Print version

The Responsibility to Protect at Ten: Glass Half Empty or Half Full?


Far from having faded away, ten years after its formal adoption, the responsibility to protect (R2P), is arguably more relevant than ever. In the current overall context of protection crises, heightened in severity by the emergence of violent extremists, R2P has changed the way in which the international community characterises situations that involve protection failures, and has raised expectations about what should occur when atrocity crimes have been committed or are imminent. UN member states now agree that prevention is at the core of R2P, that international action should employ the full range of diplomatic, political and humanitarian measures, and that military force should only be considered as a measure of last resort. While there is continued contestation about particular aspects of R2P – as there is over much older normative advancements, such as human rights – R2P has helped to forge political consensus and build new institutional capacity to prevent and respond to atrocity crimes.
Keywords: R2P; humanitarian intervention; mass atrocity crimes; sovereignty