Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Serving Canada's Interest in Human Rights

W2I a realistic upgrade on R2P

When the Responsibility to Protect (also known as R2P) was released, it promised to revolutionize the foreign policy debate on human rights and the manner in which failed states would be handled by the international community.

The doctrine simply stated that countries have the responsibility to protect their citizenry and respect their human rights. If any state failed to live up to this responsibility, the stable and wealthy nations of the world had a responsibility to step in and protect their citizens, whether that protection was from the forces of another state, militant groups within the country or from the state itself.

In some cases the western world exercised its responsibility in these matters -- in Kosovo and Afghanistan.

In other cases -- such as Rwanda and the Sudan -- this responsibility was not exercised.

The Will to Intervene, a foreign policy strategy developed by retired diplomat Robert Fowler, former International Association of Genocide Scholars President Dr Frank Chalk, Senators Romeo Dallaire and Hugh Segal, and former NDP leader Ed Broadbent, will hopefully fill in the missing blanks of R2P.

The report addresses numerous issues that tend to emerge around genocide and other crimes against humanity, including refugee camps (which they rightly note can help to spread various diseases, including potential pandemics).

"One of the most surprising discoveries we made ... is how vulnerable we are here in Canada to the indirect consequences of events like the Rwanda genocide," Dr Chalk noted. "These things will come back and invade the soft, quiet, safe, comfortable lives that we live in these parts of the world."

The report argues that "The chaos resulting from these atrocities poses credible danger to Canadian and American national interests at home and abroad."

"We need to redefine our national interest more broadly, not only to help failing states, but also to help and protect ourselves," the report adds. It notes that Canada should be prepared to use military force when necessary (and possible) in places where violence threatens the lives of civilians.

"If you're a leading middle power in the world and you have in the entrails of your ethos the belief of human rights and the belief in humanity and the moral strength to back up all those conventions you've signed, then you've also got to be prepared to not just throw cash at it afterwards, which usually ends up costing a lot more than preventing, but also sweat, tears and sometimes the blood of some of our youth," Dallaire insists.

"If we in fact move into a realm where we proactively intervene with the soft power elements of increasing our diplomatic capabilities, our international development capabilities, of going in and assisting to diffusing the frictions, that is peanuts compared to the billions (of dollars) ... of trying to pick up and sustain millions of people who are suffering."

Ed Broadbent elaborated on the depth of the human suffering that can be prevented if Canada acts sooner, as opposed to later.

"If the government of Canada had done the right thing when they had that information, perhaps the atrocious situation that confronted General Dallaire and the world community a year later could have been headed off," he noted.

The report recommends the establishment of a government ministry responsible for the global prevention of genocide -- clearly sharing responsibilities with the Ministers of National Defence, Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation -- to plan and coordinate early responses wherever crimes against humanity are taking place, as well as a Commons standing committee on preventing genocide.

The report also calls for Canada to act with its allies in preventing these atrocities.

"We should not be doing it alone," Dr Chalk announced. "But before we can co-operate with allies and a coalition of the willing, we have to improve our own domestic capacity to co-operate. That means we need more infantry, that means we need new doctrines for the Canadian military so that they're being trained to protect civilians and can interface with other armies doing the same if necessary."

Dr Chalk boldly notes that Canada may even have to circumvent the UN Security Council and plan missions without the Security Council's authorization.

Hugh Segal noted that part of Canada's strategy toward genocide requires taking decision-making power out of the hands of bureaucrats. Segal noted that they must be denied the "flexibility to avoid" the responsibility to act.

Fowler recounted the story of a foreign affairs bureaucrat writing "not in Canada's interest" on a memo his office had issued about the genocide in Rwanda.

"That is, as far as I'm concerned, a simply unacceptable reaction," Fowler fumed. “What we are talking about here is the moral imperative of engaging when truly appalling, unspeakable and unacceptable things are occurring.”

"It's about what I would call coalitions of the relevant ... acting when there is no other choice," added Segal.

As valuable a document as Responsibility to Protect was, it suffered from one fatal flaw: that many governments, including Canada's often fail to find the Will to Intervene.

W2I sends a powerful message to the world: Canada will intervene whereever possible, whenever possible, and by whatever means possible. If Canada's allies don't want to be embarrassed by inaction, they'd better prepared to muster the same will.

Five very wise men -- Robert Fowler, Dr Robert Chalk, Romeo Dallaire, Hugh Segal and Ed Broadbent -- have spoken. Now it's the responsibility of the government to do the right thing with the recommendations in this report: implement them.

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