Responsibility to protect
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The Responsibility to Protect (R2P or RtoP) is an emerging norm that sovereignty is not a right, but that states must protect their populations from mass atrocity crimes—namely genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing. The R2P has three foundation "pillars":
- A state has a responsibility to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing.
- The international community has a responsibility to assist the state to fulfill its primary responsibility.
- If the state manifestly fails to protect its citizens from the four above mass atrocities and peaceful measures have failed, the international community has the responsibility to intervene through coercive measures such as economic sanctions. Military intervention is considered the last resort.
While R2P is a norm and not a law, it is firmly grounded in international law, especially the laws relating to sovereignty, peace and security, human rights and armed conflict. R2P provides a framework for using tools that already exist, i.e. mediation, early warning mechanisms, economic sanctioning, and chapter VII powers, to prevent mass atrocities. Civil society organizations, states, regional organizations, and international institutions all have a role to play in the R2P process. The authority to employ the last resort and intervene militarily rests solely with United Nations Security Council.
Criticisms of the R2P include a "moral outrage and hysteria [that] often serve as a pretext for ‘interventions by the civilised world’ or 'the international community' and for ‘humanitarian interventions’, which often conceal the true strategic motives, and it thus becomes another name for proxy wars."
- 1 History
- 2 The United Nations and R2P
- 3 In practice
- 4 How does the responsibility to protect differ from humanitarian intervention?
- 5 Criticism
- 6 Syria, 2011: Russian and Chinese repudiation of abuse of R2P
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
- 11 See also
The norm of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P or RtoP) was born out of the international community’s failure to respond to tragedies such as the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and the massacre in Srebrenica in 1995. Kofi Annan, who was Assistant Secretary-General at the UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations during the Rwandan genocide, realized the international community’s failure to respond. In 2000, and in his capacity as UN Secretary-General, Annan wrote the report ‘We the Peoples’ The role of the United Nations in the 21st Century, in which posed the following questions: “if humanitarian intervention is, indeed, an unacceptable assault on sovereignty, how should we respond to a Rwanda, to a Srebrenica — to gross and systematic violations of human rights that offend every precept of our common humanity?”
The Canadian government established the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) in September 2000 to answer exactly this question. In February 2001, at the third round table meeting of the ICISS in London, Gareth Evans, Mohamed Sahnoun and Michael Ignatieff suggested the phrase "responsibility to protect" as a way to avoid the "right to intervene" or "obligation to intervene" doctrines and yet keep a degree of duty to act to resolve humanitarian crises.
In 2001, ICISS released a report titled ‘The Responsibility to Protect’. In a radical reformulation of the meaning of state sovereignty, the report argued that sovereignty not only entailed rights, but also responsibilities, specifically a state’s responsibility to protect its people from major violations of human rights. This idea rested on earlier work by Francis Deng and Roberta Cohen regarding Internally Displaced Persons. The ICISS report further asserted that where a state was “unable or unwilling” to protect its people, the responsibility should shift to the international community and “the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect.” The ICISS argued that any form of military intervention should be guided by the following six criteria to be justified as an extraordinary measure of intervention:
1. Just cause – Is the threat a "serious and irreparable harm occurring to human beings"?
2. Right intention – Is the main intention of the military action to prevent human suffering or are there other motives?
3. Final resort – Has every other measure besides military invention been taken into account? (This does not mean that every measurement has to be applied and failed, but that there are reasonable grounds to believe that only military action would work in that situation)
4. Legitimate authority
5. Proportional means – Are the minimum necessary military means applied to secure human protection?
6. Reasonable prospect – Is it likely that military action will protect human life, and are the consequences of this action sure not to be worse than no action at all?
While many critics of the R2P's third pillar claim that R2P is a Western concept, it was the African Union (AU) that had first pioneered the concept that the international community has a responsibility to intervene in crisis situations if a state is failing to protect its population from mass atrocity crimes. The AU incorporated the right to intervene in a member state as enshrined in Article 4(h) of its Constitutive Act, which states "[t]he right of the Union to intervene in a Member State pursuant to a decision of the Assembly in respect of grave circumstances, namely war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity" The AU also adopted the Ezulwini Consensus in 2005, which welcomed R2P as a tool for the prevention of mass atrocities.
2005 World Summit Outcome Document
As the ICISS report was released in 2001, right around the time of the Second Gulf War, many thought that would be the end of this new norm. However, in 2005, at the World Summit, where the largest number of heads of state and government in the history of the UN convened, the Responsibility to Protect was unanimously adopted. While the outcome was close to the ideas of the ICISS report, there were some notable differences: the R2P would now only apply to mass atrocity crimes (genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing), rather than human rights violations; no mention was made of the criteria of intervention (see above); the UN Security Council was recognized with being the only body allowed to authorize intervention. The paragraphs also stress the importance of regional organizations and the role they can play through Chapter VIII of the UN Charter.
2009 Secretary-General's report
On 12 January 2009, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a report entitled Implementing the Responsibility to Protect. The report was the first comprehensive document from the UN Secretariat on the Responsibility to Protect, following Ban's stated commitment to turn the concept into policy. The Secretary General's report set the tone and the direction for the discussion on the subject at the UN. The report proposes three-pillar approach to the R2P:
- Pillar One stresses that states have the primary responsibility to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
- Pillar Two addresses the international community's commitment to help states build capacity to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity—and help those under stress before crises and conflicts break out.
- Pillar Three focuses on the responsibility of international community to act in a timely and decisive way to prevent and halt genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and crimes against humanity when a state manifestly fails to protect its populations.
The significance of R2P
Anne-Marie Slaughter from Princeton University has called R2P “...the most important shift in our conception of sovereignty since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.”
Louise Arbour, from the International Crisis Group, said that, "The responsibility to protect is the most important and imaginative doctrine to emerge on the international scene for decades.”
Francis Deng, former UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, stated that "R2P is one of the most powerful and promising innovations on the international scene.”
The United Nations and R2P
At the 2005 World Summit, UN Member States included R2P in the Outcome Document agreeing to Paragraphs 138 and 139. These paragraphs gave final language to the scope of R2P. It applies to the four mass atrocities crimes only. It also identifies to whom the R2P protocol applies, i.e., nations first, regional and international communities second.
Paragraphs 138 and 139 state:
138. Each individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. This responsibility entails the prevention of such crimes, including their incitement, through appropriate and necessary means. We accept that responsibility and will act in accordance with it. The international community should, as appropriate, encourage and help States to exercise this responsibility and support the United Nations in establishing an early warning capability.
139. The international community, through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter, to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. In this context, we are prepared to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the Charter, including Chapter VII, on a case-by-case basis and in cooperation with relevant regional organizations as appropriate, should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. We stress the need for the General Assembly to continue consideration of the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and its implications, bearing in mind the principles of the Charter and international law. We also intend to commit ourselves, as necessary and appropriate, to helping States build capacity to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and to assisting those whis before crises and conflicts break out.
— 2005 World Summit Outcome Document.
Since then, the UN has been actively engaged with the development of the R2P. Several resolutions, reports and debates have emerged through the UN forum.
The Security Council
The UN Security Council has reaffirmed its commitment to the R2P in several resolutions. The first such resolution came in April 2006, when the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) reaffirmed the provisions of paragraphs 138 and 139 in Resolution 1674. This formalized their support for the R2P. In 2009, the Council again recognized states' primary responsibility to protect and reaffirmed paragraphs 138 and 139 in resolution 1894.
Additionally, the Security Council has mentioned the Responsibility to Protect in several country-specific resolutions:
- Darfur: Resolution 1706 in 2006
- Libya: Resolution 1970, Resolution 1973 in 2011, Resolution 2016 in 2011 and Resolution 2040 in 2012
- Côte d'Ivoire: Resolution 1975 in 2011
- Yemen: Resolution 2014 in 2011
- Mali: Resolution 2085 in 2012 and Resolution 2100 in 2013
- Sudan and South Sudan: Resolution 1996 in 2011 and Resolution 2121 in 2013
- Central African Republic: Resolution 2121 in 2013, Resolution 2127 in 2013 and Resolution 2134 in 2014
In January 2009, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released the first report on the R2P called Implementing the Responsibility to Protect. His report led to a debate in the General Assembly in July 2009 and the first time since 2005 that the General Assembly had come together to discuss the responsibility to protect. Ninety-four member states spoke. Most supported the R2P principle although some important concerns were voiced. They discussed how to implement R2P in crisis situations around the world. The debate highlighted the need for regional organizations like the African Union to play a strong role in implementing R2P; the need for stronger early warning mechanisms in the United Nations; and the need to clarify the roles UN bodies would play in implementing R2P.
One outcome of the debate was the first resolution referencing R2P adopted by the General Assembly. The Resolution (A/RES/63/308) showed that the international community had not forgotten about the concept of the responsibility to protect and it decided "to continue its consideration of the responsibility to protect".
In subsequent years, the Secretary-General would release a new report, followed by a debate in the General Assembly.
In 2010, the report was titled Early Warning, Assessment and the Responsibility to Protect. The informal interactive dialogue was held on 9 August 2010 with 49 member states, two regional organizations and two civil society organizations speaking at the event. The discussion had a resoundingly positive tone, with virtually all of those that spoke stressing a need to prevent atrocities and agreeing that effective early warning is a necessary condition for effective prevention and early action. A small number of member states expressed objections– namely, Nicaragua, Iran, Pakistan, Sudan and Venezuela.
In 2011 the report analyzed The Role of Regional and Subregional Arrangements in Implementing the Responsibility to Protect. At the debate on 12 July 2011, interventions were delivered by 43 member states, 3 regional organizations and 4 civil society representatives. The biggest challenge to R2P was considered to be cooperation with, and support between, the UN and regional bodies in times of crisis. Member states acknowledged the importance of resolving this challenge through the unique advantages regional organizations possess in preventing and reacting to mass atrocities.
In 2012 the focus was on Responsibility to Protect: Timely and Decisive Response. The debate followed on 5 September 2012 saw interventions address the third pillar of the Responsibility to Protect and the diversity of non-coercive and coercive measures available for a collective response to mass atrocity crimes.
In 2013, the Secretary-General focused on Responsibility to Protect: State responsibility and prevention. The debate following the report was held on 11 September 2013. Following presentations by a panel of UN, member state and civil society experts, interventions were delivered by 68 member states, 1 regional organization and 2 civil society organizations.
Special Advisors on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect
In 2004, following the genocidal violence in Rwanda and the Balkans, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Juan Méndez as Special Adviser to fill critical gaps in the international system that allowed those tragedies to go unchecked. In 2007, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Francis M. Deng on a full-time basis at the level of Under-Secretary-General. Around the same time, he also appointed Edward Luck as the Special Adviser who focuses on the responsibility to protect, on a part-time basis at the level of Assistant Secretary-General.
The Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect leads the conceptual, political, institutional and operational development of the Responsibility to Protect. The Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide acts as a catalyst to raise awareness of the causes and dynamics of genocide, to alert relevant actors where there is a risk of genocide, and to advocate and mobilize for appropriate action. The mandates of the two Special Advisers are distinct but complementary. The efforts of their Office include alerting relevant actors to the risk of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, enhancing the capacity of the United Nations to prevent these crimes, including their incitement, and working with Member States, regional and sub-regional arrangements, and civil society to develop more effective means of response when they do occur.
Both Special Advisers Francis Deng and Edward Luck ended their assignments with the Office in July 2012. On 17 July 2012, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Adama Dieng of Senegal as his Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. On 12 July 2013, Jennifer Welsh of Canada was appointed as the Special Advisor on the Responsibility to Protect.
From December 2007 to January 2008, Kenya was swept by a wave of ethnic violence triggered by a disputed presidential election held on 27 December 2007. On 30 December 2007 Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of the presidential elections and was sworn in as president a couple of hours later. The announcement of the results triggered widespread and systematic violence resulting in more than 1,000 deaths and the displacement of over 500,000 civilians. Clashes were characterized by the ethnically targeted killings of people aligned with the two major political parties, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and Party of National Unity (PNU).
External intervention was almost immediate. French Foreign and European Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner made an appeal to the United Nations (UN) Security Council in January 2008 to react "in the name of the responsibility to protect" before Kenya plunged into a deadly ethnic conflict. On 31 December 2007, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement expressing concern for the ongoing violence, calling for the population to remain calm and for restraint to be shown by Kenyan security forces. On 10 January 2008, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was accepted by both the ODM and the PNU as the African Union Chief Mediator. mediation efforts led to the signing of a power-sharing agreement on 28 February 2008. The agreement established Mwai Kibaki as President and Raila Odinga as Prime Minister, as well as the creation of three commissions – the Commission of Inquiry on Post-Election Violence (CIPEV), the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission and the Independent Review Commission on the General Elections. This rapid and coordinated reaction by the international community was praised as “a model of diplomatic action under the Responsibility to Protect”.
Côte d’Ivoire 2011
In response to the escalating, post-election violence against the population of Côte d'Ivoire in late 2010 and early 2011, the UN Security Council, on 30 March 2011, unanimously adopted resolution 1975 condemning the gross human rights violations committed by supporters of both ex-President Laurent Gbagbo and President Ouattara. The resolution cited "the primary responsibility of each State to protect civilians," called for the immediate transfer of power to President Ouattara, the victor in the elections, and reaffirmed that the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) could use "all necessary means to protect life and property." In an effort to protect the people of Côte d'Ivoire from further atrocities, UNOCI on 4 April 2011 began a military operation, and President Gbagbo’s hold on power ended on 11 April when he was arrested by President Ouattara’s forces. In November 2011, President Gbagbo was transferred to the International Criminal Court to face charges of crimes against humanity as an “indirect co-perpetrator” of murder, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts. On 26 July 2012, the Council adopted resolution 2062 renewing the mandate of UNOCI until 31 July 2013.
Libya was the first case, where the UN Security Council authorized a military intervention citing the R2P. Following widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population by the Libyan regime, and language used by Muammar Gaddafi that reminded the international community of the genocide in Rwanda, the UN Security Council, unanimously adopted resolution 1970 on 26 February 2011, making explicit reference to the responsibility to protect. Deploring what it called "the gross and systematic violation of human rights" in strife-torn Libya, the Security Council demanded an end to the violence, "recalling the Libyan authorities’ responsibility to protect its population," and imposed a series of international sanctions. The Council also decided to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.
In resolution 1973, adopted on 17 March 2011, the Security Council demanded an immediate ceasefire in Libya, including an end to ongoing attacks against civilians, which it said might constitute "crimes against humanity." The Council authorized Member States to take "all necessary measures" to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory. A few days later, acting on the resolution, NATO planes started striking at Gaddafi’s forces. NATO subsequently came under scrutiny for its behavior during the air strikes; concerns included the fact that the intervention quickly moved to regime change and that there were allegations regarding aerial bombardments that may have caused civilian casualties.
Central African Republic (CAR) 2013
In December 2012, a loose rebel coalition named the Séléka initiated a military campaign to overthrow the government of the Central African Republic (CAR) and its then-president, Francois Bozizé. The Séléka, composed mostly of factions of armed groups in the northeast of the state, accused Bozizé’s government of neglecting their region. The Séléka rapidly captured several strategic towns and were poised to take the capital city of Bangui. A hasty intervention by Chad and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) persuaded the Séléka to negotiate with Bozizé’s government. The result, the Libreville Agreement of January 2013, installed a three-year power-sharing arrangement.
However, ECCAS failed to monitor the implementation of the Libreville Agreement and Bozizé did not undertake any of the reforms necessary under the transition agreement. Séléka resurged and took control of Bangui and fifteen of CAR’s sixteen provinces on 24 March 2013. Séléka’s leader, Michel Djotodia, proclaimed himself President, set up the National Transitional Council (NTC) and suspended CAR’s constitution. A hurried ECCAS summit on 4 April 2013, which did not yet recognize Djotodia as President, called for the creation of a Transitional National Council (TNC), which would create a new constitution, conduct elections in eighteen months, and select an interim President. On 13 April, the TNC chose the sole candidate vying for interim president position, Michel Djotodia.
From December 2012 onward, Séléka forces, who are predominantly Muslim, committed grave human rights abuses against civilians throughout the country and especially targeted the majority Christian population. In response, Christian civilians formed anti-balaka militias, which have conducted vicious reprisals against Muslims. Extrajudicial killings of Muslim and Christian civilians have been carried out, including "door to door" searches by rival militias and mobs seeking potential victims.
The situation in the Central African Republic rapidly deteriorated after 5 December 2013, after an attack in Bangui by "anti-balaka" (anti-machete) militias and loyalists of ousted President François Bozizé. The attack against former Séléka rebels sparked widespread violence throughout the capital as well as in Ouham province in the northwest. The violence marked a significant escalation of the conflict in CAR. Anti-balaka forces launched another attack against Muslim neighborhoods of Bangui on 20 December, spurring a cycle of renewed violence that led to at least 71 deaths by 24 December. A mass grave of at least 30 people who were reportedly executed and exhibited signs of torture was discovered on 25 December. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates a further 40 civilians were killed on 25 December as violence continued between anti-balaka and ex-Séléka forces. Eight African Union (AU) peacekeepers were also killed between 25 and 26 December.
According to OCHA, by September 2013 there were almost 400,000 internally displaced people and about 65,000 new refugees in neighbouring countries. Humanitarian agencies have alerted public opinion to the critical situation, stressing that 2.3 million CAR citizens, half the population, are in need of humanitarian assistance.
CAR and the R2P
The crisis in the CAR is a case for the Responsibility to Protect, due to mass atrocity crimes being committed by both sides. During a UNSC briefing on 25 November, UN Deputy-Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said that the world faced "a profoundly important test of international solidarity and of our responsibility to protect" in CAR. The UNSC passed Resolution 2127 on 5 December, emphasizing that the NTC has the primary responsibility to protect the civilian population in CAR. The resolution granted a Chapter VII mandate to AU and French forces to protect civilians and restore security, imposed an arms embargo and established a UN Commission of Inquiry.
In the beginning, the international response to the coup was purely diplomatic: members of the International Contact Group insisted that Michel Djotodia respect the principles set out in the Libreville agreement. The African Union was the first to react when it announced a new African-led International Support Mission for CAR (MISCA) in July 2013. However, MISCA has not been effective in reversing the deteriorating security situation. Although its mandate is well-defined, there is general agreement that it does not have the resources to fulfill its mission. The UN General Assembly put the CAR on the international agenda in September. Resolution 2121, adopted on 10 October 2013 and sponsored by France, strengthened and broadened the mandate of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA). Aware that MISCA alone is unable to do anything about the growing insecurity, France has changed its initial position from disengagement to military contribution, as announced by François Hollande on 20 November 2013, who said that French forces would be rein-forced by almost 1,000 troops for a six-month period. France began to deploy troops in CAR after receiving authorization from the UN Security Council on 5 December 2013 with Resolution 2127, which authorizes MISCA and French forces to take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians and restore security in CAR. French soldiers begin to patrol immediately in Bangui.
On 7 February 2014, the International Criminal Court's (ICC) chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda says she opened a preliminary investigation into possible war crimes in the CAR.
Threshold for military interventions
According to the International Commission for Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) report in 2001 (which was not adopted by national governments), any form of a military intervention initiated under the premise of responsibility to protect must fulfill the following six criteria to be justified as an extraordinary measure of intervention:
- Just cause – Is the threat a "serious and irreparable harm occurring to human beings"?
- Right intention – Is the main intention of the military action to prevent human suffering or are there other motives?
- Final resort – Has every other measure besides military invention been taken into account? (This does not mean that every measurement has to be applied and failed, but that there are reasonable grounds to believe that only military action would work in that situation)
- Legitimate authority
- Proportional means – Are the minimum necessary military means applied to secure human protection?
- Reasonable prospect – Is it likely that military action will succeed in protecting human life, and are the consequences of this action sure not to be worse than no action at all?
How does the responsibility to protect differ from humanitarian intervention?
The Responsibility to Protect differs from humanitarian intervention in four important ways:
First, humanitarian intervention is only military intervention. R2P, on the other hand, is first and foremost a preventative measure, that stresses state responsibilities. Military intervention may only be carried out as a last resort, when all other, non-coercive measures have failed and when it is authorized by the Security Council. R2P is to extend the intervention beyond a purely military intervention and to encompass a whole continuum of obligations:
- The responsibility to prevent: addressing root causes of internal conflict. The ICISS considered this to be the most important obligation.
- The responsibility to react: responding to situations of compelling human need with appropriate measures that could include sanctions, prosecutions or military intervention.
- The responsibility to rebuild: providing full assistance with recovery, reconstruction and reconciliation.
The second point is related to the first and: R2P is firmly rooted in international law, especially the law relating to sovereignty, peace and security, human rights and armed conflict. Humanitarian intervention, on the other hand, regularly violated Article 2.4 of the UN Charter, which outlines the territorial integrity of every sovereign state. R2P avoids this through the fact that a military intervention must either be authorized by the state in question or by the UN Security Council (Chapter VII of the UN Charter gives the Security Council the authority to do this
Third, while humanitarian interventions have in the past been justified through the prevention of human rights abuses, the R2P focuses only on the four mass atrocity crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing. The first three crimes are clearly defined in international law and codified in the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court. Ethnic cleansing is not a crime defined under international law, but has been defined by the UN as “a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas”.
Finally, while humanitarian intervention assumes a ‘right to intervene’, the R2P is based on a ‘responsibility to protect’. Humanitarian intervention and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) both agree on the fact that sovereignty is not absolute. However, the R2P doctrine shifts away from state-centered motivations to the interests of victims by focusing not on the right of states to intervene but on a responsibility to protect populations at risk. In addition, it introduces a new way of looking at the essence of sovereignty, moving away from issues of 'control' and emphasising 'responsibility' to one's own citizens and the wider international community.
R2P and national sovereignty
One of the main concerns surrounding R2P is that it infringes upon national sovereignty. This concern is rebutted by the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in the report Implementing the Responsibility to Protect. According to the first pillar of R2P, the state has the responsibility to protect its populations from mass atrocities and ethnic cleansing, and according to the second pillar the international community has the responsibility to help states fulfill their responsibility. Advocates of R2P claim that the only occasions where the international community will intervene in a state without its consent is when the state is either allowing mass atrocities to occur, or is committing them, in which case the state is no longer upholding its responsibilities as a sovereign. In this sense, R2P can be understood as reinforcing sovereignty. In 2004, the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, set up by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, endorsed the emerging norm of a responsibility to protect stating that there is a collective international responsibility,"exercisable by the Security Council authorizing military intervention as a last resort, in the event of genocide and other large-scale killing, ethnic cleansing, and serious violations of humanitarian law which sovereign governments have proved powerless or unwilling to prevent."
On March 19, 2011, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) approved resolution 1973, which reiterated the responsibility of the Libyan authorities to protect the Libyan population. The UNSC resolution reaffirmed "that parties to armed conflicts bear the primary responsibility to take all feasible steps to ensure the protection of civilians...." It demanded "an immediate ceasefire in Libya, including an end to the current attacks against civilians, which it said might constitute 'crimes against humanity'.... It imposed a ban on all flights in the country's airspace, a no-fly zone, and tightened sanctions on the Gadaffi regime and its supporters." The resolution passed with 10 in favor, 0 against and 5 abstentions. Two of the five permanent members of the council abstained, China and Russia. The subsequent military action by NATO resulted in mixed opinions. Detractors of the intervention believe that problems in Libya are best resolved amongst Libyans..
India's UN Ambassador Singh Puri, for example, stated that 'the Libyan case has already given R2P a bad name' and 'the only aspect of the resolution of interest to them (international community) was use of all necessary means to bomb the hell out of Libya, Further, in clear violation of the resolution, arms were supplied to civilians without any consideration of its consequences, no-fly zone was selectively implemented only for flights in and out of Tripoli and targeted measures were implemented insofar as they suited the objective of regime change"
Syria, 2011: Russian and Chinese repudiation of abuse of R2P
Several attempts were made by the U.S. government in the course of 2011 to 2013 to pass Security Council resolutions invoking R2P to justify military intervention in the Syrian civil war. These were vetoed by Russia and China. The Russian and Chinese governments both issued statements to the effect that in their opinion R2P had been abused by the U.S. as a pretext for 'regime change', more particularly in the case of Libya, and that as far as they were concerned they would be extremely suspicious of any future Security Council resolutions invoking R2P, based on past experience:
The situation in Syria cannot be considered in the council apart from the Libyan experience. The international community is alarmed that the NATO interpretation of the Libya resolution is a model for future actions of NATO in implementing responsibility to protect ... (and) could happen in Syria... We are alarmed that compliance with Security Council resolutions in Libya had been considered a model for future actions by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). It was important to see how that model had been implemented. The demand for a ceasefire had turned into a civil war, the humanitarian, social and military consequences of which had spilled beyond Libya. The arms embargo had turned into a naval blockade on west Libya. Such models should be excluded from global practice. (Vitaly Churkin, Russian UN Ambassador)
"I hope that the Government would follow through on reform and a process of dialogue. The Council should encourage those objectives while respecting Syria’s sovereignty’s and territorial integrity. Any action it took should contribute to peace and stability and comply with the United Nations Charter principles of non-interference in internal affairs. His country’s position on those principles had remained consistent and firm." (Li Baodong, Chinese UN Ambassador)
Use of military intervention
The question of military intervention under the third pillar of R2P remains controversial. Several states have argued that R2P should not allow the international community to intervene militarily on states, because to do so is an infringement upon sovereignty. Others argue that this a necessary facet of R2P, and is necessary as a last resort to stop mass atrocities. A related argument surrounds the question as to whether more specific criteria should be developed to determine when the Security Council should authorize military intervention.
- International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty
- Human security
- Humanitarian intervention
- Declaration of Human Duties and Responsibilities
- Collective security
- Mogadishu Line
- Responsibility to protect in China
- Peace and Security Council
- African Standby Force
- Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)
- Panel of the Wise
- The Will to Intervene (W2I) Project
- Westphalian sovereignty
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