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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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Responsibility to protect is universal

The challenge of humanitarian intervention in conflicts, as former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan originally framed it, saw a bitter divide split Western from developing countries. When the Canadian-sponsored independent international commission held a regional meeting in New Delhi in June 2001, only the protocol officer from the External Affairs Ministry attended the reception hosted by the Swiss ambassador. India’s opposition was that strong.

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