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Diplomatic Fallout: Two Years On, IBSA’s Diplomatic Flop in Syria Casts Long Shadow

Monday, July 29, 2013

There have been many diplomatic efforts to end the Syrian war, and few if any are worth commemorating. But this week brings the second anniversary of one attempt that, despite making no difference on the ground, offered some evidence of how the international system is evolving. On Aug. 3, 2011, the Security Council agreed a statement calling for an immediate halt to violence in Syria. This was the council’s first significant declaration on the already six-month-old crisis. But it was also notable because of the three countries that championed it: Brazil, India and South Africa, all temporary members of the council at the time, played prominent roles in negotiating the statement and lobbying the Syrian government to respect it.

The trio’s intervention, and the fact that they persuaded both Western powers and China and Russia to sign on, appeared to signal a small shift in the balance of power in multilateral diplomacy. It raised the possibility that these non-Western democracies could play a pivotal role in global crisis management. But the initiative was a flop. A brief reckoning of why it failed highlights that these three powers, collectively known as the IBSA grouping, still have limited leverage outside their neighborhoods—and a distinctly old-fashioned approach to crisis diplomacy. ...

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