chapter  6
32 Pages

From normative development to implementation

The rhetoric of international institutions, states, civil society and advocacy groups invoking – rightfully or not – R2P in conflicts in Darfur, in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in post-election Kenya, in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in Burma, and more recently in Sri Lanka and Guinea suggests that R2P language is gaining increased recognition. However, reactions to such invocations also show that R2P continues to activate the same contentiousness regarding the use of force for humanitarian purposes as that triggered by the debates on humanitarian intervention. So far, responses to conscience-shocking situations have depended on political conditions and interests at stake in the conflicts in question, as well as on the willingness and capabilities of various actors – whether international or regional organizations or individual states – to react. The broader question of whether R2P can overcome such ad hoc and reactive ways of offering civilian protection in extreme humanitarian emergencies merits further consideration. There is still no universal acceptance of the responsibility to protect, and no coherent vision for its implementation, but the fact that R2P continues to be debated among proponents and opponents should be a reason for celebration for its supporters. While R2P has gained terrain in principle, the key questions relate to its implementation. The pace of R2P’s normative progress, as described in the previous chapter, has been impressive, but the practice has yet to catch up with it. This chapter begins with a brief overview of several cases where R2P has been considered: the conflict in Darfur; post-electoral violence in Kenya; after the humanitarian disaster of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar; the conflict between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia; and the political and economic implosion in Zimbabwe. A look at these crises illustrates the particular mechanisms included in the R2P toolbox. It also provides the background for discussing the main challenges R2P faces, comprised in the second section of the chapter, and the lessons for implementation, in the third section. The Secretary-General has identified three major gaps, namely “in capacity, imagination, and will” (United Nations 2009: 26, para. 60), and commentators generally concur on the existence of three key challenges: conceptual, institutional, and political (e.g. Evans 2008a; Applegarth and Block 2009). I add two more challenges to the last three, so that my list also

comprises operational challenges, and a very significant gap between expectations and capacity. The last section of the chapter considers ways to close these five gaps and, accordingly, to put procedural flesh on the normative skeleton described in the previous chapter.