The Responsibility to Protect


Responsibility to Protect: Core Principles

1. Basic Principles

a. State Sovereignty implies responsibility, and the primary responsibility for the protection of its people lies within the state itself
b. Where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling of unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect.

2. Foundations

The foundations of the responsibility to protect, as a guiding principle for the international community of states, lie in:

a. Obligations inherent in the concept of sovereignty
b. The responsibility of the Security Council, under Article 24 of the UN Charter, for the maintenance of international peace and security
c. Specific legal obligations under human rights and human protection declarations, covenants and treaties, international humanitarian law and national law
d. The developing practice of states, regional organization and the Security Council itself

3. Elements

The responsibility to protect embraces three specific responsibilities

a. The Responsibility to Prevent: to address both the root causes and direct causes of international conflict and other man-made crises putting populations at risk
b. The Responsibility to React: to respond to situations of compelling human need with appropriate measures, which may include coercive measures like sanctions and international prosecution, and in extreme cases military intervention
c. The Responsibility to Rebuild: to provide, particularly after a military intervention, full assistance with recovery, reconstruction and reconciliation, addressing the causes of the harm the intervention was designed to halt or avert.

4. Priorities

a. Prevention is the single most important dimension of the responsibility to protect: prevention options should always be exhausted before intervention is contemplated, and more commitment and resources must be devoted to it
b. The exercise of the responsibility to both prevent and react should always involve less intrusive and coercive measures

The Responsibility to Protect: Principles for Military Intervention

1. The Just Cause Thresholds

a. Large Scale loss of life
b. Large scale ethnic cleansing

2. The Precautionary Principles

a. Right Intention
b. Last resort
c. Proportional means
d. Reasonable prospects

3. Right Authority

4. Operational Principles


United Nations, The Responsibility to Protect, Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, December 2001

Gareth Evans, "When Nations Kill their Own", The Christian Science Monitor, 10 October 2008

Neil MacFarquhar, "When to Step In to Stop War Crimes Causes Fissures," New York Times, July 22, 2009