Responsibility to protect
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The responsibility to protect (R2P or RtoP) is a United Nations initiative established in 2005. It is an emerging intended norm claiming that sovereignty is not a right, but entails responsibilities for states to provide protection and security for their populations. R2P focuses on preventing and halting four crimes: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing, which it places under the generic umbrella term of mass atrocity crimes. 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.
In the international community R2P is a norm, not a law, however it is grounded in international law.[which?] 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.
It has also been criticised. Amongst the criticisms is a "moral outrage and hysteria often serve as a pretext for ‘interventions of the civilised world’ and ‘humanitarian interventions’, which often conceal the true strategic motives, and it thus becomes another name for proxy wars."
- 1 History
- 2 The United Nations mandate
- 3 In practice
- 4 How does the responsibility to protect differ from humanitarian intervention?
- 5 Criticism
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
- 10 See also
Following the genocide in Rwanda and the international community's failure to intervene, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan asked the question: When does the international community intervene for the sake of protecting populations?
The Canadian government established the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) in September 2000. 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 December 2001, the ICISS released its report, The Responsibility to Protect. The report presented the idea that sovereignty is a responsibility and that the international community had the responsibility to prevent mass atrocities. Economic, political, and social measures were to be used along with diplomatic engagement. Military intervention was presented as a last resort. R2P included efforts to rebuild by bringing security and justice to the victim population and by finding the root cause of the mass atrocities.
The African Union pioneered the concept that the international community has a responsibility to intervene in crisis situations if the State is failing to protect its population. In the founding charter in 2002, African nations declared that the "protection of human and peoples rights" would be a principal objective of the AU and that the Union had the right "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.
The United Nations mandate
At the 2005 World Summit, 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.
In April 2006, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) reaffirmed the provisions of paragraphs 138 and 139 in resolution (S/RES/1674). This formalized their support for the R2P. The next major advancement in R2P came in January 2009, when UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a report 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".
France and Myanmar, 2008
In May 2008, Bernard Kouchner, the Foreign Minister of France, suggested that the principle of Responsibility to Protect should be applied to protect the people of Myanmar. Myanmar had been hit by a deadly cyclone on 2 May 2008, which caused one of the worst destruction in Myanmar’s history and at least 138,000 fatalities(Cyclone Nargis). Despite the deadly situation, the military junta had denied the access of foreign aid workers or military units from operating in the country and seized the UN relief supplies. France argued that such denial meant that the state was failing to protect its population, and that the UNSC should take military action applying R2P. The suggestion brought many controversies especially on the scope of application of R2P, and it was not applied in the end, as Myanmar agreed to open up to aid.
Russia and Georgia, 2008
Another instance where R2P was mentioned was the Russia-Georgia War in August 2008. When Georgia attacked South Ossetia which caused some casualties among Russians, Russia deployed its army against Georgia in South Ossetia on the claims of R2P. Russia described Georgia’s attack as “genocide” and argued that R2P was to be applied in this case as its own people were at risk and the Russian government had a responsibility to protect its people. However, this is considered a misapplication because Russia only has rights to protect its people inside its territory, and in case of genocides outside its territory, R2P would be a responsibility of the international community, not one specific nation. Furthermore, there were controversies on whether there indeed was imminent danger in this case. Thus, this case does not count as a formal application of R2P.
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 in order 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?
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.
Another contribution of 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.
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.
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
- Westphalian sovereignty
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- Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
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- Asia-Pacific Centre for R2P