Report Number: 005 appendix E

Study Resource on Intervention for Churches

Proposal by Project Ploughshares
15 September 2003

Introduction

Several recent developments, and related church responses, reinforce the need to look more closely at issues related to what is widely referred to as “humanitarian intervention” – external intervention to protect and relieve the suffering of vulnerable populations. The continuing war in Iraq was and is justified by US and British authorities as a humanitarian action to liberate Iraqis from a tyrannical regime, and to protect Iraqis, and indeed the world, from possible attacks using weapons of mass destruction. The war on Afghanistan was given a similar spin by some. The joint Canadian Council of Churches/Project Ploughshares/Kairos statement on Iraq, Prepare for Peace in Iraq, generated over 40,000 signatures, including endorsements of individual congregations from a variety of denominations in Canada. This extraordinary response speaks to a powerful aversion to the resort to force, especially if the international community does not authorize it. In those two cases Canadian churches rejected the humanitarian rationales for war, but in the case of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Canadian churches have appealed to the Government of Canada for more effective intervention to protect the most vulnerable populations in the DRC. The recent Canadian Council of Churches letter on the DRC did not call for an end to external military intervention, but instead called for more effective protection of vulnerable civilians.

The publication of the report of the Canadian-sponsored International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), Responsibility to Protect, challenges states to accept the idea of sovereignty as responsibility, emphasizing it is the duty of states to ensure the safety and security of their citizens. When they fail or are unwilling to do so, this responsibility falls to the international community. The report emphasizes the primary obligation to prevent situations that lead to egregious suffering, but focuses on the difficult question of the circumstances in which the international community is obligated to resort to force when all other means of protecting the vulnerable are failing. It addresses a broad range of questions about when intervention is required, who decides whether it is required, and under what conditions intervention is likely to be effective.

In addition to the international community’s responsibility to protect the vulnerable and the role of armed force in carrying out that responsibility in extraordinary situations, the international community has a responsibility to see to the implementation of United Nations Security Council resolutions and of all international treaties and agreements. Part of the claimed justification for war on Iraq was to support the credibility of the international system and to prevent ongoing, flagrant violation of international obligations (represented by numerous Security Council resolutions), as well as obligations to international agreements such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

It is obvious that Canadians, and especially people in the churches, continue to wrestle with these issues. It is our sense that there is a need to engage congregations, church offices and leaders, as well as NGOs, in thinking through the responsibility to protect the vulnerable and the full range of related intervention issues. They raise fundamental ethical and theological questions, as well as practical political and operational questions.

With that in mind, this proposal outlines a process of study and consultation with a view to more clearly framing and exploring an ecumenical response.

Purpose : To provide a structured guide to engage church staff and congregations, and others in thinking through the complex issues to intervention for the protection of the vulnerable and to assure compliance with international human rights treaties and other obligations.

By the end of this program of work, we will have:

  1. Clearly articulated the ethical and theological dilemmas and questions related to intervention with interested Canadian churches and NGOs;
  2. Examined and debated the ethical, theological and operational questions related to intervention and advancing human security with academic and practitioner communities;
  3. Written and produced a concise and effective resource to help congregations and national churches through a process of study and discernment related to greater ecumenical clarity and to developing appropriate church policies related to intervention; and
  4. Informed the Canadian debate and Canada’s response to situations of extraordinary human vulnerability and suffering.

Proposed Plan of Action

Objective 1 : Clearly articulate the ethical and theological dilemmas and questions related to intervention with interested Canadian churches and NGOs.

Activity 1.1 : Ploughshares will ask key denomination staff members and NGO constituents to answer a series of questions (see below) to identify the key theological and ethical issues related to intervention.

Potential questions for discussion include:

  1. What is your denomination’s theological/ethical starting point for intervention? What are your denomination’s relevant policy documents on this issue?
  2. What do you think are the key contentious theological and ethical issues for your denomination?
  3. How would discussion of these issues make your work easier?
  4. What kind of study resource would be most helpful to you in your work? For the congregations in your denomination?

Objective 2 : Examined and debated the ethical, theological and operational questions related to intervention and advancing human security with academic and practitioner communities

Activity 2.1 : Ploughshares will organize a one-day (half-day?) consultation to engage national church staff and leadership, along with key NGO representatives, to review and identify key issues for further ethical and theological reflection, and to enhance our understanding of related operational issues (Consultation #1). This consultation is tentatively scheduled for November 14. In this consultation, participants would discuss responses to questions and decide on the shape and content of the study resource.

Activity 2.2 : Based on the outcome of Consultation #1, Ploughshares will seek out and commission, ethicists, theologians, and operational experts to further examine key questions identified from different perspectives.

The various churches in Canada that sponsor Project Ploughshares, for example, do not have common theological or policy traditions on issues related to intervention and the resort to force. The objective of the study process is not to produce a single or common approach or policy, but to contribute to a process of interactive learning among diverse traditions and to place these discussions and learnings in the context of real situations of extraordinary vulnerability and need.

Ploughshares will thus commission theologians and ethicists from the various traditions in Ploughshares’ constituency (e.g., Presbyterians, Lutherans, United Church, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Quakers, and Mennonites) to write short theologically and ethically informed position papers about particular issues. Each position paper will be a concise (2-3 pages maximum) and accessible document that contains several references for further reflection. For example, we might ask persons from mainline Protestant, Catholic, and the historic peace churches to comment on particularly difficult questions about authority. Other issues might include different analyses of state sovereignty, the use of force and/or policing. Some issues will generate more divergence and difference than others, but the goal is to generate a resource for congregations to grapple with these issues from various perspectives. The specific issues for comment will arise out of the discussion from Consultation #1.

Activity 2.3 : Ploughshares will convene these theologians and ethicists for a discussion of their various position papers (Consultation #2).

The purpose of this session is to stimulate dialogue among the academic and practitioner communities about the policy implications of the various position papers. The consultation might result in more common ground, and will certainly help to identify ways in which the issues can be most helpfully posed in the Study Guide for congregations.

Objective 3 : Write and produce a concise and effective resource to help congregations and national churches through a process of study and discernment related to greater ecumenical clarity and to developing appropriate church policies related to intervention

Activity 3.1 : Ploughshares will produce a Study Guide for churches to encourage ongoing and informed attention to issues of protection and intervention.

Together, the position papers and the proceedings of the discussion on policy implications would be used to prepare a Study Guide about intervention. The format of the Guide would be developed during Consultation #1 (Activity 2.1) and the content from the position papers (Activity 2.2) and Consultation #2 (Activity 2.3).

National churches and their relevant committees, individual congregations, and NGOs, as well as other interested organizations, could use these resources to prompt discussion and reflection and to generate a more informed response to these issues. Although Ploughshares would produce the Guide, it would be up to individual denominations and/or congregations to initiate their own study process using the Guide.

Objective 4 : Inform the Canadian debate and Canada’s response to situations of extraordinary human vulnerability and suffering.

The Study Guide (produced as Activity 3.1) will be made available to various congregations or church groups to use as a resource for discussing and debating issues about intervention. The end result would be a process and document that would help the ecumenical and NGO communities in developing appropriate analytical and policy responses. Better-informed and engaged ecumenical and NGO communities will contribute a more effective and committed Canadian response to situations of extraordinary human vulnerability and suffering.

Proposed Budget (Project beginning in September 2003 and ending in June 2004)
*All funds in Canadian dollars.

Project management and materials drafting $14,500
Commissioned Papers (14 papers @ $250 each) 3,500
Consultation #1 (one day)
Includes room booking, lunch, coffee breaks, and travel and accommodation for resource persons
3,000
Consultation #2 (two days)
Includes room booking, lunch, coffee breaks, and travel and accommodation for the resource persons (authors of commissioned papers)
9,000
Production of Study Guide
Includes compilation, editing, graphics, other production costs; mostly on-line but with a limited number of hard copies
4,000
Translation of Study Guide 1,000
TOTAL: $35,000