NGOs and UNSC Permanent Members

In addition to keeping contact with diplomats from non-permanent UNSC members, NGOs targeted powerful member states, most notably the USA. When a complete withdrawal of UNAMIR was discussed, Alison des Forges and a representative of Rwandan NGO, the Association for the Defense of Human Rights and Public Liberties (known by its French acronym ADL), contacted US Ambassador Madeleine Albright. She ‘gave them a sympathetic hearing’ and directed them to the US National Security Council, which agreed to keep a small number of UN troops in Rwanda. ‘[L]obbying by human rights and humanitarian organizations’ is believed to have played a role (Des Forges 2004, p. 35).

Representatives of another humanitarian NGO, InterAction, attempted several times to meet with Madeleine Albright, but she declined. At the same time, international humanitarian NGOs spoke to other key US officials, such as Richard Clarke, the focal point for humanitarian policy, Anthony Lake, National Security Advisor, and other State Department officials from the interagency task force on Rwanda. In early May, Alison des Forges and an ADL representative met with the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs ‘and urged US support for an expanded UN force with a robust civilian protection mandate’ (Labonte 2013, p. 109).

NGOs targeted officials from other P-5 countries as well. After Oxfam had telephoned David Clark, shadow Secretary of State for Defence, the Labour Party put pressure on the UK Government to provide diplomatic and logistical support to the UN operation (Melvern 2000, p. 232). The support failed to materialize, despite promises. The belated and inadequate action by Security Council members is one of the reasons why some NGO representatives are quite pessimistic about their role during the genocide: the president of the US branch of Save the Children believes that ‘he did not succeed in changing a single US policy maker’s opinion about intervening in Rwanda’ (as cited in Labonte 2013, p. 119). While the UN failed to intervene forcefully to stop the genocide, a small presence was kept on the ground to observe the events and attempts were made to reinforce the mission.

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