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.



A tale of two norms

In late 2008, one of the authors of R2P accosted me in the quadrangle of Magdalen College, Oxford, during an alumni dinner. He was clearly displeased that some were suggesting that R2P was not a norm of international law but merely a “principle” or an “emerging norm”. He was not at all happy that the genuinely impressive normative work done by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) in general and himself and the other lead drafters might not yet have the status of a norm even after its unanimous adoption by the World Summit in 2005. I doubt that he was also reacting to the rising star of Protection of Civilians (POC) which was also being promoted by the Australian government, which many countries feel more comfortable in advocating and which the UN Security Council has used much more.


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