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.




From the opening articles on the intervention in Kosovo by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1999, to the concluding articles on the Arab Spring and the authorization of military action in Libya by the UN Security Council, this book deals with the changing norms and laws regulating the international use of force. At the heart of those changes is the principle of the responsibility to protect, commonly known as R2P, first articulated by the Canadian-sponsored but independent International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS). Between December 2001 when ICISS first published its report with the title The Responsibility to Protect, through the unanimous endorsement of R2P by the largest gathering of world leaders in history at the United Nations in October 2005, to the first military action to implement it in Libya in March 2011, the principle has moved to an actionable norm in the blink of a historical eye.


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