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  • Author: Alex J. Bellamy
  • Publication Date: 06-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Ethics International Affairs Journal
  • Institution: Carnegie Council
  • Abstract: The Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) has become a prominent feature in international debates about preventing genocide and mass atrocities and about protecting potential victims. Adopted unanimously by heads of state and government at the 2005 UN World Summit and reaffirmed twice since by the UN Security Council, the principle of RtoP rests on three equally weighted and nonsequential pillars: (1) the primary responsibility of states to protect their own populations from the four crimes of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity, as well as from their incitement; (2) the international community's responsibility to assist a state to fulfill its RtoP; and (3) the international community's responsibility to take timely and decisive action, in accordance with the UN Charter, in cases where the state has manifestly failed to protect its population from one or more of the four crimes. The principle differed from the older concept of humanitarian intervention by placing emphasis on the primary responsibility of the state to protect its own population, introducing the novel idea that the international community should assist states in this endeavor, and situating armed intervention within a broader continuum of measures that the international community might take to respond to genocide and mass atrocities. As agreed to by states, the principle also differed from the proposals brought forward by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty by (among other things) emphasizing international assistance to states (pillar two), downplaying the role of armed intervention, and rejecting criteria to guide decision-making on the use of force and the prospect of intervention not authorized by the UN Security Council. Five years on from its adoption, RtoP boasts a Global Centre and a network of regional affiliates dedicated to advocacy and research, an international coalition of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), a journal and book series, and a research fund sponsored by the Australian government. More important, RtoP has made its way onto the international diplomatic agenda. In 2008, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon challenged the UN membership to translate its 2005 commitment from ''words to deeds.'' This challenge was taken up by the General Assembly in 2009, when it agreed to give further consideration to the secretary-general's proposals. RtoP has also become part of the diplomatic language of humanitarian emergencies, used by governments, international organizations, NGOs, and independent commissions to justify behavior, cajole compliance, and demand international action.
  • Topic: Security, Crime, Genocide, Government, War
  • Political Geography: United States, Australia