It’s Humanitarian Development, Stupid!

17 May

Myanmar and Cyclone Nargis The (and approximately 56,000 missing). According to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, over 60,000 planeloads of aid have been delivered. Ban called the situation a "human tragedy".

Yet, in an interview on PBS, Secretary-General Ban, discussing the recent international debate over "Responsibility to Protect" (R2P), called R2P "important", but related to criminal acts. Ban distinguished between political and humanitarian matters, and . This :

The debate over R2P in Burma, of course, is essentially a political one, as the issue is no longer the death and destruction caused by Nargis, but that caused by the exacerbating and obstructionist tactics of the country’s ruling junta. As Gareth Evans, the author of the report establishing R2P, wisely reminds us, intervention in the case of a natural disaster is only even possible under the aegis of R2P if a government’s calculated disregard for its citizens amounts to a crime against humanity. The doctrine was not intended as a shortcut for the international community to provide relief in desperate cases of natural disaster.

On PRC, Ban characterized the post-earthquake situation as "humanitarian", and then commended the Chinese government for its performance.

The R2P debate is more about UN "inside baseball" and NGO assertiveness than helping Myanmar or PRC. If any state is so deficient in its relief capabilities, western states, as expert as they consider themselves, should catch them up. But, this is all a horrendous red herring. It’s development, stupid! If it were not for the fact, that developing states, like Myanmar and PRC, have burgeoning populations in disaster-prone areas, there would be less need for more relief capabilities. The UN needs to lead on sustainable, environmentally-sustainable development away from marginal areas, not create world government.

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