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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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Protection and punishment

December 9 and 10 marked the anniversaries of the Genocide Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Both were an acknowledgment of the dark side of European history and embodied the determination to ban vices that had been let loose with terrible consequences by Westerners. Both the vices and the values they offended are universal, not characteristic of any particular civilization or culture but inherent to human nature.

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