Diplomats worried about Syria being another Libya

BESTPIX - Eastern Libya Continues Fight Against Gaddafi ForcesAt Leeds Beckett University, Dr. Jess Gifkins gave a talk on the findings of her research project that found that three elected members of the UN Security Council adopted a more “pragmatic” approach to Humanitarian Affairs in Syria than the five permanent members. It also indicated that diplomats were concerned that the decisions made in Libya would be replicated in the decisions for Syria.

The three elected members (Australia, Luxembourg, and Jordan) successfully passed two resolutions – Resolution 2139 in February 2014 and Resolution 2165 in July 2014. These resolutions decided humanitarian aid could cross conflict lines without Syrian consent.

Dr. Jess Gifkins is a Senior Lecturer in International Relations and Political Science at Leeds Beckett University, and her research areas mainly consist of the United Nations system, international decision-making, and the ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P).

She collaborated with Professor Jason Ralph, the Head of School for International Relations at the University of Leeds and their findings were published last year in the European Journal of International Relations.

Their research consisted of 18 in-depth interviews with individuals who were either participants in the drafting of resolutions on Libya and Syria, or who closely observed participants in these negotiations. Most interviewees requested that their names, titles, and states to be undisclosed.

Their research found that interviewees believed that UK, France, and US were more interested in “claiming the moral high ground” than in negotiating a collective response. Although it is not common practice that elected members of the Security Council draft resolutions, the interviews emphasized the significance of the pragmatic approach adopted by the three elected members – Australia, Luxembourg, and Jordan. Their focus was solely on the needs of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) rather than on ‘point scoring’ to secure ‘a victory for one side or another’. Negotiations were ‘not about political differences on the nature of conflict … but about practical solutions’.

The study also draws on other studies that have been published in this area, particularly focusing on Rebecca Adler-Nissen and Vincent Pouliot’s academic research into the negotiations of the international intervention in Libya. This study identified three practices adopted by France and Britain during the Libyan negations as being: (1) Press harassment i.e. if a state shows concern for a resolution, France, and Britain would leak this to the media; (2) “Creative” uses of UN procedures i.e. forcing resolutions to undergo a vote before states had time to formulate a procedure; and (3) Mastering procedures i.e. not giving the Libyan people a voice.

“All the people we spoke to expressed a lot of frustration with how the Libyan negotiations had been done,” Dr. Gifkins stated.  “There was concern that it would be replicated in the Syrian negations.”  Interviewees commented on how brisk the British and French diplomats were at passing Resolutions 1970 and 1973 – two resolutions that contributed towards the regime change in Libya.

Despite claims that the Security Council did not sign up for regime change in Libya and that the actions of Britain, US and France were, therefore, a betrayal of the Resolution 1973 mandate, the interviews revealed that practitioners who negotiated the resolutions knew full force would be taken against Gaddafi’s regime and not restricted to a limited defence of Benghazi.

Interestingly, the interviews also expressed a frustration felt my diplomats at the position of Elected Members. They stated that there would be limited time for consultation once elected members are privy to the text, a sense that deadlines were manufactured to close down discussion and that the role of elected members was often to ‘rubber-stamp’ decisions that had already been made in negotiations between permanent members.

The results of these findings bring up ethical issues about the fundamental nature of global governance and the practices adopted in negations such as these. When asked why it was common practice that the Western Permanent Members (US, UK, and France) claimed political ownership on a majority of resolutions, Dr. Giften stated “there is little reason to it, which is why it is so fascinating. Russia and China have equal access to draft resolutions but I cannot think of any resolutions that China has drafted”.

“Russia has done a few, and they have currently been drafting counter-resolutions in regards to Syria. All these practices around political ownership are informal. It has evolved this way and elected members have let this happen. This situation where elected members have drafted the resolutions shows that they also have the capacity to do so. It is just an informal pattern that has been adopted”.

Jan Lewis



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