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The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in Humanitarian Emergencies: From Libya to North Korea?
Shin-wha Lee, East Asia Institute
May 2012
This working paper, “The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in Humanitarian Emergencies: From Libya to North Korea?”, was published by the East Asia Institute’s Asia Security Initiative.
(…) This working paper first reviews international responses to complex emergencies, with particular emphasis on multidimensional UN peacekeeping and humanitarian intervention. Second, the development of the concept and debates of the R2P will be discussed, which will be followed by the limitations and controversies related to the notions and practices of the R2P. Third, the possibility of the R2P applied to both internationally endorsed R2P crimes and “non-R2P” crimes will be examined with a number of case studies: Cambodia, Darfur, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Libya, and Syria as R2P-delineated crimes; and Myanmar, Somalia, and Zimbabwe as non-R2P cases. Through these case studies, we can evaluate the possibility and validity of expanding the scope of the R2P and find the practical implications for the case of North Korea. It seems unfortunately improbable that the UN member states will apply the R2P to North Korea, not only in its current situation, but even if the people of the country were to face a situation like that of Libya and Syria, because China and Russia, both permanent members of the UN Security Council, will veto any military intervention against North Korea.
In brief, the initial assumption of this paper is that considering the difficulty in turning the R2P from words to deeds, it is practical to limit the R2P’s scope to four crimes. However, the narrowly described R2P also limits its potential to prevent, protect, or react to complex humanitarian emergencies, even for cases such as North Korea, where human rights violations and humanitarian challenges are among the most dreadful in the world. Therefore, it is ultimately beneficial to explore ways to expand the scope of the R2P in a way that does not undermine its applicability in the real world.

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