Tag Archives: TheWashingtonPost

ILC Passes Report That Is Thorough Yet Lacking in Ambition

By Alex Wilde, for The Washington Post

After a weekend of debate, hard work and (regrettably) late starts, the ILC has just completed drafting its report on humanitarian intervention.

There are many positive elements in this report. Recognising ‘Responsibility to Protect’ as a norm allows the UN to prioritise human rights over the state’s responsibility to maintain sovereignty in carrying out military intervention. This is highly important as reliance on this norm gives the UN the ability (to some degree) to conduct preventive operations that quell the potential for a humanitarian crisis to grow. Delegates adopted this principle in light of the 2011 UN Security Council Resolution on Libya, cited as a rare example of the UNSC conducting preventive measures effectively.

However, there is much more that needs to be done in the future. The codified report barely attempts to challenge the competency of the UNSC in its ability to conduct intervention operations. Success of intervention programs is contingent almost entirely on an effective UNSC. Reforms to P5 veto power, lack of representation and non-transparency of decision-making must be addressed in a future session for the aims of this session to be completely realised.

With that said, all delegates should be commended for their efforts over the past weekend, and hopefully the potential for crisis to occur in the future has been narrowed as a result of their work.


ILC Tardiness Delays Debate Significantly, Public Confidence in UN at Risk

By Alex Wilde, for The Washington Post

The delegates of the ILC may be among the most intelligent legal minds in the world, as was made evident by their superb reasoning during yesterday’s session. Their flouting of basic ethical standards in failing to turn up to committee however falls far short of what is universally demanded of seasoned legal representatives.


Only three delegates turned up to committee at the starting time of 9am. By 10:30am, two more delegates arrived to bring attendance to five, still short of the seven needed to resume debate. At publication, the two extra delegates have yet to turn up, meaning debate has yet to resume.

This behaviour is appalling, plain and simple. This session of the ILC is one of the most important in recent memory. The international community needs clear guidelines on how to conduct humanitarian intervention. The prolonged Syrian crisis is clear evidence of this. For ILC delegates to trivialise the lives of millions of citizens at the expense of their own leisure can only be described as scandalous.

There is no doubt that public confidence in the United Nations and related institutions has been severely damaged by this atrocious display. People all over the world have grown weary of the inability of the UN to adequately address conflict, and there was much hope that the outcomes of this session would rectify this lack of confidence. Unfortunately, the day for such change will have to wait another day, even if it would take the deaths of another thousand Syrian citizens to get there.Diplomatic standards could not possibly steep to lower depths than this.

A Full Night’s Sleep, and the ILC is Finally on a Roll

By Alex Wilde for The Washington Post

Following yesterday’s slow start, the members of the ILC have decided to restrict the debate to key concepts instead of juggling multiple issues at once. This is highly welcome, as it allows complex ideas to be unpackaged in a manner conducive towards a thorough report.

The fundamental norm of ‘Responsibility to Protect’ faces little disagreement by delegates. The criteria supporting the principle outlined in Articles 136 and 137 of the World Summit Outcome 2005 received equal support. Delegate 2 stated in an interview with this journalist that the threshold contained within these Articles is sufficient as they limit grounds for intervention to extreme cases (i.e. genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, etc). The WSO criteria should be accepted without alteration as inclusion of new criteria could result in arbitrary reliance on principles to pursue intervention on grounds that may not necessarily be humanitarian. These sentiments were echoed by the majority of delegates during debate.

On the ever-present issue of state sovereignty, all delegates agreed on the basic point that sovereignty should be treated as supreme under the UN Charter, however the operation of R2P effectively prioritises the need to address human rights abuse over matters of state concern. Discussions were framed in purely legalistic terms; the positions of humans themselves have only been referenced fleetingly.

Finally, discussions on the conduct of military intervention are underway with a variety of opinions expressed. Delegate 5 is of the firm opinion that their needs to be a categorisation of cases that replicates the WSO criteria in the final report. When asked whether intervention could be conducted to prevent escalation of potential conflict, the Delegate warned that pre-emptive action potentially falls outside of UN Security Council powers outlined under Ch VII of the UN Charter. When further questioned on the ability of the UNSC to carry out intervention on the basis of its poor record, the Delegate understood such criticism, though she believed questions of UNSC effectiveness should not be addressed during this session.

Delegate 7 in response suggested intervention by regional bodies as an alternative to relying on the UNSC to carry out such operations, citing the 1990s Kosovo intervention by NATO as an example. Delegate 5 quickly delivered a rebuttal, claiming the NATO intervention to be illegal and not permitted under the international legal framework. If regional organisations were to play a role, they would have a limited position under the framework, she claimed.Discussions continue with many more issues left to resolve.

International Law Commission Session on Humanitarian Intervention Commences

By Alex Wilde for The Washington Post

The ILC today will begin talks on potential codification of international legal norms
that would provide the United Nations with a clear framework on how to respond to
humanitarian crises. With the failure of the international community to address the ongoing
crisis in Syria, this session comes at an urgent time in human history.

The state’s “responsibility to protect” their own citizens from human rights abuses
has been commonly accepted as a norm justifying humanitarian intervention since the 2005
World Summit. In operation, this norm allows the rights of humans to be prioritised over the
state’s right to maintain its sovereignty, effectively allowing external bodies to intervene to
restore protection of threatened peoples. Article 139 of the World Summit Outcome
recommends the UN Security Council to enforce such a response.

Various controversies are evident however. The WSO does not provide thorough
criteria from which intervention can be authorised. The ILC will need to make sure this
threshold is strong enough to prevent nations from pursuing strategic conflicts for their own
self-interest. The Bush Administration invaded Iraq on humanitarian grounds, though the
outcomes of that conflict were anything but. The ILC’s resolution should be carefully drafted
to prevent such arbitrary exercise of state power from being permitted in the future.

Reliance on the SC to enforce intervention is also a matter of concern. The SC is
routinely criticised for its ineffectiveness in responding to humanitarian threats, a result of
its lack of adequate representation and lack of transparency. These criticisms were
accentuated when Saudi Arabia refused a SC seat in protest to the multilateral body’s
alleged ‘impotence’ in responding to the Syrian conflict. Any codified grounds for
intervention will be inadequate if the SC itself doesn’t undergo reform.

The ILC has been handed a heavy task which must be addressed with care. Members
must place the rights of humans at the centre of debate. A resolution that prioritises the
functions of the state will remove any element of compassion from its provisions. After all, a
military response cannot be humanitarian if it is not conducted with humanity as its primary