The author of a landmark report on stopping genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity said Tuesday at UCLA that the international community is coming to realize that "the sin is not intervention, the sin is indifference."
"The landscape has been changing away from sovereignty as a license to kill," said Gareth Evans, former foreign minister of Australia and author of "The Responsibility to Protect," published in 2001 and signed by approximately 250 heads of state at the United Nations' world summit in 2005. Evans is currently president and CEO of the International Crisis Group.
Evans delivered the keynote address at the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations annual conference held at UCLA's Covel Commons.
After decades characterized by lack of consensus at the UN on how to react to atrocities occurring in such places as Somalia and Kosovo, the "responsibility to protect" doctrine (R2P) established core principles on when to intervene.
Evans said he believes that there was a turning point a year ago when international consensus was reached swiftly to intervene diplomatically in Kenya after an outbreak of post-election violence, including ethnic cleansing.
"It was exactly what I was trying to generate...," Evans said. "When an ugly case comes along, we have to do something about it. We can't sit back and let it happen." He said that the international community reacted decisively, unlike its response 14 years ago when ethnic conflicts in Rwanda left hundreds of thousands dead.
Evans said countries that perpetrate atrocities against their own people — or who are incapable of preventing crimes of mass atrocity from occurring — tend to be the same countries that harbor terrorists, permit the transfer of weapons of mass destruction, generate an outflow of refugees and generate drug and human trafficking problems.
According to the R2P doctrine, the duty to protect includes the responsibility to prevent atrocities by addressing the root and direct causes of internal conflicts and other manmade crises putting populations at risk; respond to situations of compelling human need with appropriate measures, which may include sanctions, international prosecution or, in extreme cases, military intervention; and rebuild by providing, particularly after military intervention, full assistance with recovery, reconstruction and reconciliation.
In response to a question about what has gone wrong with the international response to Darfur, Evans commented that the size and complexity of the situation in Darfur has made it inherently difficult to find a workable solution there. He added that international pressure has been limited, lackluster and not properly resourced.
Panels throughout the day at the conference brought together UN and U.S. State Department officials and academics from universities and think tanks across the nation, including UCLA Burkle Center senior fellow Gen. Wesley Clark; former foreign minister of Thailand and Burkle senior fellow Kantathi Suphamongkhon; Columbia University professor and UN special advisor for R2P Edward Luck; Nicole Willette of the U.S. State Department, and Georgette Gagnon of Human Rights Watch, among others.
Panelists discussed topics ranging from the origins and scope of the R2P doctrine; lessons learned from Kosovo, Rwanda and Bosnia; current challenges in Darfur, Myanmar and Zimbabwe; and prescriptions for the Obama Administration.