Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Patten: My Lords, the term United Nations has been much used in the formidable tour d'horizon by the noble Lord, Lord Jay of Ewelme, which I greatly enjoyed, and by the noble Lord, Lord Parekh. I hope that in particular the three right reverend Prelates on the Bench of Bishops will forgive me if I say-and it is to a certain extent like spitting in church-that I have not always been the greatest admirer of the

30 Jun 2009 : Column 196

United Nations on every occasion. I hope that the United Nations gets it right next week in the laudable aims that the noble Lord, Lord Jay, has set out. The noble Lord is right: we must always try to help, as we always have done under Governments of both colours. The aims of the responsibility to protect are high and good, but it is much easier to assert or say as some new United Nations norm that if a national Government attack their own people or fail to prevent their starvation then they forfeit their sovereignty, than it is to do something about it in a practical way or find constant and reliable partners to help those who are in the lead to help in this task.

I am also aware that behind the laudable aim of the responsibility to protect there are others who have further agendas that might not be in the national interest of powerful nations such as the United Kingdom. I hope that it is not politically incorrect to talk about national interests in a context where the United Nations is in the forefront. Of course we need to help those who need help, but we should do so throughout by maintaining our ability to take sovereign decisions to dispatch our Armed Forces or to deploy diplomatic pressure or apply and then sustain sanctions or whatever.

Yet I think that there are others who use this excellent instinct of wishing to try to help to promote another and more nebulous concept of some, at present, equally nebulous international community which is going to take over and do all these things. There are a number of organisations which I find rather mysterious but increasingly powerful, referred to as international non-governmental organisations, such as the Open Society Institute or the World Federalist Movement. They wish us to float away completely from national interests, voters and democratic legitimacy, and devise new so-called guiding principles, without much democratic foundation, for members of what is known as the broad international community. They are all anointed by something that I have seen called the "emerging international judicial consensus", whatever that is, and are all supported by lots of new UN special envoys, although mercifully not yet any UN tsars. I advise the UN not to adopt tsars in this concept. I think that the idea of a responsibility to protect is excellent but its broad principles, which I strongly support, must not be hijacked by those who have other agendas along the lines of world government.

Thirdly, we must not let other countries off the hook in sharing the burden of doing rather than sharing the fun and gratification of rhetorical grandstanding. There will always be pleas from others, once the international conference room oratory has stopped, that they are too poor or that they simply do not have the military strength to help, leaving the United Kingdom, the United States-which is so often criticised at the same time as it is looked to for help in these areas-and a few others to bear the unshared burden. I am sorry to use diplomatically incorrect language but it is shameful how little some of our European neighbours have contributed to burden-sharing, not only in recent conflicts but in helping in the humanitarian spin-offs which are so manifest in the world around us. That said, we must stand ready to help throughout-I entirely support what the noble Lord, Lord Jay of Ewelme, said-although I do not

30 Jun 2009 : Column 197

think that the UN charter creates any legal obligation as such on members of the Security Council to act in concert in this respect.

Fourthly and lastly-and well within time, as the Whip on the Front Bench will be pleased to hear, let alone the Chief Whip, who I am flattered to see in his place listening intently to my speech-there is one very great conundrum that underlines and underpins this issue, and that is the dilemma to which the noble Lord, Lord Jay, referred. First, do great countries such as the United Kingdom have the moral authority to intervene in anything at all? Secondly, if we decide that we have the might, the means and the moral authority to intervene with some of our allies and friends, any such intervention, however well intentioned, will be seen as imperialism by other means, with stronger nations trampling on the sovereignty of troubled nations. That would certainly be the cry should we be at the borders of a Burma or a Zimbabwe, let alone an Iran if things turn worse there. I, for one, do not know what the answer to this conundrum is, and I hope that next week's deliberations help us to that end.

8.38 pm

The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jay of Ewelme, for making this debate possible. For five and a half years in the 1990s, I was the Archbishop of Canterbury's Secretary for Ecumenical Affairs, so international relations remain one of my key interests. For me, it has been an exciting 10 days. Introduced during the hustings and election for the Speaker in another place, I thank all who have helped my introduction into the House to be painless-so far!

Wakefield diocese is shaped rather like a slim flying saucer-for those who believe in such things. Nevertheless, despite our odd shape, we have made ourselves impossible to miss on your journeys north and south. We have put landmarks on the main routes-Ferrybridge power station on the Al and Emley Moor mast alongside both the MI and the Leeds mainline. Halifax, Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Barnsley and Pontefract are just some of our well-known towns.

Despite being land-locked and part of God's own country, Wakefield diocese has strong international links with Sweden, Australia, Pakistan, Tanzania and Georgia. The significant Asian populations in Huddersfield, Halifax and Dewsbury mean that a proper internationalism and a care for security issues are de rigeur for us. For that reason alone, I am enthusiastic to speak in this debate. Since the time of St Augustine of Hippo, Christian ethicists have participated in public debates and private reflection to help refine and clarify what constitutes the appropriate use of military force in statecraft. Participants within this dialogue-jurists, ethicists, politicians and generals-have sought to shape and develop the just war tradition so that its relevance is retained even when applied to entirely new security challenges. Among the Bishops, the the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, has contributed seminally to these debates in this House. The development of responsibility to protect as an emerging norm in international relations is

30 Jun 2009 : Column 198

evidence of the traction that the just war criteria have in setting out an understanding of international and domestic politics. This sets the political within a context of moral concerns and considerations.

After having taken the initial step-namely, the conceptualisaton and fundamental recognition of R2P-the challenge now is to look at ways in which we can move towards a clearer definition and operation of the responsibility to protect. Only by working through these issues will the international community be successful in preventing crimes against humanity or, at the very least, ending them at an early stage. If it can do that, the international community might yet fulfil its responsibility for the preservation of peace in the 21st century.

There is a risk, however, that in all this we might become too state-centric, so to speak. R2P breaks once and for all with the state-centric concept of humanitarian intervention with its overt reliance on military action. In its place stands a three-pillar concept of security, involving a responsibility to prevent, a responsibility to react and a responsibility to rebuild. This understanding of human security has been part of the core of the R2P norm from the Canadian sponsored report in 2001 through to the publication of the report implementing the responsibility to protect by the UN Secretary-General in January 2009.

In a 24/7 media culture, the focus is invariably on our responsibility to react, but our priority must be on a responsibility to prevent. There is a specific role here for civil society and the churches, as the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, has already suggested. As I noted, Wakefield diocese has formal links with two Anglican dioceses in other countries-the diocese of Mara in Tanzania and the diocese of Faisalabad in Pakistan. It also has vital links with the churches in Georgia. Last summer I was able to issue a statement on behalf of the Church of England urging Georgian restraint and condemning the disproportionate use of force by Russia in the tragic war there.

Our relationship with Mara in Tanzania goes back more than 20 years and has as its motto in Swahili, "Bega kwa bega", which translated means, "Shoulder to shoulder". This motto, which is particularly apt given today's debate, has been practised through many conversations, visits and joint projects by the people of both dioceses which continue to enrich the link. I was there myself last October. It is the myriad of relationships like this that underpin and give meaning to our understanding of responsibility to protect. I very much hope that, in thinking about what steps need to be taken to give effect to the United Nations doctrine of responsibility to protect, Her Majesty's Government recognise that there are those on this Bench who believe that human rights and security are indivisible and that the responsibility to protect is therefore a matter of direct concern for everyone and not just Governments.

8.45 pm

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, I shall, if I may, be the first to congratulate the right reverend Prelate on his maiden speech. He brings wisdom not only across the Thames, as he mentioned, having been the

30 Jun 2009 : Column 199

Archbishop's secretary for ecumenical affairs, but across the Tiber as governor of the Anglican Centre in Rome from 1990 when he also joined the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission. I think I can say that he was the senior Franciscan "Brother of Penance" because he led the ancient Third Order of St Francis in its European province from 1991 to 1996. He is also chair of the Liturgical Commission. He has obviously set a very good example because his sons, Aidan and Gregory, are both ordained priests. We look forward very much to his future contributions.

I speak as a former staff member and trustee of Christian Aid and I thank my noble friend for introducing the debate. My experience is of small-scale projects where outcomes are measurable and perceptible, and so I can feel a warm glow inside sometimes, unlike my friends who have had to wrestle with great international institutions. I feel empathy with those, both in government and outside, who have promoted civil society within the international system, such as Mr Bernard Kouchner. However, I have misgivings about the ambitions of some human rights workers and politicians to effect regime change in places such as Burma within the new UN doctrine.

The doctrine has already gained support in Westminster, I hear. A group of MPs led by Mr John Bercow, the new Speaker, have signed a resolution in support of responsibility to protect in Burma, so it is coming close. Many people regard parts of the world such as the Congo as a priority for the UN because of the extent of human rights violations over a long period. I admire the way in which the UN force MONUC has survived with the minimum of personnel in very small, remote outposts, and I admire still more how experienced NGOs, such as CARE International and Merlin, have been able to offer protection to thousands of displaced families with very little back-up and protection and rarely any local recognition.

It is precisely because of those years of conflict and neglect in those countries that it would be absurd to pretend that the world has a duty to protect all its vulnerable citizens, because manifestly it does not and cannot. Either the infrastructure is there or there is no political will to do it. The same goes for Zimbabwe and other countries where tyranny has presided over various forms of chaos. This doctrine is evolving and the world has to pick and choose to implement it. Protection, child protection in particular, has long been a hallowed concept within the UN and the civil society extended family.

The General Assembly did well to introduce the R2P doctrine because it belongs directly to the rights-based tradition, but there are many grey areas. Protection can be a de facto consequence of any humanitarian programme. Social exclusion, for example, is an area of development abroad where the responsibility to protect can work with very specific targeted aid programmes, but it will not be among the programme objectives-it just has to happen. I am thinking of work among the Dalit communities in India where there may be daily violence against the low-caste with limited protection from the NGOs trying to defend them.

30 Jun 2009 : Column 200

I am also thinking of various projects of NGOs in various parts of Afghanistan. Here I feel that NGOs are different. They constantly have to stretch their own security rules to the limit because of a separate moral responsibility, while the UN agencies are more likely to operate strictly within the brief. One thinks of UNRWA staff in Gaza. It depends on the personality of the people involved. Only rarely will the off-duty work of an NGO be recognised by the national Government.

I hope that I have a healthy scepticism about what the UN can do. I wish that it could have done more in Palestine and Sri Lanka, but the odds were stacked against it, including the world's apathy. It is easy to list the failures of the international system and difficult to discern what my noble friend Lord Hannay, who cannot be in his place, recently called the,

The work with the International Criminal Court and peacekeeping in the Balkans and east Africa are good examples of this.

The implementation of a responsibility to protect is a constant challenge in Africa-I am glad that my noble friend mentioned Sudan. Iraq has so dominated the airwaves that the UN has had no chance of showing its successes. I have had recent personal experience of the remarkable achievement of the UN in Nepal and Kenya, though these cases, too, may be listed as unfinished business. Everything in UN terms is unfinished business. I recognise the particular role of our own diplomats in these examples.

I pay tribute to the UN and voluntary agencies who work with refugees and the displaced. In Kenya, the Dadaab camps were constructed for 90,000 refugees from Somalia. They now have to protect more than three times that number, growing at 7,000 a month. Wherever the NGOs offer an umbrella, the migrants will come in. The R2P is concerned with crimes against humanity but it is not an open-door doctrine. It has to be policed or the genuine refugees will be twice victimised.

I look forward to the maiden speech of the new Minister, whom I warmly welcome to this House.

8.51 pm

Lord Addington: My Lords, it falls to me to be the first person from these Benches to welcome the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Wakefield to this House. His was a thoughtful speech that helped point out that there are as many ways of looking at this problem as groups who will be involved in it. This is one of those debates where I know more about the subject now than I did when it started. I see his contribution in that light.

When I found that it had fallen to me to respond for my party on this subject, I went on a fairly steep learning curve-which has got steeper as the debate has gone on. It was explained to me in six points: just cause; right intention; final result; legitimate authority; appropriate means; and reasonable prospects of success. As we went through this, the noble Lord, Lord Jay, spoke of learning, study and getting in early to see whether the intervention can be successful. That suddenly made me think that that is the way to go, but it also

30 Jun 2009 : Column 201

terrified me. If you get in early you will make mistakes. You are bound to. There is no way you will not make mistakes. Whether getting in early to make the world a better place-literally, we are talking in global terms here-is a price worth paying for the mistakes made is a horrible decision to have to make for everybody concerned.

The noble Lord, Lord Parekh, pointed out that the two coming superpowers, China and India, probably have a different take on that to those within the traditional western world. If the UN is to mean anything, the opinions of China and India-particularly if they are in a bloc-must count for a great deal. If we could achieve consensus between the traditional western powers and China and India about defining a doctrine which can be acted upon, early intervention might become a vague possibility. I hope for an intervention that will not have to go down the route of military activity. Clearly the worst-case scenario is a bad or unsuccessful military intervention, something which creates resentment.

Iraq will probably hang over us for a while. Has Iraq been a successful intervention and did it have sufficient authority? We have been over this dozens of times. My opinion and those of my party on this are well known. Have we created a successful state there or have we merely managed to have a pause in an ongoing civil war? I hope the first is what has happened, but a possibility still exists of something hideous happening and intervention there.

As for the value judgments of our own society being placed on other societies, the ruling sections of Iran-the great culture that is Persia-might regard the threat and existence of this as a good reason for cracking down on any opposition to strengthen and protect their vision of what their society should be. It is a difficult job to balance these matters.

I look forward to hearing the Minister sum up. She could have given herself a rather easier ball to catch the first time. She has an extremely difficult job because the main problems with this doctrine concern the type of intervention, where it should take place, and at what level. We should stop people being slaughtered in genocide or ethnic cleansing-I hope that no one in the Chamber is in favour of that in any circumstances-but where do we intervene and how do we do it successfully? The real question is how we can get a doctrine that commands enough support on a worldwide basis. It is a difficult problem that we can only hope to get right most of the time. It would be interesting to know what the Government think are the limitations of our decision-making at this point.

8.55 pm

Lord Howell of Guildford:My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Jay of Ewelme, for initiating this short debate. He was very patient when he had to wait a bit. We are all looking forward to the maiden speech by the new Minister for Europe, the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock. I want to make sure that I leave her enough space to make her speech, which will be a little tricky. Tonight, she has to be the Minister for the whole globe because we are talking about global issues rather than just European ones. We were all very

30 Jun 2009 : Column 202

interested to hear the contribution by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Wakefield, who reminds us of the huge international role of the church. Although it may be fashionable to denigrate spiritual and religious aspects, they are becoming more important than ever as we try to bring sense into the near anarchy of the new globalised system. The role of the right reverend Prelate and his like will increase enormously in coming years.

The doctrine we are talking about, the responsibility to protect, is beyond reproach. The aims are almost unchallengeable. They are to codify the humanitarian intervention procedure within states. This idea was born before 9/11, at the end of the previous century, but since 9/11, it has become many times more searing and relevant to our deliberations about what we are supposed to do. On the one hand, there are states that are living entities of people who form together under their own rights, customs and governments, good or bad, and on the other hand, there are the searing demands of a globalised world with atrocities pitched into our living rooms and onto our websites almost every night. One has to ask whether one can generalise or make general rules, or whether each situation is bound to be fraught with its own conundrums and dilemmas.

I do not know the answer to that but, looking back over the past decade, one has to ask whether it would have been helpful to have had firm rules on intervening in Rwanda, or in Bosnia to deal with the horror of Srebrenica-the worst tragedy of humanitarian intervention that I can remember in my lifetime-or in Kosovo, Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Darfur, Zimbabwe-very controversial-or Somalia? What help would it have been in the agonies over Iraq and whether we got United Nations agreement, or whether we are right to be so involved in the Pashtun frontier area between Afghanistan and Pakistan? There are many other places as well.

One can see the need for a general framework, but within it, there will still be agonising decisions about whether to intervene. It is a bit like the proverbial elephant. The case for intervention, whether soft and mild or military and hard, and whether it is likely to succeed is like the elephant; it is difficult to describe and generalise but easy to know when we see it. When we have the horrors of ethnic cleansing etched on our minds or see the agonies of deliberately inflicted starvation, murder and torture, we know it is a case for action. The evils and cruelties of aggressive terrorism have been brought to our doorstep-we see immediately that they, too, are a case for international action.

We then face the problems, discussed this evening, of what kind of intervention; and if it is military force, which of course is the last resort but a resort that we keep resorting to, what kind of military force? Is it self-defence-standing by-or is it becoming involved on one side or another in internal civil wars and other horrors? When we consider United Nations military intervention, do we need new force structures to deal with the asymmetric warfare that we have encountered in Afghanistan and elsewhere, rather than the traditional bringing together of various forces by contributions from different countries that go off to war and often find themselves powerless?

30 Jun 2009 : Column 203

We must also take account of the debate on the nation state. I am not talking about the old doctrine of sovereignty, but about something new. Boutros Boutros Ghali, who was one of the best Secretary-Generals of the United Nations-he was sacked after one term, but he was a superb man-talked about the essential need for a profoundly renewed concept of the state to give the isolated individual identity and fulfil deep needs to belong and love a country. That is in contrast to other, more fashionable talk about the nation state being finished and being superseded. Still others, as we have heard this evening, have talked about the shift of power away from western hegemony and into the hands of the rising Asian states.

I will just say that these feelings of the need to belong and have an identity, even in countries that are sadly disadvantaged, are not reached by talk about the international community, or by remote parliaments and assemblies. This is because the whole texture of international relations has changed very fast in the past 10 to 15 years. Thanks to the internet, international relations are no longer confined to officialdom and to formal relations between Governments. There are a mass of connections and interfaces between semi-public and non-governmental bodies. This is the new fabric that Governments and officialdom sometimes find difficult to grasp. It is the new international network, of which the Commonwealth, which I was delighted to hear mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Jay, is a vital part.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page