At the 2005 World Summit, the United Nations General Assembly unambiguously recognized a collective international responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. Each State has the responsibility to protect their population from these four egregious crimes and the international community, through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to protect these same populations. The recognition of a positive obligation inherent in the concept of sovereignty represents a substantial leap forward in international law.
The implications of this esponsibility to protect (2P) remain controversial and the future of the concept remains uncertain. This paper addresses the potential operational substance and application of R2P on the ground. This paper does not address the distinct issue of criteria for humanitarian intervention. Distinction between these two concepts is critical to an understanding of the potential impact of R2P. There are a number of measures short of military intervention that are less controversial and are directly implicated by the recognition of a collective R2P.
The debate surrounding the limits of, and criteria for, military intervention in the affairs of a sovereign State to prevent mass atrocities in the context of R2P can and should continue. Meanwhile incidents of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity can be greatly diminished by operational application of R2P through domestic and international humanitarian actors who can provide early warning, risk analysis, technical assistance and capacity building, as well as international protection through asylum and other measures designed to prevent victimization.
There may be no easier way for the international community to meet its responsibility to protect than by providing asylum and other international protection on adequate terms. A related concern is for states to take effective measures to ensure the protection of internally displaced persons who are often victim to R2P-related crimes. This paper seeks to identify some of the preventive, responsive and rehabilitative measures that are implicated by R2P with a focus on diplomatic, humanitarian, and other peaceful means.