Monday, March 16, 2009

Sudan and the death of Responsibility To Protect

Can you force aid into a country? So, for example, if the Sudan kicks all foreign aid workers out of the country, as President Bashir suggested it might, could and should the Security Council pass a resolution forcing the Sudan to accept the aid workers back in?

Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes was asked this today at a briefing at UN Headquarters, and his response, the same as during Myanmar, speaks volumes.

Whether it's possible in practice to force aid into a country is an issue which we've addressed before in Myanmar. That's not a position I'd want us to find ourselves in because it's not one where aid can be satisfactorily distributed.

Of course, Holmes took the same line during the Cyclone Nargis aftermath. While humanitarian hawks gnashed their teeth, Holmes quietly negotiated the entry of almost all the aid with government permission over the course of two frantic weeks, saving thousands of lives and preventing a geopolitical showdown which would have probably involved overthrowing the Myanmar government and would have not saved anybody but would have killed and awful lot of people. Advantage, Holmes. The moral of the story is that aid cannot be delivered from the barrel of a gun. Get over it, Kouchnerites.

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