Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The GA and the death of Responsibility to Protect

Tomorrow, the General Assembly is going to have an open debate on one of Ambassador At Large's favorite topics, the erstwhile Responsibility To Protect, or R2P. Theoretically the GA will just have an open debate (read: canned speeches with no outcome), or adopt a resolution welcoming the report. However, worries abound that developing nations, worried about infringements on their sovereignty, might force through a GA resolution watering down the statue or backing away from the GA's previous endorsement of R2P. Over at UN Dispatch, John Boonstra explains why they shouldn't.

This would be a grievous, and terribly counterproductive, mistake. In adopting R2P three years ago, GA countries signaled their commitment to helping the doctrine progress, making its laudable goals an achievable reality. The emphasis on R2P shifted to the more powerful Security Council, which officially incorporated the next year in Resolution 1674, then applied it to the specific case of Darfur. It has been hard enough to implement R2P; the misguided notion that it provides carte blanche for military intervention by Western powers is entirely fictitious, but it carries with it easy political points for the leaders of developing countries.

Symbolically, when the Secretary-General presented his report, he did it solely to the GA, not to the Security Council. (Normally, he would present such a report to both of them at the same time.) Still, tomorrow's debate will demonstrate whether the report's even-handed and practical treatment of R2P is enough to sway the membership. AAL yesterday asked a Western diplomat if there would be any outcome from the GA meeting, and was told "I hope not. If there is, it would probably not be positive."

In short, the pro-R2P crowd has some work to do.

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