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Responsibility to Protect: can we force change?

Alan Pleydell of Quaker Peace and Social Witness has called on Friends to work out a way forward for the concept of ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P). Speaking at the Quaker Council for European Affairs biannual conference, on ‘Peacebuilding – what is the role of Europe?’, Pleydell described the theory concerning the obligation of governments to prevent and end unconscionable acts of violence against any people, any place. ‘R2P relies on an ultimate threat at the end of the day if the state [where people’s lives are threatened] does not accept remedial work now,’ he said. The need to follow up with a threat, probably of a military intervention and therefore violence, goes against many Quakers’ testimony of pacifism. It builds on international concern, on failures by the world to act effectively in Srebrenica or Rwanda and concern over the current situation in Darfur, Sudan. Pleydell’s keynote speech was followed by a number of workshops including one by Jack Patterson who recently retired from the Quaker United Nations Office in New York. He put forward dilemmas which the international community (and Quakers) must consider on the point of action including using peacekeeping versus peace-enforcement, protecting people or principles and considering neutrality or solidarity with the peoples concerned.

Quakers are recognised for their violence prevention and peace rebuilding work, but the question of what to do when force appears necessary to many on the brink of war or genocide has not yet been wholly developed. Also speaking at the conference was Carne Ross, director of International Diplomat and Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust visionary. A former UK diplomat specialising in the Middle East, Ross gives a voice to marginalised and disadvantaged peoples through the diplomatic process. He called on Friends and others to demand more transparency from our democratically elected governments in their diplomacy on our behalf. ‘It has been stimulating. I had not thought before about Carne Ross’s view of diplomacy. I have been grateful for the opportunity to consider R2P and how to apply it both theoretically and in given situations.’ said Roger Oldfield of Staffordshire. ‘I have been encouraged to look beyond the mainstream media to see what is happening in the world.’ Beyond aspects of peace, Friends also expressed concern about the threat of climate change in the world. QCEA representatives said that they are considering subjects such as energy and the environment for their next conference. Jez Smith co-editor of Young Quaker

Faslane gets a visit from southern England Friends

Approximately ninety Quakers from Southern England protested at Faslane from 27 to 29 October, and some held a Meeting for Worship (pictured above right). Twenty-five Quakers were arrested over that period. Of the Quakers being held in Clydebank Police Station on the Friday evening, the average age was seventy-one. This is part of the on-going demonstrations planned by Faslane365.

Quaker Homeless Action Open Christmas It is with some sadness that we would like to inform Friends that Quaker Open Christmas will not be running in December 2006. We are aware that this will come as a shock to many Friends, particularly those that have supported the project financially, and in person over many years. The decision not to go ahead was taken because it was not possible to secure an appropriate venue for the project in time for preparations to be made. For more information see www.qha.org.uk/cancellation

the Friend , 3 November 2006 3