The Formation of the Responsibility to Protect

The formation of the concept ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) will be outlined by describing the evolution from the “right to interfere” at the end of the 1980s until the formal presentation of R2P by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) in 2001.

The last decade of the 20th century was characterized by an increasing number of cases of intrastate-conflicts, secessions and mass atrocities . Hence, there had been rising international concern about the political implications for the concepts of non-interference and sovereignty.¹ While the idea of ‘humanitarian intervention’ was already termed and deployed in the 19th century, it only gained new relevance because of the fundamental changes in the character of conflicts after the end of the Cold War.²

Since then several attempts have been made by the international community to find a new approach to reframe and solve the dilemmas that arise with the percept of humanitarian intervention:

The pioneer of ‘Médecins Sans Frontières’, Bernard Kouchner, developed the notion of the ‘right to interfere’ (in French ‘droit d’ingérence’) with Mario Bettati as early as 1987 and the view received widespread attention in the international arena.³ Despite its great resonance, there have been serious problems with Kouchner’s ‘right to interfere’ because it involves the expressions a) ‘right’ in the sense of a prerogative claim of the intervener and b) ‘interference’ which has a broader, more intrusive meaning than ‘intervention’.4 Therefore the terminology turned out to be inappropriate to prove humanitarian intent, and moreover insensitive to fears of the global South of being incapacitated by the global North once again.5

In 1999 Tony Blair, U.K. Prime Minister at that time, developed a new ‘doctrine of international community’ in which he identified the major issues for becoming involved with the internal affairs of another state.6 They were composed of question about 1) the certainty of the right cause, 2) exhaustion of diplomatic options, 3) probability of military success, 4) preparedness for long-term involvement and 5) whether there are national interests at stake.7 However, Blair’s Doctrine was based on national instead of international (self-) interest and values and thus failed to win the trust of the developing world  according to Evans.8

Shortly after Tony Blair’s proposal, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan invented a new account of sovereignty as consisting of two (instead of one) concepts that had to be weighed against each other: ‘national sovereignty’ and ‘individual sovereignty’.9 Unfortunately this approach merely reinstated the controversy instead of resolving it.10

Finally, in 2001 the ‘International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty’ published a ground-breaking report that offered a helpful conception with regard to the debate about sovereignty: the ‘Responsibility to Protect’. 11

This view was innovative to the preceding debate as it shifted the emphasis from the ‘right’ of states to intervene to the victims needing to be protected and that protection falls first and foremost within the duty of the sovereign state, but the international community steps in, if the state fails to fulfill its responsibilities.12 Varying the terminology from ‘right’ to ‘responsibility’ to intervene opened up the sphere for a change in behavior of main political actors.13

Only four years later in 2005 the concept was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly.14 However, there had been several changes made to the original percept of the ICISS: In contrast to the original report the World Summit definition of the notion of R2P did not include the public commitment of the UN Security Council to the principle or restrictions on the use of veto, which said veto could only be used to block humanitarian intervention, if vital national interests were at stake.15

Moreover the just cause thresholds and precautionary criteria were completely removed from the final World Summit definition, because they were seen as too permissive by anti-interventionists and too restrictive by interventionists and the US.16 Furthermore the responsibility of states for their own people and UN Security Council authority on all matters regarding humanitarian intervention was stressed.

This meant that the former back door, for legitimizing humanitarian intervention by other bodies such as the UN General Assembly, if the Security Council was deadlocked, was closed.17 There were other changes, such as a different phrasing of mass atrocity crimes; a stronger emphasis on non-military assistance and the prevention of conflicts and rebuilding.18

References:

1) Arbour, Louise. “The Responsibility to Protect as a Duty of Care in International Law and Practice.” Review of International Studies 34.03 2008, p. 446. Cambridge Journal Online. Web. 23 Apr. 2012.

2) Evans, Gareth J. “The Solution: From “The Right to Intervene” to “The Responsibility to Protect”” The Responsibility to Protect: Ending Mass Atrocity Crimes Once and for All. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 2008, p. 32. Print.

3) ibid p. 32-33.

4) Arbour, Louise. “The Responsibility to Protect as a Duty of Care in International Law and Practice.” Review of International Studies 34.03 2008, p. 447. Cambridge Journal Online. Web. 23 Apr. 2012.; Evans, Gareth J. “The Solution: From “The Right to Intervene” to “The Responsibility to Protect”” The Responsibility to Protect: Ending Mass Atrocity Crimes Once and for All. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 2008, p. 33. Print.

5) ibid.

6) Evans, Gareth J. “The Solution: From “The Right to Intervene” to “The Responsibility to Protect”” The Responsibility to Protect: Ending Mass Atrocity Crimes Once and for All. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 2008, p. 33. Print.

7) ibid.

8) ibid, p. 34.

9) ibid, p. 37.

10) ibid, p. 38.

11) ibid, p. 38-39.

12) ibid, p. 40.

13) ibid, p. 42.

14) ibid, p. 44.

15) Bellamy, Alex. “Whither the Responsibility to Protect? Humanitarian Intervention and the 2005 World Summit.” Ethics & International Affairs 20 2006, p. 167. Wiley Online Library. Web. 27 Apr. 2012.

16) ibid, p. 168.

17) ibid.

18) Evans, Gareth J. “The Solution: From “The Right to Intervene” to “The Responsibility to Protect”” The Responsibility to Protect: Ending Mass Atrocity Crimes Once and for All. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 2008, p. 47-48. Print.

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