International Day of Peace, 21 September 2011Message of the Secretary-General

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Every year on the International Day of Peace, people around the world commit to non-violence and to harmony among all peoples and nations.

Peace is our mission; our day-to-day quest.

This year’s theme focuses on the timely issue of peace and democracy.

Democracy is a core value of the United Nations.

It is crucial for human rights.

It provides channels for resolving differences.

It gives hope to the marginalized and power to the people.

But democracy does not just happen; it has to be nurtured and defended.

The world needs you to speak out:

for social justice and freedom of the press;

for a clean environment and women’s empowerment;

for the rule of law and the right to a say in one’s own future.

This year, young people have been on the frontlines for freedom.

I salute the activists and ordinary people for their courage and determination to build a better future.

We at the United Nations will work in common cause to realize our shared aspirations for dignity, security and opportunity for all.

To all those seeking peace, this is your day, and we are with you.

Ban Ki-moon



Report by Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, following his visit to Italy from 26 to 27 May 2011

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Report by Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, following his visit to Italy from 26 to 27 May 2011


Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg and his delegation visited Italy from 26 to 27 May 2011. In the course of this visit the Commissioner held discussions with representatives of the Italian authorities and institutions as well as with members of civil society. The present report focuses on the following selected human rights issues:

I. Protection of the human rights of Roma and Sinti

Anti-Gypsyism in political discourse

The Commissioner continues to be concerned at the presence of racist and xenophobic political discourse in Italy, targeting notably Roma and Sinti. This type of discourse is a powerful vector of anti-Gypsyism in Italian society and as a result, it also offsets the benefits of social inclusion work for Roma and Sinti carried out around the country. The Commissioner calls on the Italian authorities to act urgently to address this phenomenon. Among the measures suggested feature self-regulatory initiatives by political parties and a vigorous implementation of the criminal law provisions against racist offences, some of which also need to be fine-tuned. In order to combat anti-Gypsyism, further efforts are needed to promote knowledge of Roma history and culture. The Commissioner reiterates that a wide dissemination and use, notably in schools, of the Council of Europe’s Fact Sheets on Roma History would make an important contribution to this endeavour.

Housing and evictions

Recent years have seen widespread evictions of Roma and Sinti from settlements in Italy, often in manners that are at variance with human rights standards. The declared state of “Nomad emergency” together with the legislation and extraordinary powers flowing from it, have provided the bedrock for the development of these practices, which have had a negative impact on the enjoyment by Roma and Sinti not only of the right to housing, but also of other human rights, including children’s right to education. The Commissioner urges the Italian authorities to act in accordance with international and Council of Europe standards in the field of housing and evictions, and to bring the situation fully into line with the revised European Social Charter, in light of the findings of the Committee of Social Rights in its June 2010 decision Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) against Italy.

Violent hate crimes

Reported instances of anti-Roma violence at the hands of private individuals, but also sometimes by law enforcement officials, point to a continuing need for the Italian authorities to improve their response to racially-motivated violence in general. The Commissioner calls on the Italian authorities to respect the relevant Council of Europe standards and use the latter’s extensive guidance on both improving the response of the police to racist offences and on combating racially-motivated misconduct by the police. In particular, the system for monitoring racist incidents and racist offences could be improved through the introduction of a more flexible and victim-friendly system of reporting and recording relevant incidents.


Many Roma who came to Italy from the former Yugoslavia in the 1960s and 70s and during the war in the 1990s still live in Italy today without Italian or any other citizenship. Their descendants, whose number is currently estimated at around 15 000, are also de facto stateless in Italy in spite of having been born and lived there all their lives. The Commissioner urges the Italian authorities to address this situation. He also reiterates his call for the ratification by Italy of the European Convention on Nationality without reservations.

Overall strategies for the inclusion of Roma and Sinti in society

There is a continuing need for a national strategy for the social inclusion of Roma and Sinti in Italy that would provide coherence to and support efforts at regional and local level in this field. As an interim step towards such a strategy, the Commissioner suggests the establishment of a task force at national level, which would support and service a network of regional and local stakeholders that are active in social inclusion work for Roma and Sinti. In order to maximise the strategy’s chances of producing long-term results, it should focus more heavily on social inclusion, non-discrimination and combating anti-Gypsyism and less on coercive measures such as forcible evictions and expulsions.

II. Protection of the human rights of migrants, including asylum seekers

Rescue operations and interceptions at sea

The Commissioner welcomes the invaluable efforts of the Italian authorities aimed at rescuing migrants on boats crossing the Mediterranean. He strongly encourages the Italian authorities to maintain their long-standing tradition of rescue, which is all the more indispensable in the current context of forced migration from Libya. He calls on the Italian authorities to ensure that in all cases where migrants are in distress at sea their rescue and safety enjoy absolute priority over all other considerations, including any lack of clarity and agreement, notably between Italy and Malta, about responsibilities for rescue. With reference to the operations carried out jointly with Libya in the central Mediterranean aimed at intercepting migrants fleeing Libya on boats and returning them there (so-called push-backs), the Commissioner urges the Italian authorities to discontinue and refrain from becoming involved in any practices in the field of interceptions at sea that may result in migrants being sent to places where they are at risk of ill treatment or onward refoulement.

Reception of migrants, including asylum seekers

The sharp increase in arrivals from the coasts of Northern Africa has put the Italian system of reception of migrants, including asylum seekers, under strain. The Italian authorities are encouraged to ensure that their reception arrangements can respond effectively to fluctuating trends in arrivals and asylum applications, notably by extending the capacity of the housing schemes administered by SPRAR, a publicly-funded network of local authorities and non-profit organisations. Progress is also needed to ensure that in all centres where they are accommodated, asylum seekers have adequate access to legal aid and psycho-social assistance. Special measures to identify and cater for the needs of vulnerable individuals should be effectively implemented. Lack of clarity concerning the nature of the centres where migrants are kept and the regime applicable to them (including detention or not) have contributed to jeopardising the rights of migrants. With reference to the repatriation of Tunisian nationals through “simplified procedures”, the Commissioner calls on the Italian authorities to ensure that the relevant human rights safeguards, including access to procedures to challenge removal, and the prohibition of collective expulsions are thoroughly respected.

Integration of refugees and other beneficiaries of international protection

There is a need to make progress on the front of establishing a reliable system to support the integration of refugees and other beneficiaries of international protection in Italian society. Noting that these persons sometimes become destitute or homeless, the Commissioner calls for a strengthening of local authorities’ capacity to provide accommodation and services, notably through the channelling of more funds and the involvement of more regions and municipalities. Further useful measures include a comprehensive review of laws and regulations that impact on refugee integration and the introduction of positive action measures, for instance on the labour market, that support integration at the initial stages following status recognition. The current difficulties encountered by refugees in accessing Italian nationality and the excessive delays they experience in obtaining family reunification should also be addressed.


1. The present Report is based on a visit to Italy by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights (the Commissioner) from 26 to 27 March 2011.1 The aim of the visit was to review certain human rights issues in Italy, focusing in particular on the protection of the human rights of Roma, Sinti and migrants, including asylum seekers.

2. In the course of the visit, the Commissioner held discussions with representatives of the national authorities, including the Secretary of State of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Mr Gianni Letta, the Secretary of State of the Ministry of Interior, Ms Sonia Viale, and the Prefect of Milan, Mr Gian Valerio Lombardi. He also met with the President of the Extraordinary Commission for the Promotion of Human Rights of the Italian Senate, Mr Pietro Marcenaro, and representatives of the National Association of Italian Municipalities (ANCI). Commissioner Hammarberg also held discussions with a number of intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations active in the field of protecting the human rights of Roma, Sinti and migrants, including asylum seekers. In Milan, he visited an unauthorised settlement of Romanian Roma, and a regular settlement inhabited by Italian Roma.

3. The Commissioner wishes to thank the Italian authorities, and in particular the Permanent Representation of Italy to the Council of Europe, for their assistance in organising the visit and facilitating its independent and smooth execution. He wishes to thank all of his interlocutors, from the national authorities, civil society and the communities he visited, for their willingness to share their knowledge and insights with him.

4. The Commissioner considers that the treatment afforded by member states to minority groups such as Roma, Sinti and migrants, including asylum seekers, constitutes a litmus test regarding the effective observance of Council of Europe human rights standards by member states. This is also true for Italy, where the situation of these persons currently poses some of the most pressing human rights challenges the country has to face.

5. Accordingly, the protection of the human rights of Roma, Sinti and migrants, including asylum seekers, has been the subject of long-standing attention by the Commissioner in Italy, as reflected notably in the Report and Memorandum he published in 2009 and 2008 respectively.2 The present report also follows up on some of the findings of the previous Report and Memorandum.

6. In the present Report, the Commissioner focuses on the following major issues concerning the protection of the human rights of Roma and Sinti: anti-Gypsyism in political discourse (Section I a); housing and evictions (Section I b); violent hate crimes (Section I c) statelessness (Section I d); and overall strategies for the inclusion of Roma and Sinti in society (Section I e). With regard to the protection of the human rights of migrants, including asylum seekers, the present report focuses on: rescue operations and interceptions at sea (Section II a); reception of migrants, including asylum seekers (Section II b); and integration of refugees and other beneficiaries of international protection (Section II c).

GUARDIAN : Priest appeals for justice for African migrants left to die on boat

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9/7/2011   12:47 PM

GUARDIAN : Priest appeals for justice for African migrants left to die on boat

A priest who alerted the world to a boat carrying dying African migrants in the Mediterranean has appealed for justice at the launch of a European investigation into claims that the boat was ignored by a military helicopter and an aircraft carrier.

“I spoke to the migrants, I alerted the authorities. People were on that boat waving babies in the air when the naval vessel passed, and yet they still died of hunger and thirst,” said Father Moses Zerai, an Eritrean priest based in Rome. He received a panicked phone call from the boat, which had left Tropoli for Lampedusa carrying 72 sub-Saharan Africans on 25 March but had run out of fuel.

On Tuesday Zerai, along with three of only nine survivors of the boat trip, were interviewed in Rome by the Dutch senator Tineke Strik, who is heading a Council of Europe inquiry into claims that a military helicopter dropped water to the migrants but then vanished and that a naval vessel simply ignored them.

“What I have heard today is horrific,” said Strik, who is planning interviews with officials from Nato and the Maltese government, which the Italian coastguard says was alerted to the boat’s plight.

“I still see the people dying before me when I sleep,” said Abu Kurke, 23, an Ethiopian survivor who met Strik. “The helicopter gave us water but did not save us – are we not human beings?” Kurke had spent 12 months in a Libyan jail before attempting the dangerous sea crossing.

Zearai, founder of a group assisting migrants in Italy, said he had received about 50 desperate calls from migrants on board sinking or drifting vessels this year thanks to the broadcast of his number on African radio programmes.

The UN says that of 28,000 sub-Saharan Africans who have boarded rickety vessels in 2011 to flee persecution and bombs in Libya, 1,500 have never been seen again, either drowning as their overcrowded vessels sank or dying from hunger and dehydration.

For thousands who had escaped to Libya from famine or oppression, the treacherous sea crossing promised a new life in Europe. But Muammar Gaddafi struck a deal with Italy in 2008 to halt the boats and threw many migrants into prisons. He switched tack when Italy joined the Nato bombing campaign, according to former loyalists, and encouraged sailings in an effort to turn tiny Lampedusa into a “migrant hell” using “human bombs” to punish Italy. Boatloads of Africans arrived on the island, joining 26,000 Tunisians sailing to Italy after the overthrow of the Tunisian government.

Zerai said the biggest tragedy of all had attracted the least media attention. A boat loaded with 335 migrants, mainly Eritreans, left Tripoli on 22 March only to disappear without trace. “Relatives – from Canada, the US and Europe – of most of the passengers have called, but there is nothing I can say to them.”

Now, despite the overthrow of Gaddafi, Zerai believes renewed persecution may encourage migrants to continue sailing.

On Tuesday, Zerai said he was astonished at the courage of the survivors of the 25 March sailing whom he met in Rome.

“They first landed back in Libya with terrible sunburn, including eye damage, but, incredibly, these three Ethiopians got straight back on boats and made it to Italy the second time,” he said.

War and corruption are responsible for famines, not droughts

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The politics of hunger, part one

War and corruption are responsible for famines, not droughts

Thomas Keneally

From Saturday’s Globe and Mail

The first part of a week-long look at the crisis in the Horn of Africa

I have never quite believed that simplistic formula invoked in so many modern famines: “caused by a severe drought.”

Not that there isn’t a severe drought now in southern Somalia, neighbouring Ethiopia and parts of Kenya. There undeniably is. Last October to December, rains did not appear at all in the area. The March-April rains this year were late. My skepticism arises, though, because I come from perhaps the driest continent on Earth, which has suffered recurrent droughts from earliest settler experience, including the El Nino-influenced drought that seemed to run nearly non-stop from the early 1990s to last year. Many of our farmers were forced off land their families had held for generations.

There has always been drought-induced anguish in the Australian bush. But no one starves. Malnutrition, undeniably, and particularly in indigenous communities, but no famine.

How is it the citizens of drought-stricken homelands in Somalia and the “triangle of death” have none of the guarantees my drought-stricken compatriots have? It’s because, as the famed aphorism of Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen puts it, “no famine has ever taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy.”

Similarly, an Irish friend of mine, a respected historian of famine named Cormac Ó Gráda, writes, “Agency is more important than a food-production shortfall. Mars counts for more than Malthus.” In contrast to Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus, the 19th-century population theorist who blamed overpopulation and land overuse for the Irish famine, Mr. Ó Gráda sees war and other human actions as the engines of famine. His point is evident in the Horn of Africa now.

One of the affected areas of Ethiopia is, for example, the Ogaden, whose people consider themselves kinsman of the Somalis and are similarly Muslim. It is in their territory that conflict between the Ethiopian army and Somali rebels has occurred over recent years, with many savageries and violation.

No famine has ever taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy. — Amartya Sen

The central regime in Addis Ababa has never felt kindly or acted tenderly toward the Ogadenians anyhow, nor given them a decent share of roads or clinics or schools. Is it a priority now to feed and care for them?

All famines share common qualities, a similar DNA, that reduce acts of God like drought from real causes to mere tipping or triggering mechanisms. Famines often occur where farming and grazing are suddenly disrupted to fit some ideological plan of the leaders of the country, as in Mao’s Great Leap Forward in the 1950s, Ethiopia in the 1980s and North Korea repeatedly since the mid-1990s.

Famines also strike in areas where people live in hunger and malnutrition year after year. Malnutrition is a sensitivity-numbing word – it does not capture the swollen joints, flaking skin, retarded growth, porous and fragile bone, diminished height, lethargy and disabling confusion of soul that characterize it.

As it’s been said, a malnourished child can still howl out; a starving one has no strength to.

As many as 60 per cent of North Korean children aged six months to seven years were malnourished in 2010, so they were set up to become the victims of famine over the past year. Once again, ideology and military priorities offer a better explanation than mere food shortage: The regime’s re-evaluation of its currency wiped out the spending power of families, all to sustain itself and its army.

Similarly, southern Somalia, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, had the highest level of child malnutrition on Earth in July this year. A few unlucky factors, and malnutrition becomes famine.

People in that rural hinterland already lived off only a few food staples. Among some pastoral people who survive by livestock holdings, death of animals by June this year was reaching 60 per cent. The value of a cow relative to how much grain a family could buy with it had fallen by two-thirds. Grain and lentils are what farmers live off there. As with the Irish and their buttermilk and potatoes long ago, the East African diet is balanced on a two-legged stool. Still, if drought were the cause, we could just help them until the rains returned. But it’s the helping that is complicated. Climate isn’t the complication; humans are.

Refusing aid from an ideological ‘enemy’

The Ethiopian army invaded a civil-war-savaged Somalia in 2006 and, after a hard-fisted occupation, installed an unpopular and only partly successful transitional federal government. Assorted militias, such as the oft-mentioned al-Shabab (“the youth”), retained the hinterland, where conflicts, raids and molestation of citizens by both sides have been common ever since.

Al-Shabab has been driven from Mogadishu, but it is the most commonly cited military villain in this famine. Al-Shabab believes that many Western agencies oppose it because of its desire to make Somalia an Islamist state.

Therefore, it restricts the entry of agencies and non-governmental organizations into its area to those it considers neutral – Red Cross and Red Crescent in particular. It rules out the World Food Program and UNICEF and agencies such as CARE. It has created its own Office for the Supervision to Regulate the Affairs of Foreign Agencies.

There is denial that famine actually exists too. “The UN wants Somalia to be in famine,” a spokesman, Ali Mohamud Rage, has said. “They want push pressure on us through such calls. We agree that there is hunger in some areas, but there is no famine in Somalia.”

Agencies and aid bodies are not always without their flaws, but it is al-Shabab, not drought, that stands between the starving and the food.

Al-Shabab not only threatens aid workers but tries to prevent and punish refugees who try to cross into so-called Christian countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya.

It must be terrifying for the men, women and children now trying to get into Kenya to find themselves surrounded by militia men emerging from the thorn trees.

Is the transitional federal government in Mogadishu an improvement or another face of the problem?

It seems that it is either too venal or too powerless to prevent the plunder of aid food.

Joakim Gundul, a Kenyan assessor of aid results, says, “While helping starving people, you are also feeding the power groups who make a business out of the disaster. … You’re saving people’s lives today so they can die tomorrow.”

How the new honesty might backfire

It seems to me that in earlier famines, this issue of human agency has not been nearly as honestly and openly discussed by journalists and officials. K’naan, the famed multitalented Canadian Somali, is rightly appalled at what he sees as a slow reaction of the world to this crisis, but the question arises whether the greater honesty about human blame is slowing the response.

The vigour and enthusiasm that came into play in the West’s reaction to the Ethiopian famines of the early 1980s has not yet appeared.

Aid to Ethiopia lagged in the early phases of that famine too. The West was dubious about then-president Mengistu Haile Mariam’s closeness to the Soviets until BBC and CBC footage, combined with the involvement of rock stars and telethons, shamed governments into increasing the flow of aid.

And not only governments: A farmer from Guelph, Ont., Fred Benson, galvanized by the news from Ethiopia, gave his 107-acre farm to a Mennonite aid agency for the sake of people whose faces he had never seen.

Yet it wasn’t much discussed at the time that Mr. Mengistu was arming his troops for a so-called Red Star offensive against the Eritrean rebels with expensive Russian armaments bought with the substance of his starving nation.

With my own eyes, at the time, I saw the astonishing quantities of arms and aircraft he had brought to Eritrea, when I was caught unexpectedly for the better part of the week in a besieged town named Nacfa in the Eritrean highlands.

As an Eritrean minder told me, “He’s blowing schools and clinics out of the mouth of his cannon.”

At the same time, Mr. Mengistu was putting great emphasis on celebrating the 10th anniversary of his regime, such that Addis Ababa became a Disneyland of Stalinist achievement in the midst of a hungering populace.

Few voices were raised to tell us all this, or to tell us about the forced resettlement of millions into unfamiliar country. If we had known it all, would Fred Benson have been as generous? Would there have been a Bob Geldof?

For us today, unfortunately, this Horn of Africa famine is another in a string of almost expected events. We expect that the world will get some emergency aid there. We feel as if we have heard the whole story before. Yet it is an utterly fresh and terrifying experience for the people of the “triangle.” They have tried every way of survival. They have skimped at meals, have seen what crops they could grow wither and have lost their livestock or tried to sell them in a glutted market. Meanwhile, the grain shortage sends prices up, and even encourages hoarding by merchants, while in their huts farmers face the massive question of whether they should eat next year’s seed crop, one of the final acts of familial desperation.

These starving have looked for eyes of undigested grain in cow manure; they have foraged for wild foods, yehub nuts and berries, in competition with their neighbours. Any family jewellery has been sold. Many starving women probably have been forced to make a Sophie’s choice, whether to feed a child likely to die or one not already sick.

And as they slide toward starvation, the devastation of their immune systems will attract assaults by opportunist bacteria. There’s no sense of banal repetition in their struggles.

Perhaps we must try a new theorem: to try to get the Somalis and the Ethiopians fed precisely because their governments have not yet created societies in which supply and support are taken for granted.

Aid agencies could be given breaks from endless pie charts about administration costs and aid delivery per donor dollar and stop pretending that they will be permitted to go everywhere they like and to do all the good they can. They should simply invite us into the general struggle to deliver aid as energetically, cleverly and well as the malign circumstances on the desolate ground permit them.

As for the regimes, Mr. Sen’s statement glimmers like a tinsel promise, an undeniable though not immediately useful tool, out there in what aid workers call “the field.”

But in approaching that dilemma – how to make regimes behave – I have moved far into “wiser-heads-than-mine” territory. And by the time we solved it, there would be millions dead in Africa.

Thomas Keneally, an Australian novelist and writer, is the Booker Prize-winning author of Schindler’s Ark (which became the film Schindler’s List), The Great Shame and, recently, Three Famines: Starvation and Politics.


Humanitarian Inquisition

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Does success in Libya prove that the “responsibility to protect” works, or has it opened a Pandora’s box of shaky precedent?


The defeat of Muammar al-Qaddafi’s regime has produced a vigorous debate about the lessons of the intervention. Plenty of the commentary has focused on what the rebel victory means for U.S. President Barack Obama’s political future and his foreign-policy doctrine of “leading from behind,” as well as the NATO alliance. But beyond the Beltway, in capitals all over the globe, the Libya experience is also an important test for the doctrine of humanitarian intervention, which has moved in and out of fashion during the past two decades. For those think that the international community should stop the depredations of violent regimes — by force if necessary — Libya is a milestone. But the intervention also poses some difficult questions.

1. Is a slow victory better than a quick defeat?

Western-led intervention in Libya was designed to avert the defeat and feared massacre of regime opponents in the rebel capital of Benghazi. The massacre didn’t happen. (Whether it ever would have is a matter of significant debate, though revelations of massacres by government forces in Tripoli bolster the case.) Instead, intervention produced a grinding six-month conflict that still hasn’t fully ended. By most accounts, the conflict has taken at least 20,000 lives. At least one National Transitional Committee (NTC) commander estimates that 50,000 Libyans have died. If the sole criterion is whether lives were saved, the operation may have failed. It’s at least possible that a quick victory by Qaddafi — which appeared likely in February — would have resulted in fewer deaths than the prolonged conflict.

The notion of acquiescing to a brutal crackdown on humanitarian grounds may seem perverse. But humanitarians make that kind of calculation all the time, though not always explicitly. The scale of human suffering in North Korea, for instance, dwarfs that in Libya. Yet no serious observer calls for intervention there, because of the expected cost. In Libya, Western policymakers argued that the balance tilted in favor of action. But particularly if a humanitarian intervention will be limited to air support for local resistance, the expected toll of prolonged fighting must be factored into the calculus.

Unless, that is, the humanitarian calculus is not the most important one. Intervention can support all sorts of other values and goals, including self-determination and self-government. Supporting a rebel group with a just cause might be the right choice even if doing so produces a prolonged and bloody conflict. Taking those other objectives into account, however, requires a debate that goes well beyond a simple humanitarian calculus.

2. Is Security Council approval necessary?

Britain, France, and the United States made winning the U.N. Security Council’s approval for intervention in Libya a priority. A Russian or Chinese veto would have stopped the operation in its tracks, and Qaddafi today would likely be mopping up the remnants of a scattered opposition. That Libya’s fate was effectively in the hands of Moscow and Beijing is a reminder that humanitarianism, at least sanctioned by the United Nations, depends on power politics.

Advocates of an international “responsibility to protect” (R2P) were thrilled that the powerful Security Council appeared to be endorsing the doctrine. Their joy may have been premature. The council soon divided into different camps on the conduct of the campaign, with the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) in particular roundly criticizing what they saw as NATO’s abuses of its authority.

Instead of cementing R2P into council practice, the Libya experience may have made future Security Council backing for humanitarian intervention less likely, at least in the medium term. Russia and China have been extremely reluctant to impose sanctions on Syria, in part because they don’t want to start down the road taken in Libya. And that means that the international community will likely be forced to grapple again with how R2P meshes with existing international law, which requires Security Council approval for uses of force other than self-defense.

3. Can you defend civilians without taking sides?

As the BRIC countries and other critics have pointed out repeatedly, NATO’s Libya action almost immediately became a regime-change operation, albeit a limited and halting one. In the midst of the campaign, NATO’s Libya triumvirate — French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and Obama — made clear that Qaddafi’s defeat was essential. “It is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Qaddafi in power,” they wrote in mid-April. NATO’s air power gradually wore down the regime’s military forces. Coalition aircraft targeted Qaddafi’s forces not only when they were engaged in attacks on civilians but when they were fighting armed rebels, transiting from one location to another, or simply idling in the desert. Western planes bombed the regime’s senior leadership and selectively enforced the U.N. arms embargo on Libya so as to permit a flow of weapons to the rebels. Outside forces had a mandate to protect civilians; instead, they effectively became the rebel air force, special operations wing, and intelligence service.

The divergence between the mission’s legal mandate and its methods drove some observers to distraction. But the duplicity was inevitable. Outsiders always struggle to police conflicts neutrally, and that difficult task becomes all but impossible from the air. Siding with the rebels was the only intervention strategy that made operational sense. The problem was not the strategy, but the inability of those intervening to honestly explain what they were doing. Because the Security Council never would have endorsed intervention on behalf of the rebels, intervening governments felt compelled to cast the entire operation in terms of neutral civilian protection.

This dynamic introduces a significant legitimacy problem for R2P. Non-Western observers are already wary of a doctrine that they believe easily slides into neocolonialism. The manifest partiality of the West’s Libya intervention — and its inability to speak clearly about what it was doing — will likely heighten those concerns.

4. Does limited involvement mean limited responsibility?

Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell famously proposed a “Pottery Barn rule” for intervention: You break a country, you own it. No one doubts that NATO’s intervention was critical to the success of the anti-regime forces. Six months of air support turned the tide. So does the Pottery Barn rule apply? Or does the fact that international military intervention came from on high mean that outsiders have a lesser obligation in a post-Qaddafi Libya? Western political leaders appear to believe so. NATO has passed responsibility for the post-conflict phase to the United Nations, though its members know well that lightly armed U.N. peacekeepers would not be capable of maintaining order if tribal or ethnic conflict broke out. (NTC leaders have said that they do not want U.N. peacekeepers in any case).

It’s not clear why the Western obligation to Libya should be reduced because they destroyed the Qaddafi regime from the air. Outsiders determined Libya’s political future no less obviously than the United States did in Iraq. The United States had a clear obligation to help restrain the violence that its invasion in Mesopotamia set in motion. The Western obligation won’t be any less if post-Qaddafi Libya descends into violence.

5. Are civilian lives the only ones that matter?

The rhetoric about protecting civilians has become so ubiquitous in recent years that it’s possible to forget that modern wars actually involve armed combatants — and that limiting their suffering and death is also an important goal. There’s relatively little sympathy for the mercenaries who populated Qaddafi’s army, and maybe that’s as it should be. But Qaddafi’s forces were not entirely mercenary; they also included plenty of conscripts, some reportedly as young as 15. Western hearts bleed for Libyan civilians but are unmoved when a Qaddafi conscript — who likely had no say in whether to fight — is incinerated in a tank. The doctrine of protecting civilians responds to a powerful moral impulse: that civilians have not chosen conflict and are not trained for it. Unfortunately, the same can be said for many of those compelled to fight for despotic regimes.


At HLS, Gene Sharp offers insights on nonviolent struggles

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At HLS, Gene Sharp offers insights on nonviolent struggles

Gene Sharp

Dr. Gene Sharp, founder of the Albert Einstein Institution

April 01, 2011

Strategic planning and extensive knowledge are instrumental to staging successful nonviolent struggles, said Dr. Gene Sharp, the founder of the Albert Einstein Institution and author of several acclaimed books on nonviolent action during conflicts.

Speaking to students at a lecture sponsored by the Harvard Law School Advocates for Human Rights on March 9, the Nobel Peace Prize nominee discussed various elements of an effective nonviolent struggle and addressed the recent demonstrations in the Middle East in light of his research.

Sharp began his talk by recognizing how easy it is to feel helpless and powerless in a world rife with oppression, dictatorships, genocide and exploitation. Nevertheless, it is important to focus not on what cannot be done, but what is possible, he said, citing the 1943 Rosenstrasse protest in which German women demonstrated on the streets of Berlin, blocks away from Gestapo headquarters, until their Jewish husbands were released from concentration camps.

“The stereotypes of where this works and where this cannot work—forget that,” said Sharp. “Because we need to start not where it can’t work, but where does it work. And how far will we push that back.”

It is therefore important, he added, for those wishing to engage in nonviolent struggle to study historically successful examples and learn to improve upon them to make their own efforts more effective. They should look for the inherent weaknesses of the regime against which they plan to rebel, and focus the strengths of their civil resistance on those areas to accelerate its impact.

“What has happened already can happen again… not by improvising and (saying) ‘what do we feel like doing today?’” he said. “No, you need to start studying decades or years before.”

Sharp, who has been called the “Machiavelli of nonviolence” and the “Clausewitz of nonviolent warfare,” went on to explain the three basic things people need to do before planning nonviolent action: understand their own circumstances and opponents, know the nature of nonviolent struggle in depth, and think strategically.

Moving on to the recent nonviolent protests in the Middle East, Sharp said what surprised him about the Egyptian case was how the crowds claimed to have lost their fear—a trait Gandhi said is necessary for those wishing to do something important. The fact that over one million protestors managed to largely maintain nonviolent discipline was also noteworthy, he said.

Sharp offered a word of caution to the Obama administration about its involvement in the region: “stay out.”

“That’s the job for people in those countries. When the US goes in and tries to solve these crises, they’re going to mess things up… (because) their objectives are very different from the objectives of the people in those countries.”

Sharp is the Senior Scholar at the Albert Einstein Institution, a non-profit organization he founded in 1983 to study the use of strategic nonviolent struggles in conflicts around the world. He has a D.Phil. in political theory from Oxford University and held a research appointment at Harvard’s Center for International Affairs for nearly three decades. He is the author of The Politics of Nonviolent Action (1973) and most recently, Waging Nonviolent Struggle: Twentieth Century Practice and Twenty-First Century Potential (2005).

Joanne Wong