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CANADA CAN MAKE PEACE IN KOSOVO
- Date: Mon, 19 Apr 1999 13:36:42 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: CANADA CAN STILL MAKE PEACE IN KOSOVO
The Toronto Star April 16, 1999
CANADA CAN STILL MAKE PEACE IN KOSOVO
By Joanna Santa Barbara
We have to believe there were some good motives for Canada's
involvement in bombing Serbia. The suffering of Albanian victims
of ethnic cleansing was intolerable to people of good conscience.
Something had to be done. We haven't yet evolved good ways of
responding to massive human rights abuses within sovereign
territories, so we bombed Belgrade.
There are murmurings about bad motives too - NATO's need to
justify its existence and huge funding with the Cold War 10 years
over. Is this why the attempt at non-violent curbing of human rights
abuses by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in
Europe was insufficient, slow, and undertrained for the job?
But whatever the motives, there can be no doubt about the
combined effects of the violence by Serbian forces and by NATO.
The suffering of the Albanian Kosovars has increased
enormously. The humanitarian disaster is straining neighbouring
Macedonia, Albania and Greece, and is beyond the capacity of
helping organizations. Political strains on the neighbouring
countries create further risks of large-scale violence.
There is suffering among innocent people in Serbia, including
many tens of thousands who have striven repeatedly to get rid of
Milosevic. The worse the war becomes, the more dissidents will be
conscripted, forced by threat of the death penalty to fight for an
illegitimate leader they have tried to unseat. And why, for instance,
was central heating to these citizens a target of NATO bombing?
Efforts for democracy in Serbia have been set back. A leader of
a Serbian student movement for democracy writes that, ''NATO
bombing has pulled the rug out from under a nascent opposition
base. As the strikes intensify, we feel betrayed by those from whom
we expected help in our attempts at creating a civil society in
Canada's joining the NATO war on Serbia violates international
law and is in contempt of the U.N. Charter. This is a dangerous
course and against Canadian tradition. The fact that the nuclear
weapons states-dominated Security Council is a dysfunctional body
for dealing with large-scale human rights abuses does not justify a
shift of decision-making authority to the U.S. or to NATO - a
military alliance with very different functions and history.
What is to be done now?
Stop the bombing. NATO will require a face-saving ''reason'':
Surely having bombed all military targets will suit the purpose.
Get a well-funded U.N. mediation operation, preferably headed
by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, working immediately. The
non-violent elected leader of Kosovars, Ibrahim Rugova, should
represent their interests, not the upstart violent men of the Kosovo
Safe movement of refugees to their former homes should be
protected, as far as possible, by unarmed observers, perhaps from
the OSCE. These people should be well-trained in on-the-ground
conflict resolution, among other skills, and should be adept at
facilitating the work of peace-building non-governmental
What is to be done in the longer run?
Canada must work within the U.N. for Security Council reform,
and for the creation of a legal framework for action within a
sovereign country where there are large-scale human rights abuses.
These will be long, slow tasks, but they must be undertaken. In
addition, there must be a set of minimal requirements for
international recognition of a recently seceded country, and in
particular, protected rights of minorities within that country.
We should urge the development of an Organization for
Security and Co-operation in the Balkans, attached to the OSCE.
There will be difficulties between ethnic groups for decades ahead
after all that has happened. There needs to be a forum for
acknowledging and acting on these.
In Kosovo, we need to apply all that we have learned of peace-
building (and Axworthy's Department of Foreign Affairs has been
developing strengths in this area). This needs to include a strong
component of economic development, and built-in capacities for
We need to recognize that we missed many opportunities for
preventing this horrible situation. We, both in government and civil
society, need to learn from this and quickly apply our learnings to
situations of high risk - Macedonia and Turkey perhaps, among
others. Canada's growing strengths in peace-building need to be
applied to prevent war.
Joanna Santa Barbara is a physician working with the Centre for
Peace Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton.
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