In a world of failed and failing states, does the international community and Canada have a responsibility to intervene, including militarily, in the affairs of nations that grossly fail to protect their citizens' human rights?
That was the question asked in the second Munk Debate, that took place Monday at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Itwas also be broadcast live in Cineplex Theatres across Canada.
The debate aimed to explore the merits and pitfall of humanitarian interventions by debating the resolution: "If countries like Sudan, Somalia and Burma will not end their man-made humanitarian crises, the international community should."
Mr. Evans, firmly on Pro side of the argument was online Monday and answered reader questons ahead of the debate.
Mr. Evans is the President and Chief Executive of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG), an independent multinational non-governmental organization with 90 full-time staff on five continents which works, through field-based analysis and high-level policy advocacy, to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.
A member of the Australian Parliament for 21 years, Mr. Evans was one of Australia's longest serving foreign ministers, best known internationally for his roles in developing the UN peace plan for Cambodia, bringing to a conclusion the international Chemical Weapons Convention, founding the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum and ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and initiating the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.
He has also served as a member of the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict, co-chaired by Cyrus Vance and David Hamburg (1994-97), and is currently a member of the UN Secretary-General's Advisory Committee on the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities.
Sasha Nagy, globeandmail.com writes: Dear Mr. Evans: Thanks for taking the time to answer reader questions about humanitarian intervention. This topic is perhaps never been more part of our collective consciousness. Even mainstream media uses it as a plot device in some dramas (the new season of 24 comes to mind). In many cases, the UN gets a pretty rough ride as it is portrayed. I thought I should open the discussion with a question about how the so-called Bush Doctrine has affected the public's willingness to accept military intervention and peace-keeping as an approach to reach humanitarian objectives?
Gareth Evans writes: The Bush doctrine, with its willingness to use military force - and outside the UN system -- to advance human rights and democracy objectives, most spectacularly and counterproductively in Iraq in 2003, has been one of the biggest crosses advocates of the responsibility to protect have had to bear. It's critically important that the new administration reposition the U.S. on these issues, and try to generate a genuine international consensus on how to respond to major atrocity crime situations.
Don H from Windsor Canada writes: It is interesting to note that all members of the panel, who are white (3 of whom are male) and come from developed nations, are those chosen to lead this discussion about intervening in far more racially diverse nations. Can you speak a little bit about the legitimacy of such discussions without the integration of perspectives outside the white Anglo-Saxon persona?
Gareth Evans writes: Some elderly white Anglo Saxon males are not entirely without sensitivity on these subjects! But point taken. When we were developing the responsibility to protect doctrine with the Canadian sponsored Commission in 2001, we took care to do a lot of outreach in the developing world, and some of the strongest support for this came from sub-Saharan Africa.
Loki Wils from Canada writes: Do you think these horrendous genocides are being ignored due to the fact that the inhabitants are from poor nations? Also, the perpetrators appear to be Arabic, fully bent on colonizing Africa. Why is the Islamizing of entire countries being ignored?
Gareth Evans writes: There's no direct correlation between poverty as such, and either deadly conflict in general or atrocity crimes in particular. There have to be other variables in play as well, for example an ethnically based set of grievances or history of discrimination. Nor is there any justification for suggesting that genocide has anything inherently to do with Arab/Islamic sentiment: Hitler's Germany, Cambodia and Rwanda are enough examples to make that point.
Robin Collins from Ottawa Canada writes: We consistently hear of a commitment-capacity gap, where those with the capacity (the North) are unwilling to help and those without advanced capacity (the South) who are carrying the heavy burden in UN peacekeeping operations. As this two-tiered system risks failure, isn't there an urgent need for a dedicated UN emergency service to cover the critical, initial six-month period of demanding operations?