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5 September 2008
Responsibility to Protect-Engaging Civil Society
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In this issue:

I. Georgia-Russia Crisis and R2P

II. Crisis in Burma

III. R2P in the News

IV. Featured Events

V. Featured Reports

I. Georgia-Russia Crisis

1. Russia vs. Georgia: The Fallout
International Crisis Group
22 August 2008

The Russia-Georgia conflict has transformed the contemporary geopolitical world, with large consequences for peace and security in Europe and beyond. (...)

At the broader level, the crisis raises significant questions about the capacity of the EU, the UN and NATO to address fundamental issues. While European leaders stepped forward to achieve the ceasefire agreement, their inability to put forward a forceful response to the Russian action reflects a lowest common denominator approach that discourages stronger and more innovative policies. () And in the process of seeking justification for its actions, Russia has also misstated and distorted the UN-approved principle of "responsibility to protect". (...)

The Russian government has argued that its military operations in Georgia were justified by the principle of "responsibility to protect" (R2P); that is, that the perpetration or imminent threat of atrocity crimes against South Ossetians compelled it to step in militarily. President Medvedev, Prime Minister Putin and UN Ambassador Churkin have described Georgia's actions against populations in South Ossetia as "genocide".

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov explicitly argued that Russia's use of force was an exercise of its responsibility to protect. Under the Constitution [the President] is obliged to protect the life and dignity of Russian citizens, especially when they find themselves in the armed conflict. And today he reiterated that the peace enforcement operation enforcing peace on one of the parties which violated its own obligations would continue until we achieve the results.

() The responsibility to protect norm, as embraced by the UN General Assembly in the 2005 World Summit, does not provide a legitimate basis for Russia's military actions in Georgia, for a number of reasons.

In the first place, the primary ground stated for intervention "to protect Russian citizens" was not in fact an R2P rationale. The statement by Foreign Minister Lavrov blurs the distinction between the responsibilities of a state to protect its populations inside its borders, and the responsibilities that a state maintains for populations outside its borders. R2P is about the responsibility of a sovereign state to protect populations within its own borders, and of other states to assist it to do so, but also to take appropriate action if it is manifestly failing to do so; it does not address the question of an individual country taking direct action to protect its nationals located outside its own borders.

() A number of criteria are relevant here, and it is not clear that any of them were satisfied:

*Seriousness of threat. It is not at all clear whether "genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing or crimes against humanity" were being committed, or imminently about to be, by Georgia against South Ossetians. ()

*Primary purpose. While one purpose of the Russian military intervention may have been to protect South Ossetian civilians under attack, it is highly questionable whether that was the primary motive: others appear to have been to establish full Russian control over both South Ossetia and Abkhazia (in the latter of which there was not even claimed to be a threat of mass atrocity crimes); to dismantle Georgia's entire military capability; to scuttle its NATO ambitions; and to send a clear signal to other former parts of the Soviet Union as to what would and would not be tolerated by Moscow.

*Last Resort. While there is not always time in fast-moving situations to fully work through alternative strategies as distinct from making a reasonable judgment as to whether they would or would not likely be effective an immediate Security Council call for Georgia to cease its military action does not seem to have been out of reach and would have placed Tbilisi under great pressure to comply. ()

*Proportionality. The introduction of some 20,000 troops and 100 tanks not only into South Ossetia but also into Abkhazia and Georgia proper appears manifestly excessive. ()

*Balance of Consequences. This is very difficult to argue here on the present state of the evidence about refugee outflows and unrestrained reprisal actions by South Ossetian separatists against Georgians, quite apart from concerns about wider implications for regional and global stability.

() The Russia-Georgia case highlights the dangers and risks of states, whether individually or in a coalition, interpreting global norms unilaterally and launching military action without UN Security Council authorization. The sense of moral outrage at reports of civilians being killed and ethnically cleansed can have the unintended effect of clouding judgment on the best response, which is another reason to channel action collectively through the United Nations. The Russian references to similar action by other P5 members in other theatres may reinforce doubts about those other instances but does not justify the Russian actions in Georgia. Indeed they reinforce the dangers of vigilante justice across borders. (...)


Full Report:

Executive Summary and Recommendations:

2. Does a State Have the Right to Protect Its Citizens Abroad?
Georgian Daily
Natalie Wild
22 August 2008

There has been a huge amount of analysis, editorials, and speculation about the immediate and potential consequences of the Russia-Georgia conflict, not only for the two countries involved but for the world as we know it. () Russia had to resort to the use of force to fulfill its constitutional responsibility to protect its citizens who faced the threat of genocide. In an attempt to claim international legitimacy and the moral high ground, Russian leaders described the military operation against Georgia interchangeably as either a "peace enforcement operation" or "a humanitarian intervention."

As events unfolded and the Russian military extended its area of activities far beyond the zone of conflict or "the danger zone for its citizens" and attacked both military and civilian targets in Georgia proper, Russia's "humanitarian" arguments began to ring hollow. However, nobody seemed to be in any rush to remind Russia what responsibility to protect means under international law. ()

()The primary responsibility for the protection of its residents, including persons belonging to national minorities and those who hold multiple citizenship, lies with the state of residence. ()

Russia, therefore, may have a constitutionally declared responsibility to protect and support Russians abroad, but this does not in any way imply a right under international law to exercise jurisdiction over those persons on the territory of another state, and without that state's consent.

If a state is unable or unwilling to protect persons residing on its territory from mass murder and large-scale ethnic cleansing, then the protection of human life and dignity becomes the responsibility of the broader community of states. This is when the so-called humanitarian intervention, also known as the international responsibility to protect (R2P), may be considered.

(). For such intervention to be legitimate, however, certain conditions need to be met. These include the existence of undisputed evidence of crimes committed against the civilian population; international authorization for the use of multilateral force; the objective must be limited to preventing human suffering and protecting the population; and the use of force should not exceed that required to achieve the humanitarian objective. ()


II. Crisis in Burma

1. Training Eyes on the Junta: Interview with Brad Adams (Asia Director for Human Rights Watch)
The Irrawaddy
4 September 08

The following are Human Rights Watchs Brad Adams comments on the crisis in Burma and international reaction in R2P after Cyclone Nargis.

here was a lot of talk about R2P [Responsibility to Protect] at the time, which reflected the frustration of many in the international community. France was courageous to raise this. We [HRW] did not take a position on it, as R2P is based on genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity or ethnic cleansing, and we did not have clear evidence of this.

However, we agreed with the main point of the French, which was that the world could not stand by and watch large numbers of people die or suffer because of the malice of a government. We called for concrete action by the UN Security Council and Burmas friends, such as China, India and Thailand. What was really frustrating was the international discord over the R2P principles and the idea of international collective action to help people, which served as a diversion by those who didnt want any action at all, whatever the label. China and other states refused to support stronger diplomatic measures to open up humanitarian space inside Burma, just as they have failed to push the military government more on its atrocious human rights record.

Clearly the actions of the senior Burmese leadership have contributed to violations of international humanitarian law in conflict zones, and these include crimes against humanity. Human Rights Watch has documented this for years and we have called for an international commission of inquiry to look into this and make recommendations for action.


2. Will it be a Paper Tiger?
Asian Tribune
Prof. Kinbaza Win
26 August 2008

The following excerpt is taken from an essay by Professor Win on the deteriorating situation in Burma.

() R2P is not a new code for humanitarian intervention. Rather, it is built on a more positive and affirmative concept of sovereignty as responsibility -- a concept to be distinguished from its conceptual cousin, human security. The latter, who is broader, posits that policy should take into account the security of people, not just of States, across the whole range of possible threats. Besides this concept of responsibility to protect is more firmly anchored in current international law and adopted by the 2005 World Summit and was subsequently endorsed by both the General Assembly and Security Council. R2P was successfully tested for the first time earlier this year following the elections in Kenya. The combined efforts of the African Union, influential Member States, the United Nations and the esteemed predecessor, Kofi Annan, were instrumental in curbing the post-election violence. As the 2005 Summit recognized, there are times when persuasion and peaceful measures fall short. Then a big stick of military action becomes inevitable.
It is the Secretary Generals obligation that United Nations rules, procedures and practices are developed in line with this bold declaration. In other words, the responsibility to protect does not alter the legal obligation of Member States to refrain from the use of force except in conformity with the Charter. Rather, it reinforces this obligation. By bolstering United Nations prevention, protection, response and rebuilding mechanisms, R2P seeks to enhance the rule of law and expand multilateral options. We know that the United Nations was built on ideas, ideals and aspirations, not on quick fixes, sure things or cynical calculations. Burma has been tried for the last two decades and found it is wanting. But the people of Burma have, nevertheless, kept their faith in the UN because it never tires of trying to accomplish the impossible.
The successive humanitarian disasters in Somalia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda, Kosovo and now Darfur, Sudan, have concentrated attention not on the immunities of sovereign Governments but their responsibilities, both to their own people and to the wider international community.
There is a growing recognition that the issue is not the ight to intervene of any State, but the responsibility to protect of every State when it comes to people suffering from avoidable catastrophe mass murder and rape, ethnic cleansing by forcible expulsion and terror, and deliberate starvation and exposure to disease. And there is a growing acceptance that while sovereign Governments have the primary responsibility to protect their own citizens from such catastrophes, when they are unable or unwilling to do so that responsibility should be taken up by the wider international community with it spanning a continuum involving prevention, response to violence, if necessary, and rebuilding shattered societies. The primary focus should be on assisting the cessation of violence through mediation and other tools and the protection of people through such measures as the dispatch of humanitarian, human rights and police missions. Force, if it needs to be used, should be deployed as a last resort as it is clear in the case of Burma ().


III. R2P in the News

1. How AU Fails the Continents IDPs
Patrick Mutahi
Monitor Online
27 August 2007

In Chad, the number of internal refugees increased from 100,000 at the end of 2006 to nearly 180,000 a year later.

Continued fighting between the army, rebel groups and cross-border raids by Sudanese militias have all contributed to the increasing insecurity and forced more civilians to abandon their camps. Even in areas recovering from conflict, such as northern Uganda and Ivory Coast, durable solutions to internal displacement are still embryonic.

The 2005 UN World Summit Outcome Document titled Responsibility to Protect recognized the responsibility of the international community to intervene in cases where governments manifestly failed to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Although the concrete application of this responsibility to protect is still controversial, some progress has been made in strengthening the international protection regime for internal refugees and other conflict-affected civilians.

The UN Security Council set out a framework for action in Resolution 1674 (2006), and increasingly mandated peacekeeping operations to undertake activities in support of the protection of civilians. This is included in the AU-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur and the UN missions in the Central African Republic and Chad.

AU member states should also hasten the conclusion of the draft Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa. The coming to force, in 2008, of the Great Lakes Pact of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (IC/GLR) will go a long way in protecting internal refugees and refugees.


IV. Featured Events

1. DPI/NGO Conference holds panel discussion on 'Addressing Gross Human Rights Violations: Prevention and Accountability'
UN Department of Public Information
5 September 2008

The following event refers to the 61st Annual DPI/NGO conference which took place at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, 3-5 September, entitled eaffirming Human Rights for All: The Universal Declaration at 60. On September 5th, Jan Eliasson, former UN Secretary-General envoy to Darfur and William Pace, Executive Director, World Federalist Movement and Convener of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, spoke of the Responsibility to protect in a panel on justice, protection, empowerment and peace.

Program and more information:

"Addressing Gross Human Rights Violations: Prevention and Accountability" was the theme of this morning's fifth round-table discussion, held at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris on the last day of the sixty-first Department of Public Information (DPI)/Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Conference, convened to discuss human rights implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The panel, moderated by Fatou Bensouda, Deputy Prosecutor, International Criminal Court, with three other experts representing international organizations and NGOs, took questions from members of civil society.

() Speaking on the concept of the responsibility to protect, Jan Eliasson, former United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Darfur, said, as the former President of the General Assembly, he was proud to say he had been part of the creation of that concept. The responsibility to protect was not the same as that of collective humanitarian intervention, a concept that was floated in the 1990s, but which had never been adopted. Indeed, perhaps one reason that the concept of the responsibility to protect had been agreed by States was the fact that it actually reinforced State sovereignty, spelling out as it did that it was the primary responsibility of States to protect their citizens. The responsibility to protect, which in terms of international intervention implied the proper functioning of the Security Council, was crucial. While it was now a norm, it was still not international law. But in time it could become one. He suggested that, to that end, it should be printed out and placed in all Parliaments of the world.

Continuing on the responsibility to protect, William Pace, Executive Director, World Federalist Movement and Convener of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, noted that that concept of the responsibility to protect, which allowed the international community to intervene in cases of war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity, and the International Criminal Court, which held individuals responsible for those same crimes, were complementary. Both the Ottawa Convention, against the use of landmines, which had been negotiated outside the United Nations, and the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court, which had been negotiated by it, were instances of the movement in 1990s by the international community to address human security issues. The Court was a tremendous achievement in enforcing the international conventions on genocide, torture, and others. There were now 107 countries that were now States parties. It was a tribute to the shared work of civil society, working together with the United Nations. With the worsening global situation and the resurgence of militarism and unilateralism, both of those processes -- which had emerged out of the failure of the international community to prevent massive crimes against humanity, including genocide and war crimes in Rwanda and the Balkans -- had to be used. ()


2. The Responsibility to Protect: Meeting the Challenges
International Crisis Group
Gareth Evans
5 August 2008

Gareth Evans has been the co-president of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) and is now is president of the International Crisis Group. Below are some of his thoughts on the Responsibility to Protect from a lecture to 10th Asia Pacific Program for Senior Military Officers in Singapore on August 5.

Last year, at the height of the Burma/Myanmar regime's suppression of its protesting monks, a well-known Chinese professor from Shanghai was asked by an American newspaper for his reaction. His quoted reply, in two stark sentences, was: hina has used tanks to kill people on Tiananmen Square. It is Myanmar's sovereign right to kill their own people, too.''

At the 2000 Millennium General Assembly, Kofi Annan put the problem in the clearest of terms: If humanitarian intervention is indeed an unacceptable assault on sovereignty, how should we respond to a Rwanda, to a Srebrenica, to gross and systematic violations of human rights that offend every precept of our common humanity?

It was in response to this challenge that the concept of the responsibility to protect was born. The core idea of the responsibility to protect is very simple. Turn the notion of right to intervene upside down. Talk not about the right of big states to do anything but the responsibility of all states to protect their own people from atrocity crimes, and to help others to do so. ()But don't stop there. Make it absolutely clear that if states do not or cannot meet the responsibility to protect their own people, it then falls to the wider international community to act. Focus not on the notion of intervention but of protection; look at the whole issue from the perspective of the victims and look at the responsibility in question as being above all a responsibility to prevent, with the question of reaction arising only if prevention has failed.And accept coercive military intervention only as an absolute last resort.

The extraordinary thing is that governments did take notice of the R2P idea. Within four years, a mere blink of an eye in the history of ideas, a phrase that nobody had heard of had won unanimous endorsement by the more than 150 heads of state and government meeting as the UN General Assembly at the 2005 World Summit.

()But there are still three big challenges that need to be addressed if R2P is to have complete reflex international acceptance in principle and if it is to be given practical operational effect.
The first challenge is to ensure that the scope and limits of the responsibility to protect are fully and completely understood in a way that is clearly not the case now. In particular, it is to ensure that R2P is seen not as a Trojan horse for bad old imperial, colonial and militarist habits but rather the best starting point the international community has in preventing and responding to genocide and other mass-atrocity crimes.

The second challenge is institutional preparedness to build the kind of capacity within international institutions, governments and regional organizations that will ensure that, assuming that there is an understanding of the need to act, there will be the physical capability to do so.

The third challenge is political preparedness, how to generate that indispensable ingredient of will; how to have in place the mechanisms and strategies necessary to generate an effective political response as new R2P situations arise. ()

See full speech at:

III. Related Reports

1. Conference Report: Implementing the Responsibility to Protect
Hamid Ashan
Wilton Park Organization
13 July 2008

This past 11-13 July, Wilton Park hosted a conference on mplementing the Responsibility to Protect: The Role of Regional and Subregional Partners. The full conference report, which can be found here, includes the following findings:
As a general rule, the operationalisation of RtoP will rely on how successfully political will is mobilised;
Although the third pillar (response) should not be neglected, it is important to achieve the right balance between the three pillars (response, protect and assistance);
Maybe there is an over-emphasis on the state-centric approach - civil society organisations and the private sector may become more important actors;
Involvement, coherence and identity: it is important to mainstream RtoP within international and regional organisations so it becomes part of standard operating procedures;
There is a need to work on defining and expanding preventive activities;
There is some general iscomfort with the concept within the humanitarian community and how it may impinge or impact on humanitarian work;
Political leadership that mobilises action, allied to civil society organisations to generate interest and create pressure, collectively serves to energise capabilities and capacity;
There is a need to find better ways of coping with inconsistent application of the principle of RtoP taking into account what is politically feasible and materially achievable in any given situation;
The international community should retain the present three-pillar definition used in paragraphs 138/139 of the World Summit Outcome Document (and then elaborated by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a speech in Berlin on 15 July 2008, following the Wilton Park meeting).
Full Report:

Thanks to Emily Cody for compiling this listserv.


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