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The People vs. The State

Reflections on UN Authority, US Power and the Responsibility to Protect

image of The People vs. The State
Responsibility to Protect (R2P) aims to convert international conscience into timely and decisive collective action to rescue vulnerable communities. The choice is not whether international interventions will take place but where, when, how and under whose authority. Given the nature and victims of modern armed conflict, protection of civilians and populations at risk of mass atrocities is a core United Nations imperative. But while the UN has international authority, it lacks military power. Although its military might well have unmatched global reach, the United States acting unilaterally lacks international authority. This publication argues that progress towards good international society requires that force be harnessed to authority as the R2P moves from a universally validated principle to a routinely actionable norm.

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When to intervene: Collective might in service

The Responsibility to Protect, the report by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, was presented to UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan in New York on 18 December. ICISS was set up by Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy and fully supported by his successor, John Manley, in response to Annan’s challenge to forge a new consensus on the competing principles of international humanitarian concerns and national sovereignty. ICISS members were carefully chosen to reflect a range of geographic, political and professional backgrounds. The work over the past year took us to all continents and most major capitals to hear and reflect on different streams of international opinion.

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