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Norms of Protection

Responsibility to Protect, Protection of Civilians and their Interaction

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A series of humanitarian tragedies in the 1990s (Somalia, Rwanda, Srebrenica, Kosovo) demonstrated the failure of the international community to protect civilians in the context of complex emergencies. These brought to life two norms of protection – Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and Protection of Civilians (POC) – both deeply rooted in the empathy that human beings have for the suffering of innocent people. Both norms raise concerns of misinterpretation and misuse. They are developing – sometimes in parallel, sometimes diverging and sometimes converging – with varying degrees of institutionalization and acceptance. This book engages in a profound comparative analysis of the norms and aims to serve policy-makers at various levels; practitioners with protective roles; academics and researchers; civil society and R2P and POC advocates.

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Framing a protection service

The United Nations has recognized that the plight of civilians is fundamental to its mandate (UNSG, 1999: paras. 67, 68). While protecting civilians has been an aim of UN peacekeeping operations for over a decade, the organization has not always succeeded in achieving this goal. Civilians are still under threat in places such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where UN peacekeeping operations are currently deployed (UNSC, 2010). While governments honoured their responsibility to protect civilians in Libya and Côte d’Ivoire, calls for the international community to stop mass atrocity crimes in Sri Lanka (Egeland et al., 2009), Syria (Stack and MacFarquhar, 2012) and elsewhere have fallen on deaf ears.

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