Foreign Policy Blogs

Protecting Citizens, Vulnerable Groups and The Social Contract

A girl from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, rests at the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing in Fishkhabour, Dohuk province. (Youssef Boudlal/Reuters)

While there have been many theories on how individuals are to be treated by their government, one of the more consistent approaches surrounds how individuals will give up the majority of their personal protection to the state in exchange for good government and wide ranging protections for the entire community.

This social contract outlines the responsibility of government in modern democratic societies is to keep their citizenry safe and healthy within reasonable measures. This philosophy forms the legal and constitutional basis for how governments are obligated to protect its citizens, and it is generally accepted that breaking this socially and culturally accepted agreement is a legal and constitutional violation of an individual’s rights.

Extending to 2016, the attack that took place in Nice when a terrorist ran down several people during Bastille Day celebrations was the third major terrorist incident in France in the last 18 months. Reports detail how at the ceremony for victims of the attack, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls was booed by the attending mourners. The general sentiment seems to be that the French government is no longer able, or perhaps willing, to protect its citizens.

The inability for the government to protect French citizens may have been assumed by many after a speech where Valls suggested that such attacks will become more common in the future. Any violation of the obligation to protect, or breaking of a social agreement that a government has the complete obligation to protect its citizens is often seen as a break in the social fabric of any modern society. The moral basis in the social contract creates a situation where the knowledge of any violation would elicit a natural negative response by any citizen, especially those who feel they no longer are being protected by the government that is obligated to ensure their safety.

The right to have protection goes beyond that of state citizens and is applied towards visiting nationals, in-state refugees and may even go as far as having an obligation to protect vulnerable groups abroad as well. A discussion in Canada’s capital this week focused on how admitting refugees and protecting citizens abroad should be applied to the most vulnerable as many of the targeted groups are from minority communities with no state protection in foreign countries. The debate surrounding bringing in ethnic minorities who are being singled out and exterminated is to acknowledge the genocide taking place against them because of who they are, and to direct protection towards these groups as their local governments are unwilling or unable to prevent a genocide.

The resistance by government officials against focusing in on minority groups and giving them unique assistance is argued by some as a violation of a right to have protection when Canada or another nation giving aid is addressing genocide in foreign countries. Many citizens of Canada are disturbed to find out that many of these targeted groups are still largely ignored by their aid. As what could be described as the most important issue of our time, the moral obligation to enforce the social contract as it relates to protecting individuals is as strong as it has ever been. A government that is not willing to accept that reality is one that has neglected its obligation to its citizens and vulnerable groups at the edge of extinction.

 

Author

Richard Basas
Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration

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