??The ‘Responsibility to Protect’ principle wasn’t born out of the blue.The idea of involvement of the international community to avoid greater massacres has always existed, albeit under different names. Humanitarian intervention can be viewed as the predecessor concept, which entails its own century worth of debates. However, The genocide in Rwanda and the ethnic cleansing in Balkans permanently left a bloody stain on mankind’s history and there was a greater need now more than ever to make the ‘never again’ call meaningful while keeping in mind the conflicts of legal principles and political commitments. The concept of humanitarian intervention was soon replaced by the Responsibility to Protect, also known as the R2P. The R2P is more of a customary law and can be viewed as a ‘conceptual framework’ within which to consider intervention for prevention. It could be argued that human beings are as subject to international law as States were and therefore deserved its protection.
The R2P was first conceived in 2001 in a report published by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), a commission that was set up by the Canadian Government as a response to the then UN Security-General’s address (1999) to member states. The address urged member states to untangle the fine threads between the principle of non-interference owing to State sovereignty and the responsibility of the by standing international community upon witnessing mass violations of human rights. The report addressed many issues as follows:
Reconceptualising the debate of actions of the international community.??Firstly, it was provided that the international community will not engage in ‘humanitarian intervention’ but rather a broader concept of a ‘responsibility to protect’ nations at risk of failure and violence. Secondly, primary responsibility of prevention was attributed to the sovereign government of the nation. Only if this responsibility was not executed would the international community intervene. Thirdly, there was a call for newer rules to be developed to ascertain to a maximum amount that such an intervention has the most probable chance of success.???
Addressing the elephant in the room regarding military intervention through 5 criteria of legitimacy.??Firstly, the threatened harm must be serious but were limited to genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity or ethnic cleansing. Secondly, the primary objective of the intervention must be to half the threatened harm. Thirdly, military action must be used only as a measure of last resort. Fourthly, the intended military action must be proportionate to the threat. Lastly, the adverse consequences of military action must be less than the consequences of inaction. ?
Providing a conceptual framework with 3 primary forms of responsibility.??The three forms of responsibility included responsibility to prevent, responsibility to react and the responsibility to rebuild. The responsibility to prevent stated that all possible measures and strategies such as good governance, human rights, developmental assistance, etc must be followed to ensure that there has been maximum effort taken to prevent any such mass threatening harms. The responsibility to react states that the international community, in all its capacity of exercising a preventive role, should avoid the usage non-force methods and instead opt for strategies such as economic sanctions. Lastly, the responsibility to rebuild states that once the threatened harm has been defused through whichever means used, the international community should engage in developmental initiatives such as peacekeeping, social or economic aid, etc. However, the crux of the matter was that the R2P is best practiced through prevention. ?
A few years after the ICISS report was published it received endorsements and recommendations from the Security-General’s High Level Panel (HLP) on Threats, Challenges and Change. It was found that the Charter encouraged the faith of human rights but lacked the means to protect them. The Security-General recommended the report to be adopted in the World Leaders Summit in 2005, however there were a lot of negotiations lasting from six months to a week prior the summit, resulting in dilution of the adopted resolution from the original ICISS report. The negotiations were instigated due to some States conflicting each other regarding the stance of support on intervention when faced with genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity or ethnic cleansing. While some States were of the view that the international community is entitles to intervene when a State is faced with mass atrocities, others were of the view that ‘the Security-General was legally prohibited from authorising coercive action against sovereign nations for activities within their borders.’