Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New Zealand: The Rwandan Genocide and Security Council reform.

David Farrar at Kiwi Blog put up a post today on an article by a senior NZ Opposition politician and former UN employee David Shearer.

I recently traveled to New York to help with our bid for a seat on the UN Security Council in 2015 and 2016. I met with close to 30 ambassadors as well as people I knew from my international work before entering Parliament. I did so at the request of Foreign Minister Murray McCully because our bid is a bipartisan one. National and Labour are working together because winning a council seat is in New Zealand’s best interests."

It was an interesting read and I hope NZ does get elected, Farrar also posted a link to a speech by a former NZ politician Hon Jim McLay on the 25 August 2010 it is definitely worth reading. I haven't reproduced the whole speech.

The Rwandan Genocide of 1994

Sixteen years ago, between April and July 1994, Hutu extremists in Rwanda began a rampage that became one of the worst genocides of recent history.
At the same time, thousands of miles away, in New York, as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, New Zealand led a small group of countries that tried to persuade the Council to deploy additional UN forces to Rwanda.

If ever an atrocity required that the UN “reaffirm [its] faith in fundamental human rights” and that it act to “maintain international peace and security”, as declared in its Charter, this was it.

And yet, the UN failed.

The price of that failure is still being paid today but not by those responsible for it, the US, UK and France.

As the death count grew, our Ambassador, Colin Keating, pressed hard for the UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda to be strengthened, and for the Council to declare this atrocity as genocide.

As the Council’s President in April 1994, we even had to threaten to hold a public debate to shame certain countries for their refusal to acknowledge what was happening.

In the end, mainly because of the unwillingness of some of the Council’s permanent members, those efforts were unsuccessful and 800,000 innocent people were butchered – many with jungle knives.

The real toll of the Rwandan genocide is far higher if one was to include the fall out that has resulted in the DR Congo.

This and other contemporary atrocities occurred in a post-Cold War context, when some regimes were struggling for legitimacy, and when the disintegration of States, even regions, was a negative aspect of the fall of the Berlin Wall

The international community celebrated the “end of history” - but only when the machetes came out did it really focus on the consequences of the economic, social and cultural declines that came at the end of the Cold War.
Genocide was the 1990s end-point of the failure of the Rwandan state; only the international community could have stopped it; today, only the international community can provide mechanisms to ensure such mistakes do not happen again; only the international community can honour the promises we made to each other in the UN Charter of 1945.

The UN failed Rwanda, just as it failed Srebrinica and others; it left undone those things that it ought to have done. 

And even worse we are at risk of yet another failure in the Central African Republic where the UN has no boots on the ground in the form of peacekeepers, in fairness to the UN the World Food Programme has called for a 100 day response plan to the starvation that is really just around the corner. We don't have 100 days and sectarian violence is getting worse.

The resulting genocide provides an awful but appropriate context for this address; because it reinforces, in the strongest way, the need for multilateral institutions that might prevent such mass atrocities; and it demonstrates that today’s institutions, though noble in ideal, are still fallible and demand reform and strengthening.

It’s contrary to every humanitarian consideration for those institutions to stand aside while a government allows or can’t prevent the slaughter of its own people; but, too often, the international community (including the UN) has erred on the side of inaction; inaction that was possibly at at its worst during the Cold War, when it was ideological and political; and at its most pathetic after the Cold War, when it reflected inertia and an inability to understand how the world had fundamentally changed.

I actually wonder if the UN even today understands just how much the world has changed. The 5 permanent members of the Security Council quite clearly do not.   

A United Nations that can’t prevent such atrocities doesn’t deliver on its declared “faith in fundamental human rights” and fails its responsibility to “maintain international peace and security”; and it certainly requires reform.

McLay details a long overdue reform he thinks is needed.

But no aspect of the Council demands reform more than the P5 veto.
That veto assumes the desirability of “Great Power Unanimity” – all the more ironic given the history of its use.

The exercise, or even threat, of veto can seriously impede the Council’s work and the international community’s crisis response; and the “pocket veto” – where resolutions aren’t pursued because it’s known a permanent member would vote against adoption – can, on occasions, have a chilling effect on Council discussions - as with Rwanda in 1994.

At the height of the Rwanda killings, New Zealand and others pushed for the Council to act; but, under pressure from the US, France and UK – all with a veto – its response was watered down, the UN peacekeeping force was downsized, and the genocide continued, unabated.

As recounted by the Czech Ambassador (on the Council at that time ), our Ambassador “drew his final trump”, and turned a draft presidential statement into a draft Council resolution - “an absolutely brilliant manoeuvre” because, “unlike a presidential statement, a resolution didn’t need unanimity”; and any debate would highlight the veto possibility and expose the opponents in “their real colours”.

What McLay didn't mention is that the presidential statement by NZ Ambassador Colin Keating was altered by the UK to expunge any mention of the " genocide " word. 

During the Cold War, the veto was mostly used by the USSR; less by the US; since the fall of the Berlin Wall, it’s been used 24 times.

The US exercised over half of these, mainly for Middle East-related resolutions; but others include double-vetoes by China and Russia on resolutions on human rights in Myanmar and sanctions against Zimbabwe.

Will we get the nod for 2014, probably not is the current thinking, Australia has a seat and that will may prevent NZ getting the 2014 vacancy but our willingness to rock the boat on reform may yet get some traction. I will leave the last word to Jim McLay.

A giant wave can be broken by the canoe’s prow

I have always held in awe the ability of Mäori orators to capture whole ideas in a single, metaphoric phrase.

Mäori have a saying, “He nui maunga e kore e taea te whakaneke, he nui ngaru moana ma te ihu o te waka e wahi” - a great mountain cannot be moved, but a giant wave can be broken by the canoe’s prow.

Although the challenges faced by the United Nations might seem overwhelming, they can be addressed, they can be overcome; even the giant wave of the world’s many problems can be broken by the canoe’s prow.

And that is what the United Nations is all about; and it also happens to be what New Zealand is all about.

No comments:

Post a Comment