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n October 10, 2020, Luis Almagro, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), announced that he was naming an advisor to look into the creation of a regional Responsibility to Protect (R2P) mechanism. While the development of a regional R2P mechanism has precedent and is a sound policy, Almagro needs to tread carefully if he is going to be able get the buy in of member states to develop this type of policy. He is already viewed as a polarizing figure and the decision to announce an R2P advisor without input from member states has already irked representatives to the OAS. For Almagro to successfully lobby for regional human rights protections, he will need to carefully frame the issue and ensure that all member states are included in discussions surrounding its creation.

While Almagro has been an advocate for democracy and human rights, his approach has, at times, centered him as the catalyst of regional polarization making the process of convincing member states of the need for a regional R2P more challenging. His advocacy has highlighted a tension inherent between two of the core pillars of the OAS; between supporting democracy and human rights and ensuring the sovereignty of member states. Almagro’s proactive stance in addressing the political and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and the Organization’s response to the 2019 Bolivian election has polarized the organization. Almagro’s stance on Venezuela has also led critics to suggest that Almagro is too close with the Trump administration. Given his polarizing stature, Almagro may find it difficult to convince member states to vote in favor of granting the OAS more tools that support political intervention on behalf of democracy and human rights over defending national sovereignty.

Despite these making the fight an uphill battle, Almagro should still push forward with developing a regional R2P mechanism. Developing an additional mechanism to support the Inter-American Human Rights Regime not only supports human rights in the region, but strengthens the Inter-American system. However, in order to gain support for this initiative, he will need to carefully frame the development of an R2P mechanism and alleviate concerns of this mechanism being used for pursuing regime change.

Almagro’s record complicates this issue and, as such, a region the development of a regional R2P mechanism needs to be clearly separated separate from the current situation in Venezuela and as a tool that applies to all member states equally. Almagro has been accused of seeing himself as “… a medieval white-knight charging on a robust steed, lance in hand, to cut down all evil as he perceives it.” As such, member states may be hesitant to grant additional powers to the OAS. By emphasizing that developing a regionalized R2P mechanism is not about regime change, but providing the necessary conditions to prevent other atrocities from occurring, Almagro may be able to build support amongst his detractors.

Thus, in framing this issue Almagro should focus on the first two pillars of the R2P regime while highlighting that military intervention should be avoided except for in extreme instances. R2P rests on three core pillars. The first pillar focuses on the need for governments to prevent mass atrocities, defined as genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing, from occurring domestically while the second pillar notes the responsibility of the international community in utilizing diplomacy and other mechanisms to help governments prevent mass atrocities. The third pillar however is more controversial as it calls for the international community to take timely and decisive action to address mass atrocities that are occurring. This includes the responsibility of seeking permission from the UN Security Council for the authorization of force to stop crises.

Given that UN Charter permits for regional organizations and these organization have been the basis for collective military action in the past, critics may fear that this is an attempt to garner additional support for military intervention in the region, particularly in Venezuela. While Almagro may seek to expand a regional R2P mechanism to focus on protecting broader human rights violations in the Americas, he must be clear that while a regionalized R2P could provide for a collective military response, regionalized R2P must focus on the responsibility to protect human rights in the region by ensuring that abuses are prevented through domestic and diplomatic channels.

In order to prevent the weaponization of a regional R2P mechanism for political gain or the interests of any one nation, such a mechanism should also clearly be attached to the guidance of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. This would ensure that human rights cases are verified by experts in the field with clear recommendations on how to address the crisis presented to OAS members by the Commission.

In addition to emphasizing the non-military components of R2P, Almagro should highlight that developing clear policies and guidelines for military use limits the ad hoc or unilateral responses to human rights atrocities in the Americas. Given the region’s history of unilateral intervention, particularly from the United States, it must be made clear that while a regional R2P mechanism creates space for armed responses to human rights abuses, it also reinforces the norm of non-intervention unilaterally and the need for collective action. Additionally, it should be emphasized that regionalizing R2P allows all actors within the region to have a voice in collective action measures while the UN’s R2P mechanisms are subject to decisions of the UN Security Council and thus the ability to be vetoed by any of its permanent members.

While the design and framing of a regional R2P are important to ensuring that such a mechanism is developed, there is a strong need for it to be openly and transparently debated. Rather than the top-down approach that Almagro has been accused of, he must seek support from all member states. Garnering the input and guidance of all member states not only strengthens the legitimacy of a regionalized agreement, but will produce a more holistic approach that allays fears of overreach. For Almagro to succeed, he will need to frame a regional R2P mechanism as in the interest of all member states and get receive their input and buy in. Only then can Almagro develop a mechanism to protect human rights in the Americas.

About
Adam Ratzlaff
:
Adam Ratzlaff is a contributing editor with The Diplomatic Courier and a specialist in Latin American foreign and public affairs.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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Selling R2P to the Americas

Photo by Guille Alvarez via Unsplash.

October 23, 2020

O

n October 10, 2020, Luis Almagro, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), announced that he was naming an advisor to look into the creation of a regional Responsibility to Protect (R2P) mechanism. While the development of a regional R2P mechanism has precedent and is a sound policy, Almagro needs to tread carefully if he is going to be able get the buy in of member states to develop this type of policy. He is already viewed as a polarizing figure and the decision to announce an R2P advisor without input from member states has already irked representatives to the OAS. For Almagro to successfully lobby for regional human rights protections, he will need to carefully frame the issue and ensure that all member states are included in discussions surrounding its creation.

While Almagro has been an advocate for democracy and human rights, his approach has, at times, centered him as the catalyst of regional polarization making the process of convincing member states of the need for a regional R2P more challenging. His advocacy has highlighted a tension inherent between two of the core pillars of the OAS; between supporting democracy and human rights and ensuring the sovereignty of member states. Almagro’s proactive stance in addressing the political and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and the Organization’s response to the 2019 Bolivian election has polarized the organization. Almagro’s stance on Venezuela has also led critics to suggest that Almagro is too close with the Trump administration. Given his polarizing stature, Almagro may find it difficult to convince member states to vote in favor of granting the OAS more tools that support political intervention on behalf of democracy and human rights over defending national sovereignty.

Despite these making the fight an uphill battle, Almagro should still push forward with developing a regional R2P mechanism. Developing an additional mechanism to support the Inter-American Human Rights Regime not only supports human rights in the region, but strengthens the Inter-American system. However, in order to gain support for this initiative, he will need to carefully frame the development of an R2P mechanism and alleviate concerns of this mechanism being used for pursuing regime change.

Almagro’s record complicates this issue and, as such, a region the development of a regional R2P mechanism needs to be clearly separated separate from the current situation in Venezuela and as a tool that applies to all member states equally. Almagro has been accused of seeing himself as “… a medieval white-knight charging on a robust steed, lance in hand, to cut down all evil as he perceives it.” As such, member states may be hesitant to grant additional powers to the OAS. By emphasizing that developing a regionalized R2P mechanism is not about regime change, but providing the necessary conditions to prevent other atrocities from occurring, Almagro may be able to build support amongst his detractors.

Thus, in framing this issue Almagro should focus on the first two pillars of the R2P regime while highlighting that military intervention should be avoided except for in extreme instances. R2P rests on three core pillars. The first pillar focuses on the need for governments to prevent mass atrocities, defined as genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing, from occurring domestically while the second pillar notes the responsibility of the international community in utilizing diplomacy and other mechanisms to help governments prevent mass atrocities. The third pillar however is more controversial as it calls for the international community to take timely and decisive action to address mass atrocities that are occurring. This includes the responsibility of seeking permission from the UN Security Council for the authorization of force to stop crises.

Given that UN Charter permits for regional organizations and these organization have been the basis for collective military action in the past, critics may fear that this is an attempt to garner additional support for military intervention in the region, particularly in Venezuela. While Almagro may seek to expand a regional R2P mechanism to focus on protecting broader human rights violations in the Americas, he must be clear that while a regionalized R2P could provide for a collective military response, regionalized R2P must focus on the responsibility to protect human rights in the region by ensuring that abuses are prevented through domestic and diplomatic channels.

In order to prevent the weaponization of a regional R2P mechanism for political gain or the interests of any one nation, such a mechanism should also clearly be attached to the guidance of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. This would ensure that human rights cases are verified by experts in the field with clear recommendations on how to address the crisis presented to OAS members by the Commission.

In addition to emphasizing the non-military components of R2P, Almagro should highlight that developing clear policies and guidelines for military use limits the ad hoc or unilateral responses to human rights atrocities in the Americas. Given the region’s history of unilateral intervention, particularly from the United States, it must be made clear that while a regional R2P mechanism creates space for armed responses to human rights abuses, it also reinforces the norm of non-intervention unilaterally and the need for collective action. Additionally, it should be emphasized that regionalizing R2P allows all actors within the region to have a voice in collective action measures while the UN’s R2P mechanisms are subject to decisions of the UN Security Council and thus the ability to be vetoed by any of its permanent members.

While the design and framing of a regional R2P are important to ensuring that such a mechanism is developed, there is a strong need for it to be openly and transparently debated. Rather than the top-down approach that Almagro has been accused of, he must seek support from all member states. Garnering the input and guidance of all member states not only strengthens the legitimacy of a regionalized agreement, but will produce a more holistic approach that allays fears of overreach. For Almagro to succeed, he will need to frame a regional R2P mechanism as in the interest of all member states and get receive their input and buy in. Only then can Almagro develop a mechanism to protect human rights in the Americas.

About
Adam Ratzlaff
:
Adam Ratzlaff is a contributing editor with The Diplomatic Courier and a specialist in Latin American foreign and public affairs.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.