Professor Jason Ralph on the UK's future global role
Following the discussion of the future global role of the UK at Labour's recent conference, Professor Ralph joins a small group of experts in providing their views on what the global role should be.
Prof. Ralph provides the following view:
Since the late 1990s the UK has been at the forefront of international attempts to prevent mass atrocity crimes. It has supported the idea that states have a responsibility to protect civilian populations (often referred to as R2P) and it has supported the ICC as it seeks to prosecute war criminals.
Right now, however, R2P and the ICC face a legitimacy crisis. There is a perception among the Brics states that they are being ignored as Western states implement R2P. Therefore, because of their anger at being ignored, the Brics (and many African states) are obstructing R2P being implemented.
Clearly the UK public is reluctant to use force, especially when it is not mandated by the UN, but that does not mean the UK should retreat into isolationism. "Internationalism" is not simply about using force alongside the Americans. It also means cultivating and sustaining international support for the values the UK stands for, including R2P.
In fact the UK is almost uniquely placed to address this problem. It is the only state among the five permanent UN Security Council members (alongside France) that is signed up to the ICC and it can speak authoritatively on these issues where others cannot. The UK should exploit this position and work to restore the legitimacy of R2P. It can still be a "good international citizen" in this respect. That means some foreign policy elites must first realign their image of the UK to suit both the times and the electorate.