The very reason why responsibility to protect fails drastically in many circumstances is that the international community is plagued by the complete lack of political will. Alex Bellamy finds that “the international community’s actual record of preventing and halting the mass killing of civilians is staggeringly poor”.When the practical battle of sovereignty versus humanitarian intervention started the former UNSG Kofi Annan proposed a “forged unity” that resulted the norm of humanitarian intervention. (Bellamy, June 2006 )
The indeterminacy (sovereignty v intervention) somehow makes the responsibility to protect to fail in both practical and institutional terms. However, there is still hope that with the “compliance pull” the R2P can be newly emerged as it proved to be better solution than humanitarian intervention. It is worthy to note what Eric Heinze speaks on humanitarian intervention and he says “the transboundary use of military force for the purpose of protecting people whose government is egregiously abusing them, either directly, or by aiding and permitting extreme mistreatment”. (Heinze, 1 January 2010). Gareth Evan comments on Humanitarian Intervention as follows: “mistake of going to war when we should not, but also what can sometimes be the even bigger mistake of not going to war to protect our fellow human beings from catastrophe when we should”. (Sahnoun, November – December 2002 )
There are four core claims on the legality of the humanitarian intervention:
The plain meaning and language of UN Charter
UN Charter is being an “organic document” not answering the legal arguments
Viewing customary law and other normative practices as the legal basis of a state’s behavior
There is codified treaty law that define the rules for state behavior
Along with the four claims above, the question of morality is another issue. For example, the humanitarian intervention in Haiti would have been still justified without the OAS (Organization of the American States) sanctioning and the NATO’s intervention in Kosovo without Security Council mandate is “illegal but legitimate” but sanctioned for its “compelling moral purpose”.
When talking about Responsibility to Protect and it’s predecessor norm humanitarian intervention it is vital to remember that both are derived from Just War tradition “Quod est necessarium est licitum – ‘that which is necessary is legal’ in other words as quoted by the Prime Minister of East Timor “Some times war saves people”. (Schrijver, 2000)
Sovereignty has a long history of colonial war and revolutions, and it is still promised with “self-determination” and “future free from outside interference” which is considered to be as just an “emotional attachment”. At this juncture it is worthy to note Gerath Evan’s view on sovereignty “Sovereignty thus hard won, and proudly enjoyed, is sovereignty not easily relinquished or compromised”
The following responses on NATO’s intervention in Kosovo would reflect the nation states’ take on “sovereignty”
Algerian President, and then President of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in addressing the UN General Assembly in 1999, advocated the value of sovereignty as “our final defense against the rules of an unjust world”
Former Secretary of State and realist scholar, Henry Kissinger lambasted British Prime Minister Tony Blair after the intervention in Kosovo for the “abrupt abandonment of the concept of national sovereignty”
Nelsen Mandela in 2000, saw military action in Kosovo as: “such disregard for international conventions was more dangerous to world peace than anything that was currently happening in Africa
The basic problem is that the individual is protected by intervention whereas the state in protected by territorial sovereignty and non-intervention.
“the international community’s actual record of preventing and halting the mass killing of civilians is staggeringly poor”
The theoretical vacuum between non-intervention and moral responsibility to protect humanity at risk engulfs majority global crisis and thus Responsibility to Protect became the solution.
R2P can be metaphorically compared to a bridge that connects indeterminacy of intervention vs sovereignty. (Stahn, 2007 )
R2P and practical successes
In Kenya after the presidential elections in 2007, the violence outbroke with the killing of 1000 people and displacement of 250,000. Frances Deng, through the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide (OSAPG) used R2P to charge political leaders who are inciting violence. As a result, the inflammatory speech and hate comments were banned and it reduced considerable amount of human sufferings.
Libya is another watermark example for R2P is where Kadaffi’s regime was thrown out not only by his death but also by successful international mobilization and application of humanitarian principles. At this moment it is worthy to note Jack Straw, as British Foreign Minister said: “if this new responsibility had been in place a decade ago, thousands in Srebrenica and Rwanda would have been saved”(Thakur, 2011)
R2P – Failure Stories
When declaring Responsibility to Protect through a UNSC resolution, it is extremely difficult to gain the consent or the support of all the nation states in unity especially the P5. In Resolution 1973 on Libya the most important international actors like India, Russia, China and Brazil chose to abstain rather than endorse the Resolution whereas the BRICS countries expressly stated their distrust in Responsibility to Protect.
The case of Darfur
When Darfur was in the need of humanitarian assistance, The R2P was explicitly declared by British Government, and the UNSC resolution condemning Khartoum. It was later realized by the international community that the key players of the international politics were unwilling to support humanitarian operations through providing necessary military troops. R2P does not expect consent from the targeted states and UNSC Resolution 1706 called “the consent for national unity” from international governments which was ended up as failure. Lee Feinstein articulates “If Darfur is the first ‘test case’ of the responsibility to protect there is no point in denying that the world has failed the entry exam”.
Although the Kenya sets an example of a successful R2P application, it was criticized that R2P used more as a “diplomatic tool than a catalyst for action”. Kenya’s act of dragging R2P into the territory without a clear-cut evidence of ethnic cleansing and only 700-800 confirmed deaths also questioned the threshold of the doctrine of responsibility of protect.
R2P failed to protect about 150,000 of people who were at a huge humanitarian risk in Sri Lanka at the final phases of war when the Government of Sri Lanka turned its defensive humanitarian operation into offensive. The intervention of international community was widely expected at the final moments of war and Crawshaw from Human Rights watch criticized it as points “there was a failure to address the Sri Lankan issue and that I think can be said to be indicative of where the gap between the words and reality is”.
In Mali, despite of three explicit UN Resolutions and the support of ECOWAS, the unilateral intervention of France was needed to proceed international assistance. As per the UN Commission on Inquiry, the government of Guinea committed crimes against humanity, yet the language of R2P was nowhere to be seen. In the case of DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), the UNSC failed to authorize intervention under the guise of Responsibility to Protect. Although troop expansions, mandate strengthening and greater assistance were given in DRC, the R2P had no practical impact.
The issue of Israel’s assault on Gaza was raised at the UNGA in 2009 and the citizens of Gaza were in need of R2P Solution. The failure to intervene reflected of a “selective application” and “double standards”.
Apart from the failed intervening moments on humanitarian grounds, the misappropriation created more confusions which leads back to the indeterminacy of intervention versus sovereignty. French intervention Myanmar upon the post-Nargis Cyclone rebuilding, Russia’s misinterpretation of R2P language to annex South Ossetia in which Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that the “proximity of the conflict makes it absolutely unavoidable to us to exercise responsibility to protect”, and Tony Blair’s use of R2P to invade Iraqin 2003 are some of the examples where the prism of R2P was misused. These incidents not only questioned the threshold of the doctrine but also invalidated the manifestation of the four mass crimes covered by the R2P.
The “age of strict national sovereignty” started to change slowly during 1990’s after some acts such as UN Resolution to authorize no fly-zone over Iraqi-Kurdistan under the justification of “right to intervene” and legitimatization of entering into the crisis zones such as Rwanda and Darfur under Genocide Convention. The establishment of ICTY and ICTR and evolving realm of human rights and human security always reconstructed the practices of sovereignty time to time. The slogans such as “its people’s sovereignty rather than sovereign’s sovereignty”, “sovereignty is also a responsibility” have started to articulate the international law. Thus, in the present context sovereignty is not a challenging ground to R2P as it is expected to be. The foremost and challenging barrier to responsibility to protect is the lack of moral and ethical will. This is explained by Alex Bellamy, the reason that humanitarian intervention was not successful pre-R2P was “the basic political fact that no state wanted to pay the price associated with saving strangers”. With absence of strict sovereignty concept, the scholars of international law acknowledged the need of a strong “political will” to back it up as Lee Feinstein observed in the World Summit. Aidan Hehir explains that “political will is the variable upon which the entire utility of R2P is now predicated”. The General Assembly 2009 recognized the need of “political will at the right time” and the co-chair of the ICISS report, Gerath Evans noted that “without the exercise of political will, by the relevant policy makers at the relevant time, almost none of the things for which this book has argues will actually happen”.
The failure of the doctrine during Rwandan Genocide was, according to Thakur, due to lack of “civic courage and collective consciences, UN inquiry pointed out “lack of resources and political commitment”, andICISS finally concluded as “a failure of international will”. Taking East Timor scenario into consideration, a senior diplomat and scholar in Jakarta described the unwillingness to intervene as “Indonesia matters and East Timor doesn’t and Aida Hehir commented “it was clear that no intervention would take place without Indonesia’s consent”. The Srebrenica massacre is another example where the Report of the Secretary-General 1999 commented that “the cardinal lesson of Srebrenica is that a deliberate and systematic attempt to terrorize, expel or murder an entire people must be met decisively….with the (requisite) political will”. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Sri Lanka and North Korea are some of other examples where the international community lost consciences to intervene. Bernanrd- Henri Levy , an author in the Public Intellectuality commented of the fact that French Government was successful in the gist of R2P in Darfur, yet failed in other scenarios due to a single issue of “ the political will of one man, the President of the French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy” also raised a question “If Libya, then why not Bahrain, Yemen, or Syria?”. Leon Panetta, the Defense Secretary of United States viewed the failure of American Administration to intervene into Syria as “we learned a lot about how to confront al-Qaeda and its affiliated as a result of operation in Pakistan and Afghanistan…. we know how to do this”.
Responsibility to Protect: Weaknesses and Recommendations
Would R2P work as a regional protection?
Responsibility to protect fails mostly in the initial stage of its implementation by two reasons: 1. The United Nations Security Council fails to get the consent of the Permanent Members, 2. It may fail in the national level as the governments use the concept to achieve it’s national interests which would further lead to a development of a “neo-colonial state” that uses power to oppress citizens. (O’Donnell, 2014)Since R2P was formed on the basis of United Nations values and United Nations Charter authorizes the validity of regional arrangements in resolving conflicts, the new suggestion merged of implementing Responsibility to Protect as a regional arrangement. While having R2P implemented by Regional Organizations, the implementation would limit itself within its purposes and the there would be less infringement of state sovereignty. (Shen, 12th January 2000)
All the regional arrangements are agreed upon a certain Charter (a treaty or an agreement) that binds the member states and the rights to intervene or the theory of responsibility to protect can be included in such binding provision. In those circumstances, the ROs can intervene with the help of member states using either permanent troops and troops called upon member states. While using Responsibility to Protect through regional arrangements would stop the intervention of powerful states with geopolitical interests, spill over effect on developing and third world countries, serve with the bona fide intervention of protecting civilians from human rights violations. (Naomi Kikoler, September 2009 )Regional Organizations maintain strong economic, cultural, historic and political ties with the violating state and member states which would create a quicker response and most of the armed conflicts rise around regional level more than national and international level. It is also vital to note that incorporating R2P with Regional Organizations is just a logical choice that needs legal attention to be executed since some of the regional organizations are controlled by the hegemonic powerful states within it especially when the RO is a continent spanning (Example: African Union). (Rosenperg, 2009 )
UN Charter’s Article 2 strict prohibition against use of force can be made favorable to responsibility to protect applying two arguments: a sovereign state can limit its sovereignty by entering into multi-lateral treaties and the interpretation of the language of the UN Charter itself. When it comes to the sovereignty issue foremost requirement to overcome the national sovereignty problem is that the R2P must be squared with UN Charter’s recognition for the “sovereign equality of all its Members” and UN Charter’s prohibition against “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”. (Orford, February 2011 )The dilemma fails to understand how a state can fundamentally establish its own right to limit its sovereignty through ratifying treaties and other international obligations. The UN Charter can be taken as a simple example and further the R2P is a pre-requisite for a statehood as per the Montevideo Convention expects nation-states to have the capacity to enter into relations with other states to earn legal recognition in the international law. The ICISS reports points out “external sovereignty” (respecting other states) is only applicable for the states which fulfill the obligations come under the “internal sovereignty” (the primary obligation includes protection of civilians within the territory). According to Crossly, the concept of “equal sovereignty” in international customary law for the states who misuse their “internal sovereignty”. (Henrikson, 1996)
The Article 2 of the UN Charter is ambiguous, not only restricts the application of responsibility to protect concept but also challenges the practicability of Regional Organizations utilizing this international law norm. Article 53 of the Charter emphasizes that Regional Organizations are not authorized to “enforce actions” without the UNSC Resolution. Article 24 is vested with promoting international peace and security and thus Article 54 expects the ROs to support for peace and security arrangements within the regional level. (Zifcak, 2011) Further, ROs are given secondary authority to deal with peace and security conflicts within the region, next to International Organizations and International Treaty Law. This freedom can be misused and the most practical example is NATO’s intervention in Kosovo which was criticized by the international society as it lacked humanitarian purpose. Therefore, it is important the ROs’ founding Charter should include the clauses of R2P which are justified validly by Member States before incorporating. (Cuéllar, 2004)
The most recent practical example of how Regional Organizations can be effectively utilized to tackle down the internal conflict of a region under the concept of Responsibility to Protect. When Boko Haram Insurgency started threatening the political integrity of Nigeria and the Member States, the African Union initiated multiple actions against terrorist including creation of “Multinational Joint Task Force”, without any approval from UN Security Council. Instead of waiting for Security Council’s approval, having known to the background of the Nigerian integrity and the situations of the neighbor states, African Union used Responsibility to Protect as an effective counter-terrorism strategy to defeat Boko Haram. (Brechenmacher, 2019 May )
Responsibility to Protect is an obligation of internationality based on humanitarian concern of preventing mass atrocity crimes and human rights violations. Adapting to some theoretical and practical challenges can not only strengthen the implementation of the norm but also fill the already existing loopholes found in the application of the norm. The changes include incorporating of Regional Organizations as players of intervention overlapping the R2P concept, making structural changes in the United Nations Security Council methodology and stressing out the fact the R2P should carry a legally binding role in the international customary law although it is not passed through a legally binding treaty.
Omicron and Vaccine Nationalism: How Rich Countries Have Contributed to Pandemic’s Longevity
In a global pandemic, “Nobody is safe until everyone is safe”, – it is more of true with respect to the current globalized world system. It is said that crisis strikes the conscience and forces the ‘commonality of purpose’ on one another- and a major one in magnanimous scale. But the current Covid-19 crisis seems to have emerged in oddity with this very axiom, of course, due to self-serving, in WHO’s words- ‘self-defeating’ and ‘immoral’, approaches to dealing the pandemic by wealthy countries.
A new and potentially more transmissible variant of Covid-19 virus, named Omicron by WHO, has been detected in South Africa. With scientists yet to be confirmed about new variant’s epicenter and its likely implication on human immune system, the emergence of Omicron has brought the long-warned case of ‘vaccine nationalism’– a phenomenon in which each nation prioritizes securing ample doses without considering impact on poor ones- to light.
Unheeded to the repeated warnings by scientists and pandemic specialists, many of the world’s richest countries had embarked on a vaccine-acquisition frenzy and hoarded jabs more than their requirements. Some countries have even gone to the extent that they had acquired up to four times what their population needed. Thereby, it has left majority of poor and developing countries, particularly those in global south, unvaccinated, with further risk of the virus being muted into more virulent variants, as in the case of Omicron.
A simple numerical data over vaccination rate across the world exposes the grotesques picture of pandemic recovery divide among the countries and immoral hoarding and hedging efforts on vaccine supplies by wealthy countries. As of now, whereas only 3% of people in low income countries have fully been vaccinated, the figure exceeds 60% in both high-income and upper-middle –income countries. In Africa, the most under-vaccinated and the epicenter of ominous Omicron, only some 7% of its 1.3 billion people are fully immunized.
Given the 9.1bn vaccines already manufactured and 12bn expected by the end of this year, the question is- why does vaccination effort remain so discriminatory and dividing across the regions? The answer, in most part, lies in the ‘pervasive economic inequity’ inherent in initial vaccine-acquisition process. With their enormous capacity to pay out, rich countries, even before pandemic took devastating hold, had pursued a ‘portfolio-approach’ in investing on vaccine development research by pharmaceutical companies- simultaneous investment on multiple ones. In exchange, those countries stroke bilateral deal with each drag company to secure enough prospective vaccine doses to inoculate their respective population several times over.
This absolutist vaccine-acquisition drive of wealthy nations had substantially thwarted the holistic approach taken up by World Health Organization(WHO) under the platform of COVAX, a vaccine sharing program. With the aim of reducing the delay in vaccine allocation to poor and developing countries, and thus ensuring vaccine equity, the multilateral platform didn’t get enough incentives from wealthy ones, since started its journey in April 2020. Both investment and acquisition by well-off countries, having bypassed the COVAX, kept them into the front of manufacturing line, thereby, contributed to the distributional injustice.
‘What starts wrong ends wrong’- initial absolutist approaches in vaccine acquisition started to be manifested in discriminatory distribution of vaccines. Thereby, an amazing scientific breakthrough, development of vaccine in record time, has been offset by awful political policy. In mid-2021, when one portion of world were almost on the track of carefree normalcy, people in bigger portion were struggling to breath. Today, problem is not in production of vaccines, as 2 billion doses of vaccines are being manufactured in every month, rather in the ‘unfairness of distribution’.
Early monopolistic exercise by G20 on acquisition and subsequent stockpile of vaccines has resulted in such galling situation that they have commandeered over 89% of vaccines already produced and over 71% of future deliveries. Consequently, the global inoculation drive, since started, is so unjust that for every vaccine delivered to the poorest countries, six times as many doses are being administered as third and booster vaccines in the richest countries. Adding further to the crisis being escalated, while more than 100 countries, for past one year, have desperately demanded emergency waiver on TRIPs related regulatory restriction on Technologies crucial to pandemic recovery, it has repeatedly been blocked by UK and EU.
Picture is not all-about gloomy with respect to vaccine collaboration but it is quite tiny to the scale of requirements. Rich countries could not deliver on the commitments they did to help poor countries immunize their population. For instance, WHO’s target of having 40% of global population vaccinated by end of this year, through COVAX, seems certainly to fall short largely due to the rich countries failing to deliver on their promise to use their surplus vaccines to immunize the under-vaccinated countries. Far from near, the G7 countries had drastically failed to deliver on their promises made on G7 summit in June. As of last week, USA has delivered only 25%, with further embarrassing arithmetic of EU only 19%, UK 11% and Canada just 5%.
Given the frightening predictions from WHO that another 5 million could be added to the already 5 million death tolls across the world, in the next year or more, it is high time starting a collective endeavor with herculean efforts to inoculate large swaths of unvaccinated people in un-protected areas. Keeping large portion out of vaccination will only make the pandemic endure with no time to end, as virus continues to persist through mutating in un-protected area into a more menacing variant. If so, then again someone else may say, after next the worst wave- “We were forewarned- and yet here we are”.
The Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty (TPNW): Wishful daydream or historic milestone?
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), adopted in 2017, has entered into force on the 22nd of January of this year and the number of ratifying states continues to grow, with Mongolia being the latest to announce its accession. This positive trend is certainly welcomed with enthusiasm by the Civil Society campaigners and growing number of supporters of this treaty that represents a huge step forward for the global movement to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons. It would certainly be dishonest to ignore the fact that this new international legal instrument remains controversial, to say the least, for most of the members of the so-called nuclear deterrence community. As preparations are ongoing for the first Meeting of States Parties, scheduled to take place in Vienna on 22-24 March 2022, it is useful to address some of the main doubts and arguments against the treaty.
In this regard, the main criticism is that it makes no sense to support a treaty on nuclear weapons if those states that possess them have not joined nor any intention to join it.
In order to address this claim, it may be useful to recall that in the case of the Mine Ban and the Cluster Munition treaties, its main promoters and supporters were also states that did not possess those weapons, and that those international instruments also received some harsh criticism for this reason. Despite of this, there is no doubt now that both of those treaties have become remarkable success stories, not only by achieving the goal of approaching universalization, but also by consolidating a general moral condemnation of those categories of weapons. Therefore, the argument that a treaty necessarily needs to be joined by the possessors of the weapons can easily be rebutted. Despite of the current position of the nuclear weapons states, each new ratification of the treaty is not meaningless: on the contrary, it provides the treaty more authority and contributes to the growing pressure on nuclear weapons states to adopt further steps towards nuclear disarmament.
The other major contribution of the TPNW is that it facilitates the process of delegitimisation of nuclear weapons, necessary to finally amend the well-established foundations of nuclear deterrence doctrines. The humanitarian principles that are underlying the treaty are totally incompatible with those doctrines, and therefore are having an impact on them by highlighting the inherent immorality and illegitimacy of nuclear weapons.
Another argument for the case of ratification is that it provides states the opportunity to support the process of democratization of the global debate on nuclear weapons, as this new treaty has been the result of a very open discussion with active engagement of delegations from all geographic regions and, in particular, of representatives of Civil Society. This is not a minor aspect of this process, but a key element. Indeed, unlike in negotiations of previous international legal instruments, in this era of growing complexity and interlinkages, the main challenges faced by humankind are being addressed by a diverse group of citizens, from all walks of life and regions. Traditional diplomacy is certainly not enough, and in the case of the TPNW, the positive results would clearly not have been possible without the decisive boost provided by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which was able to mobilize Civil Society and likeminded governments towards the goal of negotiating a nuclear weapons ban treaty.
While it would be naïve to expect the establishment of the nuclear weapons states to be convinced by the humanitarian narrative and in a foreseeable future to amend its defence and security policies base on nuclear deterrence, the TPNW and its focus on the security of the human being instead of the traditional notion of the security of the state, are already having an impact on the academic and public debates in those states.
The second argument used by its critics is that the TPNW weakens the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Actually, this is not only incorrect, the opposite is true. In fact, the TPNW can serve as an initiative to help implement article VI of the NPT, by which parties are committed to undertake to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament”. This is of vital importance as the treaty clearly attaches a key role to all parties, and not only to those states that possess nuclear weapons. This commitment has also been reflected in the Final Document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, and the TPNW can be understood as a reflection of that obligation to contribute to nuclear disarmament by non-nuclear weapons states.
Another common point is that the nuclear weapons industry is too strong and well consolidated and that it would be naïve to pretend that this treaty could actually have an impact on investment decisions.
This pessimism has also been proven wrong. In fact, in 2021, more than one hundred financial institutions are reported to have decided to stop investing in companies related to nuclear weapons production. As a result, the nuclear weapons industry is experiencing a considerable reduction and the trend towards the exclusion of this sector from investment targets is growing steadily. This is not only the consequence from the legal obligations that emanate from the TPNW but a reflection of the devaluation of the public image associated to these industries. As this public image continues to deteriorate, it is likely that this trend will continue and that the moral condemnation of these weapons of mass destruction will be absorbed into the mainstream of society.
Another common misinterpretation is that the TPNW should be understood as an instrument that is only designed to be joined exclusively by non-nuclear weapons states.
In fact, even though the treaty was developed by non-nuclear weapons states, it has been drafted and negotiated with the goal of universal adherence, including, someday, those states that still include nuclear deterrence in their national security doctrines. In particular, the TPNW establishes a clear set of steps for nuclear weapons states in order to eliminate their arsenals of nuclear weapons. Specifically, within 60 days after the entry into force of the treaty for a state party that possesses nuclear weapons, that state must submit a plan for the complete elimination of its nuclear weapons to a competent international authority that has been specially designated by states parties. The treaty also includes a process to designate a competent international authority to verify the elimination of nuclear weapons by a state before acceding to the treaty, and a process for states parties that maintain nuclear weapons in their territories for the removal of these weapons and report this action to the United Nations Secretary General.
It is also noteworthy that this treaty obliges states parties to provide adequate assistance to victims affected by the use or by testing of nuclear weapons, and to take the necessary measures for environmental rehabilitation in areas contaminated under its control. This dimension of the treaty constitutes an important contribution both to the protection of human rights of victims and to the now inescapable obligation to protect the environment, which are aspects that are not covered by the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). This certainly does not affect the value and vital role of this key instrument of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime but complements it by addressing the fundamental issue of environmental reparation.
The main challenge now is now not only to achieve a wider universality of the TPNW, but to engage more stakeholders and create awareness on the urgency of bringing pressure on the nuclear weapons states to finally move toward nuclear disarmament. In this regard, Civil Society initiatives have been promoting engagement of members of grassroots, parliament, the media and city governments, particularly in nuclear weapons states, which has had impressive results, with hundreds of local governments expressing support for the treaty and generating discussion among the population. These initiatives serve the purpose of putting pressure on politicians and especially, to facilitate a discussion within democratic societies about the sustainability and risks involved in the possession and harboring of nuclear weapons.
Indeed, the TPNW has a long way to go and overcome many obstacles to achieve its objective, but in its first year of entry into force, it has already had an undeniable impact on the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation debate, despite the expected skeptics and efforts to ignore its existence stemming from the still powerful nuclear deterrence establishment. Most of its technical experts, academics and government officials honestly believe that nuclear weapons have helped to guarantee peace and stability to the world and therefore should continue as the foundation of international security doctrines. These well-established ideas have been based on the questionable assumption that the deployment of these weapons have avoided war and can guarantee permanent peace for all nations. This has served as a sort of dogmatic idea for many decades, but recent research results have shown that the risks involved are significantly higher and that the humanitarian consequences would be catastrophic for every citizen of the planet. The humanitarian impact paradigm, which underlies the process that has inspired the TPNW, has provoked a tectonic shift in the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation debate, which had been limited to the NPT review conferences with its often-frustrating results. Certainly, the persistence of the different approaches needs to be addressed in a more constructive discussion among the supporters of this treaty and the deterrence community.
Finally, the fact that the first meeting of states parties of the TPNW will take place in Vienna is very meaningful as Austria has been one of the leading nations in this process, particularly in drafting the Humanitarian Pledge to fill the legal gap for the prohibition of nuclear weapons, which has been a decisive step towards the treaty that has already fulfilled that commitment. Despite of all the difficulties and the persistence of significant resistance, the active and committed participation of diplomats and Civil Society representatives, under the leadership of Austria, allow to envisage that this first meeting will help to strengthen the treaty and move forward in the long and burdensome road to the final objective of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.
Regional Mechanisms of Human Rights: The Way Forward: Case of South Asia
Long debates have evolved since the 1948 UDHR as to whether human rights should always be perceived as universal, or whether they need to be regarded as contextual on regional and local cultures. If we look at Art. 2 of the UDHR the rights apply “with no distinction given to their race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”. Still in spite of this, the universality has been criticized by some, who argue that by claiming human rights are universal, we ignore and undermine the cultural differences that exist between societies in different parts of the world
Historically, the first written evidence of human rights was found in the famous universal declaration in 1215 A.D., popularly known as the ‘Magna Carta’. Along with the same, there were many thinkers like Hobbes, Locke Rousseau, Milton, and Voltaire who argued in favour of individual rights and with passage of time and the conclusion of two world wars, the United Nations Organisation came into being on 24th October 1945 that replaced the League of Nations.
Further, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was established in 1948 and is considered a milestone in the field of human rights whose primary aim is to protect and promote human rights. In contrast to the said aim, the critics of the UDHR label it as a Western-biased document that fails to account for the cultural norms and values which exist in the rest of the world. It is only with regard to a group of certain core rights like that are listed in the human rights treaties as ‘non-derogable rights’ or considered jus cogens such as the prohibition of the use of force, the law of genocide, the principle of racial non- discrimination, crimes against humanity, and the rules prohibiting trade in slaves and piracy that consensus among nations exist.
The core of the issue is that a group of nations are seeking to redefine the content of the term “human rights” according to their own social and cultural experiences as they argue that the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration reflect Western values and not their own. These countries sign many international human rights treaties and conventions, but the use of reservations and internal obstacles
jeopardize their implementation. Such claims of social and cultural differences in the past have been dismissed by the western countries and the USA who dismissed such claims as being a screen behind which authoritarian governments can perpetuate abuses.
Coming to South Asian Nations, there does exist violations of human rights in India as there is an absence of any regional framework that can hold the government responsible for the acts committed or provide a forum to individuals to appeal against the decisions of the Courts like the one existing under European Court of Human Rights. To illustrate, the aspect of women’s rights needs consideration and improvement in the daily lives of women to meet the gap between formal rights and actual implementation of the same. What this means is that there exists a necessity to focus on translating the universal values enshrined under International human rights to local contexts that is the only option available to human beings irrespective of the geographical location to the ideals of equality and freedom from discrimination
In this context, there arises a need for establishing regional and sub- regional human rights codes or conventions. This has also been recognized by the United Nations since in absence of a universal approach that the South Asian states refuse to adopt, it is through regional initiatives that the motives of human rights could be achieved. The need for a regional initiative becomes even more significant because unlike Europe, America, and Africa there is no inter-governmental regional system for human rights protection in South Asia. In practice, the reason cited is that the human rights debate revolves around the South Asian views or perspectives. Although the South Asian governments have ratified international human rights instruments, they fail to reflect in the national constitutions or laws of most governments.
The fact that human rights will enjoy certain specificity in South Asia, still to be elaborated and applied, however, does not mean less for the universality of human rights. The reason being that the international human rights do not originate from merely one homogenous European value system or culture, but from various heterogeneous sources, some of these existing in the long history of South Asia. Thus, human rights are universal not only in their applicability to all human beings in every corner of the world, but are also universal because they originated from every corner in the world.
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Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane said that “India was not averse to the possible demilitarisation of the Siachen glacier...
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