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The UN Security Council and the Responsibility to Protect: Policy, Process, and Practice

International Peace Institute
16 March 2011

The International Peace Institute (IPI) and the Diplomatic Academy Vienna have put together the first comprehensive analysis of the role of the UN Security Council in the ongoing process of implementing the responsibility to protect (RtoP). This most recent journal issue prepared by IPI and the Diplomatic Academy Vienna features contributions by senior policymakers and experts who participated in a conference co-hosted by the government of Austria, IPI, the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, and the National Defence Academy in Vienna.

Contributions by Gareth Evans, Edward C. Luck, Susan Rice, Terje Rød-Larsen, Michael Spindelegger, and others in this publication provide an in-depth analysis of the policy, process, and practice of the UN Security Council in protecting populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. The launch of this collection of essays occurs shortly after the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1970(2011) on February 26, 2011 on the situation in Libya, which recalls the responsibility of the government to protect its population and thus echoes paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document on RtoP.

This collection of essays demonstrates that the Security Council’s role in implementing the responsibility to protect is not limited to taking collective action against mass atrocities (pillar three of RtoP). The publication shows that the Council can also make important contributions to encouraging and helping states exercise their responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity (pillar two of of RtoP). By mandating UN peace operations to support security and justice sector reforms, the Security Council fosters national protection capabilities in states emerging from conflict, which typically face a high risk of relapse into mass violence. When the Security Council mandates peace operations to support the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former combatants it also strengthens the fabric of a postconflict society. By pursuing early engagement and preventive diplomacy the Security Council can encourage governments to address concerns and to mitigate risks before mass atrocities materialize.

The Security Council’s multifaceted contributions to the implementation of the responsibility to protect complement the important roles of the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, the Peacebuilding Commission, the Secretary-General, and other UN organs. The contributions of the Security Council to the implementation of the responsibility to protect have to occur within the scope of the authority granted to the Security Council by the UN Charter.

The publication was prepared by Christoph Mikulaschek, Senior Policy Analyst at IPI, and Hans Winkler, the director of the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, which publishes the Favorita Paper journal.

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