All hail the Baroness Veronica Amos, UN Under-secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Incumbent, who stands to travel to Syria to negotiate a safety corridor/daily cease fire for delivering aid. Depending, of course, on whether or not Damascus replies to the letter the UN sent inviting her to the party.
Earlier today pundits were kicking around the idea that sending Kofi Annan would be the wise route for a special envoy. Neither Annan nor Amos have pristine reputations but each has strengths that would make them a viable choice for this mission. That is the funny thing about politics, especially on a global level; nobody can wear white to the wedding without telling a big fat lie. Annan is notorious for his coddling of dictators and tyrants and being the head of the UN during one of the most scandal-ridden periods in its history. The Baroness is considered by many to be one of the most corrupt British peers around and has never faced an electorate but risen to power based on internal appointments.
Annan was part of a team that received a Nobel peace prize for their work on the Global AIDS and Health Fund. The Baroness has received numerous awards and accolades for her work in South Africa and other countries on humanitarian missions. Which one is worse?
Neither. But it looks like they are both going to get involved in the Syrian crises but in two very different capacities.
Annan, was named the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, will be working to resolve the crisis. The Baroness will be going in the capacity of securing a corridor for humanitarian aid. If you haven’t heard her interview on the BBC, she does an excellent job of defining what the difference between someone who is envoy to stop human rights violations and the envoy out on a humanitarian issue. The difference, she explains, is that the first envoy has a list of who is right and who is wrong, there are people you do not deal with but may have to negotiate with; the latter envoy, the one on the humanitarian mission, has no right to distinguish between anyone and must talk with all sides – even those that may have perpetrated the worst atrocities because politics are not allowed to enter.
She also goes on to explain the different options. To create a humanitarian safety corridor would require it to be policed by the UN and introduce an outside military presence in Syria. To get all sides to agree to a 2-hour cease-fire each day that will create a safety corridor – requires no military presence.
The thing about politics and diplomacy, as I said earlier, is that no one can wear white. Allegiances and situations are too complex to be adjudged as right or wrong. It is hoped, in her capacity as the Secretary General of Humanitarian Affairs that the Baroness is indeed free of allegiance to anyone – but that is not a realistic expectation. As a Labour Peer, when her time at the UN is done she will return to Britain’s governance. Annan is perhaps, building a career for himself as a crisis envoy – in the end, his allegiance is to himself.
Which is better? Again, neither. But having an awareness of both of their potential failings and bias is what will allow their actions to be guided towards a larger result.
It is, however, hopeful that the effort of intervention in the crisis is coming from the two-pronged approach of intervention and humanitarian aid. The ICRC has been all but crying for help in the humanitarian arena and perhaps, the Baroness with her known allegiances, will carry the weight to arrive at an agreement to provide aid.
Listen to the interview with the Baroness about her potential role
c.2012 Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.