Responsibility to Protect – Why it is not fully implemented for the Libya conflict

, by Martin Fischer

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Responsibility to Protect – Why it is not fully implemented for the Libya conflict

In his article from the 29th of March, Rene Wadlow proposed the framework of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) as a strategy to settle the conflict in Libya, as agreed upon in UN Resolution 1973. It is supposed to lead to a ceasefire between rebels and Gaddafis forces. The question of this article merely will be if the R2P, as applied in the Libya conflict, does not rather escalate protests than strengthening democratic process, argued from a game theory point of view.

Looking at the development of the Libya conflict in its current situation there certainly seems an end in sight. Yet also UN Resolution 1973 seems to be stained by the blood of Libyan citizens. The military strikes were surely well prepared and targeted but where there are bombs there will be dead people, a necessary evil?

The R2P offers help to (military) disadvantaged opposition groups facing a strong government that endangers their lives. Taking into consideration this presumption and adding the assumptions of game theory, drawing logical responses to the undertaken measures in the conflict and looking into unintended implications of the R2P, one might argue the following:

- The R2P can lead to escalation of conflicts by opposition groups. The pure existence of an R2P gives the assurance that if a conflict is sufficiently bloody the international community will interfere with the government forces and induce a regime change. This means clear support for the opposition forces in trade for a big sacrifice of human life.

- The UN does not have a strategy to support civic uprising and collective action from the civil society. Tunisia and Egypt were left untouched during the uproar. Diplomatic action was late and often only started after the step down of the former heads of state.

- Dictators are motivated even stronger to control media, access to information, freedom of speech and press and education to avoid the danger of spreading information of their opposition to the international community and to intervene internal changes before they could catch the support of such UN mandates.

- The UN takes one sided action to “mediate” the conflict, which is a schizophrenic act. The international troops actively attack the Gaddafi forces instead of only to preserve the Libyan citizens as said in the resolution. This is clearly not covered by the mandate, undermining the foundation of the United Nations, that specificly do not intend to interfere with national sovereignty. This issue was brought up by Gaddafi and is indeed supported by the acts during the implementation of resolution 1973.

- The mandate does not support troops being stationed in Libya, which is in the follow up of military action often imposed by the following regimes to deport humanitarian aid groups. The procedure could be seen in Dafur 2009. For Libya it will reliant on the outcome of the post-ceasefire dialogue. In case of a non-democratic regime the adopted mandate is possibly not strong enough.

- Rebuilding and humanitarian aid are not clearly supported by the resolution, instead just giving legitimization to armed intervention but lacking a follow up. Diplomatic measures are to be induced but without the help to recover from the damages of the conflict democracy will have a hard start.

These implications are surely not intended by the resolution but may effect future events in so far “stable conflicts”. Of course most of these conflicts are covered by the veto powers in the Security Council but looking to the bloody conflicts in Yemen and Ivory Coast it raises the question on how bloody a conflict needs to get to cause an intervention.

A specification of such criteria would give opposition groups a threshold to provoke UN intervention. The fear of induced media hypes and production of facts might lead dictators all over the world to undermine all possibilities to do so and oppress civil society even stronger.

This deduction of consequences should show that a R2P is not the way to go in order to find sustainable solutions to conflicts. Instead there is a need for support measures for a strong civil society to find peaceful solutions for conflicts and better integration and information of the population. This approach might not fix the basic problems of the people but can generate more solidarity, possibly even transcending the borders of nation states, ethnic groups and religious beliefs.

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