Chapter 23: Responsibility to Protect
When confronted with the horrific stories currently coming out of Syria, or reminded of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, it seems intuitively right to most people that ‘something’ should be done to stop the killings and human suffering. Since 2001, the principle known as Responsibility to Protect (R2P) has emerged as an intriguingly simple and appealing framework for translating such emotions into concrete action. It is, however, only at the surface that R2P is simple. Its dual proposition – that all states are responsible for protecting their populations and that the international community is responsible for taking action if and when a state fails to protect its people – opens a Pandora’s box of normative and operational dilemmas. At the present juncture, the deficiencies of R2P seem more visible than ever. The international community’s failure to respond effectively to the ongoing atrocities in Syria, and the breakdown of trust following NATO’s R2P-mandated intervention in Libya, 2011, has left R2P a concept in deep crisis. Critiques are suggesting that its short-lived era is already coming to a close (see e.g. Rieff 2011), while advocates are debating how to ensure the future relevance and usefulness of the R2P norm (see e.g. Findlay 2011; Almustafa et al. 2013; Evans 2013). Against this backdrop, this chapter takes one step back and argues that the current crisis of R2P is overrated.
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