In Whose Name? A Critical View on the Responsibility to Protect

TitleIn Whose Name? A Critical View on the Responsibility to Protect
Publication TypeWebsite
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsPingeot, Lou, and Wolfgang Obenland
Place PublishedBonn, Germany

The concept of the “Responsibility to Protect (R2P)” is one of the ideas that have evolved the fastest in the contemporary international normative arena. R2P affirms that states and governments do not only have a right to sovereignty, but also a responsibility to protect their populations, and that the international community must take action when states fail to uphold this responsibility. R2P has quickly moved up the ladder of international law, from an emerging idea in the late 1990s to its official formulation over the turn of the century. At the same time, skeptics and critics have raised concerns about the concept, arguing that it is a veil for self-interested interventions by major powers and a threat to international peace and security. This report outlines the concept’s key elements and describes how it came into being (Part I). The report then explores the concept’s positive aspects (Part II) and its problems (Part III). During our research, a gap in the literature around the “political economy” of the debate on R2P became visible: who is promoting the concept, how, and with what interests? The report addresses some of these questions. It concludes (Part IV) that, although R2P attempted to present innovative ideas to address contemporary humanitarian crises, the concept is irremediably flawed and provides no real solution to prevent and stop gross human rights violations – but there are alternatives.

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