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Responsibility to protect

World / United Nations role in Libya. In the 90s, a decade of disgrace, a tragedy after another on the table the question: What should be done when the government unwilling or unable to stop the mass atrocities within their own borders?
By David Smith *
In recent weeks, in which Europe and America to take military action in Libya, I heard from two former colleagues in Washington DC, the city where I lived for 20 years before moving to Buenos Aires, just a few months.
"There is a moral responsibility to stop the killing of Colonel Qaddafi to the people themselves, to protect at any cost," said an adviser to Obama in the White House and went on: "Thank God for the United Nations to move as they should."
One or two days later, a member of the George W. Bush introduced me to see from his post at a conservative think tank in Washington: "That's the hypocrisy of protecting the population while ignoring the others, he wrote, to intervene with Libya to stop the violence in the massacre of potential, while ignoring the real genocide in Sudan several years ago . What kind of responsibility to protect this? ".
Both use the same words. Responsibility. Protect. Who does not want to protect innocent civilians are often caught in the middle of women, and children who would otherwise perish? Responsibility to protect.
This phrase meant that both were born in the 90s, a decade of misery in which one tragedy after another on the table the question: What should be done when the government unwilling or unable to stop the mass atrocities within their own borders? Or worse, that protect the innocent from being murdered by their own leaders?
Date of misfortune resonated throughout the decade. Somalia in 1993. Rwanda in 1994. Bosnia in 1995. Congo in 1998. Regional conflict that witnessed mass death. Conflict in which many organizations that I represent the accused here today for doing too little too late.
In the summer of 2005, my last boss, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, to take the time to challenge the world to act and not just talk. At the World Summit in New York, he worked relentlessly to persuade the leaders to sign a treaty to protect people at risk of mass atrocities. "We are prepared to take collective action, accurately and decisively," said the Summit outcome document, "should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities clearly failed to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity."
When he retired a year later, the Secretary-General Annan entrusted to consider the "responsibility to protect" the most important legacy. "In a hundred years, I hope you think of it as equally important as the final chapter of the Cold War in terms of peace in the world." I was encouraged to think that he has rewritten the rules of state sovereignty in place for centuries. "Despot has the right to govern," I suggested. "But we have no right to kill its own people."
Few of us could have predicted how quickly the international community's response to the crisis in Libya will move from traditional media to the outbreak of military action. At first in the world through the UN, took the usual steps to prevent atrocities Qaddafi to do more, arms embargo, travel ban and freeze their assets.
At the same time, the UN Security Council referred the case to the International Criminal Court, the prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo of Argentina, the figure who stood tall, immediately opened an investigation into the actions Kadafi for war crimes, send a signal so serious in purpose and in caring them.
Gaddafi himself, using the state media, explained his position. He promised to "clean house to Libya." He insisted that it will not have mercy against rebels in Benghazi. For those who remember the language that gave birth to the doctrine of Responsibility to protect, with specific mention of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, the signs are clear.
Hillary Clinton so soon after the UN Security Council to authorize the action on 17 March: "We have every reason to fear that unless we stop it, Kadafi doing unspeakable cruelty."
Similarly, under Security Council Resolution 1973, UN Member States noted that "widespread and systematic attack against civilian population [...] may be a crime against humanity." The resolution called upon careful that the "Libyan authorities have a responsibility to protect the population." It's official "all necessary measures [...] to protect civilians and civilian populated areas."
This paves the way for the United States, France and allies in NATO launched Operation Dawn Odyssey, to enforce no-fly zone, is actually to weaken the ability Kadafi to attack their opponents. Whatever is currently divided between the Allies, indelible message to the Libyan leader, not to mention others in the region is that currently the international community will not remain on the sidelines.
And thanks to social networking, the image of those who protect it clear to us. Women protest in Benghazi with the rebels, who took his picture and his friends and sent to the world via Youtube or Facebook, to speak in ways that attract our attention, if not our actions.
As we have seen in recent months, Libya, Egypt and Yemen, the CNN effect has been replaced by Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. We live in an interconnected world in which no country can be a separate island, where people used to speak to the broader world directly. This phenomenon is a dramatic new element in the old debate about national sovereignty.
My decade as a journalist before joining the UN, I was taught that it will take months if not years, to see the impact of the decision to protect the residents of Benghazi, Misurata and Tobruk. The process that led to a complex intervention. Military and political outcome will be unpredictable. As we have seen in recent weeks, the consequences of humanity remains a source of fear for everyone. None of us want to see more people suffer from Libya and the United Nations will continue to seek every possible way to provide assistance to residents.
Meanwhile, a friend from Washington said the other day, debate rages on: "humanitarian intervention, or is this an excuse to meddle in other countries?" He asked.
My current boss, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told us what their position on the responsibility to protect "the 1973 resolution states, in clear and unequivocal determination of the international community to protect civilians from violence perpetrated against them by their own governments, "he said.
Libya was a turning point in the early decades of this new beginning, our young century. State sovereignty is not a license for a dictator to kill their own citizens. Every despot is now notified. The UN Security Council has moved from night until morning, "Responsibility to Protect" from theory to reality.
And no matter how loud, controversial or complicated outcome, let's not forget: take the responsibility to protect others from being killed is no doubt what the man must do in the name of humanity.
David Smith is the Director of Information Center of the United Nations for Argentina and Uruguay.
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