r2pThe Responsibility to Protect doctrine, also known as R2P, was created by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty in response to the genocide in Rwanda. R2P argues that the international community has the responsibility to protect civilians in states that are unwilling or unable to do so, therefore re-defining the pillars of state sovereignty. Two basic pillars of the Responsibility to Protect include state sovereignty to responsibility for the protection of its people lies within the state itself, as well as the international responsibility to protect populations suffering serious harm from internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure through humanitarian intervention.

The Responsibility to Protect includes the responsibility to prevent, react and rebuild. To prevent includes addressing both the root causes and direct causes of internal conflict and other man-made crises putting populations at risk. The responsibility to react describes the duty of either the state or international community to utilize coercive measures like sanctions and international prosecution, and military intervention as a last resort in response to situations with dire humanitarian consequences. The responsibility to rebuild includes providing full assistance with recovery, reconstruction and reconciliation, usually after a military intervention.

There are six criteria for military intervention: just cause, right intention, last resort, proportional means, reasonable prospects and right authority. Military intervention is difficult to justify, not only because of the criteria for intervention, but due to state sovereignty and United Nations Security Council vetoes. The conflict in Syria demonstrates the difficulty of implementing R2P and humanitarian intervention.

In addition to issues of sovereignty between the governments, the lack of cohesive intervention from the beginning has contributed to the conflict significantly, for early attempts at intervention were neither swift nor effective.  Due to the humanitarian situation, a UNSC Resolution or unilateral intervention justification would have proven legitimate in regard to the International Convention on Human Rights and the Responsibility to Protect, for the Assad regime was not being held accountable for the mass atrocities being committed within his territory. In addition to a lack of UNSC approval, the Chinese and Russian veto of the transfer of the case to the ICC has proven a hindrance to the international capacity to alleviate the conflict and further promotes the proxy war debate.

The lack of international capacity to alleviate the conflict in Syria has illuminated several tensions for the Responsibility to Protect and the future of humanitarian intervention. The conflict further demonstrates how R2P continues to be dependent on national interests, rather than the presence of “atrocities that shock the conscience.” The international community ought to acknowledge their mistake for not intervening in Syria in pursuit of assuring this non-intervention is a deviation from the norm to protect rather than implementation of a new precedent in order to restore the legitimacy of the Responsibility to Protect and humanitarian intervention.

Neti Gupta

Sources: Stand, Responsibility to Protect,  Global Center2p
Photo: Global Solutions

The updated 2013 population figures for refugee camps on the Thai-Burmese border show a decrease of 7.1 percent, according to The Border Consortium (TBC), an NGO that works with refugees and displaced people from Burma.

A majority of the departures from the camps, 7,649, consist of refugees leaving for  a third country under the UNHCR’s resettlement program, according to the Democratic Voice of Burma.

Sally Thompson, executive director of TBC states, “It is important to note that while there was a net population decrease, new refugees are continuing to arrive in the camps; there were 3,300 new asylum seekers arriving in 2013. In addition, 3,137 children were born in camps…”

Despite the decrease, it does not mean that any less food, shelter, services, health care and protection are needed. There are still 120,000 people living throughout these refugee camps that need protection and humanitarian assistance.

Data from TBC shows that out of the 4,389 people who left the camps to return to Burma, 70 percent of those departures only included one or two people from a household, while the rest of their household stayed in the camps.

In addition to worrying about what is going to happen to their families that are left in the camps, Myanmar refugees located in Fort Wayne, Indiana are worried that a change in U.S. policy will hurt efforts to reunite them with relatives living in the city. The Post-Tribune explains that Fort Wayne is home to more than 4,000 refugees from the area formerly known as Burma.

The major concern according to Minn Myint Nan Tin, the Burmese Advocacy Center leader,  is that the State Department has decided to stop accepting resettlement applications from Myanmar refugees living in the nine camps across Thailand. Refugees from Myanmar have been coming to Fort Wayne since 1993 to escape military rule in their homelands.

January 24 marked the end of applications since the State Department began issuing deadlines a year ago for refugees to decide whether or not they wanted to leave the Thai camps for the United States.

Christine Getzler Vaughn, State Department spokeswoman, explains that “The resettlement program will continue until we have completed the processing of every application received by the deadline for each camp, and we expect that to happen over the next two years.”

170 refugees will be relocated to Fort Wayne with approval of the State Department during the 2014 fiscal year.

Lindsey Lerner

Sources: Post-Tribune, DVB
Photo: South China Morning Post