Thursday, December 07, 2006

Instead of Debate, How about a Demonstration?

The UN Security Council upheld its newest tradition on Monday - a semi-annual debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. This tradition stems from Resolution 1674 (2006) on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, citing responsibility to protect. Several UN officials and government representatives spoke at the debate. With the exception of China and Russia, who remain skeptical about R2P, everyone else praised the concept as hope for the future. Unfortunately, their words ring hollow as the international community continues to evade violence in Darfur and remains largely silent in the face of atrocities in northern Uganda, Burma and elsewhere. Instead of a debate, how about a demonstration of what R2P can achieve to save lives?

In any case, here is one key quotation from the debate:

UN Humanitarian Coordinator Jan Egeland: "Our responsibility to protect must transcend singular interests and become a core principle of humanity across all civilizations...When the lives and safety of civilians are at stake, regardless of where, neither strategic nor economic or other political interests should deter members from acting swiftly upon their united responsibility to protect."

Unfortunately, strategic and political interests continue to trump action in Darfur and northern Uganda. Perhaps the UN should make it's next semi-annual debate on what it will take to build the political will or to overcome entrenched interests to live up to its applauded responsibility.

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