My Lords, first, I draw attention to my relevant entries in the Lords register and thank the House for this opportunity to raise the important issue of the responsibility to protect and its application by both the United Kingdom and United Nations. This is an opportunity to look backwards, but also forwards. I also look forward to hearing the valedictory speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein.
This is a timely debate. Last Friday, I had, with many others, the honour of attending a commemorative service in St Giles’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, 20 years on from the genocide in Srebrenica in the Balkans. Speaking at the ceremony were representatives of the Mothers of Srebrenica. Their pain 20 years on was raw; their anger remains deep; and they know—today, we know—that we in the international community let them and their families down. We had said “Never again” after 1945, but too often in the decades that followed, because of a false analysis of state sovereignty, the international community let down people threatened by, and who were ultimately victims of, genocide and mass atrocities.
In Srebrenica in July 1995, the United Nations stood aside, supported by members of the Security Council, including the United Kingdom, and allowed 8,372 people, men and boys, to be slaughtered by the Bosnian Serbs. Their relatives, particularly the women and children who were moved aside on that day, live with that memory every day. Despite the numerous requests for support, the international community was not there to help protect them. That was only one year after the genocide in Rwanda, where the United Nations had similarly let down so many people—in that case, hundreds of thousands—who became victims of genocide.
Kofi Annan, who was in the United Nations at the time, used his new position as Secretary-General of the United Nations to try to address the issue following his appointment in 1997. To his eternal credit, he cleverly, diplomatically, intelligently but very decisively pushed the international community into action. He asked the key question: who is responsible for protecting people from gross violations of human rights? He specifically and importantly clarified that the UN charter agreed in 1945, which of course had state sovereignty at its heart, was never meant as a licence for Governments to trample over human rights and human dignity, and that sovereignty implies responsibility, not just power.
In 2001, partly at the instigation of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Canadian Foreign Minister established the International Commission on Intervention in State Sovereignty. Its report, Responsibility to Protect, published in December 2001, provided the basis for an international discussion on what could and should be agreed. The report rightly identified the internationally recognised atrocity crimes—genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity—as requiring special attention in any new framework that could be agreed in the years to come.
The advocacy of the responsibility to protect tried to shift the focus from protecting the rights of states to protecting the rights of people. Appropriately, it recognised that the nature of conflict had changed from interstate conflict, particularly during the Cold War decades, to civil conflicts—internal conflicts within states. We know that in the period since, that development has continued. In many instances—not just in Rwanda and the Balkans—the United Nations has been unable to protect the local population from crimes committed against them, either by their own Governments or their fellow citizens.
However, the world summit in 2005 agreed unanimously—every single member state agreed—that the responsibility to protect was to become an international norm. It stated clearly—and I think cleverly, as well as being based on strong principles—that there were three pillars or stages to the responsibility to protect. The first was the primacy of the state in protecting its own people. The second was the responsibility of the international community to support states in protecting their own people. The third, crucially, was that the international community had a responsibility and yes, a moral duty to intervene—in many different ways, but in all ways possible to protect those citizens should their states fail in that responsibility.
That was agreed by the international community in 2005, and very soon first quoted in the United Nations Security Council resolution in 2006 with reference to the emerging situation in the Sudan. Responsibility to protect was referenced in Security Council Resolution 1674 and again in Resolution 1706, which provided a basis for action there that at least protected those who had not yet become victims of the emerging violence in that part of northern Africa.
It was in 2011 that, in the words of Ban Ki-moon, the then Secretary-General of the United Nations,
“responsibility to protect came of age; the principle was tested”, particularly in Libya, but also in Côte d’Ivoire, South Sudan, Yemen and Syria where, either explicitly or implicitly the United Nations used the principles of responsibility to protect to justify action to protect civilians, with mixed results. As Ban Ki-moon said:
“The results were uneven, but … tens of thousands of lives were saved. We gave hope to people long oppressed”.
However, the events of 2011 justify us now in 2015, and the events since 2011, in particular, justify us in reviewing the progress of responsibility to protect and assessing what is not yet being applied consistently or effectively. I want to address a number of points today concerning the application of the principle by both the United Nations and the United Kingdom. I mentioned the register earlier, and I want to thank the United Nations Association of the United Kingdom—UNA-UK—for sponsoring a visit by me and others to the United Nations and to the United States Government in Washington in March where we were able to explore the current application of this principle by both the United Nations and the USA.
It seems to me that the United Nations still has a deep commitment to the responsibility to protect norm and its application. As recently as last year, the joint offices of genocide prevention and responsibility to protect produced a publication entitled Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes. It highlights to all UN agencies, departments and in-country offices ways in which they should be identifying the potential for atrocity prevention and how the United Nations can then respond to help prevent atrocities taking place. The United Kingdom has been at the forefront of driving this United Nations momentum and Peter Wilson, Deputy Permanent Representative, UK Mission to the UN, New York, said last September in a review discussion:
“The international community has a growing role to play in helping states fulfil their primary ‘responsibility to protect’ their own populations from mass atrocities”.
That is particularly true this year, as we look at the sustainable development goals being agreed in September.
I want to raise a number of points relating to the United Nations, on which the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, may wish to respond on behalf of the Government. First, what are we doing in the United Nations Security Council to ensure that that framework for analysis is being driven through the departments and agencies of the UN and implemented consistently and effectively?
Perhaps much more importantly, are we engaged in the important discussion that has been sparked off by the French to look at the use of the veto in cases of mass atrocities? The French have floated the idea that perhaps there should be at least a voluntary restriction on the use of the veto when cases of mass atrocities are up for discussion in the Security Council. As recently as last week, Russia refused to endorse a resolution condemning the Srebrenica genocide. Given the way that the veto has been used over the years—not just by Russia—will the United Kingdom support that debate and look at how the use of the veto could, at least on a voluntary basis in advance of UN reform, be dealt with in the future?
Are we prepared to argue strongly inside the United Nations for a higher priority to be given to state-building capacity following the agreement of the sustainable development goals in September? Can we do more to build strong, independent institutions that protect people inside their own countries? Where we identify that mass atrocities may be about to happen, will the United Nations and the regional organisations that were mentioned in the original World Bummit resolution be able to intervene to protect local populations?
Are we learning the lessons of the follow-through? The Brazilians and others have raised the issue of responsibility while protecting. In Libya, for example, there was an intervention that, at the time, protected the population from the threat from Colonel Gaddafi to exterminate those who opposed his regime in his last days in power. But where was the follow-through? Can we ensure that there is a follow-through responsibility, while protecting and afterwards, to protect the local population and then build a successful state that protects their rights in the longer term, not just in that immediate period of action ?
I turn to the United Kingdom and, perhaps in this context, to the European Union. Recently, I met a group of boys from Hampton School who have, since the 20th anniversary last year of the Rwandan genocide, been conducting a project on how the education system and their generation could remember the Rwandan genocide and the lessons from it, and not allow that to be forgotten. I am happy to share their very interesting and well-presented report with the Government. Before I deal with the bigger strategic, diplomatic and development issues, there is an issue around how we in this country ensure that the younger generation understands these lessons as well as we do—I am struck by the fact that anybody who leaves school today was born after the Srebrenica genocide. Perhaps the Government may wish to address that.
In the United Kingdom, the Building Stability Overseas Strategy, which did not mention responsibility to protect as a norm back in 2011, should perhaps reflect this important principle more, in both its theory and its application. The new Conflict, Stability and Security Fund should specifically target atrocity prevention as one of the issues it was established to tackle with its £1 billion in our long-term security interests. The civilian stability group from the UK, which is deployed to these conflict and post-conflict situations by the United Kingdom Government, should also have a particular remit to help in atrocity prevention and in the aftermath, ensuring that states are able to build solid, independent institutions that protect populations in the future.
We in the United Kingdom might also want to look at advocating within the European Union for a similar structure to that which now exists in the United States of America, where, under Samantha Power, the Obama Administration have created the Atrocities Prevention Board, which brings together knowledge and expertise from across government to identify the potential for atrocities and then take action to try to prevent them. It seems to me that that model could perhaps be copied in the European Union, even if it is not necessarily appropriate for the United Kingdom alone.
Finally, the United Kingdom should find some way of embodying that UN framework for analysis and identifying possible atrocities in our own development, diplomacy and defence policies and strategies. I look forward to the debate that is about to take place and I welcome this opportunity, timely as it is, 20 years on from the genocide in Srebrenica. The United Kingdom did not play a particularly happy role at that time with regard to our international responsibilities. We have learnt a lot since then. We have led this debate in many ways over the past decade and more, and been very supportive of Kofi Annan. All United Kingdom Governments have played a key role in trying to ensure greater consistency and investment in development. I hope this debate allows us to do that even more effectively in the future.
My Lords, I sincerely congratulate the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, on introducing today’s debate. At this time of increasing world instability, growing extremism and shrinking spaces for civil society, the concept of responsibility to protect is perhaps more urgent and more important than ever before. This debate enables us to reflect on whether more can be done, particularly by the United Kingdom.
The rapid pace of globalisation means that we are all more heavily interconnected, and thus atrocities happening in other countries can ultimately threaten our own security. As we have heard, following the terrible events in Rwanda and Bosnia, in 2005 all member states of the United Nations at the World Summit agreed on their primary responsibility to protect populations from the atrocities of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.
I declare an interest. In March, I was one of a small cross-party delegation that was taken by the United Nations Association to the United States to examine where responsibility to protect—or RtoP, as it is known—had got to, and to consider what more could perhaps be done. As the noble Lord has already highlighted, the nature of conflict has changed. Today, it is no longer two armies fighting on battlefields; it is often asymmetric, fought in communities, often by non-state actors. Rape is used as a weapon of war, while ethnic cleansing and war crimes are commonplace and 90% of those killed today in conflicts are civilians. The number of people fleeing conflicts, both internally displaced people and refugees, has never been higher.
The rise of ISIL provides us with a glaring example of where conflict prevention mechanisms either failed or were altogether absent. ISIL’s dangerous and warped ideology has attracted people from all over the world, and we are now faced with a growing and complex web of terrorism and a barbaric caliphate in the Middle East. Visiting an IDP camp in northern Iraq in May, I heard shocking stories from women who had fled with their children from Mosul and Sinjar. The persecution taking place there, especially against the Yazidis, Christians and other minorities, is undoubtedly a form of genocide.
Prevention of conflict is so important. Picking up and acting on the early vibrations can prevent so much of the devastating suffering that atrocities create. Human rights violations are one indication of the early vibrations. Acting on these can be complicated but, when nothing is done, they all too easily turn into mass atrocities, as has been the case in Sudan and the Central African Republic. Protecting civilians and preventing atrocities does not necessarily require the use of military force. Atrocity prevention policies seek to avoid violence altogether. However, effective prevention requires the inclusion of a mechanism for rapid mobilisation, to try to stop conflict as soon as it starts. As with everything else, resourcing is key. Once regime change has occurred, finance and expertise need to be given to help countries build institutions to prevent a vacuum, which creates the chaos that we see in Iraq and Libya today.
The UK still has significant influence around the world through soft power, but do we do enough on RtoP? Internationally, our Foreign Office and diplomatic corps are held in the highest esteem, and they focus on human rights and democracy. On poverty reduction, the UK also has an excellent record. We played a leading role in the formation of the new SDGs, with their policy of leaving no one behind, and we are the only country in the G8 to have delivered on the commitment of 0.7% of GNI for overseas aid and to have this enshrined in our law.
While conflict causes poverty, poverty also causes conflict. Aid also assists with long-term economic growth and stability, giving us the ability to listen to voices at grass roots. The UK was one of the first countries to have a national action plan for UN Security Council Resolution 1325, the groundbreaking resolution on peace and security, which recognises that conflict disproportionately impacts women. I met some of our military in Iraq carrying out innovative work, training for the protection of civilians. Communication with women in civil society also assists them with intelligence-gathering. I also sit on the steering board of the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative, through which the UK has demonstrated outstanding international leadership. While I understand that finance is always an issue, surely using these levers, which are already in place, means there is more that the UK can do to promote RtoP?
We have heard already about the United States Atrocities Prevention Board, which was set up by President Obama in 2012 to ensure that atrocity prevention remains a priority across the US Government. Perhaps we can learn from this; I ask the Minister whether consideration could be given to establishing a similar mechanism in the UK. UN implementation of RtoP has at times been hampered by lack of co-ordination and communication between its agencies. The Human Rights up Front initiative has tried to address this fragmentation and to ensure that human rights always have importance in a coherent and systematic way.
However, even when UN peacekeeping missions are sent to countries, sometimes there have been reports of abuse. The majority of the UN peacekeeping troops come from developing countries and may not have been trained to the same high standards as the UK military. So, why do the UK and US not provide troops to the UN for peacekeeping activities? For a commitment such as RtoP to be effective, it needs buy-in from all countries—is this really there? There seems to be a growing global trend for non-western countries to oppose western leadership, with the UN, and thus, perhaps, RtoP, being seen as a product of the West.
To conclude, while the UK has always been an enthusiastic, vocal supporter of RtoP, is it given the prominence in UK policy that perhaps it merits? As has been mentioned already, our cross-departmental Building Stability Overseas Strategy fails even to mention the terms “responsibility to protect” and “atrocity prevention”. I ask my noble friend the Minister whether there is a focal point in government on RtoP and has funding been allocated? What is the policy on RtoP in the Ministry of Defence and what training do our military receive in this regard? Will there be provision for RtoP in the upcoming strategic defence and security review? In the words of President Obama:
“Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States”.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord McConnell for giving us this opportunity to debate a crucial issue. Since my noble friend joined the House, he has brought a very special and refreshing commitment and drive to our considerations of these international matters. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, for the answer she gave me recently—very detailed answers—to some of my Written Questions. They were very helpful answers that illuminated arrangements the Government are putting in place and the principles to which they try to adhere.
I particularly welcome this debate because I so much look forward to the remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery. He has had a spirited and long-standing understanding of the implications of Britain’s involvement in the world and has followed this with great enthusiasm. We will miss him gravely.
I should declare an interest as a trustee of Saferworld and a lifelong member of the United Nations Association.
These issues once again bring home the underlying truth and reality of total global interdependence. The world now, in almost every way, is interdependent and the first reality of politics is how we relate to that and make a success of our membership of the global community.
We like to talk about values. Values are by definition universal; we cannot dip in and out of them. If our values apply within the United Kingdom, they apply to what we do as members of the global community. John Donne was right:
“No man is an island, entire of itself … any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind … therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”.
I believe that, in the times in which we live, the truth and wisdom of that observation have become more telling than ever.
We have to avoid the pitfalls of self-gratification or halo polishing. Saying to the world, “Well, we are concerned and we are going to do this”, is the politics of gesture. Of course, if we are going to intervene it must be effective. What must be very much there in making the decision are the consequences of intervening. Do we weigh those consequences carefully enough? On the other hand, we must never forget the consequences of not intervening. I will only say that Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya leave an uneasy feeling that perhaps we did not understand the implications of what we were doing quite as deeply as we should have done. I often think that in these evaluations, historians, anthropologists and certainly members of the NGO community, particularly those who have had long-standing commitments to any area, are crucial, because they give an insight into the deeper and complex implications of what is going to be involved.
These matters apply immediately in a bigger setting: Greece. What is going to be the consequence, not only for Greece itself and its people, but for security in all that region—a crucial region of Europe—of the policies that have been imposed, the way they have been imposed and the language that has been used in doing so? Are we taking that seriously enough? And can we in Britain really say that, because we are not part of the euro, we have not got to face up to what is happening to the Greek people or see what we should be doing to help, not least because of the very significant security considerations?
There is also the Mediterranean situation. The refugees are coming from Syria, Eritrea, Sudan and Gambia, where the human rights situation is dreadful. What specifically are we doing to tackle the issues that are causing people to take terrible risks in trying to escape the reality of their everyday life? There is one big challenge to Europe in all this and to us, within the United Kingdom: that whatever the virtues of strong fiscal discipline—and I am not against it—it cannot exist simply in isolation. It immediately raises the issue of what the accompanying social policy and priorities are. It makes that side of the equation more important than ever; otherwise, what insecurity lies ahead?
I think that this applies even within the United Kingdom. A great deal of wisdom, insight and patience will be involved in finding the right solutions for the United Kingdom. We must not allow ourselves to become preoccupied with tactical victories in skirmishes. We must be looking all the time at the long-term strategy. I am not complacent. Ireland is there across the Irish Sea. If we have got it wrong, goodness knows what could begin to happen within the rest of Great Britain.
It also matters in the way we arrange the world economy. If we are disproportionately consuming the resources of the world, it does not really carry much weight when we tell the rest of the world what it must do and how it must behave. If we have not got the commitment of the rest of the world on the social priorities that are essential, what are we going to do about our disproportionate consumption of the resources of the world?
The noble Lord mentioned the Security Council. This is a time when we have to ask: what is security? It brings home that for the Security Council to do its job properly in a modern context it has to have a very wide approach to the social and economic issues that are central to complement the more limited vision of military security, if I may use that term, as it has applied in the past.
I wonder whether we are taking all these matters sufficiently into account in our national security strategy, which was initiated in 2010. We have to become much more alive to the underlying economic and social issues, which, if we do not get them right, are always going to lead to the danger of conflict. But above all, in my older years, I have very firmly concluded that Donne was absolutely right.
(Valedictory Speech) My Lords, this is the last time you will hear from me. Many of you will be very pleased to know that. I speak from the Cross Benches now. When I first came here in 1976 as a hereditary Peer, of course we did not have elections then; I just came here and took my seat. I stayed here from 1976 to 1999, when the reform process took place, organised very efficiently, if I may say so, by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg. He allowed for the fact that there should be a residual number of hereditary Peers from different parts. I took advantage of that and was duly elected to the Cross Benches, where I have been, very happily, for many years, under the auspices of the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, and the former Convenor, the noble Lord, Lord Laming, neither of whom is in their seat.
The office of the Convenor of the Cross Benches happens to be located opposite that of the Leader of the Opposition—very fortunately, in my view—which has enabled me to have contact with the Leader of the Opposition, principally the noble Baroness, Lady Royall of Blaisdon, and more recently the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon.
My principal involvement since I succeeded has been with Latin America. I am very glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, is here because she has taken my seat on the Inter-Parliamentary Union British Group and is extremely knowledgeable on the subject.
This is a revising Chamber, rapidly growing in size. This question of growth must be addressed. Every time the Government change, needless to say they want a majority, which is quite understandable. We are now up to more than 900. Is it really necessary to have that great number? Something will have to be done about it, because 900 is the same number as speak in the People’s Republic of China, and they have a population of only 1 billion. The question remains of how to address this problem of numbers— it will have to be dealt with somehow in due course. I do not have an answer, but it is an issue that needs to be addressed by those who follow me.
Ever since I took my seat, my principal involvement has been with Latin America, a continent in which I lived for some six or seven years and which I have subsequently visited many times. I am glad to say that the Latin American lead will be retained by the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, who is going to speak after me. She is very well qualified to do that, since she knows a great deal about Latin America.
Another institution that I want to mention is Canning House, which is where the UK meets Latin America. All the Latin American ambassadors in London are honorary vice-presidents. It has regular meetings and is a very efficiently run and economical organisation located in Belgrave Square. Apart from me, previous presidents include the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, and the noble Lord, Lord Garel-Jones. The noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, is currently a vice-president.
The other organisation that I want to mention is the Restaurant Association. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St Johns, who unfortunately is not in her seat, is an ex-president, as, many years ago, was I. The Restaurant Association, of course, has to do with good eating, something that we all enjoy. The noble Baroness held her office very well indeed. This was an independent association, but being the efficient lady that she is, she wound it back into the British Hospitality Association, the umbrella organisation. I congratulate her, and hope that she continues with that good work.
Finally, I mention the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which is a very efficient organisation. It is like the United Nations of parliaments—it has regular conferences and bilateral visits, outward and inward. This is a very useful adjunct. It passes resolutions that are not necessarily binding on their Governments, but Governments are recommended to consider them very seriously. Its conferences are very worth while. The noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, attends these functions and represents the House of Lords very well, and the Conservative Party as well.
That is what I need to say. I wish everybody well here in the future as I take my retirement. Thank you.
My Lords, to be frank, I doubt whether I would have participated in this debate today had it not been the occasion for the valedictory speech of my very good friend, the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein. As he said, I share his interest and involvement in all things Latin American. He will be sorely missed in your Lordships’ House for his experience and enthusiasm and for his knowledge of all those countries, stretching from Mexico, through central America and South America, to Patagonia and the very tip of Argentina and Chile. That expertise is unparalleled and respected, and will be much missed. We missed him before of course, after the expulsion of the hereditaries in 1998, but he was one of the comeback kids. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to work with him ever since, in your Lordships’ House, in Canning House and in other places. I hope very much that this is not the last that we shall hear from him. We may not see him on the Floor of the House, but I hope we shall often see him sitting on the steps of the Throne and having chats and catch-up talks elsewhere in your Lordships’ House.
I very much admire the noble Viscount’s ingenuity in bringing his thoughts and comments on Latin America within the Motion before us, but that is typical of his consistent aim to improve and strengthen our understanding of and links with the people of Latin America. In support of everything he said, I would add and underline that there is of course no example of the responsibility to protect principle being brought to bear in relation to any Latin American country. Thank goodness that war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing can be relegated to the history books in that part of the world. However, that is not to say that the United Kingdom—whether through our Ministers, parliamentarians or NGOs—cannot have a useful role in human rights issues, in prioritising support for human rights defenders and, for example, in the ongoing peace process in Colombia.
It is more a question of how we interact with our counterparts in Latin American countries, as well as in other countries throughout the world, whether as Ministers or parliamentarians, in building alliances and in jointly and collectively developing and exercising this responsibility based on the principle of protection, in both the Security Council and other international fora. Other important doctrines of international law have been developed in Latin America, for example the laws of asylum and the doctrine of hot pursuit. Although I have not in the past discussed the R2P principle with Latin American friends on IPU or other visits, I will certainly make sure that this topic is on the agenda in the future. If my noble friend has any comments in this respect, he can be sure that both I and the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, will be listening very attentively.
Turning now to the main theme and the Motion before us, I cannot resist saying that the House of Lords is a wonderful centre for CPD—continuing professional development. Both in preparing my speaking notes and in listening to the contributions so far, I have learned a great deal. The noble Lord, Lord McConnell, is to be congratulated on raising the issue and awareness of it in his comprehensive opening of the debate.
It is perhaps appropriate in this anniversary year that we can look back to 1215, when Magna Carta eroded the absolute sovereignty of the monarch, and compare and contrast that with the development of R2P, which sets limits on the accepted and traditional principle of the absolute sovereignty of states. I am glad that there is cross-party consensus in the United Kingdom on the validity of the concept. Will my noble friend confirm that this Government will continue to consider R2P concerns in our work across conflict, human rights and development and support the European Union and the United Nations in implementing a cohesive approach?
I have no personal or first-hand experience of the atrocities, violence and extreme humanitarian distress, on a large scale, that have been experienced by others who are participating in this debate. The exception was a visit that I made to Bosnia-Herzegovina to monitor elections there, when I heard of the massacre in Srebrenica, which we are all remembering at this moment. Therefore, I can accept that the international law principle of absolute state sovereignty and the primacy of the state should not prevent intervention when those conditions are evident.
Here, new technology enables us to see and judge situations in many parts of the world, and to have contact with people on the ground in a way that would not have been possible 20 years ago, let alone 50 or 100 years ago. As the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said so vividly, we now live in a world that is totally, globally interdependent.
The international community has a responsibility, and cannot avoid the responsibility, to take action once cause has been established and the three aspects, or pillars, which have already been referred to, have been satisfied. The safeguards lie in the need to take joint action, wherever possible under the umbrella of the United Nations, and indeed with the spotlight that debates such as this shine upon the difficult and delicate decisions that have to be made. I trust that my noble friend the Minister will be able to reassure us of this.
My Lords, let me start by paying tribute the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery. When I arrived here in 1991, he took me in hand and introduced me to the IPU, and took me to different capitals and educated me in the vital role that the IPU plays. He also taught me a lot about Latin America. We shall miss him, but as the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, said, we hope that he keeps coming back to tell us about how he is improving the world.
I am somewhat puzzled by this issue. It is not that I am against responsibility to protect, but as the international community is losing its will to protect, it is adding to its agenda more and more responsibilities to protect. Responsibility to protect is actually an admission of a massive failure by the United Nations when it could have done something to prevent massacres in Srebrenica and even more so in Rwanda; we all know that. I am sorry to be cynical, but a typical response by national and international organisations is that, when they fail to do something, they double the ante: the next time, they just raise their targets rather than admit that the targets have not been met. What we have right now is a situation so unlike the one in 1995 or 2005 that it is a puzzle that any of these responsibilities could be fulfilled, given not just the strength we have but the willingness to intervene.
Noble Lords will recall that we were called back for a debate on Syria, when Syria had chemical weapons. I think that I was one of the few people to say that we should intervene, and the question was not if, but when. We did not intervene. A massive assault on human rights has been carried out in the Middle East by Syria, ISIL and whoever else. While we have poked at the margins, we have been reluctant to fight. Our reluctance to fight is now deep in our Parliament. Parliament will not sanction our interventions. Perhaps it may if they are under a UN flag, but by and large the UN flag is hard to get hold of. The Security Council being what it is, we will not get unanimity among the P5.
So we face the problem that the international order set up and preserved by NATO and the other allied powers is no longer willing to do its task. Therefore, we have an anarchic situation in which, whatever we may say about our need to intervene, given our interdependence and the many problems arising from the violation of human rights, I do not know how we are going to fashion effective strategies. Let us take an example. The European Union, excepting ourselves and France, does not have an army to speak of. We saw that in Afghanistan. The best that the Italians would do was to send a medical supplies corps. The European Union lives in a world in which it believes that wars will not happen and there will be peace for ever. Unfortunately, that is not the world in which we live, as President Putin has shown us.
The question of how we reconstruct the willingness and strength to intervene in many such situations is an urgent problem that has to be tackled before we can deliver on responsibility to protect. This is where the United Nations needs urgent reform. Without reforming the Security Council and the way it works, we will be hobbled. We have not harnessed other nations—the so-called emerging nations—which could help. I know we have often used countries such as India and Indonesia in the UN peacekeeping force, but we have not systematically created a capability within the United Nations to intervene on its own if it needs to. It has to rely on countries, and while those countries may have some forces, they lack popular parliamentary support to intervene.
So we are drifting along, and for the past five years we have seen in the Middle East one of the biggest and most vicious wars among Muslim nations. The Sunnis and the Shias are killing each other. The states themselves—the first pillar, as my noble friend Lord McConnell said—are doing a lot of damage to the human rights of their own citizens. If we cannot stop President Assad or invade the territory ISIL occupies, we will, embarrassingly, just have to sit back and watch human rights being violated.
So we need to ask ourselves, what sort of world order is needed to deliver on responsibility to protect? What sort of world order is needed in this new globalised world? It is not the 1945 order, as is now absolutely clear. I do not think it likely that we can reconstruct the old Anglo-American alliance, because we just do not want to fight. We even had difficulty affirming a 2% share of GDP for our defence budget, and if you are not going to support that, you should not be talking about responsibility to protect. Such considerations are interconnected. We really ought to think about how we can strengthen the United Nations with a better, more representative Security Council in which a single nation’s veto will not prevent action being taken, because that is what often cripples the UN. This question has been on the agenda for I do not know how many years. Expert groups have been appointed, but mainly they are from inside the United Nations, and nobody from inside the UN ever wants to reform it because they are all very happy with the way it is. Either we expand the Security Council, or we modify the veto rule using the qualified majority voting that the European Union uses.
Something has to be done to reform the United Nations to improve its ability to intervene. We have to equip it with some sort of permanent or semi-permanent armed force, recruited from among its members—voluntarily contributing. That would allow it to intervene on its own, without having to go through the circuit of individual sovereign nations. It is not a question of goading the United Kingdom Government to do more. They may or may not do more, but the United Kingdom is not the country which can alone solve this problem. Our need to establish responsibility to protect on a more solid basis must be accompanied by reform of the United Nations, so that it can become more capable of acting on the responsibilities it keeps adding to its agenda. Either it should stop adding such responsibilities and slim down its goals, or it should strengthen its own ability, reform its structures and practices, and become a seriously effective international organisation that can, rather than “govern”, supervise and monitor the way the international situation is deteriorating.
My Lords, I would like to begin by paying a tribute to my noble friend Lord Montgomery, whose valedictory speech saddens me because we shall not be seeing him in this Chamber. But it gives me great pleasure to be here to have heard his speech and to pay tribute to one part of his work in particular, which was the emphasis he has placed in so many of his contributions to the House’s debates on Latin America. British foreign policy has been pretty forgetful about Latin America over many decades and the noble Viscount has prevented that becoming a complete vacuum. For that we should thank him.
I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, will forgive me for pointing out that it is not in fact the case that there has never been an instance of the responsibility to protect in Latin America, at least if one expands that phrase to cover the Caribbean, because the UN interventions in Haiti in the 1990s—which was, of course, before the responsibility to protect was called that—were in fact precisely responsibility to protect. When the United Nations moved in to help remove a dictator who was oppressing, torturing and murdering his own citizens, that was a very important step down the road which included also our own involvement in the safe havens for the Kurds in Iraq in 1991. This moved on later to the fully fledged doctrine.
The noble Lord, Lord McConnell, is certainly to be congratulated on securing this debate on what he himself has said is almost the exact 10th anniversary of the endorsement by the Heads of State and Government of all UN member states of what was undoubtedly a ground-breaking new doctrine: the international community’s responsibility to protect those whose Governments were either unwilling or unable to protect their own citizens themselves. I should perhaps declare an interest as having served as a member of Kofi Annan’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, which put forward that new doctrine. We were between the Canadian panel, which was not a fully fledged UN one, and Kofi Annan’s own championship of the new doctrine and its endorsement by the Heads of Government at the New York summit in September 2005.
Like others who worked on that panel, I was personally strongly motivated and influenced by my experience during the course of two appalling genocidal massacres, which have been mentioned by other speakers—that in Rwanda in 1994, and that in Srebrenica in 1995—and by the pressing need to find a way of preventing any repetition of those terrible events. We have just passed the 20th anniversaries of those massacres, and we surely must not let them fade from our memories. In that respect, I have to say that there have been few Security Council vetoes as shameful as the one wielded last week by Russia when, in what can only be described as genocide denial, it vetoed a resolution to try to draw some lessons from Srebrenica 20 years on.
With the new doctrine available, how sure can we be that the prospect of any repetition of those terrible events is behind us? The honest answer is that we cannot. The potential for genocidal killing exists today in Burundi. Gross abuses of international humanitarian law are being perpetrated against the Muslim inhabitants of Burma. More than 200,000 Syrians have died in a civil war while the UN Security Council has been paralysed by Russian and Chinese vetoes and by the timidity of western Governments. The so-called Islamic State is waging a war that respects none of the international conventions that we had hoped would be universally observed, and which in fact rides roughshod over the Geneva Conventions on the rules of war and over the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Still, the responsibility to protect has not been a complete failure. In Libya, it proved possible to protect the population of Benghazi and the rest of western Libya from the vengeance of Colonel Gaddafi, and the subsequent failure of the international community to support sufficiently the transition and the consolidation of the move away from his regime should not obscure the fact that many thousands of lives were saved by that intervention. In Côte d’Ivoire that same year, an attempt to overthrow a democratic election by force and civil war was prevented; the country is now growing at 9% a year and is preparing to hold its next democratic presidential election. In Mali, the Central African Republic and South Sudan the United Nations and the African Union are protecting many thousands of citizens of those countries whom their own Governments cannot hope to do that for. In Democratic Republic of the Congo, the UN is applying the doctrine of the responsibility to protect, day in and day out, albeit imperfectly. So this is no time to be giving up on the responsibility to protect, unless we wish to see ourselves again cast as helpless spectators of mass killings.
What can and should be done to make the responsibility to protect more effective and less contentious? Here are four suggestions to which I would welcome the reaction of the Minister when he winds up the debate. First, I suggest that we really must rid the public debate of the idea that the responsibility to protect is just shorthand for justifying western military intervention in a particular country. Both the supporters and the detractors of the responsibility to protect have sometimes fed that misconception. Rather than trying to parse the text that was agreed in 2005 governing the exercise of the responsibility to protect, I suggest that we should strengthen the non-coercive instruments for conflict prevention, and there I join others who have called for that.
Secondly, we should put to better use the UN’s Peacebuilding Commission, which, interestingly enough, is also celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. This body has so far been grossly underused and underresourced. I suggest that we remove the constraints that were put on it when it was set up and which limit it to post-conflict peacebuilding, and re-equip it to co-ordinate international efforts at conflict prevention in fragile states. It could do a lot in that field. Thirdly, I suggest we should be promoting the preventive, pre-conflict deployment of peacekeepers, both military and police, and should be ready to contribute ourselves, thus boosting our current, pitifully small contribution to international peacekeeping.
Fourthly, we should surely be supporting the French in their initiative that the five permanent members forswear the use of a veto when instances of genocide or gross abuses of international humanitarian law are at stake. I simply cannot understand why the Government have not given the French full support. Is it even faintly conceivable that Britain would veto a resolution when genocide or humanitarian law was being threatened? Of course the answer is: it is absolutely unthinkable. Then why on earth can we not say so? Why can we not join the French? It may not happen. It may be that the Russians, the Chinese and the Americans will be unwilling to do this, but surely our position should not be ambiguous, as it is now.
Of course, supporting the responsibility to protect does come cost free in lives or resources, but nor does allowing the responsibility to protect to wither on the vine. Britain, as a middle-ranking power with global interests and a permanent member seat on the Security Council, can influence the way that the doctrine develops. If we turn our backs on it or limit ourselves just to warm words, why on earth should those with less influence and fewer resources than us be willing to make a serious contribution?
I conclude with a somewhat wider observation. It really is important not to regard the responsibility to protect as a stand-alone, solve-every-problem doctrine. It is none of those things. Rather, it must be considered and shaped as an essential part of the UN’s toolbox for the future—a tool that must be used sparingly and with great care but one without which that toolbox will be sadly, and perhaps quite disastrously, deficient.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, for introducing this subject today and I do not think that I have heard anything I disagree with. I strongly believe in the responsibility to protect. In fact, I also think that it is a duty. I have seen what happens when we fail in that duty. I ran an NGO—British Direct Aid—in Rwanda for most of 1995. Our mission was to maintain all UNHCR vehicles and plant operating there. Quite often an educated Rwandan would come up to me and challenge me with the words, “You are swanning around in your white Land Rover, but where were you when we really needed you?”. In other words, why did the international community not intervene militarily to stop the genocide? Of course, I had no answer to that. One day I was invited to donate my Land Rover to the freelance section of the Rwandan army. My greatest worry was what I would say to the ODA and the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, to explain how I had lost the Land Rover. Fortunately, I got it back. I pay tribute to my noble friend, who continues to do sterling work in Africa.
In the winter of 1997-98 I served with the British Army in Bosnia as part of SFOR. Nothing gave me and my comrades more confidence that we were doing the right thing than seeing local people putting a roof back on their house. They were doing this because SFOR and NATO, with their overwhelming military superiority, were able to provide the stability and security which are a prerequisite for reconstruction and other desirable post-conflict activities.
Many noble Lords have touched on how the UN and the Security Council decide whether to intervene or not. This is not my area of expertise but, like many noble Lords, I think that we need to find some way in which the international community can sanction an intervention without being vetoed by one or two states which still seem to be comfortable with tolerating crimes against humanity—a point just raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay.
I would like to look at the question of whether UK forces are militarily willing and able to intervene as part of a solution and a component of deterring a failure to protect one’s own people. However, first, I want to make it clear that I strongly support ring-fencing the international aid budget. If noble Lords imagine looking at the cake of government expenditure, it will make no difference at all whether the very small slice that is international aid is there. The fact is that the first 25% of government expenditure goes on welfare, followed by pensions, health, education, interest payments and then defence. I have no idea why the defence community gets so excited about ring-fencing international development, as we all know perfectly well that hard power on its own has little utility.
The first point to understand is that members of our Armed Forces are indeed very willing to engage in peacekeeping and peace support operations. I have never detected any reluctance on the part of soldiers deploying to Afghanistan, but there is clearly a significant risk of being seriously injured in combat in that type of operation. In operations of the type that we are talking about, you have to be extremely unlucky not to come back intact. In our operations in the Balkans, the vast majority of serious injuries arose from road traffic accidents.
The next question is whether our Armed Forces will be able to engage in these operations. First, we need to be certain that they are capable of successfully engaging in high-intensity operations, because we need to deter interstate conflict. It does not necessarily go away, and just when you think that it has gone away for ever is when it arises. These high-intensity operations are extremely difficult to undertake and it is essential that training and exercises focus on them. I have a particular concern that we do not undertake exercises involving whole brigades being manoeuvred around the area of operations. This is principally because we do not have the training areas and the resources to do it.
There is a school of thought that says that we should not get involved if our own direct national interests are not engaged. I am not convinced about that. If we want to remain a P5 member, we have to pull our weight. In addition, it is far easier to play the honest broker in a situation if one has little direct interest. Of course, we are very far from being the only country that engages in peace support operations—indeed, numerically we are quite small—but there are very few countries that can deploy at brigade strength out of area. So we ought to get in first and then out fast, having, one hopes, established a UN mandated force. A very good example of this was Rwanda in 1994. When I arrived in January 1995, most of the British forces had already left and there were only one or two staff officers in headquarters.
The good news is that if one has trained for high intensity, peace support operations are relatively easy to conduct, although mistakes are still easily made. One obvious difference is that on a peace support operation one does not normally try to conceal oneself or reduce one’s signature—quite the opposite, in fact; you want to be seen. The bad news is this. Until recently, the British Army had been heavily engaged in operations all the time since Dayton in 1995. However, we are now drastically reducing the size of the Regular Army under Army 2020. In future, if we deployed just one brigade of 3.,000 to 5,000 troops, I am sure that the staff would make it very clear to the centre of Government that there would be severe difficulties in doing another conventional land operation anywhere else at the same time. In addition, such a deployment would impact on training for high-intensity operations where we are already weak. Furthermore, there are real dangers in deploying our forces at too small a scale of effort after considering the military estimate.
So in future years, when your Lordships see the Government of the day declining to intervene militarily in circumstances where there is surely a moral imperative to do so, it may well be that there is simply not the capacity to undertake the operation without compromising our own security.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, for introducing this discussion. The debate has naturally concentrated on the collective duty to protect, and to protect whole populations. Obviously, genocide has to be prevented, as does ethnic clearance. Natural disasters have to be coped with. The noble Lords, Lord Desai and Lord Hannay, made valuable contributions on how the United Nations could improve its performance.
I turn, however, to the responsibility and duty to protect individuals. For example, under the UN Convention on Refugees of 1951, states must assess asylum applicants who, by one means or another, arrive on their territory. They have the duty of care and protection even to those who do not qualify for full refugee status. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees must register genuine refugees and must assist individuals as far as resources allow. The International Organization for Migration is charged with assisting long-term migration and resettlement in third countries.
In Europe, in the past two years, an unprecedented wave of refugees and migrants has arrived. I am told that this year alone some 137,000 have landed. We all know the causes behind this: wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and at least seven other African countries. This is in addition to the spread of deserts, which has destroyed the livelihoods of many people.
I would like to consider how this country, and the European Union, can contribute to dealing with this wave of people. I suggest first that we in Britain have an opportunity to do something constructive about those refugees and migrants who reach the north of France. I urge the Home Office to work in a far more proactive way than they ever have before. I would like an interviewing point to be opened in or near Calais to help with this mass of people, who are living in deplorable conditions in what has become known as the jungle camp. I would like our interviewers to identify individuals who could qualify to come to this country for the purpose of family reunion because they already have close family relatives living here. The Red Cross has recently published a major report on family reunion, Not So Straightforward, and I hope that the Government will take account of it.
There may also be special medical cases in the north of France who could benefit from treatment in this country. There may be people walking about who look quite normal but are suffering the after-effects of the traumas that they have experienced. We in this country have considerable expertise in dealing with that. For example, there is what used to be called the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture—I think that it has now changed its name to Freedom from Torture. The Save the Children Fund has drawn attention to unaccompanied children. I do not know whether any of them have got to northern France, but perhaps a few have. There, again, our interviewers could be on the lookout for them.
Secondly, this country, in conjunction with the European Union, ought to be providing help to Greece, Italy and Malta, which have seen so many arrivals, with the assessment and interviewing of individuals. If that could be very much improved at or near the point of first arrival, it would prevent so many people wandering off vaguely northwards, some towards Germany, some towards France. When they reach France, they have just the one idea of trying somehow to cross the Channel. I believe that there is an organisation called the European Asylum Support Office. What is it doing, how is it trying to cope with that influx and can it be geared up a little?
Finally, we need a long-term vision. A week ago, on
It would of course require the consent of the countries where such zones would be located, but if we can work this out, we may see the germ of new city states, remembering how such places as Hong Kong and Singapore have developed from more or less barren islands. Such protected zones, with their potential for development and growth, would be a serious attempt to deal with the deep-rooted causes of migration.
My Lords, we are all in the debt of the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, not only for bringing this opportunity for us to debate the question of the responsibility to protect and how things have gone in the past 10 years, but for, characteristically, introducing it with a very thoughtful, impressive and passionate speech. He is very committed to these issues, but he is also extremely knowledgeable about them, and he brings creative thinking to our debate on this issue, as on others.
Sometimes when we have a 10th anniversary debate, it is a celebration of how well things have gone. My sense is that the noble Lord has not brought this debate to us today for that reason, but rather because the situation 10 years’ on, is much worse. Those of us who saw the “Dispatches” programme last night on the situation of the 4 million women living under the aegis of ISIS will have been troubled all night with the thought of what is happening to many young—and, indeed, older—women across the whole of the region, but particularly in the areas controlled by ISIS.
Increasingly over the past few days, we have heard of a worsening situation in Burundi, a part of the world where we had hoped up until a few years ago that things were improving. There are lots of other smaller but chronic problems all around. In your Lordships’ House, we have often looked at the situation of Palestinians, particularly in Gaza. In many such situations, we cannot really look at the last 10 years and say that the situation has improved. Many noble Lords have referred to them, starting with the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, himself. The noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, referred to the question of sexual violence and the use of rape in the context of war, and the noble Lord, Lord Judd, pointed up to us that we must be not only aware of the importance of intervening but careful that we do not make things worse when we intervene.
As we look back at the question of the responsibility to protect—all of us applaud the work of Kofi Annan and of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, which helped to bring all this about—we must ask ourselves whether we have been taking the right line with enough energy. If it is not possible to persuade the United Nations to take full responsibility at the level of the Security Council—the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, with his unparalleled experience of that organisation, has pointed up some of the difficulties there—let us think about how we can approach this question in a more effective way.
First, there has been a tendency to think about the question in the context of international law—a much more uncertain concept than its name suggests. When we think about international law, we think about it as an international extension of domestic law, where we have courts, the administration of justice, policing, capacity to imprison people who do not obey the criminal law, and so on. Many of those things are only partially effective or simply ineffective at international level. I was happy to see that the noble Lord had couched his Motion in terms of an international norm rather than international law. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, talked about a doctrine of responsibility to protect. That is important, because, in a sense, we are trying to establish some moral authority and precedent for the approach, rather than thinking about international law.
The second problem is that we have increasingly seen the question in terms of military intervention. It is clear that there are situations where military intervention is appropriate, but right from its beginning, ICISS said that we must be careful about taking such action. First, the intention had to be right, which is not always the case. Secondly, military intervention had to be a last resort, not a first one. The intervention also had to be proportional and have reasonable prospects for success. It is not easy to find that some of the worst problems that we face fulfil all those requirements. That is why the international commission pointed up that there were a number of components to the responsibility to protect. One was the responsibility, in so far as possible, to prevent. Much can be done beyond military intervention to try to prevent some atrocities. Secondly, there is a responsibility to react, but the reaction in terms of military intervention is often limited. Thirdly, there is a responsibility to rebuild. That can be done on a multilateral basis, but it can also be done by an individual country. I want to pick up on some of those issues.
If we take the focus away for the moment from what we can do militarily—the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, has pointed out some of the positives and problems of that—and look at other ways in which we can promote the responsibility to protect, we may come away with more options, rather than simply be depressed about the fact that it has not been very effective over the past 10 years. When we look at situations where it has been invoked and we have engaged, such as in Libya, it is harder by the month to feel that all has worked out well. Of course, as noble Lords have pointed out, it was not just the intervention but the follow-up that was the problem—perhaps more of a problem.
What other possibilities can we see? First, if we are trying to express a doctrine, a norm, a moral imperative, then getting it across to the vast mass of people is very important. We want our young people to grow up with a sense of responsibility to protect others in their community, in the wider country and in the wider world, and to say that, “I am my brother’s keeper. I have a responsibility to people in other places”. This is especially important in the present climate because, with a climate of fear that extends throughout the world, people tend to turn into themselves and say, “We’ll just look after ourselves; the problems out there are too big”.
How do we get across to our young people this moral imperative to be responsible in one’s relationships with other people? It seems to me that we need to focus more not just on our ordinary educational involvement but on the use, for example, of social media—engaging young people in debate and discussion on these kinds of questions. How much time, thought and resource are being given by those responsible, particularly in the Foreign Office, for ensuring that our young people are looking at the wider world with a greater sense of how they can be responsible in their attitudes, and that this is being done not just by putting ever more burdens on our teachers but by engaging, for example, in social media?
In passing, I want to refer to the question of Latin America and, of course, as others have done, to the sterling work over many years of the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, on Latin America and other things. We are sad to see him go but we thank him for his great public service in your Lordships’ House and outside. We wish him well in his retirement and in continuing to keep in contact with us. Although the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, said that this was not so much applicable to Latin America, one of the worrying things for me has been that some of the big countries in Latin America, such as Brazil, have not seen the need to shoulder responsibility to help in the United Nations with promoting the notion of responsibility to protect. It should not just be a reaction; it should be about developing a sense that responsibility to protect is something that as a wider community we should all share. I wonder whether some of the new conflict security fund should perhaps go to help in education.
The responsibility to rebuild seems to me also to involve how we care for the victims who come out of these situations—for example, young people from this country who have foolishly and mistakenly gone to Syria or Iraq and have come back again. My experience is that the security services are more concerned to make sure that these young people are not a danger to us than they have been to care for them and look after them when, in fact, engaging with them in a caring way could well make these young people the best ambassadors against ISIS with the sort of young people who might be most vulnerable. It seems to me that we have been too cautious rather than properly engaging in helping these folk. I know from my own part of the world that the failure to agree some kind of overarching instrument for dealing with the past has meant that we have not dealt properly with the needs of individual people whom we could have helped without any problem politically.
Finally, there is the question of the funding and resourcing of the Foreign Office. It is impossible for us to do the kinds of diplomatic things we need to do and the engagement we need to be involved in if we do not have a properly resourced Foreign Office. I understand entirely the need for efficiency, but we have come to the point where the drive for efficiency has now affected and impacted adversely on the effectiveness of our Foreign Office. Noble Lords often say what a wonderful Rolls-Royce service it is. I increasingly hear from people in other parts of the world that the Foreign Office is no longer able to do the kinds of things that the rest of the world values enormously. If we are not going to focus on military interventions, as we often should not, we have to provide proper resources not just for DfID, although that is very important, but for the Foreign Office to do the kinds of diplomatic work that we need it to do if we are to be effective in this way.
Again, I thank the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, who has given us an opportunity not only to think in this debate, but to continue to think about the engagement and involvement in our own country and with other countries in exercising our responsibility to protect others.
My Lords, I begin by adding my own tribute to the distinguished career of the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein. As we have heard, he has given great service to Parliament in two excellent shifts. His contribution to the success and well-being of our country has not been limited to his work in Parliament; in addition to his business career, he has built close links with Latin America and he has served as a patron and chairman of various Anglo-Latin American organisations. His contribution today is further testimony to his wisdom and insight into Parliament and international affairs. I wish him a very happy and healthy retirement: feliz jubilación.
I thank my noble friend Lord McConnell for initiating this important debate. It is important, in the context not only of the world today but of what we have seen in recent times. The genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda and the crimes against humanity in the former Yugoslavia, East Timor, Sri Lanka, Darfur and Syria demonstrate, as we have heard, extreme failures by the international community to respond to the threat of atrocity crimes. We have been confronted by complex choices regarding when and how to protect populations abroad and in living up to the conventions and laws to which we have signed up.
In responsibility to protect, the world community seeks to clarify where responsibility lies and to provide guidance on what sort of action should be taken to prevent these crimes taking place or escalating. My party is fully supportive of RtoP, and in the general election campaign we reaffirmed that in government we would ensure:
“A cross-Whitehall approach will be taken to preventing genocide and mass atrocity will be a priority with a focus on early warning and prevention”.
Ten years on, responsibility to protect has come a long way but, as we have heard in this debate, particularly from the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, the challenge is to put the good words fully into practice. The concrete examples that were highlighted by my noble friend in his introduction, and by other noble Lords, show how co-ordinating intelligence, development and economic and political engagement can be successful in preventing conflict that may lead to genocide.
Speaking in the General Assembly, the noble Lord, Lord Malloch-Brown, the Foreign Office Minister at the time, described RtoP as a “groundbreaking” achievement, of which the UN “should be rightly proud”. It should inform,
“all Member States’ work across the conflict spectrum, as well as on human rights and development”.
The coalition Government echoed the call to construct a “culture of prevention” when Ambassador Wilson of the UK Mission to the UN repeated that responsibility to protect,
“should be an important governing principle of all countries’ work across the conflict spectrum”.
The core principle of this is that all states have a responsibility to protect their populations from RtoP crimes. The responsibility rests first with the state. With RtoP, the international community has a responsibility to assist other countries in upholding their responsibility. Should states be unwilling or unable to protect, the international community should respond and take action to protect. However, as we have heard in this debate, that action is multifaceted. The international community has many different tools at its disposal for upholding its responsibility—diplomatic, humanitarian, and other peaceful means, such as human rights monitors, for example, to protect populations. The noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, has talked much about the work of human rights protectors in Afghanistan, who are critical to that country’s future. Stronger measures, such as enforced sanctions or the use of military force authorised by the UN Security Council, can also be used if states are clearly failing to protect. We have heard about some of the issues surrounding how they could be used.
The UK has offered more than verbal support. It is a contributor to the pool that funds the joint office of the UN Secretary General’s special advisers on genocide and RtoP. It has also contributed funding to the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, most notably, as we heard in Question Time, its overseas aid policies, which have been guided by the cross-departmental Building Stability Overseas Strategy. However, as we heard, some question the extent to which this addresses the issue of mass atrocity prevention.
In his 2013 article, Humanitarian Intervention: What Future for the Responsibility to Protect?, Simon Adams concluded that the UK contribution to RtoP norm promotion was “laudable”. However, he also offered several observations on where he thought the UK could improve its implementation of the norm. One example he gave was the Central African Republic, which has long been high on the watch lists of organisations using a mass atrocity lens but did not even appear on the risk matrix that was published in the stabilisation unit’s business plan of April 2013. However, later in 2013, the UK helped transport a French intervention force that responded to the serious threat of mass atrocity. As a follow on from the Question earlier today, how fit for purpose does the Minister think that the existing strategy is?
Despite the lessons of tragic events in the past, such as the atrocities in Srebrenica 20 years ago that we have heard about from noble Lords, and the positive new approaches such as the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict initiative, highlighted by the noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, there is concern that the UK has not made atrocity prevention a policy priority. As has been raised by my noble friend Lord Desai, we need to consider how the international community builds its capacity to respond, because the relatively small number of states that can take action in certain circumstances acts as a constraint on the Security Council agreeing that something should be done. As highlighted by my noble friend, that capacity could and should be filled up on a regional basis—for example, by the African Union in Africa.
There are a number of areas that I would appreciate the Minister responding to in his winding-up speech. In particular, if the UK’s current early warning analysis finds that there is a threat of atrocities in a certain country, how does this change the Government’s policy towards that state? Does DfID reconsider its approach to that country? Does it decide to prioritise the prevention of atrocity over something else? Is this a budgetary priority? Do development officers on the ground know that one of their goals is to prevent atrocities in the long term? Have they been trained to catch the warning signs, as we heard about in the debate today? Who has that responsibility? Finally, how do the Government co-ordinate action across departments to prevent atrocities? We have heard about the strategies that have been adopted but how are we going to see those move forward? Development assistance alone is not enough.
My Lords, it is with great pleasure that I speak on behalf of the Government in this debate. First, if I may, I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, for his work in foreign affairs over the years. It is also an appropriate time for me to pay tribute to the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein. I rather liked my noble friend Lady Hooper’s description of him as the comeback kid. Noble Lords have mentioned his work in various areas in central and South America, but I know the noble Viscount perhaps better from our skiing days in Davos, where we both took part in races against the Swiss parliamentarians. It was not that long ago that we last raced together. I hope that we continue to see him and remain in contact. I know that all our Swiss friends will wish him well in his retirement.
We have heard today of some of the most horrific situations occurring around the world and the tragedies in Syria, Iraq, Rwanda, the Balkans and Sudan, to name just a few. The United Kingdom remains committed to the responsibility to protect. We welcome the fact that international discussion of the concept is now focused squarely on implementation. As the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, said, the development of the three-pillar structure and the level of engagement with this idea from member states at the UN level, as demonstrated through the General Assembly’s informative interactive dialogues on RtoP, illustrate the progress that has already been made. The debate has largely moved on from whether states have a responsibility to protect to how they should act on that responsibility. Despite this progress, many challenges remain—as noble Lords have so eloquently highlighted, mass atrocities continue to be committed around the world. The risks of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity are ever present in many internal conflicts, and non-state armed groups pose new threats. The rise of violent extremism across many parts of the world contributes to the risk of atrocity crimes. In addition, high levels of inequality based on systems of ethnicity and religion can lead to communal violence, especially in times of crisis. Better understanding of these dynamics will allow us to focus preventive responses.
As many noble Lords—including the noble Lords, Lord McConnell, Lord Hannay and Lord Hylton—have said, we have heard much about Syria. With over 230,000 dead and 12.2 million people in dire need of humanitarian aid, Syria is one of the most difficult and tragic conflicts of our generation. It is a clear example of a state failing utterly to protect its citizens. All members of the Security Council need to shoulder their responsibility in taking decisive action to compel the Assad regime to cease the violence and engage in a political process. In response to the appalling humanitarian crisis in Syria and the region, the United Kingdom has allocated £900 million and pushed for UN Security Council Resolutions 2165 and 2191 to enable the United Nations to deliver aid across borders.
However, we should not focus exclusively on dealing with crises—prevention is always more effective and much less costly than cure, in terms of both lives and resources. We need to maintain our focus on strengthening national and regional capacity and structures to prevent atrocity crimes. The work of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect and the United Nations joint offices on the prevention of genocide and the responsibility to protect, both supported by the United Kingdom Government, is vital in this regard.
The UK contributes to preventive activity under the responsibility to protect. One area of work involves training militaries in third countries, as was mentioned by other noble Lords, including in the laws of armed conflict. In addition, the United Kingdom funds a wide range of conflict prevention activity that contributes to the prevention of atrocities. We recently introduced the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, which includes a wide range of activity aimed at conflict prevention and reduction. CSSF projects include work on reducing intergroup tensions, strengthening justice systems and the rule of law, security sector reform, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration, for we understand that good governance, the rule of law, inclusive and equal societies, and effective judicial and security sectors contribute to an environment in which RtoP crimes are less likely to take place. The United Kingdom is also vocal in lobbying for the inclusion of the “responsibility to protect” language, where relevant, in resolutions at the Security Council and the Human Rights Council—an example of this being the recent Human Rights Council resolution on genocide prevention in March.
The international community also needs to tackle misunderstandings around the responsibility to protect. We need to articulate how preventive actions and activities under the first and second pillars help deliver the responsibility to protect. This will help to undercut the misconception that often emerges that the responsibility to protect is synonymous with military intervention. Overcoming this misperception is important in encouraging states to implement the responsibility to protect.
The international community also needs unity in relation to questions of mass atrocities. As a number of noble Lords have said, we are outraged by the Russian veto of the UN Security Council resolution commemorating all those who died in the Srebrenica genocide. The draft resolution aimed to send a clear message that the Security Council supports further steps towards reconciliation and a brighter future for Bosnia and Herzegovina, while marking the international community’s resolve to prevent such atrocities in the future. It did so without pointing fingers of blame, and without linking the crimes of Srebrenica to the Serb people. Russia’s actions tarnish the memory of all those who died in the Srebrenica genocide. It will have to justify its decision to the families of more than 8,000 people murdered in the worst atrocity in Europe since the Second World War. Russia’s actions in vetoing this resolution show just how difficult it can be to find the unity that we need if we are to promote reconciliation. A number of noble Lords mentioned the recent commemorative event, and I will just mention a point made by a survivor, Adisada Dudic, who, as a child, had to flee her home near Srebrenica. She said so poignantly at the commemorative event last week that,
“denial does not make the facts go away. It does not change the past. And it certainly does not erase memory”.
RtoP should be an important governing principle of all countries’ work on conflict, human rights and development. Conflict disproportionately affects women and children, so we must tailor our prevention efforts accordingly, as mentioned by my noble friend Lady Hodgson and a number of noble Lords, including tackling sexual violence. I am proud of the achievements made to date through the United Kingdom’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict initiative, and we need to continue this. Under the leadership of my noble friend Lady Anelay of St Johns, we are deploying teams of experts to help build state capacity in preventing and responding to sexual violence in conflict, from Mali and the DRC to Bosnia and the Syrian border areas. However, there is still much to do. Ensuring the fair treatment of women, children and civilians in war will help end the cycles of violence that we see around the world and help build more stable societies in the long run. This work is absolutely in line with the ideals enshrined in the responsibility to protect.
The noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, and my noble friend Lady Hooper spoke of their interest in Latin America. They will be interested to know that some of the UK’s funding goes to support RtoP voices in Latin America, run by the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation. The UK was also proudly represented at the annual meeting of R2P Focal Points in Madrid, jointly hosted by the Government of Chile and attended by the European Union.
The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, mentioned upstream prevention. We agree that we should commit resources to upstream prevention and it is a core principle of the Building Stability Overseas Strategy that the House heard about earlier at Question Time. We also agree on the need for a focus on peacebuilding. The UK continues to contribute significant financial resources to the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund, and until recently we were the greatest financial contributor.
There are actions we can take before a conflict takes place. The United Nations special political missions are an essential political mediation tool, and the UK continues to build up other preventive tools. A number of noble Lords also mentioned the issue related to the French veto proposal. This initiative offers an important contribution to the wider debate on reform of the Security Council, and we welcome the interest that it has generated. The United Kingdom wholeheartedly supports the principle that the Security Council must act to stop mass atrocities and crimes against humanity.
The noble Lord, Lord McConnell, and my noble friend Lady Hodgson asked about long-term resources for state building. I agree, and a significant proportion of the United Kingdom’s development assistance is spent on state building in lower-income countries. The Building Stability Overseas Strategy and early-warning conflict prevention and intervention are the driving principles of our development assistance and essential components of atrocity prevention more widely. In addition, the specific suggestions made by the noble Lord for the United Kingdom, including the UN framework and relations across the European Union on RtoP, continue to be considered by the UK’s focal point—that is, the director of the multilateral policy in the Foreign Office.
My noble friend Lady Hodgson and the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, also looked at the relationship between RtoP, the Government and structures. The United Kingdom’s response to RtoP is within the governance of the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, overseen by the National Security Council. The CSSF commits funding to support the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect and the UN’s joint offices for genocide prevention and RtoP. As I said, the United Kingdom has a focal point, the director of the multilateral policy within the Foreign Office, and he is supported by a small team of officials. Our military, mentioned by my noble friend, are trained to the highest standards in international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians and the prevention of sexual violence in conflict. Our military also train others in international humanitarian law and the laws of armed conflict. Finally, RtoP, like all security policies, will be considered as part of the SDSR.
The noble Lords, Lord McConnell and Lord Collins, also mentioned ways of improving our early warning system. The United Kingdom early warning system comprises an annual scan to assess risks of instability, together with a short-term, rising-risk early warning system. The annual scan is primarily of use in helping to determine where upstream conflict prevention resources might be best directed; while the short-term early warning system is intended to allow the alerting of Ministers and senior officials to potential new or fast-rising risks in a structured way to enable decisions on preventive action or crisis response. Her Majesty’s Government recognise that turning early-warning analysis into early action remains challenging. That is why we continue to develop and improve our early-warning systems and support the early-warning systems of our partners in multilateral organisations such as the European Union, the UN and the AU.
My noble friend Lord Attlee spoke of his experiences in Rwanda and Bosnia-Herzegovina and referred to the United Kingdom’s willingness and ability to intervene militarily. I am sure noble Lords will agree that the United Kingdom military remains one of the finest in the world. It is in order to maintain the capacity that we need that we have committed to spending 2% of our national income on defence. However, each situation is unique and will require a different response. The United Kingdom and its allies have always demonstrated that we are adaptable and ready to intervene or to support peacekeeping operations as the situation demands, as shown by our support of peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone, Mali, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Balkans and other places around the world.
The noble Lord, Lord Judd, mentioned global interdependence, a subject which was also mentioned by my noble friend Lady Hooper. The noble Lord will be aware that that theme has gone through all the debates we have had on these subjects in the past three months. The noble Lord, Lord Desai—in his, as ever, fascinating speech—mentioned strengthening the UN Security Council. I mentioned some aspects of that in answering an earlier question. The noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, asked how the Government can help our young people to engage with the world, for example through social media. This element of work is being led by the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Education and the Home Office, and I understand that it is a priority. The Foreign Office is actively engaged online, using all tools available to pursue our foreign policy.
The noble Lord, Lord Desai, also mentioned United Nations peacekeeping availability. This is delivered by member states for member states in the interests of international peace and security and in accordance with the priorities set by the Security Council. Since its establishment, this has always been done by utilising troops and military capabilities supplied by the membership. While United Nations peacekeeping operations have faced many challenges and have experienced failures in the past, they have also experienced many successes due to the commitment and decisive action of these troops.
The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, asked about the United Kingdom’s assistance for dealing with migration issues in Europe. The United Kingdom has deployed more than 20 asylum experts to other EU member states over the past three years under European Asylum Support Office plans. A Home Office asylum expert is currently in Italy and others are due to start secondments to Greece and Bulgaria very shortly. The noble Lord also asked about considering further requests by the European Asylum Support Office to support “hotspot” operations in Italy and Greece. We have made it clear to the countries concerned that we stand ready to offer bilateral assistance, such as the provision of further technical support from experts where this would be helpful.
I think I have responded to most of the queries but will write in greater detail if we find that I have missed any. Copies will be sent to noble Lords and also placed in the Library. To conclude, this Government will be unrelenting in using the United Kingdom’s global role to tackle atrocity crimes. The first responsibility of any state is to provide security to its citizens. We will employ a long-term, comprehensive approach using our diplomats, our overseas aid and our world-class Armed Forces to ensure that all people are afforded these basic, fundamental protections. Working with partners, international organisations and NGOs, we will continue the march towards a world free of these horrendous crimes.
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, for his response on behalf of the Government and for the way in which he has tried to deal with almost every point raised in two hours of debate. I think noble Lords who spoke in the debate will be very grateful for that, will study his answers with interest and, I am sure, will discuss many of them on other occasions. I congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, on his valedictory speech in your Lordships’ House. I will for ever be proud of the fact that he chose this debate in which to make that speech and I wish him very well. Others have congratulated him on his past achievements and I wish him well for what I am sure are achievements and contributions to come in his family life, personal life and perhaps in his public life too. I thank the noble Viscount very much for his contribution.
I have enjoyed very much all the contributions from noble Lords to this debate. I hope others will forgive me if I mention the noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, who joined me in New York and Washington in March and I thought spoke very passionately about issues close to her heart, particularly on the very important topics of sexual violence and conflict, as well as the importance of diplomacy and investment in many of those aspects of conflict prevention. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, brings enormous experience to these debates as well as great passion and clarity, particularly in this case because of his role on the high-level panel that helped inform the development of RtoP a decade ago. I thought his contribution, particularly on the Russian veto last week, was very welcome.
My noble friend Lord Judd highlighted the interdependence of the world today, which was particularly appropriate in this debate. It seems that in every individual instance there is the potential for us to criticise the application, or otherwise, of the responsibility to protect doctrine or norm. It does not take away from the fact that the three pillars, the three principles, of the doctrine or the norm, are right for our age. They have redefined state sovereignty in cases where mass atrocities are threatened and they give us an opportunity, if we exercise them properly, to avoid some of those atrocities in the future. We have a particular opportunity this year, with the new sustainable development goals to be agreed at the United Nations, to take forward investment in the second pillar and principle and building state capacity to help preserve and enhance opportunities for peace.
There have been many wise words from Kofi Annan over the years on this particular topic. One quote from him has always stuck in my mind and I will finish on this point. He published a document in March 2000 that looked at the role of the United Nations in the 21st century. He said:
“The fact that we cannot we protect people everywhere is no reason for doing nothing when we can”.
If we will ourselves to pursue that as a principle and an objective, then at least we will do more than has been done in the past.