The Politics of Responsibility to Protect

TitleThe Politics of Responsibility to Protect
Publication TypeBook
Subtitle / Series TitleFES Dialogue on Globalization Briefing Paper
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsSaxer, M
VolumeN° 2
Number of Pages8 pp.
PublisherFriedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)
Accession Number1074

The intricate process that led up to the appointment of a UN Special Adviser on R2P sheds a light on the political landscape surrounding the concept. Marc Saxer analyses the political environment and the strategies of the main actors in the struggle over this emerging norm. He points out some shortcomings of the concept and offers policy options to move the agenda. Saxer argues that it will be crucial to find a broad international consensus how to tackle mass atrocities in internal conflicts in order to overcome ideological debates that repeatedly block political decision making in cases where timely action is needed.The astonishing career of R2P in the international normative arena underlines the potential of the concept to overcome North South divides over the crucial question how to address mass atrocities in internal violent conflicts.
However the diplomatic struggle over the concept, and more recently, over the appointment of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, show that R2P still faces significant resistance that cannot be explained by misunderstandings or a lack of information.
It will be crucial to reach out to those who make legitimate claims, and to avoid giving ammunition to those who want to chip away the norm only to stay clear of being targeted for their own misdeeds. In order to address legitimate fears of "Trojans" and "Westphalians", the safeguards against abuse of the concept need to be streng-thened. In order to avoid a rollback, it will be crucial to keep the scope of R2P strictly limited to the internationally accepted cases of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
With this combination of a comprehensive approach and a limited scope in the most controversial question of the use of force, R2P is a good starting point to build a global consensus on how to tackle mass atrocities occurring in internal conflicts. This consensus is much needed to overcome ideological debates (beyond geopolitical interests) that repeatedly block political decision making in cases where timely action is needed. A broad consensus on how to deal with questions such as violent internal conflict, sovereignty, the use of force and large scale human rights violations will be crucial for the functioning of a multilateral system.
Policy makers, academics and experts in the UN Secretariat and those affiliated with the Global Center on R2P have clearly understood these necessities. Now it would be wise for those who truly support a human rights agenda to join this coalition to build the norm of Responsibility to Protect.

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