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.



Peacekeeping, civilian protection mandates and the responsibility to protect

The idea that the United Nations, acting through the Security Council, should intervene when civilian lives are threatened or being violated came about in the late 1990s as a result of independent inquiries into the failure to prevent mass atrocity crimes in Rwanda and Srebrenica. This idea spawned a two-pronged response within the UN. First, the responsibility to protect (R2P) concept emerged in 2001 from the report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS, 2001). The concept has since then been variably embraced by UN documents (UN High-Level Panel, 2004: 66; UNSG, 2005: para. 135), and was contained in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document (WSOD), in which world leaders, albeit restrictively, affirmed their commitment to the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and war crimes (UNGA, 2005: paras. 138–139). Much of the discussion about the concept still remains largely as a policy agenda (UNGA, 2009b; Bellamy, 2010: 158, 166), posing challenges to the operationalization of the concept in practice.


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