chapter  7
11 Pages


Supporters of the responsibility to protect have gone to great lengths to distance it from the concept of humanitarian intervention, arguing that instead of being centered on the use of force, R2P covers a wide spectrum of measures ranging from prevention to post-conflict rebuilding. While this is an accurate depiction of R2P’s breadth, this book has focused on the responsibility to protect in relation to the use of force. The central rationale was to look at why R2P emerged in the first place. The responsibility to protect represents the culmination of the quest to solve the humanitarian intervention puzzle. In spite of extensive deliberations since the early 1990s, no consensus has been reached on the principles governing humanitarian intervention. The issue had proven conceptually unhelpful and politically unfeasible, hence the need for a novel approach to move beyond the impasse it created. In the words of the Commission that produced the R2P report, “external military intervention . . . has been controversial both when it has happened – as in Somalia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo – and when it has failed to happen, as in Rwanda” (ICISS 2001: vii). As the UN Secretary-General later argued in his report on R2P, “humanitarian intervention posed a false choice between two extremes: either standing by in the face of mounting civilian deaths or deploying coercive military force to protect.” Ban described both as “unpalatable alternatives” (United Nations 2009a: 6, para.7). This book has looked at the search to develop a more acceptable account of the principles and mechanisms associated with the use of force, and so has focused on the contributions made by R2P to the debate on intervention. Another starting point for the book was the assumption that the humanitarian intervention approach was not able to address the protection gap in today’s world. The responsibility to protect emerged because of the necessity to fill this obvious normative gap regarding ways to address the needs of the victims in mass atrocity situations. This shows why R2P is not just a theoretical issue, but one “of deadly urgency” (Annan 2005a: 25). Its relevance is explained by the fact that it proposes a more viable way of engaging with protection issues than the humanitarian intervention framework. In almost a decade, the responsibility to protect has gone through successive reformulations. It evolved from an “idea” proposed in the 2001 ICISS report to a nascent norm embraced unanimously by world leaders in September 2005,

which was then redesigned into the “three pillar approach” in the UN SecretaryGeneral’s 2009 report, and was later discussed in the first General Assembly debate on R2P in July 2009. Despite several important variations during these transformative years, the backbone of the framework remained the same: state sovereignty entails responsibility, which means that each state has a responsibility to protect its citizens from mass killings and other gross violations of their rights. If that state is unable or unwilling to carry out that function, the state abrogates its sovereignty, and the responsibility to protect falls to the international community. Thus, two aspects of the R2P framework have remained unaltered throughout R2P’s various reformulations: state sovereignty as responsibility, and international responsibility in egregious circumstances. R2P’s conceptual novelty came from the way in which ICISS posed the underlying question of the report to the countries opposing the basic tenets of intervention: If humanitarian intervention was not an acceptable answer, then what would such countries envision if the international community was faced with “another Rwanda”? The September 2005 World Summit moment revealed that the responsibility to protect formulation, as opposed to the humanitarian intervention one, worked, since member states were able to agree on the former but never on the latter. However, R2P as envisaged in paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document is different from the original ICISS representation of R2P. Out of political necessity, the 2005 formulation of R2P left out several important ICISS propositions, such as the inclusion of criteria for the use of force, the refrain of the P5 from using their veto in Security Council deliberations, the possibility of military action without Council authorization, and the continuum of measures under the ICISS R2P umbrella that included prevention, reaction, and post-conflict rebuilding. No wonder commentators dubbed the World Summit representation “R2P lite” (Weiss 2007: 117). And yet, the R2P language was sufficiently strong to be regarded as an endorsement of a new set of principles on national and international responsibility. The adoption of R2P in 2005 represented a significant ideological and normative shift affecting the way in which states’ responsibilities, as set forth in the UN Charter, are implemented. Paragraph 139 turned the use of the Security Council’s pre-existing authority to resort to collective military action into a political responsibility when faced with mass atrocities. Also, the unanimous agreement at the World Summit clearly circumscribed the limits to the UN Charter’s prohibition on outside interference in the domestic jurisdiction of member states. Given the history of the debates on humanitarian intervention, R2P’s inclusion in the Summit’s Outcome Document is significant. Indeed, this marked R2P’s most important normative advance to date, and it is this representation of R2P that I have used as reference point for the implementation-related discussions throughout the book. The 2009 report of the UN Secretary-General, “Implementing the Responsibility to Protect,” details the representation of R2P along three pillars: the protection responsibilities of the state; the responsibility of the international community to assist states in fulfilling their national obligations; and the commitment to timely and decisive

collective action consistent with the UN Charter. One significant change in the discourse on R2P with respect to the use of force is noticeable here: for political considerations, the Secretary-General’s report downplayed intervention; and so, R2P moved from central stage in the ICISS report to an afterthought in this report. Almost five years after the adoption of the World Summit Outcome Document, and one year after the release of the UN Secretary-General’s report on implementing the responsibility to protect and the General Assembly debate on the topic, plenty of confusion still remains about the scope and limits of R2P. As the case studies from Chapter 6 illustrate, there is still no international consensus, not even among supporters of R2P, on how to implement the responsibility to protect. While the responsibility to protect framework remains contested at present, the most significant concerns relate to the use-of-force element of the third pillar of R2P. Some states are still worried that great powers might abuse R2P and the Security Council will apply it selectively. Apart from being its most contested dimension, the use of force also faces the biggest challenges before implementation as compared to the other tools comprised under pillars one and two. And yet, it is inevitable that the use of force will remain a key element of the international conversation on the responsibility to protect not only because of such lingering concerns but also because R2P emerged after all as a response to the humanitarian intervention debate, because it will be used as a diplomatic tool in extreme situations, and because it carries great potential to protect civilians. To get a complete overview of the contributions made by the responsibility to protect to the debate on intervention, I have focused on two main areas of analysis in the book, both centered accordingly on the use-of-force aspect of R2P. First, I have discussed how the responsibility to protect framework addresses the most contentious themes on intervention, and, second, I have explored how it might operate in practice.