Open Letter to the United Nations Secretary-General and Members of the Security Council, on UN action in Libya


Robert C. Johnston.


This letter was sent on March 16th, 2011, to the United Nations and key representatives in the international diplomatic community, to encourage UN Security Council action on the humanitarian crisis in Libya. Two days later, the Security Council passed a resolution to impose a no-fly zone. The first engagements by UN sanctioned coalition forces began in the early hours (AEDT) of March 20th, 2011.

Open Letter to His Excellency Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, and to the esteemed Members of the United Nations Security Council

I implore you to act in Libya.

An oppressed people cry out for a beacon of hope and salvation.

The United Nations is the global body that carries the mandate, burden, and deep privilege of being that beacon.

In this humanitarian crisis the international community yearns for Security Council courage in leadership, as do the Libyan people. When will you provide it? Eyes are upon you. The crisis in Libya holds much media attention. Yet with each passing day of Security Council inaction the UN loses legitimacy and gives confidence to evil doers worldwide. The world needs the Security Council to be courageous and uphold what is right. To act swiftly to prevent or stop evil acts. To maintain and enforce peace. The world needs a confident UN Security Council; otherwise, there will be no use for it. Will you have the courage to take up the noble sword that was handed to you? Or will you pale into insignificance through fear, personal interest, or indifference?

Must you wait for action taken by global powers or other international organisations who are frustrated by UN inertia? No one, especially the United States, wants a return to the unilateralism expressed during the Bush Administration. They all wait for your leadership. They will defer to it if you, the Secretary-General and Members, have the courage to be great. Only with UN authorisation can an international effort succeed in the highly sensitive Middle East. You are the legitimate monopoly on the use of force. I implore you to take up the torch that was mandated to you.

In Libya we see the vestiges of a hated and brutal regime striking out like a cornered tiger on a people yearning to determine their own future. A people fighting and dying for their freedom. These men, women, and children have courage, but they need you. Soon it may be too late. A return to Gaddafi control is good for no one, least of all the Libyan people.

We need to act now.

Gareth Evans, in his former role as leader of the International Crisis Group, wrote that leaders of states have a responsibility to protect their own people. If they instead allow atrocities to occur, the international community then has the responsibility to intervene, even if it means violating traditional norms of state sovereignty.

That time is now.

The Arab League has said that Muammar Gaddafi’s regime has lost all legitimacy. It recommends a UN imposed no-fly zone. That fear among Security Council members of Arab opposition to a no-fly zone is now removed. The international community is rising with goodwill; states are ready to join hands in deploying their own fighter planes to protect a Libyan people being systematically slaughtered by the man who has brutalised them for decades. Authorise a no-fly zone. The free people of the world implore you. In this humanitarian crisis give the Libyan people what they need and hope for: their best chance at freedom.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men and women do nothing. Esteemed members of the United Nations Security Council, please remember your role. Remember what you represent.

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