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.



Operationalizing the “responsibility to protect”

No idea has moved faster in the international normative arena than the “responsibility to protect” (R2P), the title of the 2001 report issued by the Canadian-sponsored but independent international commission. When UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued his famous “challenge of humanitarian intervention” in September 1999, he provoked such a furious backlash from so many countries that some wondered about his future in the United Nations. Yet a mere six years later, the norm was endorsed by the world leaders gathered at the United Nations. Annan called it one of his most precious achievements.


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