HL Deb 02 May 2001 vol 625 cc99-100WA
Lord Goldsmith

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made in Her Majesty's Government's consultations with international partners on UK proposals for international action in response to humanitarian crises. [HL1985]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

We firmly believe that we have shared responsibility to respond when confronted with massive violations of international humanitarian law and crimes against humanity. The UK has played a leading role in this continuously evolving debate. We have spent the past year trying to build the broadest possible consensus around a set of ideas on the conditions and circumstances that make international action appropriate. We believe such a consensus could strengthen the Security Council's ability to respond effectively and promptly to humanitarian crises. Our ideas have been framed as policy guidelines to help the international community decide when it is right to act.

The key elements of our ideas are:

that any intervention is by definition a failure of prevention. Force should always be the last resort;

that the immediate responsibility for halting violence rests with the state in which it occurs;

but when faced with an immediate humanitarian catastrophe and a government that has demonstrated itself unwilling or unable to halt or prevent it, the international community should take action;

any use of force in this context must be collective, proportionate, likely to achieve its objective, and carried out in accordance with international law.

Our consultations will continue. But progress has proved difficult. Many countries have reservations about the concepts involved, fearing that their endorsement would undermine the principle of state sovereignty.

Copies of our set of ideas have been placed in the Libraries of the House of Commons and House of Lords.