7.17.2011

R2P Version 2.0

Source: Christian Science Monitor
It's clear the world is in need of a document that encourages nations to protect innocent civilians, especially now that conflicts are increasingly targeting non-militarized populations. Women and children, especially, should be able to live free from fear of what the day might bring them when their country is at war. 

The Responsibility to Protect looks nice on paper. In fact, it looks great! Making it the obligation and responsibility for the world to care what is happening in distant countries makes it seem as if progress is being made toward making the world a more peaceful place. But in actuality, R2P is just a toothless document that is either used to justify intervention where there shouldn't be or to push aside action when it needs to be taken. If R2P has failed, then what do we do?

It is my firm belief that the United Nations and ICISS need to reform the document. R2P should still exist, that is unquestionable, but elements need to be added to make the document more effective, like laying out concrete definitions of the terms it uses such as genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity so that nations cannot claim that they are not occurring in certain areas. Setting a numerical threshold might not be the best option for the UN to take in these definitions because, say, the threshold for a conflict to be labeled a 'genocide' the number of deaths needs to exceed 100,000, then this almost makes it seem as if it is permissible for a state to kill 90,000 of its civilians. Although an exact numerical threshold might not be the best course of action, there needs to be a more concrete threshold that a conflict passes to call for intervention. This would be up to the United Nations to decide.

Lastly, in order to make R2P truly effective, it needs to open its voting to more than just the UN Security Council. Taking away the right to veto would not be reasonable (since it would then allow for intervention in all crises), but opening up the voting to, say, the UN General Assembly would provide a more diverse audience to vote (one that is truly representative of the world's nations since all are present) and it would give a voice to nations with less self-interest in the conflict-ridden regions so that the final decision would be less biased than just the world's nuclear-superpowers voting.

Why should we care? I saw first-hand in Sierra Leone what lack of intervention does to a country. Long forgotten and far off the international radar now, Sierra Leone is among the poorest, if not the poorest country, in the world with much of its citizens living on less than a dollar a day. Electricity is scare, there are no telephone lines, internet is sporadic, and traffic lights are nonexistent. Roads barely exist, women face gender-based violence, and the youth can't find employment. Sierra Leone was forgotten after its brutal war, and to be honest, it was largely forgotten during its decade long civil war too. As an international community, we can do better than that! This is the twenty-first century: we have advanced technology, limitless communication skills, improved governments and democracy, and international institutions created specifically to promote peace and security abroad. It is inexcusable for innocent civilians to still be dying as the world looks on. After all, a person's a person, no matter how small (or distant), right?

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