It happened & still happening
Since the end of the 20th Century, the nature of armed conflict in the world is dominated by internal conflicts with civilians making the majority of the casualties than inter-state warfare. The genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia, as well as crimes against humanity in Kosovo, East Timor and Darfur have demonstrated massive failures by the international community to prevent atrocities. After these failures, there was a recognized need to shift the debate to crisis prevention with “never again” determination.
All member states of UN solemnly pledged in the September 2005 General assembly, the responsibility to protect all beleaguered and threatened civilians and populations irrespective of time place and circumstance. The doctrine is officially known as the responsibility to protect (R2P). The R2P must be depoliticized and a truly shared interest for all member states and the UN.
Jan Egeland, the former UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, in a commentary article published in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten on Saturday has called for world attention on forgotten conflicts where situation has deteriorated while the focal point of the world was centered on Gaza. His commentary in Norwegian when translated titled as “It happened while we were preoccupied with Gaza” draws attention to the humanitarian crisis in Congo, Sri Lanka, Somalia and Burma.
Translated excepts of the commentary
It was not better in the Congo, Sri Lanka, Somalia and Burma but our cursory look remained on Gaza. On Christmas Eve, we followed the dramatic start of Israel's bombardment of Hamas targets in Gaza. On the same day five hundred defenseless civilians were killed in eastern Congo on the border with Sudan. This terror was part of a new war between government forces from Uganda, Congo and South Sudan and the North-Ugandan "Lord's Resistance Army” which is on a new terror campaign against civilians. There has been a deafening silence about the outbreak of this War.
The fourth January, the whole world was busy registering all the bombing raids and missiles in the small Gaza. Hence, the Sri Lankan government’s banning of the Tamil Tigers with whom a cease-fire agreement was signed with international backing in 2002 escaped the world's attention. At the same time the Sri Lankan army closed on the guerrilla-controlled areas with catastrophic consequences to the civilians who were already in dire conditions.
In Gaza, as in Sri Lanka, the popularly elected governments crush the opposition movements who have used despicable terrorism, but also have popular support. In both conflict zones, the government forces violate humanitarian laws. Both are trying to keep international pressure and other witnesses away. But that’s where the comparison ends too. Any rocket landing in the sand of Israel or in a building in Gaza becomes international news. Entire cities that fall after a hard and bloody street fighting in Sri Lanka is not mentioned.
Jan Egeland is currently the Director at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) and a Professor at the University of Stavanger.
In the 21st Century, the security of the communities and the individual are not just the responsibility of respective state, but must be encapsulated by preventive international policies on systematic violations of human rights and despotic governments.