Leading article: Double standards from the West will only feed the suspicions of the rest

Share
Related Topics

A divided country; a leader who refuses to recognise the writing on the wall; an opposition movement backed by global opinion; the threat of a massacre of civilians: the similarities between the situation in Libya and Ivory Coast are striking. And yet the former has dominated the world's attention and prompted a humanitarian intervention, while the latter has elicited nothing more than an international shrug of indifference.

There are, of course, differences as well as similarities between the two emergencies. In Libya, it was the illegitimate despot, Gaddafi, who last month was threatening a massacre. In Ivory Coast the danger comes as a consequence of the United Nations-recognised opposition's push to take control of the Abidjan stronghold of Laurent Gbagbo, who lost last month's election but refuses to step down.

In Libya the rebels and the Arab League had explicitly requested outside military assistance. There have been no similar calls for intervention in Ivory Coast, beyond the existing UN force on the ground, from the opposition to Gbagbo or the African Union.

But efforts to put the two crises in separate categories are still not convincing. The UN's Security Council resolution 1973, authorising a no-fly zone over Libya, was passed because of the imminent danger of massacre of civilians. That same risk would appear to exist in Ivory Coast. Human Rights Watch has expressed its concern at the prospect of "mass atrocities" over the coming days.

The threat in Ivory Coast comes not from the rebel assault, but from the brutal militia groups and mercenaries that have been armed by the Gbagbo regime. Over the past three months, these forces have been responsible for executions, rapes and beatings of Ivorians believed to support the opposition. And a larger social collapse could be in store. Since last November's election, the economy has ground to a halt. A country that only a decade ago enjoyed the highest living standards in Africa thanks to its thriving cocoa exports is on the verge of chaos. Abidjan, once known as the Paris of Africa, lives under the shadow of destruction.

At the very least, those Western politicians who were banging the drum so loudly about the threat posed by Gaddafi in Libya should be raising similar concerns about the situation in Ivory Coast. UN appeals for funds to help the estimated million Ivorians who have fled the violence have so far raised little. And without the strong backing of Washington, Paris or London, they are unlikely to do so.

One of the persistent criticisms of Western-led military interventions in the developing world is that humanitarian rhetoric is used as a smokescreen to conceal commercial interests. That is not the case in Libya. If the West had been motivated by access to that country's oil, it would have been simpler to bolster the Gaddafi regime, which had been co-operating with the international community since 2003. Yet through its hyperactivity on Libya and its silence on Ivory Coast, the West does indeed give the impression of double standards.

While powerful nations pick and choose over where in the world they intervene, and on which humanitarian threats deserve attention, suspicion and mistrust about Western motives will thrive. If the principle of humanitarian intervention is ever to enjoy international legitimacy, it needs to be built on some minimum standard of consistency.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

After Savile, we must devote our energies to stopping the child abuse taking place now

Mary Dejevsky
A ‘hugely irritated’ Sir Malcolm Rifkind on his way home from Parliament on Monday  

Before rushing to criticise Malcolm Rifkind, do you know how much being an MP can cost?

Isabel Hardman
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower