Bloomberg News

U.S. ‘Not Encouraged’ by India, South Africa, Brazil at UN

September 13, 2011

Sept. 13 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. has not been encouraged by the performance of India, Brazil and South Africa during their temporary tenure on the UN Security Council, Ambassador Susan Rice said yesterday.

Splits between the so-called IBSA group of countries and the U.S. arose as protest movements swept the Middle East. India and Brazil, along with Russia, China and Germany, abstained from a UN resolution that formed the legal basis for military intervention in Libya.

As Syria sent troops out to suppress protesters, Brazil, India and South Africa blocked UN moves to pressure the Assad regime and sent diplomats to Damascus last month to engage leaders there. All three countries are serving two-year temporary terms on the Security Council and aspire to permanent seats, a goal the U.S. may block.

“It’s been a very interesting opportunity to see how they respond to the issues of the day, how they relate to us and others, how they do or don’t act consistent with their own democratic institutions and stated values,” Rice said at a briefing with reporters. “Let me just say, we’ve learned a lot and, frankly, not all of it encouraging.”

Rice said that issues related to the protection of human rights, democracy and the protection of civilians raised U.S. concerns about the IBSA group.

“Whether in the context of Libya, or Cote d’Ivoire or Sudan even,” Rice said, the countries have taken positions “that one might not have anticipated, given that each of them come out of strong and proud democratic traditions.”

Post-Colonial Viewpoints

That criticism is simplistic, said Fabienne Hara, the vice president of multilateral affairs at the International Crisis Group. Hara, who recently returned from meetings in Brazil and consults widely with other diplomats, said the IBSA countries approached the Libya situation with their own set of concerns.

“They were all quite surprised that this turned into a NATO-led operation with a bombing campaign, with a variety of targets including Tripoli,” Hara said.

For countries with colonial histories that now champion non-interference, as India and Brazil do, the NATO action had ugly historical echoes, said Mark Quarterman, director of the program on Crisis, Conflict and Cooperation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“There’s almost a third-world sense, a post-colonial sense, that they were meddled in, in ways that didn’t redound to their benefit, and now the same countries are claiming humanitarian reasons for meddling,” Quarterman said.


The IBSA countries have pointed out that while there was an arms embargo and a call for a cease-fire, it applied to Qaddafi’s forces, while France sent arms to the Libyan rebels.

An oil embargo was put in place against Qaddafi and his officials, while Qatar helped the rebels sell oil with the NATO- led coalition’s awareness.

All this led to concern about what the UN would do when Syrians began taking to the streets. “The reason why there is no resolution on Syria now is because of Libya,” Hara said, “the aftermath of this very bitter debate that members of the Security Council had after the Libya bombing.

‘‘They were extremely reluctant to authorize any kind of resolution that could be the first step to’’ another Western intervention, Hara said.

Brett Schaefer, an analyst at the Heritage Foundation, said that political positions of South Africa, India and Brazil should not come as any surprise.

‘Not Democratic’ Alliances

‘‘Most often, they’ve chosen to ally themselves with countries that are not democratic, are not politically free and are not economically free, and at times have shown themselves to be hostile to promoting those very values in the United Nations,’’ Schaefer said in a telephone interview.

Schaeffer said that the IBSA countries’ performance serves as a counterargument for those who say the Security Council is not representative of the world.

Expanding the Council ‘‘doesn’t mean it would be more effective or responsive to the world’s problems, nor possess the will or inclination to act than the current council as it stands,” Schaeffer said. “There’s a great deal of evidence to indicate the opposite: That a larger security council would be more paralyzed, less likely to act to address political crises around the world.”

--Editors: Steven Komarow, Terry Atlas

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Gaouette in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at

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