Reflections on the Responsibility to Protect at 10, Part II and III: A Norm for Our Times
The following are excerpts from the first entry in ICRtoP’s new ongoing ‘RtoP at 10′ blog series. The series invites civil society and academic experts to examine critical country cases, international/regional perspectives, and thematic issues that have been influential in the development of the norm over the past 10 years, and that will have a lasting impact going forth into the next decade.
Below are the second and third parts of a three part introduction courtesy of Dr. Alex Bellamy, Executive Director of the Asia Pacific Center for the Responsibility to Protect. Read Part One here.
After a somewhat laconic start, the institutional development of RtoP gathered pace after the UN Secretary-General’s first on the subject, outlining his plan for implementation in 2009. Within the UN, there is now a Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on RtoP and a “” covering RtoP and genocide prevention. The Secretary-General has issued six thematic reports on different aspects of the principle’s implementation and these have been debated by the General Assembly through a series of “informal and interactive dialogues”, in which around 150 states have participated (see all thematic reports ). The mainstreaming of RtoP through the UN system is being gradually achieved through initiatives such as the Secretary-General’s “Human Rights Up Front” Action Plan, which aims to place human rights protection at the center of the organization’s work, the proliferation of peacekeeping missions mandated to protect civilians in regions afflicted by atrocities, and the instigation of “due diligence” policies, which aim to limit cooperation between the UN and those accused of atrocity crimes or other violations. (...)
In its first decade, the progress of RtoP was judged mainly on its normative and institutional development. In its second decade RtoP will be judged on the difference it makes to people’s lives.
There are a number of reasons why this is a much more difficult challenge, among them the political complications that arise when states disagree about their priorities and the nature of the crises they confront. These challenges are compounded by the often quite limited influence that outsiders have on the conflicts that give rise to genocide and mass atrocities. Although concerted international action can sometimes prevent mass atrocities, the so-called “structural” or “root” causes of genocide and mass atrocities are often deeply ingrained in societies, economies and national institutions. Whilst outsiders can play important enabling and facilitative roles, foreign assistance cannot by itself achieve structural change except through massive interventions that are rarely contemplated. Well-targeted programs can sometimes support local sources of resilience but cannot manufacture it out of thin air. At the later stages of a crisis, international actors can use punishments and incentives to persuade armed actors to refrain from committing atrocities, deploy peacekeepers to provide physical protection, provide humanitarian assistance and negotiate respites in the violence. These efforts can reduce violence and protect sections of the community but they will always struggle to provide comprehensive protection. (…)
Read the rest of Part III here.