Friday, April 06, 2007

Broad Support for U.N. Intervention Against Genocide

By Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON, Apr 5 (IPS) - Less than two years after the heads of the world's governments endorsed "humanitarian intervention" by the United Nations against genocide and other massive abuses of human rights, a new survey released here Thursday has found strong support for the concept among general publics around the world.

The survey, which covered a total of 14 countries, plus the Palestinian Territories, found that solid majorities in each of 12 national pools believe that the U.N. Security Council should have the "right" to authorise the use of military force to protect innocent people from genocide and other massive abuses, even against the will of their own government.

And majorities in all but four of 12 national samples, ranging from 51 percent in India to 76 percent in China, went a step further, agreeing with the proposition that the Security Council has the "responsibility" to authorise the use of force under such circumstances. Strong pluralities in the three remaining countries -- Ukraine, Thailand, Russia and Argentina -- also agreed.

"There seems to be a worldwide consensus that the U.N. Security Council has a responsibility to act to protect populations against genocide," said Steeven Kull, director of the University of Maryland's Programme on International Policy Attitudes and editor of, which co-sponsored the poll with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (CCGA).

"What is remarkable is the degree of international agreement -- across countries with very different approaches to human rights issues -- on the need for U.N.-authorised military action," added CCGA's Christopher Whitney.

The survey also found support for U.N. intervention in Darfur, Sudan, where between 200,000 and 450,000 mainly African civilians are believed to have died since 2003 primarily as a result of a government-sponsored counter-insurgency campaign. Except in France, the U.S. and Israel, however, many respondents said they did not know enough to have an opinion.

The findings announced Thursday constituted the third in a series of reports that have emerged from a major survey of 18 countries on key international issues that was conducted during the latter half of 2006.

The two previous reports, released last month, covered attitudes toward labour and environmental standards in international trade and global warming. Both found that the publics generally favoured more far-reaching measures to protect labour rights and combat climate change than their governments have supported to date.

The latest report addressed the degree to which national publics support what has come to be called the "responsibility to protect" -- the notion that the U.N. or other external powers may have a legal or ethical obligation to intervene militarily in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation to halt or prevent massive human rights violations, such as genocide or other crimes against humanity.

At the U.N. World Summit in September 2005, leaders of the world body's member states endorsed a document that, among other things, affirmed that the U.N. had a "'responsibility to protect" civilians from "genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity," should their national governments fail to do so.

The survey asked respondents two general questions: whether they thought the Security Council has the right to authorise the use of military force in such circumstances and whether it had the responsibility to do so.

Respondents were asked both questions in the U.S., France, Ukraine, Russia, the Palestinian Territories, Israel, China, India, and Thailand. Respondents in Mexico, Iran, and South Korea were asked only the first question, while respondents in Argentina, Armenia, and Poland were asked only the second question.

On whether the Security Council had the right to authorise the use of military force, the largest percentage of respondents who said yes were found in France (85 percent), followed closely by the U.S. and Israel (83 percent) and the Palestinian Territories (78 percent). Nearly three out of four South Koreans, Mexicans and Chinese agreed, as did 69 percent of both Iranian and Ukrainian respondents.

The country with the strongest opposition to the assertion by the Security Council of a right to authorise intervention was India, where 28 percent of respondents opposed the idea, compared to 63 percent who supported it.

On whether the Security Council had the responsibility to authorise the use of military force, the response was predictably less supportive, except in each country except China.

Despite their country's historic sensitivity to foreign intervention, 76 percent of Chinese respondents said they thought such a responsibility existed. U.S. respondents were the next most supportive (74 percent), followed by Palestinians (69 percent), Armenians (66 percent), and Israelis (64 percent).

Fifty-four percent of Polish and French respondents agreed with that view, as did 51 percent of Indians.

Support was weakest in Ukraine, where only 40 percent of respondents said they agreed that the Security Council had the responsibility to authorise an intervention, although the percentage of those who said there was no responsibility was highest in France (39 percent), Russia (31 percent), and Israel (28 percent).

No sub-Saharan African country was included in the survey, but Kull noted that a 2005 poll of eight countries by the international firm GlobeScan found comparable levels of support -- an average of about two-thirds -- for the Council's right to intervene in cases of genocide or other massive abuses. Support was strongest in Ghana, where four out of five respondents supported the right, and lowest in South Africa, where a 47-percent plurality agreed.

The survey results were hailed by some rights activists as an indication that global public opinion was more committed to the "responsibility to protect" than their governments.

"This poll is a real dose of good news," said Gayle Smith, an Africa specialist and co-founder of Enough!, a new joint project by the Centre for American Progress and the International Crisis Group devoted to mobilising public opinion into effective strategies for ending genocide and mass atrocities, particularly in Africa. The results, particularly in the U.S., she said, suggested that setbacks in Iraq have "not affected public opinion about the utility of intervention."

On Darfur, which the U.S. government has labeled a "genocide" but which the survey referred to only as "violence", respondents in 10 countries were asked to choose between three options -- whether the Council had the right to authorise intervention and, if so, whether or not it also had the responsibility to do so. They could also decline to answer.

Majorities in five of the countries, led by France (84 percent), the U.S. (83 percent), Israel (77 percent), India (59 percent), and China (58 percent) asserted that the Council at least had the right to authorise intervention. As to the "responsibility" to intervene as well, France again led the list (55 percent), followed by the U.S. (48 percent), Israel (46 percent), and Armenia and India (29 percent). In five of the countries polled, however, around 50 percent of respondents said they did not have an opinion.

Asked whether they would support their own countries' participation in a peacekeeping force in Darfur, respondents in both France (84 percent) and the U.S. (65 percent) were the most enthusiastic by far, while Thais were split, and Armenians, Israelis, Poles, and Ukrainians were opposed.

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Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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