Bishop urges Government to prioritise conflict prevention

By staff writers
July 3, 2009

The Bishop of Wakefield has urged the Government to prioritise conflict prevention and warned of becoming too "state-centric" in dealing with issues of international protection.

The call comes as recent research suggests that for every dollar spent globally on conflict prevention, two thousand are spent on military initiatives. It also follows calls by campaigners around the UK's first 'Armed Forces Day', that the Government should refocus resources away from military spending towards initiatives which deal with non-violent conflict resolution.

The comments from the Rt Rev Stephen Platten came in his maiden speech in the House of Lords, during the short debate on the United Nation’s Responsibility to Protect (R2P).

The Responsibility to Protect covers genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is an international commitment by governments to prevent crises and to react wherever they may occur.

In 2005, world leaders agreed, for the first time, that states have a primary responsibility to protect their own populations and that the international community has a responsibility to act when these governments fail to protect the most vulnerable.

“After having taken the initial step — namely, the conceptualisation and fundamental recognition of R2P — the challenge now is to look at ways in which we can move towards a clearer definition and operation of the responsibility to protect” the bishop said. “Only by working through these issues will the international community be successful in preventing crimes against humanity or, at the very least, ending them at an early stage. If it can do that, the international community might yet fulfil its responsibility for the preservation of peace in the 21st century.”

“There is a risk, however, that in all this we might become too state-centric, so to speak. R2P breaks once and for all with the state-centric concept of humanitarian intervention with its overt reliance on military action. In its place stands a three-pillar concept of security, involving a responsibility to prevent, a responsibility to react and a responsibility to rebuild. This understanding of human security has been part of the core of the R2P norm from the Canadian sponsored report in 2001 through to the publication of the report implementing the responsibility to protect by the UN Secretary-General in January 2009.”

“In a 24/7 media culture, the focus is invariably on our responsibility to react, but our priority must be on a responsibility to prevent. There is a specific role here for civil society and the churches.”

Groups such as Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), Peace Brigades International, and The World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, all work to build just-peace.

The Lord Bishop of Wakefield was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Secretary for Ecumenical Affairs for five and a half years.

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