Practices of Protection: The Role of the UN in the Decolonised World

On April 27th, in cooperation with the Haniel Foundation, the Brandt School hosted a guest lecture, featuring Anne Orford. Orford is a professor of international law at Melbourne Law School in Melbourne, Australia. The lecture was followed by an open discussion and a question and answer session.


The title of the lecture was Practices of Protection: The Role of the UN in the Decolonised World. The lecture focused on the notions of the UN’s responsibility to protect, as well as its accountability and legitimacy. Professor Orford used Libya as a modern case study, critically considering NATO’s and the UN’s role (resolution 1973) in the 2011 overthrow of the Libyan government.

Professor Orford also gave a history of the UN’s role from the 1950s and 60s, especially in regards to decolonization, specifically citing the examples of Congo and Egypt and the creation of the UNEF. She mentioned that these two operations, the operation in Suez and the 1960 operation in the Congo, changed classical views of colonization and highlighted the political vacuum created by the chaos of decolonization as the UN stepped in. The Congo operation in 1960 also proved that the UNs notions of independent, impartial, and  neutral were defunct. Professor Orford also discussed the complications with the word ‘decolonization’ itself, especially in light of recent events regarding the responsibility to protect in Libya. According to Professor Orford, many are losing sight of the radical nature of the concept of responsibility to protect.

Around 40 Brandt School students attended this lecture and many participated in the discussion.