “National Transitional Council of Libya” were that the Transitional Authority of the country were to be given responsibility to protect.

The failed R2P application in Libya represents a significant setback for the international protection responsibility debate. The new concept of R2P is not to be used for a long time now. The Syria debate in the UN Security Council on 31 January has made this clear. The Russian Foreign Minister Serge Lavrov said at the 48th Munich Security Conference on 4 February27 that the Russian government fully supports the Arab League initiative for a solution to the conflict in Syria. He also said that “regime change cannot be a matter for the UN Security Council.” A few hours later, as the consultations continued for a resolution text on the Syria conflict, the President of the UN Security Council suddenly conducted a vote – a surprise for Russia and China. They reacted to this with anger and vetoed the draft resolution.

In summary, it must be said that the existence of a standard such as the Responsibility to Protect does not imply that this automatically results in a normative application. Distrust will only change to trust if the term “Responsibility to Protect” is connected to the term “accountability “. The first step of adding “Responsibility to Protect” in the UN Charter right is still to be done. This will take time. Accountability for international policy-making must be the next target. It may be that vital decisions in the UN Security Council (see Iraq and Libya) will be taken for the consequences of which no one is accountable. (full text and Notes 1 to 27).


Responsibility to Protect, a theory without history?

Krieg gegen Libyen – Ursachen, Motive und Folgen, auf AG, von Lühr Henken, nicht datiert.

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