Completed Research - Ending Mass Atrocities: Echoes in Southern Cultures
Ending Mass Atrocities:
Echoes in Southern Cultures
A Research Project
The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies
The City University of New York’s Graduate Center
The Centre for International Studies
Department of Political Science and International Relations
University of Oxford
Summary of the Project
This project is dedicated to exploring the status of the evolving norm of the principle of the responsibility to protect (commonly called “R2P”).
This research project focuses on the Southern cultures of Africa, Asia, Middle East-Central Asia and Latin America, to shed light on one critical and heretofore ignored or overlooked dimension of the responsibility to protect, namely--culture. The project asks such questions as: how do the different philosophical and ethical values, religious and spiritual beliefs, cultural and customary practices, and aesthetic traditions found in the global South articulate and experience the responsibility of the wider community towards populations at risk? Extrapolating from that question, the project further asks, how do these diverse cultures view the responsibility of the international community of states towards human suffering within individual countries? Through this exploration, can we identify local customary laws or philosophical/spiritual traditions in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East and Latin America that would advocate for and reinforce global responsibility to redress suffering and protect endangered populations in nearby and even in far off places? Seeking answers to these critical questions is the goal of this project.
Specifically, this project examines whether the values and principles underlying the concept of the responsibility to protect are endogenous to southern cultures (Africa, Asia, Latin America, Middle East), and whether they are embedded within the philosophical, religious, spiritual and cultural traditions of the countries of the global South. If so, the R2P norm might acquire greater universal resonance. The project would also reveal distinct cultural or geographical variations in ideas of the appropriate implementation of the responsibility to protect in different contexts.
Dr. Rama Mani of Justice Unlimited, is director the project. She is a Senior Research Associate of the Centre for International Studies at the University of Oxford, and a Research Fellow at the Centre for Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding in Geneva.
Professor Thomas G. Weiss provides overall academic guidance for the project. He is presidential professor of political science and director of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies and former research director of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty.
Members of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect’s International Advisory Board and senior staff provide critical inputs.
Faculty and students of the Department for Political Science and International Relations will also continue to contribute to the project. CIS Director, Professor Richard Caplan, and Coordinator, Sarah Travis, in particular, have supported the project since its inception.
Initially, two students from the Department of Politics and International Relations, Oxford, will serve as research assistants to the project:
Miriam Bradley, D.Phil candidate at the Department of Politics and International Relations whose work is on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
Patrycja Stys, M. Phil candidate at the Department of Politics and International Relations whose work is on refugee repatriation in Rwanda.
Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect:
The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P) was established in February 2008 to foster the related goals of advocacy with governments and research on the fundamental conceptual and operational problems of the evolving R2P norm approved by consensus at the 2005 World Summit. The Centre was established through the joint initiative of supportive governments and five leading humanitarian and human rights NGOs (Oxfam, Refugees International, Human Rights Watch, International Crisis Group, and WFM-Institute for Global Policy). Its International Advisory Board is chaired by Gareth Evans (Australia, President of the International Crisis Group) and Mohammed Sahnoun (Algeria, Advisor to the UN and President of Initiatives for Change), who both co-chaired the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, which formulated the concept of the responsibility to protect. Its Executive Director is Dr. Monica Serrano (Mexico) who obtained her Ph.D at the University of Oxford and is a Senior Research Associate with the CIS.
The Ralph Bunche Institute:
The Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies engages in research, graduate training, and public education about international affairs and contemporary global problem-solving with a focus on multilateralism and international institutions. Initially founded in 1973 its renewed mandate as of 2001 is to support and further strengthen international studies at The City University of New York’s Graduate Center. Under the directorship of Thomas G. Weiss, presidential professor of political science, the institute provides a congenial setting for the activities by faculty and visiting scholars with international portfolios and research; and it facilitates the mentoring of graduate students. A major project undertaken by the Institute under Professor Weiss’s leadership is the United Nations Intellectual History Project, which will soon have produced a total of 17 volumes researching and documenting the breadth of the intellectual contribution of the United Nations in all spheres of activity. One of these volumes is authored by Oxford’s S. Neil MacFarlane and Yuen Foong Khong, Human Security and the UN: A Critical History (2006). Most of the volumes have been published in a series by Indiana University Press, but an essential reference was published by Oxford University Press, Thomas G. Weiss and Sam Daws, eds., The Oxford Handbook on the United Nations (2007).
Main Project Themes and Areas of Enquiry:
The project undertakes this enquiry through two mutually reinforcing sets of studies.
Thematic: The first part of the project consists of three thematic studies conducted by distinguished scholars with a breadth and depth of global and comparative knowledge and wisdom within their respective disciplines, particularly pertinent to the cultures of the Global South.
The three thematic studies will address:
- Beliefs: i.e., religious and spiritual traditions;
- Values: i.e., philosophical and ethical traditions; and
- Expressions: i.e., aesthetic and creative expressions emanating from cultural values, beliefs and practices (music, theatre, poetry, visual art, craftsmanship, sculpture).
Country cases: The second part consists of three country case studies written by locally-based scholars drawing on selected country experiences that have shaped the evolution of international norms and practices relating to mass atrocity crimes. The case studies are: Rwanda, Kosovo and Nepal.
These studies will be published in a collected volume by Routledge, co-edited by Rama Mani and Thomas G Weiss and entitled The Responsibility to Protect: Cultural Perspectives from the Global South.
The publication's cover, table contents and contributing authors' biographies are provided below.
Echoes in Southern Cultures, a book to be edited by Rama Mani and Thomas G. Weiss.
Cover art 'Returning Home' by Collin Sekajugo. Sekajugo is a Rwandan artist and founder-Director of Ivuka Arts, a remarkable studio gallery supporting young Rwandan artists, many of whom are like Sekajugo refugee returnees, or genocide survivors.
All contributing authors to the publication have been identified and commissioned, following an intensive process of research, communication and fieldwork. A major aim of this project is to draw upon the wisdom and knowledge of southern scholars whose work is often highly respected and well known within their home countries or regions but is often not known or ignored in the literature in international relations and politics, and in policy circles around the United Nations. All the commissioned authors originate from countries that experienced violent conflict or mass atrocities, and have first hand experience in living through and addressing these issues. Almost all of them have chosen to work in theircountries of origin. The authors represent a wide geographic spread and a mix of Anglophone, Francophone, Hispanophone and Arabophone, and they draw on a broad range of literary and scholarly traditions. As with the editors, a solid gender balance also exists. The final list of contributing authors to the publication that will emerge from this project is as follows:
Project Update March 2011
R2P in the Shadow of the Arab Revolutions
This project comes to fruition at a ripe moment in the debate about the norm of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and its implementation. The violent repression of civic protest by General Gaddafi’s government in Libya leading to the UN Security Council Resolution UNSCR 1973 establishing a no-fly zone with NATO intervention has restored the credibility and validity of R2P. It has also raised anew the stormy debate of finding timely and effective responses to mass atrocities that are both culturally and politically acceptable to local populations and regional governments. Libya highlights dramatically the perennial dilemmas in each case of R2P. It is not good enough to have political will and military capacity – it is essential today, in the aftermath of Rwanda’s inaction and Kosovo’s precipitate intervention for the R2P response to be acceptable to local populations and regional governments whose support and participation is essential to avert a backlash or disaster.
The transformative civic uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East have also delivered what may prove to be a lethal punch to archaic notions of state sovereignty. That not only western governments and the EU but also the UN and regional organisations like the Arab League have sided with the people rather than the ruling government is an unprecedented acknowledgement of the supremacy of the sovereignty of citizens above states. It cements the rationale underlying the norm of Responsibility to Protect by demonstrating that states can indeed abrogate their sovereign rights when they renege on their responsibilities by abusing their own citizens.
At such a critical moment in the articulation of R2P in a region of immense cultural sensitivity to foreign intervention, the results of this project are particularly relevant and may contribute vitally to shaping the future contours of R2P’s implementation.
In the attached report, we provide a summary of the main observations, conclusions and recommendations that emerged from this collaborative trans-disciplinary research. This constitutes a substantive part of the conclusion chapter of the publication, and we hope that it will stimulate reflection and debate even before the publication is released. Also attached are the author biographies.
Past Consultations and Events:
October 2010, CUNY Graduate Centre, New York City
A second and final authors’ meeting and public policy conference is planned around mid October 2010 in New York City, to coincide with the UN General Assembly and the Advisory Board meeting of the GCR2P. A mini-exhibit of the artwork would also be presented.
15 January 2010, CIS University of Oxford:
A conference in Oxford at CIS brought together the authors and the editors with scholars from diverse disciplines primarily from the University of Oxford. The purpose was to provide a forum for interaction between scholars at Oxford university and the project’s authors, and to discuss the draft papers for the publication and the project as a whole. Programme
Geneva, Expert Consultations 1-2 April, 2009
Bilateral consultations were held by the editors with international experts and scholars in Geneva on the methodology and content of the project.
New York City, CUNY Graduate Centre, Faculty Consultation, 27 March 2009
A consultation with faculty members and civil society representatives working on R2P was held at CUNY Graduate Centre on 27th March.
New York, GCR2P Advisory Board and Senior Staff Consultations, 26-27 March
During the International Advisory Board meeting of the GCR2P, an in depth discussion was held on the project to seek the input of Advisory Board members. This was followed by a consultative meeting with senior secretariat staff of the GCR2P.
Oxford, Inter-disciplinary Consultation, 10 March 2009
A first inter-disciplinary consultation was held at the CIS on March 10th, to seek initial input and insights from a cross section of scholars and research students from different disciplines, within and outside the department.
Regional Inter-Disciplinary Consultations
In July and August 2009, four inter-disciplinary consultations were held in the four case study countries, Rwanda, Kosovo, Cambodia and Nepal. The consultation was convened by the national university or a local research institute in each country, and brought together a small group of scholars from different disciplines to discuss the project’s themes from a country-specific perspective.The four consultations held were:
• Rwanda: consultation jointly convened by the Centre for Conflict Management of the National University of Rwanda in Butare, and the Rwanda Governance Advisory Council, in Kigali, on 8 July.
• Kosovo: consultation convened by the Human Rights Centre at the Faculty of Law of the University of Pristina, in Pristina, on 17 July.
• Cambodia: consultation convened by the Vice Rector of the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) and the Vice President of the Royal Academy of Cambodia at the RUPP in Phnom Penh, on 28 August.
• Nepal: consultation convened by the President of the Rural Rehabilitation Network with professors from the leading universities and NGOs in Nepal, in Kathmandu on 5 August.
Each consultation led to deep and fruitful discussion of the emerging norm of the responsibility to protect, drawing on the expertise of country scholars from the different disciplines of philosophy, theology, anthropology, history, psychology, law, sociology and science, as well as a few NGOs in some cases. While the circumstances of the four countries vary greatly, in each consultation two similar and simultaneous strands emerged: on the one hand, support for the norm in principle, and on the other, hesitation about its application or potential misuse, based, often, on the historical experiences of the countries in question. In each country, the discussions led to the identification of a host of ancient and still relevant cultural, philosophical, spiritual and aesthetic traditions and practices, and historical precedents, where the principles and practices of the responsibility to protect were implicitly or explicitly relevant. The deeper exploration of these identified factors through the work of this project may prove useful in subsequent debates about the evolution and implementation of the concept of R2P in diverse contexts in the future.
Background to The Responsibility to Protect
With the strong support of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, the norm of the Responsibility to Protect was unanimously endorsed by the UN General Assembly in paragraphs 138-139 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document - the product of the largest gathering to date of heads of state and government. The Security Council also reinforced the general principle in two resolutions in 2006. In January 2009, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon issued his long-awaited report on Implementing the Responsibility to Protect, which will be debated in the on-going 63rd session of the General Assembly.
The responsibility to protect reflects the need for states and, when they are unable or unwilling, for the international community (especially states but also intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations) to protect civilians from mass murder and other atrocities. It consists of three sequential responsibilities: first, taking appropriate action to prevent a crisis from sliding into a conscience-shocking phase; second, reacting effectively to protect endangered populations in situations where genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and crimes against humanity are already taking place or imminent; and third, remaining engaged to rebuild societies shattered by catastrophes so that they do not relapse into violence. The genocide in Rwanda in 1994 provoked the strong and widespread sentiment of “never again,” and R2P is a fitting normative testament to that requires implementation.
Developments, updates, commentary and action on R2P can be found on the website of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.