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Civil Society Reflects on Challenges for RtoP Post-Libya
ICRtoP feature report
28 February 2012
Between 17 February and 17 March 2011, the international community faced actual and threatened mass atrocities in Libya as the regime of Muammar Gaddafi failed to uphold its responsibility to protect (RtoP) civilians from crimes against humanity and war crimes. Civil society organizations from around the world were the first to label Libya an RtoP situation, and urged for decisive action to protect civilians.

To read the full feature report, see here.

(…) Triggered by the operation in Libya, the concerns over the manner in which the use of force is implemented to protect civilians will certainly continue to shape RtoP, both in the context of the debate surrounding the norm and the manner in which it is employed to respond to given country specific-situations like Syria.

To better understand the challenges posed for RtoP, we asked a few ICRtoP Member organizations from throughout the world to reflect and provide insight on the following questions:
• Was the UN-mandated, NATO-led operation in Libya a step forward or a setback for the norm? What implications - positive and/or negative - does the Libya operation carry for RtoP moving forward?
• What are the responsibilities of the international community as Libya transitions into the post-Gaddafi era? Despite the ending of the NATO mandate in Libya today, should the international community continue to play a role in civilian protection?
• Through an RtoP lens, what lessons can be learned from Libya for future cases where international action - whether non-coercive or coercive - is necessary to protect civilians?

The enlightening responses we received drew on the individual expertise of these ICRtoP Members, and brought in unique regional perspectives as well. We encourage you to read these civil society reflections on RtoP post-Libya:

Excerpt from the response from Rachel Gerber, Program Officer at The Stanley Foundation:

In terms of long-term norm development, how the international community addresses these questions will likely prove much more important than the operation that raised them. If this moment is seized as one to proactively consider the Libya experience and debate means and methods in a way that builds consensus and refines understanding of RtoP practice and application, it has the potential to be mobilized as a significant leap forward for the concept. If these areas of contention are left unaddressed, they are likely to fester, becoming further entrenched and potentially debilitating for RtoP.
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Excerpt from the response crafted by Gus Miclat, Executive Director of Initiatives for International Dialogues:

The international community must ensure the democratic transition and transformation of Libya by seeing to it that all domestic actors - including those in the previous regime- are assured of their rights to participate in this transformation.  Initially, the rule of law must be paramount; it should clearly assure the civilians - including those again who are supporters of the ousted regime - are protected from violent reprisals, kangaroo trials and the like. It should also ensure that those who perpetrated crimes- including those of the victorious militias and former rebels- are.
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Excerpt of the response from Jillian Siskind, President of Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights:

First, it is questionable whether the protection of civilians was the foremost concern of NATO, which appeared focused on regime change.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it demonstrated a real risk with a military intervention without civil society support or a civilian plan to allow for a safer society once the hostilities were over.
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Excerpt of the response written by Sarah Teitt, Outreach Director and China Programme Coordinator for the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect:

The lasting impact on the normative development of RtoP can only be positive if the UN faces head on the critiques of the intervention--whether it was too hasty (what evidence is needed to establish credible threat of atrocities), whether NATO's action exceeded the UN mandate (how should the Security Council oversee its protection mandates to ensure that they are not a pretext for regime change), and whether there were grave breaches of international humanitarian law on both sides.
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Excerpt from Assessing Libya, by Dr. Robert Zuber of Global Action to Prevent War and Armed Conflict:

To our mind, the mission evolved in ways that were somewhat expedient for the implementing powers but that did not elevate confidence that the international system yet has what it takes to provide even-handed, mandate-driven, last-resort responses to the threat of mass atrocities.
Read more.

For our analysis on the impact of action in Libya on RtoP, please see the ICRtoP educational tool on the international response to the crisis.  

For a full overview of the situation in Libya, please see our Libya Crisis Page, which includes a list of civil society statements on RtoP in the context of the situation in Libya, as well as the debate surrounding the intervention.

To read the full feature report, see here.


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