About six months ago I talked about the challenge that a new “great migration,” mainly from the Middle East and Africa, poses for Europe, especially, but also for Canada and the rest of the world.
Now, The Economist newspaper has taken up the issue and reiterates the challenge this poses to Europe, in particular.
The simple fact is that we are all obligated, by international law ~ although a few (mostly Middle Eastern) states have never “signed on” ~ to “do something” to help and protect refugees. To date the international effort has been weak and disjointed. The Economist says that “Governments and officials in the Middle East had warned Europe about a wave of refugees. But without a robust system of international rules that could have eased the burden on the refugee-hosting countries, or any political interest in Europe in resolving the problem, it was left to Ahmed and many others like him to vote with their feet, bringing chaos in their wake. What was Lebanon’s problem is now Germany’s. Belatedly, the rich world has learned that the current system of international protection for refugees is broken. And Europe, which is where the global refugee regime began 65 years ago, and where its limits have now been most starkly exposed, will have to be the catalyst for change.“
The questions of how to cope with millions, tens of millions of refugees or migrants ~ the distinction is not always really clear ~ are hideously complex. It is easier, in my view, to address the simpler question of how to stop the flow at the source.
Back in about the year 2000 former UN secretary General Kofi Annan asked a question: “if humanitarian intervention is, indeed, an unacceptable assault on sovereignty, how should we respond to a Rwanda, to a Srebrenica – to gross and systematic violations of human rights that affect every precept of our common humanity?” Canada organized an ad hoc team, headed by Gareth Evans, an Australian lawyer and politician, and Mohamed Sahnoun, an Algerian diplomat, with former Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy always much in evidence, and they came up with the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (R2P). Now, several wags (mostly Conservatives) always said that the whole effort was aimed at getting Mr. Axworthy a Nobel Peace Prize, but I think that’s a bit unfair. The world was horrified by Rwanda and Srebrenicia; there was a general, international will to say “never again,” at least to those events. But R2P was always complicated … on the surface it literally demanded that those with the power to do so must intervene to protect the weak and defenceless from governments that could not or would not protect its own people. But, in fact, R2P is the right answer to Secretary General Annan’s question. The consequence of not “protecting” the innocent and defenceless is that they become refugees and must be protected elsewhere.
The simple answer to this, the Syrian civil war and consequential refugee crisis, for example …
… is this; actually quite a lot of this …
… not this …
… or this:
If we, the US led Western world, want ~ and we must want ~ to slow the tide of refugees and prevent the horrendous socio-economic problems which they will create around the world then we must take R2P seriously.
The alternative is more of this …
… and that, I believe, ought to be unacceptable.
The solution starts with 2%.
We have to deal with the millions and tens of millions of refugees (and migrants) who are on the move now, but, just as importantly and just as urgently, we have to decide to prevent further migrations that result from the creation of refugees … that means we have to steel ourselves to live up to our Responsibility to protect and that means that we ~ the countries with the will and the means and the honest intent ~ have to rebuild our military forces so that we have the where-with-all to protect innocent civilians before they become refugees and flee to unwelcoming foreign lands.