The Responsibility to Protect

The Responsibility to Protect: Ending Mass Atrocity Crimes Once and For All

Gareth Evans
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 349
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  • Book Info
    The Responsibility to Protect
    Book Description:

    "Never again!" the world has vowed time and again since the Holocaust. Yet genocide, ethnic cleansing, and other mass atrocity crimes continue to shock our consciences-from the killing fields of Cambodia to the machetes of Rwanda to the agony of Darfur.

    Gareth Evans has grappled with these issues firsthand. As Australian foreign minister, he was a key broker of the United Nations peace plan for Cambodia. As president of the International Crisis Group, he now works on the prevention and resolution of scores of conflicts and crises worldwide. The primary architect of and leading authority on the Responsibility to Protect ("R2P"), he shows here how this new international norm can once and for all prevent a return to the killing fields.

    The Responsibility to Protectcaptures a simple and powerful idea. The primary responsibility for protecting its own people from mass atrocity crimes lies with the state itself. State sovereignty implies responsibility, not a license to kill. But when a state is unwilling or unable to halt or avert such crimes, the wider international community then has a collective responsibility to take whatever action is necessary. R2P emphasizes preventive action above all. That includes assistance for states struggling to contain potential crises and for effective rebuilding after a crisis or conflict to tackle its underlying causes. R2P's primary tools are persuasion and support, not military or other coercion. But sometimes it is right to fight: faced with another Rwanda, the world cannot just stand by.

    R2P was unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly at the 2005 World Summit. But many misunderstandings persist about its scope and limits. And much remains to be done to solidify political support and to build institutional capacity. Evans shows, compellingly, how big a break R2P represents from the past, and how, with its acceptance in principle and effective application in practice, the promise of "Never again!" can at last become a reality.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-0180-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  4. Introduction: A Personal Journey
    (pp. 1-8)

    For me the journey, emotionally and intellectually, began in Cambodia in 1968. I was a young Australian making my first trip to Europe, to take up a scholarship in Oxford. Inexhaustibly hungry for experience, like so many of my compatriots before and since, I spent six months wending my way by plane and overland through a dozen countries in Asia, and a few more in Africa and the Middle East as well. And in every one of them, I spent many hours and days on student campuses and in student hangouts, and in hard-class cross-country trains and ramshackle rural buses,...

  5. PART I Understanding the Responsibility to Protect

    • CHAPTER ONE The Problem: The Recurring Nightmare of Mass Atrocities
      (pp. 11-30)

      It has taken a desperately long time for the idea to take hold that mass atrocities are the world’s business: that they cannot be universally ignored and that sovereignty is not a license to kill. Massacres of the innocent, forced displacement of populations, large-scale sexual violence and humiliation, and the wanton destruction of civilian property have been going on since the dawn of civilization. Efforts gradually evolved over the centuries, then rapidly accelerated after the Second World War, to more effectively protect people against the commission of such atrocities, both in peace and war. But, for the most part, those...

    • CHAPTER TWO The Solution: From “The Right to Intervene” to “The Responsibility to Protect”
      (pp. 31-54)

      The twenty-first century began with no agreed answer to Kofi Annan’s troubling question. A number of efforts had been made during the 1990s to set international thinking on a new path, in particular Bernard Kouchner’s assertion of “the right to intervene,” but none of them won broad support. The breakthrough came in late 2001 when the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) introduced into the debate the concept of “the responsibility to protect,” which described the obligations of states to prevent and respond to these human rights catastrophes in a potentially much more acceptable way. Less than four...

    • CHAPTER THREE The Scope and Limits of the Responsibility to Protect
      (pp. 55-76)

      Why is there so much continuing resistance to a principle that so many accept as an important breakthrough, capable of resolving an ageold debate in a practical and principled way? A good part of the answer seems to lie in some serious misunderstandings which continue to exist about the intended scope and limits of the responsibility to protect norm.

      It is not uncommon in public policy debates, as in life itself, for as much trouble to be generated by the misdirected enthusiasms of one’s admirers as by the misguided hostility of one’s opponents, and there are three kinds of self-described...

  6. PART II Operationalizing the Responsibility to Protect

    • CHAPTER FOUR Before the Crisis: The Responsibility to Prevent
      (pp. 79-104)

      Had the world but eyes to see them, early warning signs were abundant for just about every one of the world’s worst cases of genocide and mass atrocity. Hitler’s Germany, Rwanda, and the former Yugoslavia had all for some years been characterized by growing repression, abuse of human rights, and, especially, hate speech directed at often vulnerable groups blamed for a country’s troubles.¹ But the signs were not heeded by those in a position to make a difference, and the necessary action was not taken in time. Experience has constantly taught us that effective prevention is far less costly in...

    • CHAPTER FIVE During the Crisis: The Responsibility to React
      (pp. 105-127)

      When prevention fails, conflict breaks out within a state, and mass atrocity crimes are occurring or imminent, it is not an option for the world to stand by and do nothing: that way lies, yet again, the horror of Rwanda and Srebrenica. But who should do what, when, and how?

      The primary responsibility to react, to halt or avert the harm in question, is—as always—that of the state itself where the crisis is erupting. But if that state is unable to act, or unwilling to do so, perhaps because it is the government itself that is doing the...

    • CHAPTER SIX Reacting to Crises: When Is It Right to Fight?
      (pp. 128-147)

      It is inevitable that the use of coercive military force should have dominated so much of the responsibility to protect debate, because the mass atrocity crimes that resonate most in our memory, and make this whole discussion so emotional, are the ones where we know that the timely use of military force would have saved thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of innocent lives—the cases like Rwanda in 1994 and Srebrenica in 1995. Hard as it may be for many to instinctively accept, if there is one thing as bad as using military force when we should not, it is...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN After the Crisis: The Responsibility to Rebuild
      (pp. 148-174)

      Deadly conflict is rarely over when it’s over. We understand much better now than we did even a decade ago that mass violence is much more cyclical than linear—that the best single indicator we have of the probability of future conflict is past conflict. Sustainable peace cannot be guaranteed just because a diplomatic peacemaking initiative has apparently been successful: think of the horror still to come after the Angola agreement of 1991 or the Rwanda accords in 1993. Nor can it be ensured because a clear-cut military victory has apparently been won: think of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Institutional Preparedness: The Actors
      (pp. 175-199)

      When it comes to actually delivering the appropriate response to responsibility to protect situations—be it preventive, reactive, or rebuilding in character—who is actually capable of doing what? There is a large cast of actors potentially available in the international community: the multiple entities that make up the UN system, other global and regional intergovernmental organizations, national governments, and nongovernmental organizations. But who among them can best do whatever job is required, by whatever means are needed—supportive, persuasive, or coercive? This chapter discusses the respective contributions, actual and potential, of the major international actors and how they might...

    • CHAPTER NINE Building Diplomatic, Civilian, and Military Capability
      (pp. 200-222)

      What more needs to be done, in the crucial areas of diplomatic, civilian, and military capability, to improve the effectiveness of the response to R2P situations, across the spectrum from prevention to reaction to rebuilding? This chapter offers some answers, with the bottom line being that capability in all these areas is, like almost everything else in public policy, a function of political will. None of the resources needed to stop mass atrocity crimes once and for all are inherently beyond reach: if the political will is there, the relevant capability will be there. It is another question whether policymakers...

    • CHAPTER TEN Mobilizing Political Will
      (pp. 223-242)

      Without the exercise of political will, by the relevant policymakers at the relevant time, almost none of the things for which this book has argued will actually happen. The institutional capability to deliver the right kind of response at the right time—by way of prevention, reaction, or rebuilding as the case demands—simply will not be there. And even if the capability is there, it will not be used. For almost any spread of options, inertia will have the numbers. The loudest and most oft-repeated lamentation of them all is that there is a “lack of political will” to...

  7. APPENDIX A Definitions of Genocide, Crimes against Humanity, and War Crimes
    (pp. 243-251)
  8. APPENDIX B The Mass Atrocity Toolboxes: Prevention, Reaction, and Rebuilding
    (pp. 252-253)
  9. APPENDIX C Further Reading
    (pp. 254-258)
  10. APPENDIX D Further Action
    (pp. 259-266)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 267-328)
  12. Index
    (pp. 329-349)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 350-350)