After giving a lecture earlier this year in August for the International Relations Society 10th Anniversary Breakfast, the Chancellor and Honorary Professorial Fellow of the ANU Gareth Evans returned to give a similar lecture once again for POLS1006, a Global Contemporary Issues class.
Although known for his significant contribution to domestic politics, in a number of different capacities – most notably as Foreign Minister from 1988 to 1996 – his work was just as relevant on an international scale after leaving office.
From 2000 to 2009 Evans was the president and CEO of the International Crisis Group, an organisation that had a substantial impact in providing early intervention and mediating conflict in Darfur, Ethiopia, and Sudan. He also co-chaired the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, an endeavor that was supported by the Canadian government to address the issue of mass atrocity crimes. His involvement with this commission was the main source of inspiration for his talk.
After a short introduction from the course class representatives, Evans spoke at length about how global events in the last 30 years required a shift in international thinking on how to appropriately respond to civilian threats in other countries. He also detailed the role of his efforts in finding a practical solution to the problem, which manifested into what has since been called the “responsibility to protect” (R2P), a concept that has changed our understanding of international relations in subsequent years. The R2P stated that civilian protection was a global responsibility and that military intervention may be necessary to achieve this goal, an argument that clashed heavily with the prevailing view of letting countries sort out their own domestic issues. Given that the idea of R2P is largely credited to Mr. Evans, this guest lecture drew upon many of his personal experiences with the issue. He also elaborated on why he felt that R2P was the most prudent conclusion in answering the question of whether and the extent to which the international community should take action in cases of potential civilian threat.
After a Q&A session between the Chancellor and students, Evans was presented with a bottle of wine as a token of appreciation.
Photography: ANU International Relations Society