In a little over a month's time, the world will stop and remember the Tutsi genocide of Rwanda in 1994. As we approach the twenty-third anniversary, it is customary to reflect on the lessons learnt and see how far we have come in the aftermath of such an atrocity. However in light of current world events, it is unlikely that any of this reflection could be positive. This raises the question, has the West failed to uphold their response to protect commitment?
Western states have always prioritised domestic responsibilities over international ones, as all countries do. However, the gap between these responsibilities has never seemed so wide. Recent political events seem to suggest a possible cultural shift when it comes to Western states becoming embroiled with an international crisis.
On the political stage, Donald Trump championed a nationalist sentiment to become the 45th President of the United States. The campaign leading up to the British EU referendum was tarnished with anti-immigration/refugee rhetoric. Right-wing parties across Europe, including Austria, Hungry, Greece and France, have all seen a rise in popular support. These events have seen the birth of an 'us vs them' attitude, based on a climate of fear and hate. Undermining the basic concept of human rights and demonising the very people who should be protected.
The lack of any real action or plan from Western states in on-going conflicts in the past few years is its own damning evidence. Aleppo was reduced to rumble as Russian and Syrian Government forces barrel bombed the city. Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, dropped chemical weapons on his own people in Darfur. Yemen slaughtered their own civilians, while 75,000 people remained trapped between Syria and Jordan and thousands lost their lives trying to reach Europe.
From a British perspective, the UK government would stand up and say they continue to meet the principles of response to protect (R2P), laid out by the United Nations. However, when pressured to take more unaccompanied child refuges, the government replied by stating they are meeting the 0.7% international aid spending target. Sanctions were placed upon Russia in response to the bombing of Aleppo, but they achieved little and the bombing only ceased once the Syrian government retook control of the city. Financial support and attempts at a soft power strategy have achieved little in protecting vulnerable and innocent civilians across the globe.
In the aftermath of Rwanda, the international community stated "never again". In the twenty-three years since, the same sentiment was shared after atrocities in Bosnia, Darfur and the D.R. Congo. We are now seeing the same outcry in response to the Syrian/Refugee crisis, and yet again a lack of political will is preventing any real action taking place to stop the atrocities and protect the innocent.
The West has not failed to act, yet their actions have truly failed, and it's the innocent civilians across the globe that has paid the price. A new will of global responsibility and leadership must be summoned in order to tackle the ongoing issues throughout the world. Domestically, hateful rhetoric must be countered and awareness raised about the importance of responding to threats, even when the effects are not being felt directly.
Should the West come together and achieve this, we may then be able to reflect positively on our actions and say we have finally learnt from our mistakes.