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On Jan. 25, Andrew Natsios, former American envoy to Sudan, said, “The U.S. or the United Nations cannot force anyone. We can only encourage.” And in his final State of the Union Address, George W. Bush’s only reference to Darfur was a single line: “America opposes genocide in Sudan.” The black African survivors in the Darfur and Chad refugee camps were spared hearing these “encouragements,” and I am grateful. Such hollow words would have only deepened their desperation, fear, anger and hopelessness.
As Sudan’s Gen. Omar al-Bashir continues to manipulate, mock and disgrace the United Nations – obstructing the still wholly inadequate U.N.-African Union “peacekeepers in Darfur” – there is a growing movement to restore and regenerate a largely forgotten Oct. 24, 2005, U.N. General Assembly Resolution: the “2005 World Summit Outcome – The Responsibility to Protect.”
That declaration emphasizes that each “individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.” So far, that’s only words, words, words.
Now, after the failure of all nations to protect the victims of the ghastly Rwanda genocide – and the continuing lethal chaos in Darfur and elsewhere – human-rights organizations and activists around the world have formed the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect – intent on finally implementing the General Assembly’s 2005 resolution.
Among the founders are: International Crisis Group, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam International and Refugees International. The patrons include Kofi Annan, one of whose last speeches as U.N. secretary-general – after his miserable failure as U.N. head of Peacekeeping Operations at the time of Rwanda – was an insistence that the sovereignty of individual U.N. nations could be forcibly breached if there were genocide in one of them.
The new Responsibility-to-Protect movement, (R2P), says John Steinberg of the International Crisis Group, is “a way of telling people that sovereignty is not an excuse to facilitate mass killings in your own country.” Its fully funded Global Center is located at the Ralph Bunche Institute of International studies at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York.
There are associated sites: Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect; Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre; and Norwegian Institute Affairs.
Recognizing the crucial need to create political will to protect against genocide – and the means to enact that will – the Global Centre intends to organize “measures at many levels – civilian and military, preventative and reactive” – to enable “early warning and response, better preventative action of all kinds … civilian capabilities, especially policing, on permanent standby … to make R2P real.”
I admire the intention. The hollow pledges of “Never again!” after Rwanda have resulted in untold numbers of mass, untended graves. But I have a cautionary question. The original 2005 U.N. General Assembly “Responsibility to Protect” resolution pledged “collective action in a timely and decisive manner through the Security Council” – and this is the crucial addition – “should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their people … from genocide … and crimes against humanity.”
That means armed intervention when imminently necessary.
And the new Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect also has among its goals to: “Clarify when non-consensual military force can and cannot be used consistently with R2P principles.”
That also means armed intervention when imminently necessary. But there’s a catch. These Global Centre “clear criteria” of when to move in militarily to stop genocide and crimes against humanity have to be “adopted as guidelines by the (U.N.) Security Council.”
This U.N. Security Council, where China, Sudan’s chief economic, political and U.N. protector, sits? What if China – or a temporarily serving Arab state supporter of Sudan’s National Islamic Front government – vetoes any military intervention?
What will the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect do then? This concern of mine, moreover, could be entirely hypothetical. Let us suppose the U.N. Security Council does finally approve immediate military intervention to stop genocide and other horrific crimes by a sovereign nation against its people?
From what nations around the world will the necessary arms, logistical resources and armed soldiers come? Right now, as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon complains bitterly, the meager deployment of the U.N.-African Union nonmilitary force can’t even get 24 helicopters from U.N. member nations.
The answers to these questions – if sustained political and economic pressure on Gen. al-Bashir keeps failing – will determine whether the next successful genocide – after the final solution in Darfur – will also be followed by mournful mumblings of “never again.”
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