Sri Lanka: Menschenrechtspolitik ist kein Wettbewerbsnachteil

Eine konsequente Menschenrechtspolitik hat den demokratischen Wandel in Sri Lanka beschleunigt. Die Verschuldung gegenüber China steht einer Aufarbeitung des Krieges nicht im Wege. Eine Replik.

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Chinesische Baustelle am Galle Face Green im Zentrum Colombos.

In seinem Beitrag in der FAZ vom 19. Dezember 2016 (“Gefangen in Chinas Schuldenfalle“) beschreibt Christoph Hein, wie die militärische Unterstützung Chinas während der letzten Phase des sri lankischen Bürgerkriegs das Tor für chinesisch finanzierte Großprojekte eröffnete. „Der Westen pochte auf die Menschenrechte und ließ die strategisch wichtige Insel links liegen“, schreibt Hein. Das ist eine einseitige Darstellung.

Wahr ist nämlich auch, dass westliche Staaten schon lange vor China den sri lankischen Kurs der militärischen Bekämpfung der Rebellenorganisation der Tamil Tigers unterstützten. Das US State Department stufte die Organisation bereits 1997 als ausländische terroristische Organisation ein. Selbst als sich die sri lankische Regierung mit den Tamil Tigers in Friedensverhandlungen befand, durften Rebellenvertreter nicht zu einer Geberkonferenz in Washington D. C. im April 2003 fahren. Die Rebellenorganisation nutzte diese Absage als Vorwand, um ihre Teilnahme an den Friedensverhandlungen auszusetzen.

Nachrichtendienstliche Erkenntnisse der USA und Indiens  halfen der sri lankischen Marine, die „schwimmenden Warenhäuser“ der Tamil Tigers im indischen Ozean zu identifizieren und zu zerstören. Bis 2008 lieferten Großbritannien, Tschechien und andere europäische Staaten Sri Lanka Militärfahrzeuge, Kleinwaffen und Granaten.

Spät, zu spät begannen die USA, Großbritannien und Indien, sich bei der sri lankischen Regierung für „humanitäre Feuerpausen“ einzusetzen. Sie standen unter Druck der tamilischen Diaspora bzw. der Regionalregierung in Tamil Nadu. Doch kurz vor dem Ziel ließ sich Präsident Mahinda Rajapaksa nicht aufhalten. Entsprechend perplex reagierte er auf die Forderungen dieser Länder, Vorwürfe massiver Menschenrechtsverletzungen nach dem Krieg aufzuarbeiten. Laut einem bei Wikileaks veröffentlichten US-Drahtbericht vom 18. September 2009 beschrieb Rajapaksa gegenüber der US-Botschafterin, wie der frühere US-Präsident George W. Bush ihn „persönlich ermutigt habe, die Niederschlagung der LTTE (Tamil Tigers) zu verfolgen“. Rufe nach Aufarbeitung fehlte es schlicht an Glaubwürdigkeit.

Chinas Bereitschaft, Sri Lanka mit Infrastrukturprojekten unter die Arme zu greifen, kam gerade recht für Präsident Rajapaksa. Seine Strategie nach dem Krieg sah einen vor allem durch materielle Entwicklung erkauften Frieden vor. Die Regierung investierte zusammen mit internationalen Partnern wie Indien und Japan in Straßen, Eisenbahnverbindungen, Häuser und Elektrizitätsversorgung in den ehemaligen Rebellengebieten im Norden und Osten der Insel.

Im Gegenzug wollte Rajapaksa großangelegte Projekte in den Süden, seine politische Heimat, bringen. Warum sollte China sonst einen ungenutzten Flughafen und einen weitgehend überflüssigen Tiefseehafen in Hambantota finanzieren? Dies waren zuvorderst sri lankische Prioritäten. Chinas Unterstützung für den Hafen kam erst ins Spiel, nachdem Indien abgesagt hatte. Sri Lanka ist kein führerloses Schiff, das hilflos den geostrategischen Interessen von Großmächten ausgesetzt ist.

Weiterhin beschreibt Hein die Entwicklung Sri Lankas nach dem Ende des Bürgerkriegs im Mai 2009 als „Fallbeispiel für das Vordringen Chinas“,  dem weder die neue Regierung noch die westlichen Industriestaaten etwas entgegenzusetzen hätten.

Keine Frage, die hohe Verschuldung des sri lankischen Staates, insbesondere bei China, stellt eine große Belastung für den Haushalt dar. Die Verantwortung dafür liegt bei der Vorgängerregierung unter Präsident Rajapaksa. Wegen vorher festgesetzten Vertragsstrafen bei Bauunterbrechung von „Knebelverträgen“ und „Erpressung“ zu sprechen, wie Hein es tut, ist jedoch reichlich hochgegriffen. So manche deutsche Landesregierung kann ein Lied davon singen, dass unliebsame Projekte der Vorgängerregierung aus rechtlichen Gründen und entgegen von Wahlkampfversprechen nicht mehr zu verhindern sind. In einem Rechtsstaat sind Verträge nun einmal einzuhalten.

Rein finanziell können westliche Industriestaaten nicht die gleichen Summen wie China für ein Land, das die Weltbank nicht mehr zu den ärmsten Ländern der Welt zählt, aufbringen. Geld übersetzt sich aber nicht eins zu eins in politischen Einfluss.

Die Situation in Sri Lanka stellt keinesfalls einen geopolitischen Sieg Chinas dar, insoweit solche Kategorien überhaupt einen Erklärungswert besitzen. Weltpolitik ist schließlich kein Nullsummenspiel. Eine Mehrheit der sri lankischen Wahlbevölkerung hat am 8. Januar 2015 eine chinafreundliche Regierung abgewählt. Mahinda Rajapaksa stand für einen zunehmend autokratischen Führungsstil, die Einschränkung des Rechtsstaats, Übergriffe auf religiöse Minderheiten und grassierende Korruption.

Von den USA und Großbritannien organisierte Mehrheiten im UN-Menschenrechtsrat setzten die Regierung seit 2012 auch außenpolitisch unter Druck. Laut Diplomatenkreisen fürchteten sich singhalesische Geschäftsleute bereits vor möglichen US-Sanktionen, unbenommen davon, wie begründet diese Sorgen waren. Eine Isolation von westlichen Staaten, auf welche Sri Lanka unter Präsident Rajapaksa zusteuerte, wollten diese Kreise verhindern.

Nach knapp zwei Jahren im Amt hat die neue Regierung einer großen Koalition unter Präsident Maithripala Sirisena und Premierminister Ranil Wickramasinghe wichtige Reformvorhaben angestoßen.  Am 28. April 2015 verabschiedete das Parlament den 19. Verfassungszusatz, welcher die Kompetenzen und Amtszeit des Präsidenten begrenzte. Im September 2015 bekannte sich die Regierung im UN-Menschenrechtsrat zu einem umfassenden Programm zur Aufarbeitung des Bürgerkriegs.  Seit dem 5. April 2016 berät das Parlament als verfassungsgebende Versammlung. Das Ziel: eine neue Verfassung, welche Dezentralisierung stärkt und damit zur politischen Lösung des Konfliktes beiträgt. Und im Juli 2016 gab der Internationale Währungsfonds ein Paket im Wert von 1,5 Milliarden Dollar bekannt, das an kontinuierliche Wirtschaftsreformen gekoppelt ist.

China steht diesen Vorhaben nicht im Weg. Vielmehr hat die offensive Unterstützung für die Rajapaksa-Regierung ihr Einfluss gekostet, wie der von Hein erwähnte öffentliche Streit zwischen dem Finanzminister und dem chinesischen Botschafter in Colombo unterstreicht. Diejenigen Staaten, die seit Kriegsende beharrlich auf eine aufgeklärte Menschenrechtspolitik und die Aufarbeitung mutmaßlicher Kriegsverbrechen gesetzt haben, verfügen jetzt über sehr gute Beziehungen zur Regierung.

Die sri lankische Regierung sollte noch mehr tun, um die Aufarbeitung des Krieges voran zu treiben. Insbesondere sollte sie gegenüber der singhalesischen Bevölkerungsmehrheit deutlicher die Notwendigkeit der Aufarbeitung erklären. Um ihren fiskalischen Spielraum zu vergrößern, könnte sie die Grundsteuer anheben anstatt wie bisher die Mehrwertsteuer zu erhöhen. Und sie könnte den Verteidigungshaushalt senken und das Militär verkleinern.

Westliche Industriestaaten wie Deutschland sollten weiterhin denjenigen Kräften innerhalb der Regierung den Rücken stärken, die sich für Aufarbeitung von Unrecht und Reformen einsetzen. Sie sollten sicherstellen, dass die Vereinten Nationen auch nach der nächsten Sitzung des Menschenrechtsrates im März 2017 eine Rolle spielen, die Umsetzung von Sri Lankas eigenen Verpflichtungen zu überprüfen und mit Expertenwissen zu unterstützen. Wenn das geschieht, kann Sri Lanka zu einem Fallbeispiel erfolgreicher Menschenrechtspolitik und nachhaltiger Friedensarbeit werden.

Protecting civilians as a common endeavour: DGVN expert workshop in Braunschweig

https://www.flickr.com/photos/monusco/20867077294/in/album-72157656405149364/
(c) MONUSCO/ UN Photo

I wrote this piece as a summary of our expert workshop and network meeting on “Protection of individuals from harm as a system-wide challenge for the United Nations” that took place in Braunschweig in July 2016. It first appeared on the Junge UN-Forschung Blog.

Securing access to besieged areas of Aleppo, increasing patrols around UN House in Juba, or ending refugee maltreatment in Australian detention centres in Nauru: the protection of civilians from immediate harm is one of the core tasks of the United Nations system. There are few issues for which UN actors are so frequently in the news. Senior UN officials routinely criticize state authorities and non-state actors responsible for violence against civilians. Too often, the UN are in the spotlight themselves because they failed to live up to the expectations and responsibilities related to the protection of civilians, for example at the protection of civilians site in Malakal, South Sudan in February this year.

Research on how to better protect civilians from harm is essential in order to enable the UN to fulfil their charter-based mandate: creating a safer, fairer and more prosperous world for all. In this vein, we organized an expert workshop and network meeting on the common theme „Protecting civilians as system-wide challenge for the United Nations“, which took place from 15 to 17 July at the Technische Universitaet Braunschweig, Germany. It brought together around 20 junior scholars from Germany, Europe, the United States, and Brazil in order to facilitate academic exchange and build a network of scholars around the topic. The workshop was designed to take into account perspectives from three major policy fields: humanitarian action, peacekeeping, and human rights. It took place in the context of the German Association of the United Nations and its working group on young UN research.

At a public panel discussion, a dedicated break-out session and the presentation of our own preliminary research, we discussed the distinction between the three policy fields of humanitarian action, peacekeeping, and human rights, as well as open questions and debates within those fields. As the workshop itself took place under Chatham House rules, we only quote from the public panel discussion, and provide a general sense of the discussion during the rest of the event.

Discussing the results of the breakout session
Discussing the results of the breakout session

Humanitarian action, peacekeeping, and human rights perspectives

The official definition of protection approved by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) for humanitarian action is much too broad for practical purposes. A tiered, increasingly ambitious understanding of protection is more helpful in that regard: ensuring access to humanitarian aid is the most basic definition of humanitarian protection, followed by ensuring access to protection services. More contentious are the roles humanitarian agencies can play in putting a stop to on-going rights violations, or even in furthering international criminal justice through witness statements and the collection of evidence. For Médecins Sans Frontières, protection frequently equates to really taking the principle of doing no harm seriously, said the director of the agency’s German chapter, Florian Westphal, at the panel discussion. Providing aid to displaced persons must not help armed groups locate them. The public and private advocacy that humanitarian organisations like MSF engage in always needs to make sure that people are actually better protected, even when the agencies want to ensure that they are not being seen as complicit with violations because of their (public) silence, Westphal argued.

UN peacekeeping is a highly political undertaking, even if senior UN officials and member states don’t always recognize it as such, claimed Peter Schumann, former chief of staff of the UN Mission in Sudan and long-term UNDP staff member. As the UN peace operation in South Sudan showed, too often member states create over-ambitious mandates without sufficient resources and political backing to meet the high expectations that the mission will actually protect the population from immediate threats of violence. UN peacekeeping operates largely according to a short-term logic: creating physical security for civilians, responding to their immediate needs. This may sit uncomfortably with the long-term requirement to develop a political strategy, for which the military can create space and which helps the warring parties move to a peaceful way to settle their disputes. Moreover, rhetorical commitments to the effective protection of civilians and national policies of member states in the Security Council as well as of individual troop contributing countries may differ significantly. Germany’s recent evacuation of its police personnel that was supposed to protect women and children as part of the UN Mission in South Sudan was one example mentioned at the workshop.

Human rights agencies have the most long-term perspective of the three policy fields. The Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), for example stresses not only that states have a primary responsibility to protect their populations from harm (as do humanitarian and peacekeeping actors). The methods OHCHR lists in its most recent management plan aim to enable rights-holders exercise their rights and to build the capacities of duty-bearers to guarantee fundamental human rights. Someone is always bound by human rights, and someone else is always entitled, as the break out group on human rights protection put it. However, some actors put themselves deliberately outside the international legal system, such as the so-called Islamic State or North Korea. Protecting those who defend human rights on the ground is an important, concrete task for international actors such as peace brigades international, said Christiane Schultz, who founded the organisation’s German section. The Committee on enforced disappearances can issue urgent measures, for example, and conduct country visits to raise individual cases and instigate structural change.

Over the three-day workshop, it became clear that protecting populations from harm is a hugely ambitious and complex undertaking. In all policy fields, there are gaps between rhetorical commitments and implementing promises on the ground. There can be differences between individual mandate-holders, national peacekeeping contingents, missions, institutions, and policy fields.

The main impediment to better protection are not the differences about the meaning, methods and objectives of protection per se – they are the natural and inevitable consequence of varying mandates and contexts. Rather, it is the lack of mutual understanding that leads to gaps in the protection architecture. It also misses out on opportunities to jointly tackle common challenges and recognise each other’s complementarity, in full recognition of their distinct mandates. Thus, there is much to learn from each other. Academic and policy exchange on the theme of protecting civilians from harm needs to intensify (for example here).

How to sell a UN reform to member states

Five lessons from the Human Rights Up Front initiative

eliasson1

This post appeared on the Blog Junge UN-Forschung.

They had expected it anxiously. When I spoke with the UN officials working on the Secretary General’s Human Rights Up Front initiative last year, they were concerned the internal initiative could become intertwined in the polarized debates between UN member states on the role of human rights in the organization. The UN Secretary-General launched the initiative in 2013, with the aim to raise the profile of human rights in the work of the whole UN system. As a reaction to a devastating internal review panel report on the UN’s actions in Sri Lanka, the initiative includes a detailed action plan to improve the mechanisms for raising serious human rights violations with member states, for internal crisis coordination, and information management regarding such violations. The UN officials – rightly – felt that the new engagement of the UN system with member states that the initiative entailed had to build on its two other elements: cultural and operational change within the UN system, i.e. coherence between the development, peace and security and human rights arms of the UN.

As I argued in my policy paper published last July, Human Rights Up Front could not remain a pure UN matter; to be successful in the mid- to long-term, member states need to endorse it wholeheartedly. This includes an increased funding for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and an intergovernmental mandate for a more political role of UN Country Teams. In a letter on Christmas Eve 2015, the Secretary-General officially recognized the crucial role of member states: “While the Initiative is internal, its objectives speak to the purposes of the whole United Nations and will be greatly enhanced by support from Member States.”

On 27 January 2016, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson briefed the General Assembly on the initiative’s implementation since its inception more than two years ago. The broad support he received from the member states present holds five important lessons for selling UN human rights diplomacy more generally.

First, open consultations facilitate trust and transparancy. Many of the 22 member states and one regional organization (EU) that spoke during the informal briefing session, expressively welcomed the opportunity for open dialogue itself. While Eliasson had briefed member states twice before (in New York and Geneva) on Human Rights Up Front, and both he and Ban Ki-Moon referred to it in their speeches, the interactive session provided an opportunity to take stock with member states.

Second, take on board your critics. In reaction to previous comments from member states, Eliasson explicitly referred to the relevance of social, economic and cultural rights violations as precursors to physical violence and instability. China’s and Nigeria’s inputs duly acknowledged the importance of development for prevention.

Third, universality. The delegate from Iran asked how the UN could adequately respond to human rights violations in the Global North such as increasing xenophobia when most of its offices were in developing countries – a longstanding criticism in UN human rights forums. Eliasson emphasized the comprehensive reach of the early warning and coordination mechanisms, and compared it to the successful example of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in the Human Rights Council, which commits every UN member state to a thorough peer-review of its human rights record. Indeed, the regional quarterly reviews, a new early warning and coordination mechanism introduced as part of Human Rights Up Front, look at all world regions. These coordination meetings bring together officials from divergent UN agencies to review adequacy of the UN’s response to potential risks for serious human rights violations.

Forth, association with existing mandates and agendas. Whenever the UN secretariat comes up with its own initiatives, it creates certain anxieties among member states eager to control the international bureaucracy. It was a sign of the Deputy Secretary-General’s successful outreach that no member state questioned the initiative and the role of the secretariat in coming up with it per se. In addition, Eliasson had his staff compile a list of the Charter provisions, treaties and resolutions by the General Assembly and the Security Council relevant to conflict prevention and human rights diplomacy. Responding to calls to do so for example by China, he also welcomed the role of conflict prevention as part of agenda 2030, in particular its goal 16.

Fifth, personal experience and credibility. Human Rights Up Front’s outreach benefits tremendously from having DSG Eliasson as champion in the secretariat. Not only did he conduct several mediation efforts himself, he was part of key normative and operative developments in the United Nations in the past twenty years that pertain to the Human Rights Up Front agenda. As first Emergency Relief Coordinator of the United Nations, he saw at first hand the resulting coordination challenges for the newly created position of humanitarian coordinators, a task usually taken up by the existing resident coordinator and resident representative of UNDP. In 2005, he presided over the record-breaking World Summit as president of the General Assembly, which endorsed the notion of a responsibility to protect populations from mass atrocity crimes, and agreed on the establishment of the Human Rights Council and Peacebuilding Commission. Under his leadership, the General Assembly later agreed on the details of the Human Rights Council, including the UPR. All of this provides Eliasson with unrivaled credibility among member states; his diplomatic skills enable him to put this status into practice.

The overwhelmingly positive welcome in the General Assembly session should not disregard the fair and important questions that even constructive member states still have. Several representatives such as Australia and Argentina asked for concrete examples of the initiative’s implementation, and China wanted to know which experiences the Secretariat had made in the first two years of the action plan’s implementation. While much of the high diplomacy of the UN may be sensitive and should remain confidential for the time being, there is no reason why the UN could not report on efforts taken after the fact, in consultation with the country concerned. After all, OHCHR reports annually about its activities including on a country basis, as do other UN entities. Indeed, three UN officials wrote a blog entry for UNDG how Human Rights up Front had helped them in following up on Argentina’s pledges under the UPR mechanism.

Finally, the UN leadership should not shy away from calling remaining challenges within the UN system by their name. It is understandable that Eliasson and others prefer to stress how “enthusiastic” staff members have greeted the initiative. Yet the action plan has also included new tasks for OCHR, without generating new funding. The creation of a common information system on serious human rights violations was hampered by different understandings of the objectives of protection and varying standards for the protection of victims and witnesses of violations. The new universal human rights training for all UN staff was seen as ineffective and beside the point by a number of observers within the UN system. Most troublingly, an independent expert panel on sexual abuse and exploitation in UN peace operations pointed to „gross institutional failure“ in the UN system, exposing a serious deficit in the organization’s internal culture (Eliasson has, in fact, made the link with Human Rights Up Front at a press conference). If Human Rights Up Front is to gain more traction with member states, Eliasson and his team should confront these challenges head-on.