On Thursday December 10, a roundtable was organized by the Saint Paul High School in Vannes, and represented the roundup of a day of workshops on the UN and human rights provided to several classes of high school juniors and seniors; but it also concluded a week of reflection and activities devoted to these global issues.
The public evening roundtable offered the opportunity to the students and their relatives to reflect more deeply on the UN’s longstanding commitment to peace and security, its efficiency and its capacity to reform and handle difficult situations like the Syrian conflict. This event gathered renown guests such as Sandra SZUREK, Vice President of WFUNA and Professor Emeritus of the University Paris Ouest Nanterre-La Défense; Hasni ABIDI, CERMAM Director (Centre for Studies and Research on the Arab and Mediterranean World); Colonel Francis CHANSON, Second commander and Training Manager at the Military School of Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan; and Jean-Baptiste GOULARD, Lecturer at Sciences Po Paris. The debate was animated by the History Professor Gildas COCHENEC and it succeeded in articulating complex issues like “the right to intervene”, states sovereignty over human rights, and the persistence of national interests over international cooperation, in a coherent and accessible way. Sandra Szurek then said that despite the popularity of lawyers for the concept of right or "duty to intervene", this term had no recognition or legal basis in international law. While this concept has been clarified under the term of "Responsibility to Protect - R2P" in the Millennium Declaration in 2005, the content remains vague and offers no legal framework for states to act in case of serious violation of human rights violations. This was the case for example during the intervention of the international coalition in Libya supported by two resolutions of the Security Council in response to the crimes and atrocities committed against the Libyan population. Indeed, the political rivalries and lack of plans or policies set by the international community has created a real failure for the reconstruction of the country and led to a reflection on interventions under UN mandate.
Empahsizing the importance of the peacekeeping operations
This bitter fact has not prevented Colonel Chanson to emphasize the importance of the various peacekeeping operations. He stressed the multidimensional aspect of these operations that integrate the components of governance, development and security, making them sustainable and consistent. In addition, he stressed the legitimacy of these interventions - as supported by 193 states - which ensures the motivation of peacekeepers and helps to "delay the conflict." However, he regretted the length of decision-making, since field actions are conditioned by the approval of UN leaders. Besides the risk of bias and soldiers slippages, the audience raised the fact that the United Nations could contribute to freeze the conflict instead of solving them. To return to the intervention in Libya, was the decision not to intervene made because of the lack of political strategies retrospectively or to choose between two issues: saving lives or ensuring peace and stability in the region?
"The law is the weapon of the weak"
The interventions of experts also helped to highlight tensions restricting the United Nations outreach. The primacy of national sovereignty over human rights or international cooperation were cited, as well as the contradictory policies of some States which led to a destabilizing of the United Nations coherence. According to Mr. Abidi, this "roundup of contradictory foreign policies" collected under the UN explains the non-resolution of crises such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for over 50 years. Despite ambitious attempts by actors like Yitzhak Rabin and President Obama, international law remains powerless to non-compliance of over 30 resolutions of the Security Council by Israel on the withdrawal of armed forces from the Palestinian territories. This political reality identifies well with the saying, "the law is the weapon of the weak."
"Democracy is not only a Western thing"
Finally, a key point raised by Mr. Abidi is that the "research of human dignity" is seen as a vehicle for social and political change in the Middle East. We need to clarify that the lack of respect or exercise of human rights by the people of this region is one of the causes for the emergence of the Arab Spring as well as the turmoil in the region for 4 years. This proves that "democracy is not only a Western thing", but that the younger generations have the ability to claim their rights and make a difference. To "act for the future," it would be important to "act on education" and to sensitize young people to these issues of peace and human rights, what the workshops prepared by CIPADH thrived to promote.