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.



The responsibility to protect and the protection of civilians in armed conflict: Overlap and contrast

This chapter investigates the overlap and contrast between the responsibility to protect (R2P) and the protection of civilians (POC), keeping in mind the different versions of these principles detailed in the preceding two chapters: the three pillars of R2P and the four POC concepts. Section 3.1 affirms two widely acknowledged differences between R2P and POC – R2P’s narrow scope and deep response – before section 3.2 outlines two important similarities between them: their shared basis in human rights and the cross-cutting parallels between R2P pillars and POC concepts. Section 3.3 turns to more controversial terrain. It argues that the alleged limitation of POC to “armed conflict” is far less significant than commonly supposed and that POC’s status as a humanitarian principle – with primary concerns for impartiality and neutrality – is not fully applicable to all POC concepts. Subsection 3.3.3 applies Abbott and Snidal’s analytic categorization of soft laws to R2P and POC, illustrating the similarities and differences between each of the principles. Section 3.4 assesses the usefulness of differentiating peacekeeping operations (PKOs) on the basis of R2P and POC, and advances one model of how this may be done.


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