Lloyd Axworthy Talks About the Lysöen Declaration

Former Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy, one of the creators of the Lysöen Declaration, spoke with Stanley Foundation President Keith Porter at a conference in May marking the 15th anniversary of the agreement:

KEITH PORTER: Describe for us what happened in Lysöen 15 years ago.

LLOYD AXWORTHY: It was a gathering expressed in a declaration by a group of foreign ministers which then broadened its range to a group of NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], and we just looked at issues where there was lack of attention taking place; things like the Landmine Treaty, the International Criminal Court, war children, issues related to the humanitarian interventions, the Arctic melt, and climate change issues.

As I look back at it, a lot of those things have happened. Now, were we the only force? No. Were we a necessary force? Yes. And that's where I think the conclusion of today is. Let's get a similar group and reactivate it. 

PORTER: What was the secret to success with the declaration and the Human Security Network that came out of it?

AXWORTHY: I think it was that we shared a common concern, that we realized that the old rules of the Cold War were not going to apply. The great power games were not going to be the solution to our problems. You weren't going to solve everything by military arms, and we simply had to find solutions around the idea of protecting people. And there was good timing for that, and I think we're coming back into that. 

Since 9/11 and so on, I think we've been a little bit dominated by the terrorist debate, and it's still important, of course. It needs to be built in, but I think we're beginning to understand a little bit better that we ignore these other issues and that's why Syria was such an important discussion here, about the way to begin providing direct assistance, plus hearing about things like the issue of refugees.

PORTER: The Stanley Foundation has an interest in promoting the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), and you are one of the chief architects. We are very interested in the preventive aspects of R2P. Tell me how these preventive aspects intersect with what you've done with the Human Security Network. 

AXWORTHY: First, as I've said all along, R2P is really a child of human security. It's an offshoot. It was a way of dealing with establishing rules around interventions so they weren't going to be misused or camouflaged, but would actually be genuinely designed to have multinational support. I think there needs to be room around some reform at the UN so that this is not being blocked by vetoes that were given in 1945. 

I think there has to be a real look at the idea of a standing force, a small constabulary even, that was able and capable of quick reaction to issues before they get out of hand; Syria being a very good example of it. It could have really benefited from it. I think there has to be a way of improving the capacity of the United Nations in particular, but other regional groups [also], to be able to get a tilt on what's going on. That means allowing them to get into the world of satellite imaging and mapping and things of that kind so they can determine where the hot spots are emerging.


Originally published on The Stanley Foundation Website.

Photo by Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies.