“The Case for Intervention in the Ivory Coast” by Corinne Dufka. Foreign Policy. March 25 2011.
On 30 March 2011, the UN Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of its Charter, adopted Resolution 1975, which urged the defeated President Gbagbo to immediately step aside and declared the situation in the Ivory Coast to be a threat to international security. The resolution stated that the attacks currently taking place against the civilian population of this country could amount to crimes against humanity, and that perpetrators of such crimes must be held accountable under international law in accordance with the International Criminal Court. Against all the predictions of the international community, the UN Security Council mandated the use of “all necessary means” to protect the civilian population in the Ivory Coast, a decision that came only weeks after a similar resolution was enacted for the Libyan case. Most importantly, both resolutions referred to the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) as a justification for the international community to intervene in the face of a growing risk of massive human rights abuses. R2P finally began making its way from a principled idea—supported by the majority of states at the UN Summit in 2005—to a concrete international practice of responding to egregious violations of human rights.
In the case of the Ivory Coast, the country’s situation before the UN resolution demonstrated a serious risk of mass atrocities. As the Roundtable centerpiece from Corinne Dufka at Foreign Policy points out: “As incendiary threats pour in from both sides, the country is on the brink of a full resumption of armed conflict. As in the past, civilians will almost certainly bear the brunt of the bloodshed.” The Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect provides further evidence of the deteriorating situation in the Ivory Coast: “The ongoing post-electoral conflict between militant groups supporting the country’s two rival leaders is rapidly spreading. Already more than 440 deaths have been reported and more than 90,000 people have fled the country and sought refuge in neighboring Liberia and Guinea and an additional 350,000 others are internally displaced.” Other international actors including the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS) also responded with efforts to resolve the crisis through mediation and diplomatic pressure.
Beyond the specificities of the human rights violations in the Ivory Coast, the two recent UNSC resolutions bring up additional questions for scholars, policymakers, and transnational advocacy networks: Why did the international community decide to react in these two particular cases and not in other cases of mass atrocities? Under which conditions is the principle of the Responsibility to Protect more likely to be utilized as a legitimate practice in international politics? Once the risk of massive human rights abuses is not at stake, what is the responsibility of the international community?
This month’s Roundtable debates some of these concerns. In particular, Edzia Carvalho and Jonas Claes analyze the multiple and difficult transnational processes through which the discussion about humanitarian intervention takes place. As Claes so aptly puts it: “Those factors that affect the likeliness of a robust 'Libya-style' international response given a certain level of risk of atrocities are rarely acknowledged. The authorization of military force in response to imminent or ongoing mass atrocities is the product of a difficult diplomatic process, subject to numerous factors unrelated to the gravity of the humanitarian crisis.” Meanwhile, Devin Joshi and Brooke Ackerly engage with the broader causes that lead to international crises such as the one in the Ivory Coast. They deal with some of the alternatives available to the international community, not only for peace-building, but also for preventing massive human rights abuses and genocide from ever happening again.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
by Brooke Ackerly, Vanderbilt University
“There has already been a military response to the Ivory Coast. Should we wait to reflect on global injustice until we see the graphic images of genocide and tragedy elsewhere, or can we use a rights-based lens to care about global injustice as part of our everyday lives?”
Is reflection on global injustice part of the everyday lives of those who live in global privilege? Or does privilege let us wait to raise concerns about justice only when the media bring the graphic images of genocide and tragedy to our family rooms?
In her opinion piece about the invocation of the Responsibility to Protect as a justification for intervening in the Ivory Coast, Corinne Dufka characterizes the issue as twofold: 1) the need of the democratic citizenry of Western powers to know about the injustice of a state to its citizenry and 2) the willingness of their states to act against it.
Dufka’s characterization of the problem of genocide echoes back to the work of Lemkin, the prime advocate for the genocide convention, whose story is retold by Samantha Power in The Problem from Hell: America in the age of genocide. The history’s two narratives – first, that Americans don't know about the extent or nature of genocides and second, that they know and are unwilling to act – are mutually inconsistent. Together these narratives have proven no match for another familiar American argument of the last century that recurs at the dawn of the new millennium: What would you have us do, play the “world's police force? These second, instrumental interest-based arguments carry the day.
While I share their horror at genocide and appreciate the moral view behind the arguments of Lemkin, Power, and Dufka, we could turn to another norm that emerged through the 20th century- that of human rights - and ask what a rights-based analysis of global injustice and a corresponding international political response would entail. It might mean focusing on the injustices we affect, not just those we observe from afar.
The human rights approach makes us look backward and forward to comprehend the context of human rights violations and to envision necessary action. However, we enumerate the list of universal human rights, these rights are indivisible, interrelated, and sustained or threatened through social, economic, and political institutions, values, practices, and norms. This means that labor rights and rights of political association are indivisible. We can support labor rights at home and around the world through economic agreements, fair trade practices, and code of conduct compliance. This means that the rights of journalists abducted while covering political movements, labor rights unrest, or political corruption of elites are interrelated with the rights of those in popular movements. Through the rights-based lens, genocide is one horrific manifestation of human rights violations. Other manifestations of global injustice include global poverty, inhumane working conditions, child labor, gender-based violence, and resource-extraction related oppressions.
In the Lemkin, Power, and Dufka account, moral responsibility is reactive, typically with military force. In a rights-based approach, the broader landscape of global injustice is visible.
Without threatening sovereignty or waiting for graphic images to provoke a willing use of military force, a rights-based approach to global injustice –be it genocide, gender-based violence, worker oppression, or poverty – goes beyond allowing our tax dollars to support military violence. Instead, we are called to support nonviolent popular movements, both directly through rights-based philanthropy, and indirectly through political and economic support of popular movements through local activism, letter writing campaigns, and decisions to support fair trade practices through purchasing choices.
In both models, citizens need to know about global injustice. In the Lemkin, Power, and Dufka model they need to know about acts of genocide and crimes against humanity. They need a media who are able and willing to broadcast images of genocide around the world and to offer analysis about its causes. In the human rights-based approach to crimes against humanity, citizens need to know about injustices that are more difficult to portray because they are hidden in the everyday familiar practices that support global poverty, global inequality in labor conditions, and other forms of global injustice that are invisible to all but those who suffer from them. Analysis of these is more difficult and they do not lend themselves to telling graphic images.
The rights-based approach to vulnerability defines vulnerability as the inability to be part-author of a political response to the injustice against which one struggles. Military intervention is inconsistent with a rights-based approach because it disempowers popular nonviolent social movements. Rather, a rights-based approach to injustice invites a long-term perspective that supports women's movements, labor movements, and other nonviolent popular movements. From this perspective, we should be informed not only about the violence taking place in the Ivory Coast, Libya, and Syria but also about the broadening popular movements (including youth, labor, and women’s movements) in these countries and in Iran, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Syria.
There has already been a military response to the Ivory Coast. Should we wait to reflect on global injustice until we see the graphic images of genocide and tragedy elsewhere, or can we use a rights-based lens to care about global injustice as part of our everyday lives?
Professor Ackerly's research interests include democratic theory, feminist methodologies, human rights, social and environmental justice. She integrates into her theoretical work empirical research on activism. Her publications include Political Theory and Feminist Social Criticism (Cambridge 2000), Universal Human Rights in a World of Difference (Cambridge 2008), and Doing Feminist Research with Jacqui True (Palgrave Macmillan2010). She is currently working on the intersection of global economic, environmental, and gender justice. She teaches courses on feminist theory, feminist research methods, human rights, contemporary political thought, and gender and the history of political thought. She is the winner of the Graduate Teaching Award and the Margaret Cuninggim Mentoring Prize. She is the founder of the Global Feminisms Collaborative, a group of scholars and activists developing ways to collaborate on applied research for social justice. She advises academics and donors on evaluation, methodology, and the ethics of research. She serves the profession through committees in her professional associations including the American Political Science Association (APSA), International Studies Association (ISA), and the Association for Women's Rights and Development. She has been a member of the editorial board for Politics and Gender (Journal of the APSA, Women and Politics Section) since its founding.
by Edzia Carvalho, University of Mannheim
“It seems that while states are often slow to react to egregious violations of human rights, they can be moved to action when the domestic and international costs and foreseeable risks of such interventions are low and the benefits are high. Domestic and international non-state actors, particularly NGOs and human rights lobbies, could help alter these calculations and make it more feasible for states to intervene to prevent human rights violations.”
“The Case for Intervention in the Ivory Coast” reminded me of the discussion that my undergraduate students had during the previous academic term on the conundrums surrounding humanitarian intervention. They innately responded to the intense suffering of individuals and groups facing gross human rights violations and initially argued that inaction in the face of suffering cannot be justified on any grounds. However, with their international relations hats on, many of them soon realized that putting an end to such a state of affairs is not as easy or straightforward as they had hoped. The question of who should intervene, in what form, and towards what end is often at the heart of this problem. After all, under the UN Charter Chapter VII, bilateral armed action against a state is an act of war unless it is undertaken in self-defense. Multilateral acts of aggression should be approved by the UN Security Council if they are to be deemed legal. Moreover, states have to consider not only the timeliness, logistics, and short-term impact of any potential intervention, but also the effect of these actions (or inactions) on the targeted state in the long run. Kuperman (2009)¹ suggests that armed humanitarian interventions may be characterized by the problem of moral hazard, as they may lead to unintended and further violations depending on the extent of force used and the perceived neutrality of the intervention.
The emerging norm of “Responsibility to Protect” suggests that states may have a legal obligation to intervene in situations that have led to widespread human right abuses and may continue to do so in the foreseeable future. The extent to which state action reflects the consolidation of this norm is interesting. The article under review rightly highlights the selective use of armed intervention by the international community when it comes to egregious human rights violations. In 1999, NATO launched air strikes against Serbia when it initiated a violent onslaught against Kosovar rebels and civilians that led to over 10,000 deaths; yet the international community did not intervene when, ten years later, Sri Lanka launched a massive military assault on Tamil rebels that resulted in the deaths of an estimated 20,000 civilians. The multilateral armed intervention to stop the crackdown by the authoritarian regime in Libya this year could be contrasted with the inaction of international actors in the face of the violent suppression of the Saffron Revolution in Burma in 2007. The UN recently intervened in the Ivory Coast when the dispute over the outcome of the recent presidential election threatened to engulf the country in civil war, yet it stayed its hand when the post-electoral violence following a similar dispute in Kenya in 2007-08 displaced an estimated half a million people.
Semb (2000)² argues that states intervene multilaterally under the auspices of the United Nations if the situation under consideration meets any of the following conditions: a) widespread violations of human rights are recognized in a target state; b) the government is unable to stop these violations as it no longer has control over the machinery of state; or c) the government has been “unlawfully constituted.” This does not explain why situations with similar conditions like the ones mentioned earlier merited opposite actions. Instead, much research in international relations has applied a neorealist or neoliberal perspective, focusing on the cost-benefit analysis and the risk-averseness of the intervening states. States are expected to be primarily concerned about the effect of their actions on domestic affairs, and to pursue national interest rather than the well-being of other populations across borders. The cynical view derived from the application of these approaches would attribute NATO’s intervention in Kosovo to its members being concerned about the spillover effect of a potential refugee situation in Europe, or to NATO’s efforts to stay relevant in a post-Cold War world. The Libyan case would be explained by the expectation that its oil reserves, which are prized for their high quality, would be easier to access after the disbandment of the Gaddafi regime. Yet in each of these cases, armed intervention was not an immediate response. The cost-benefit calculations of states may have been influenced by past successes and failures that affected how risk averse they were when faced with a human rights violation—in the case of Kosovo by the failure to act in Rwanda, and in Libya by the ongoing situation in Iraq.
It seems that while states are often slow to react to egregious violations of human rights, they can be moved to action when the domestic and international costs and foreseeable risks of such interventions are low and the benefits are high. Domestic and international non-state actors, particularly NGOs and human rights lobbies, could help alter these calculations and make it more feasible for states to intervene to prevent human rights violations. This may be that little bit of hope left for human rights protection when the Pandora’s box of humanitarian intervention is opened.
¹ Alan J. Kuperman, "Humanitarian Intervention," in Michael Goodhart, ed., Human Rights: Politics and Practice (Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 334-353
² Anne Julie Semb, “The New Practice of UN-Authorised Interventions: A Slippery Slope of Forcible Interference?”, Journal of Peace Research, July, 37(4), 2000, pp. 469-488
Edzia Carvalho is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Political Science at the Chair on Politics and International Relations in the University of Mannheim, Germany. She completed her Ph.D. in Government from the University of Essex in 2010. Her thesis was on degrees of democracy and public health expenditure in the Indian provinces. She has an MA in Human Rights (Essex 2007), and an MA in Politics (Mumbai 2003). She has worked for the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) in Delhi, India and as research assistant on projects for the UNDP and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) on human rights indicators and democracy assessment. Her recent publications include Measuring Human Rights (with Todd Landman, Routledge, 2010) and contributions to the Essex Internet Encyclopedia of Human Rights and the International Journal of Children’s Rights. She is currently collaborating with Kristi Winters (Birkbeck College) on research on the Qualitative British Election Study (QES Britain) and foreign aid and human rights (with Laura Seelkopf, University of Essex). Her research interests revolve around human rights and democratization.
by Jonas Claes, U.S. Institute of Peace
“In an ideal world, these considerations would be subordinate to the urgency and gravity of a humanitarian crisis. But a world in which the risk of atrocities automatically triggers a strong response seems far off. Double standards are an unpleasant reality that sprout from the nature of international politics, and will remain part and parcel of the international response to man-made humanitarian crises in the foreseeable future.”
At the time Ms. Corinne Dufka’s op-Ed about the crisis in Côte D’Ivoire appeared, few would have predicted that three days later UN troops, with the support of the French military, would act forcefully to protect civilians and tip the balance in favor of the fighters loyal to Alassane Ouattara, eventually leading to the arrest of Laurent Gbagbo. The odds were not favoring this scenario.
As the initial excitement of “humanitarians” about the rapid action taken by the coalition and NATO forces in Libya slowly waned, analysts, including Corinne Dufka, increasingly lamented the selectiveness of the international community’s response to man-made humanitarian crises. If the international community is so concerned about civilian protection, then what about the people of Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Darfur, or Côte D’Ivoire? Why prevent massacres in Benghazi, but not in Duékoué ? Few moved beyond their consternation about this cherry-picking.
Those factors that affect the likeliness of a robust “Libya-style” international response given a certain level of risk of atrocities are rarely acknowledged. The authorization of military force in response to imminent or ongoing mass atrocities is the product of a difficult diplomatic process, subject to numerous factors unrelated to the gravity of the humanitarian crisis.
The Power of the Target Country. The target country’s ability to resist external intervention through its political, military, or economic power is a key determinant of the international community’s eagerness to protect civilians. The threat of UN vetoes, retaliation, or economic embargoes of powerful repressive states may suffice to keep UN troops at a safe distance. The weak regimes of Libya and Côte D’Ivoire carried insufficient weight to deter the international community.
The Strategic Value of the Region. The level of political, economic, or national security interest in the region of decisive players within the international community is another key determining factor. Together with the power of the target country, traditional realpolitik best explains the international community’s selectiveness. Whereas the atrocities committed in Libya triggered a Kosovo-like heavy-handed response from NATO, strategically insignificant countries are simply less likely to grasp the world’s attention.
Consent. The decision to act collectively against atrocities is also contingent upon the consent of a significant part of the local population, regional hegemons, and regional organizations. Interventions are more likely welcomed when the central government is unable to halt atrocities committed by rogue elements within its own security forces, the opposition, or non-state armed groups. If the regime is directly or indirectly involved in the crimes, a consensual humanitarian intervention will be unlikely. In Libya, the requests for assistance from the Libyan opposition and the initial support for the operation from the Arab League allowed for a nonconsensual intervention to rapidly materialize.
Geopolitical Dynamics. Special ties or strategic relations between a repressive regime and powerful players may also reduce the likeliness of a multilateral intervention. Security Council members driven by geopolitical incentives, cultural affinities, or benign historical ties with the regime may play soft on the humanitarian record of their protectorates. This dynamic explains the lack of an international response to the recent atrocities committed in Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, or the Palestinian Territories.
Other factors that influence the international community’s decision to engage in an intrusive form of intervention include the level of international media coverage, as well as the international financial climate and military resource availability.
In an ideal world, these considerations would be subordinate to the urgency and gravity of a humanitarian crisis. But a world in which the risk of atrocities automatically triggers a strong response seems far off. Double standards are an unpleasant reality that sprout from the nature of international politics, and will remain part and parcel of the international response to man-made humanitarian crises in the foreseeable future. Multilateral military action on predominantly humanitarian grounds has been a rare occurrence with a mixed track record. But the absence or tardiness of firm action in some countries should not discredit the courageous decision the international community took to protect the people of Benghazi. As Nicholas Kristof noted in his New York Times column, “Isn’t it better to inconsistently save some lives than to consistently save none?”
Jonas Claes is program specialist at the U.S. Institute of Peace’s Center for Conflict Management, where he conducts research on conflict prevention, the Responsibility to Protect, and security issues in Central Asia. Claes is also co-author of a book chapter entitled ‘Leadership and R2P: From Principle to Practice’ in the forthcoming Routledge Handbook on ‘The Responsibility to Protect’, and a chapter on “Responsibility to Protect and Peacemaking” in a Praeger Volume on “Peacemaking: From Practice to Theory”. He holds an M.A. in Security Studies from Georgetown University, an M.A. in International Relations from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium).
by Devin Joshi, University of Denver
“Of course, any international response to this crisis should aim to restore and keep peace and to bring Laurent Gbagbo and other perpetrators of these atrocities to the International Criminal Court. Yet, it would also be wise to deal with some of the structural factors that have led to violent conflict in Cote d’Ivoire’s past and which continually plague the region. While there are many problems that need attention, one approach that should be given consideration is restructuring the government from a presidential to a parliamentary republic.”
The current crisis in the Ivory Coast unfortunately resembles a number of crises in Western and Central Africa over the last few decades. Whereas the international community has generally been more willing to intervene in Europe and the Middle East, there has been a tendency to “wait and watch” while humanitarian crises unfold in middle Africa. In the last several years, as in the Ivory Coast right now, however, global awareness of the brutality of such crises has expanded tremendously. Now information and communication technologies (cell phones, Internet, social media) are bringing the terror into living rooms around the world. The power of these new technologies should not be underestimated. Just as the historic and unprecedented Arab Democracy Movement of 2011 has spread like wildfire from Tunisia to Egypt and the rest of the Middle East and North Africa, we may see quicker action from African regional organizations and foreign powers than in the past due to growing awareness of the contagion effects (both positive and negative) of domestic struggles.
Of course, any international response to this crisis should aim to restore and keep peace and to bring Laurent Gbagbo and other perpetrators of these atrocities to the International Criminal Court. Yet, it would also be wise to deal with some of the structural factors that have led to violent conflict in Cote d’Ivoire’s past and which continually plague the region. While there are many problems that need attention, one approach that should be given consideration is restructuring the government from a presidential to a parliamentary republic. This would be one means of reducing the power and autocratic tendencies of the state’s chief executive. Presidential governments are often unstable because presidents want to stay in power longer than their people want them in power. In fact, several studies have documented how presidential regimes in Africa and elsewhere are more likely to collapse or revert to authoritarianism than parliamentary governments headed by a prime minister selected by the parliament.
Whereas presidentialism is conducive to adversarial politics (the USA is no exception), the structure of parliamentary government encourages a greater degree of power-sharing and consensus building, for example through the formation of multiparty cabinets. Parliamentary governments elsewhere in Africa (Botswana, Cape Verde, Mauritius, Namibia, and South Africa to name a few) have generally presided over more prosperous economies, invested more in the health and education of their populations, and improved human rights more than the presidents and dictators of most other African states. Of course, other political reforms are also needed, but the transition to parliamentary government is one that may bring long-term benefits to the Ivory Coast and its neighbors. When the Soviet Union collapsed and the states of Eastern Europe and Central Asia got to choose new forms of government, the former countries opted for parliamentary politics while most of the latter chose a presidential or semi-presidential system. The difference this has made is worth noting. Many of the Central Asian states have reverted back to authoritarianism, whereas Eastern European countries have witnessed a growing degree of democracy compared to their past.
That said, the Ivory Coast needs both immediate international attention and long-term support to develop a more effective and democratic government. Any plan to transform its governance should also consider political reform and power sharing throughout all West African countries, including nearby Nigeria, to develop political systems more like the relatively peaceful democracies of Mali or Namibia.
Dr. Devin K. Joshi is an assistant professor at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies where he teaches courses on democracy and development. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Washington, an M.A. from the East-West Center, and a B.A. from Stanford University. His research focuses on the relevance and application of democratic and good governance interventions to improving human development and human security in the developing world. His recent articles have appeared in Economic and Political Weekly, International Studies Review, Socio-Legal Review, and The Human Rights Dictionary.