Search This Blog

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Crisis Failure

Today, the Belfer Center hosted Ambassador Morton Abramowitz, a former career foreign service officer. Need his bio? Abramowitz
retired in 1997 as President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and from the State Department in 1991. Ambassador Abramowitz also served recently as Acting President of the International Crisis Group - a multinational, non-governmental organization headquartered in Brussels and Washington, focusing on crisis prevention. Prior to joining the Carnegie Endowment in August 1991, he was Ambassador to Turkey. He has also served as Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research, United States Ambassador to the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction Negotiations in Vienna, Ambassador to Thailand...
The Ambassador spoke off-the-record about the prospects for addressing non-strategic state failure. He actually said that his remarks could be on-the-record, but made one series of comments that he felt should stay in the room.

Abramowitz was one of the founding members of the International Crisis Group, a non-governmental organization financed by George Soros in the hopes of rallying international support to prevent and resolve violent conflict. Former Australian Foreign Minister, Gareth Evans, is President and CEO. Evans won the 1995 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order, which I direct.

Today, Abramowitz was quite pessimistic about the ability of advocacy groups like ICG to convince states to intervene in humanitarian emergencies. This echoes what he wrote about Darfur with Samantha Power in the Washington Post last September:
Why has the world, with all its outpourings and Security Council deliberations, failed to tackle the Darfur problem? The main answer is straightforward enough: Major and minor powers alike are committed only to stopping killing that harms their national interests. Why take political, financial and potential military risks when there is no strategic or domestic cost to remaining on the sidelines?

...Darfur shows that dedicated advocacy can move democracies to denounce atrocities and provide generous humanitarian help. What the earnest advocacy rarely does is propel the powerful to stop the killing. For that to happen, righteous clamor must reach a high enough pitch that politicians in democratic states are persuaded to do a difficult thing: take domestic political risks in pursuit of polices that do not serve their immediate interests, that can be financially costly and that provide no clear-cut exit strategies.
He essentially repeated these lessons: "the delivery of humanitarian aid lets us off the hook." Worse,
"the existence of the U.N. Security Council hides the crux of the problem: Countries do not want to do what is necessary to prevent large-scale loss of life in messy, complex Africa. Crises such as Darfur require urgent action, and states are well aware that the Security Council cannot act urgently. It is not by accident that they throw the problem into the labyrinth of U.N. deliberations, which allows them to play the role of good international citizens, while the Security Council with its built-in vetoes from Russia and China and its built-in opposition from rotating members such as Pakistan and Algeria, prevents any serious action against sovereign nations."
Amb. Abramowitz was quite pessimistic, actually.

I don't know how his colleagues feel about this take, but the group does seem to have some job openings.

No comments:

Post a Comment