Reporting Justice

I/5: Responsibility to Protect (R2P)

I/5: Responsibility to Protect (R2P)

Law Module 5:  Responsibility to Protect (R2P)

Responsibility to protect (“R2P”) is a new international security and human rights norm to address the international community’s failure to prevent and to stop genocides, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

It was agreed on at the United Nations (UN) 2005 World Summit, where world leaders made a historic commitment to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. This commitment stipulates that:

1. The State carries the primary responsibility for the protection of populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

2. The international community has a responsibility to assist States in fulfilling this responsibility.

3. The international community should use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means to protect populations from these crimes. If a State fails to protect its populations or is in fact the perpetrator of crimes, the international community must be prepared to take stronger measures, including the collective use of force through the UN Security Council.

There is an International Coalition which brings together NGOs from all over the world which aims to further the understanding of the norm, push for strengthened capacities to prevent and halt genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and mobilize NGOs to push for action to save lives in R2P country-specific situations.

The norm was cited recently, in March of 2011, when a multinational coalition of states intervened in Libya; the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 identified the Libyan government’s actions against Libyan citizens and the principle of R2P as justification for the intervention in the affairs of a sovereign state. Some of the readings for this module ask you to examine this case more closely.

Key Questions:

What were the kinds of events in the 20th Century that led to the idea of R2P?

How does R2P fit with the role of the UN Security Council?

Required Readings:

On R2P:

Adam Branch, “The Responsibility to Protect: What is the basis for the emerging norm of R2P?” available at

On the Libya:

“FAQ’s on R2P on Libya”, available at

Rory Stewart, “Because we weren’t there?”, available at

Mahmood Mamdani, “Libya: Politics of Humanitarian Intervention”, available at

Recommended Additional Reading on R2P:

Kofi Annan, Interventions: A Life in War and Peace (2012).

Rory Stewart and Gerald Knaus, Can Intervention Work? (W. W. Norton & Co., 2011) (Part of the Amnesty International Global Ethics series).

Samantha Powers, A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (Harper Perennial, 2007).

Selected Online Resources:

The International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect, available at

The Global Center on the Responsibility to Protect, available at

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, available at

The U.S. Institute for Peace, available at

The International Crisis Group, available at