Tuesday, March 08, 2011

How can the UN respond more effectively to people like Gaddafi?

Libya, and the watching world, is immiserated by the actions of one self-deluded dictator, Muammar Gaddafi. While we are focused on Libya, similar struggles are going on in Bahrein, Yemen, Iraq, Iran and other MENA states. Cote d'Ivoire is having an unnoticed civil war because the incumbent refuses to accept the result of a recent election.

Dictators present the world with a major problem. They abuse human rights, and they lead inevitably to rebellion when at last the people are driven by desperate courage to overthrow them.

This website lists 46 current dictatorships out of the 190-odd countries in the world. Depending on the definition, more could be identified.

Clearly, the UN needs to address this problem systematically, not by waiting for crises to blow up, and then responding to the crisis with ad hoc  meetings of the UNSC and UNHRC, cobbling together measures that will be vetoed or blocked because one or another powerful country has strong trading links with the culprit.

In 2005, the UN took a brave and far reaching step in adopting the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect, (R2P) which outlines the action that the UN may take in cases of genocide and major crimes against humanity. It is good, but needs further refinement.

The Global Green Congress - a meeting of all Green Parties of the world - adopted the principle of the Global Human Rights Index (GLoHRI) in 2008.

This, when adopted by the UN, will mean that all governments will be placed on a register in order of the quality or otherwise of their human rights records. People will be able to tell at a glance whether the country they are choosing to trade with, or holiday in, has a good, bad or indifferent record.

The GloHRI record will provide a universal, continuous, gentle upward pressure on human rights.

There is also a need to have a set, legal framework to deal with crises such as the one that is taking place in  Libya.

Here there needs to be a set framework, so that each unacceptable step taken by a regime is met with a certain disincentive. I still feel an intense sense of frustration that this was rejected last year by Green Party Conference in an unbalanced debate. If we had taken it on board, we could be at the forefront on commentary about the Arab Spring uprisings with genuine innovative proposals, rather than adding our voice to the choir of general unhappiness about the way it is being handled by the international community.

Use of lethal force against unarmed protesters should be the trigger for action. As soon as this happens, the UN should have a tariff of actions that come into play. They will have to be endorsed by the UNSC, but the default should be that they are enacted with minor adjustments matched to local circumstances. In particular, action should be taken by regional organisations, as laid down in the R2P papers. This means that in the case of Libya, it should be the Arab League and Organisation of African States that take the action, not the US  or NATO.

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