Whose Responsibility is the Responsibility to Protect?
The idea that national sovereignty is a responsibility not a right, is the controversial notion at the heart of the emerging international norm of 'responsibility to protect' (R2P). This notion declares that states have a responsibility to protect their populations from mass atrocities. If states are either unable or unwilling to do so then responsibility is taken up by the international community to protect the populations in danger. This essay will discuss why the United Nations (UN) bears most, but not all, of the responsibility for R2P. Specifically, when the UN fails to act to prevent genocide then responsibility transitions to the United States and regional powers. Through a collective and diverse range of responsibilities there is a better guarantee that populations in danger are ultimately protected. In relation to this argument, this essay will discuss and analyse three key components; firstly, what the 'responsibility to protect' is and what common misconceptions exist; secondly, how the UN is the best international organization to bear responsibility for R2P but how it often fails to stop genocide; and finally, how the United States and regional powers bear responsibility for R2P when the UN fails to uphold its responsibility.
Before any analysis concerning who harbours ultimate responsibility for the international norm of R2P is contemplated, it is vital to understand how this notion became such a prominent feature of the international system and just what it truly incorporates. Unquestionably, the calamitous developments in Somalia, Rwanda, Kosovo and Bosnia in the 1990's began to systematically reshape notions of state sovereignty and intervention. The preceding, and unpopular, sentiment of a "right to intervene" was dismantled and reformed.1 The new approach, which was introduced by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) in a report late in 2001, was one titled "the responsibility to protect". The notion was formally supported by the UN General Assembly at the World Summit in 2005.2 The salient components of the ICISS report managed to survive within the content of the Outcome Document at the World Summit. The nucleus of the Outcome Document conveys that individual states have the responsibility to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing ,and crimes against humanity. In addition, it declares that the international community ought to embolden states to exercise this responsibility. It then extends to say that the international community, through the UN, also has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian, and other peaceful means in order to help protect populations against such atrocious outcomes. If crimes against humanity are imminent, then collective action would be contemplated by the Security Council on a case by case basis and would involve cooperation with the relevant regional organizations and governments. All of which would only be considered if peaceful means are insufficient and national authorities are evidently failing to protect their populations from such atrocities.3 However, since 2005 there has been a fair share of scepticism toward the idea. Countries in Asia, Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab-Islamic region have all exhibited apprehension toward the norm, specifically claiming that R2P is nothing more than a Trojan Horse for the old imperial and colonial powers.4 In fact, Venezuela's president of the time, Hugo Chavez, stressed that the R2P notion would essentially serve the interests of the powerful by making it easier to intervene inside less-powerful countries.5 Reactions similar to Chavez's have spawned an array of misconceptions about R2P throughout the world. The dominant misconception is that R2P is simply another name for the failed idea of humanitarian intervention. Though, clearly there are crucial differences. At the...
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