The Responsibility to Protect

While reading for an essay on the changes in reporting of humanitarian crises, I came across a very interesting extract in The Media and the Rwanda Genocide (ed. Allan Thompson). It reads:

“The Canadian-inspired doctrine called The Responsibility to Protect (ICISS 2011) was formally adopted by the United Nations in September 2005. The doctrine was set out in the December 2001 report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. It overturns the notion of absolute national sovereignty when it come to massive violations of human rights and genocide, marking the first time that state sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs have been qualified. In effect, the UN declaration enshrines in international law the notion that the world community has a right to intervene – a responsibility to protect – to stop a government from massive violation of the human rights of its citizens.”

This, of course, led me to think about the current situation in Syria and how even after months and months of the Syrian government violating the human rights of its citizens, the international community is doing very little to put an end to the bloodshed. Granted, the Red Cross has made many attempts to deliver humanitarian assistance but government leaders have made no attempts to intervene, and are certainly not living up to their ‘responsibility to protect’. I know there are complications, particularly concerning the involvement of Russia and China. But in cases such as this, where the systematic killing of civilians has drawn parallels with the Srebrenica massacre during the Bosnian War, should the wording of this UN declaration be changed so that the world community not only has a right but a duty to intervene?

Featured image courtesy of DfID


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