Blaming the United Nations

March 2008
Journal of International Political Theory;Mar2008, Vol. 4 Issue 1, p9
Academic Journal
After placing the issue of holding international institutional agents responsible within a theoretical context, this article takes up the case of the UN's role in the Rwandan genocide. Through an examination of the extensive literature that deals either directly or incidentally with the UN's role and responsibility during the period prior to the outbreak of mass killing on 6 April 1994, this essay tests a slightly modified version of Toni Erskine's theory of why international institutional agents can be held responsible for their actions. The article details the various ways that different parts of the UN have been held responsible for failing to prevent and mitigate the genocide. Moreover, it documents specific failures in four different categories: failures in communication, deliberation, decision-making, and implementation. The article concludes that the extensive literature on the Rwandan genocide conforms to a slightly modified version of the Erskine model. It also suggests that practical, functional reforms – which are far easier to implement than structural reforms – can be initiated based on that model.


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