Monday, March 21, 2011

The radical innovation in the UN authorisation 

An interesting debate over on the Crooked Timber website on the wording of UN resolutions authorising armed interventions.
Basically, the protection of civilian lives is coming more and more to the fore and resolution 1973 (2011) apparently breaks new ground.

The key statement in resolution 1973 is this:

‘Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General’ are authorized ‘to take all necessary measures , . . . . . to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.’

The lead author in the discussion thread, Conor Foley , sums up his analysis:

This is the legal basis of the military action that allied forces are taking. The wording is significantly different to the standard clause that has been appearing in UN Resolutions since the 1999 mission to Sierra Leone…….

The aftermath of the Kosovo conflict saw a flurry of reports and commissions on the question of the legality of humanitarian interventions and the drawing up of a set of principles on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) which received semi-endorsement at the UN millennium summit. The invasion of Iraq effectively killed off R2P, but work around the protection of civilians has continued under UN auspices and protection strategies are being increasingly integrated into the planning of most UN missions. This debate has probably had far more influence on the Security Council’s recent decision than any ‘western plot to invade another country in the Middle East.

The intervention over Libya undoubtedly opens a new chapter on this debate and, at the time of writing, none of us have any idea what its eventual outcome will be. However, Resolution 1973 is in its own terms a significant milestone in the evolution of the UN and the debate about the legality of the use of force for humanitarian ends.
Many interesting comments in the thread...

So basically the grounds for intervention are in detail unprecedented. Will the armed coalition commanders have the sophistication to appreciate and apply this rigorously amidst the public hysteria over ‘hunting down mad dogs in the desert’ and the target creep temptation to hit targets from the air just because we can?

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It is Northwood not Northholt for the UK Permanent Joint Headquareters.

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