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About this book

From Kosovo to Libya, humanitarian intervention is seldom out of the news. While the 'Responsibility to Protect' (R2P) has often been at the centre of these debates, its effectiveness as a means of preventing and resolving mass atrocities is disputed.

The book provides a systematic overview of the theory and practice of R2P, and examines how the doctrine has been interpreted and implemented since it was first conceived. Aidan Hehir argues that, while it has undeniably raised international consciousness regarding humanitarian intervention, R2P has not significantly improved the international response to large-scale intra-state crises.

Hehir advances an alternative strategy involving a strengthening of international law – based around obligations rather than discretionary rights – and major structural reform to the United Nations. Broad-ranging and insightful, this innovative text provides a clear grasp of the key issues and debates surrounding humanitarian intervention and advances a major new critique of R2P.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Rhetoric and Reality

Chapter 1. Introduction: Rhetoric and Reality

Abstract
On 17 December 2010 Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old-street vendor, set himself alight outside the governor’s office in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia. Bouazizi, who later died from his injuries, sought to draw attention to his government’s corruption and mismanagement. Within weeks, a wave of protests swept across North Africa and the Middle East leading to the removal of the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. While many leaders sought to preempt the protestors by initiating democratic reforms, others were less conciliatory. The subsequent violence which erupted in Libya, Bahrain, Syria and Yemen, pitted unelected governments and their powerful military against pro-democracy protestors. These images of violence reinvigorated the debate on humanitarian intervention. While this debate continues to rage, two things are clear: first, that humanitarian intervention remains a pertinent and emotive issue. Second, that there is still much that needs to be done to improve the international community’s response to intra-state crises.
Aidan Hehir

The Responsibility to Protect: Sound and Fury …?

Frontmatter

Chapter 2. The Evolution of the Responsibility to Protect

Abstract
Though it is obviously necessary to provide some historical background on the evolution of R2P, this is not the primary intention of this chapter. There are myriad books and articles which provide a detailed historical narrative of this evolution (see for example, Bellamy, 2009; Weiss, 2007a). Rather, this chapter traces the evolution of R2P as a concept in international politics — that is, as a concept with an agreed meaning amongst states — highlighting a number of key junctures and their effect on the meaning of the term. As Alex Bellamy notes, R2P has ‘changed in important respects from the way it was originally conceived by the ICISS’ (2009, p. 195) and it is necessary, therefore, to identify the key moments when changes occurred, and to evaluate these changes. The aim here is to identify the original impetus for the emergence of the concept and, more importantly, the nature of R2P as it exists today and how the concept has failed to evolve into a significant influence on the behaviour of states. This chapter serves, therefore, as the foundation for Chapters 3, 4 and 5 which explore in depth the key characteristics of the contemporary manifestation of R2P.
Aidan Hehir

Chapter 3. The Responsibility to Protect, Authority and International Law

Abstract
Chapter 2 charted the evolution of R2P, stressing and analysing the impact of five key junctures — the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the 1999 intervention in Kosovo, the 2001 ICISS report, the 2005 World Summit and the 2009 General Assembly debate — thereby establishing the contemporary tenets of the concept. This chapter focuses on one particular aspect of R2P, namely its legal status.
Aidan Hehir

Chapter 4. The Responsibility to Prevent: The Last Refuge of the Unimaginative?

Abstract
Today R2P is increasingly championed as primarily concerned with prevention. Indeed, according to Thomas Weiss, prior to the intervention in Libya, supporters of R2P orientated the debate in such a way that there was a ‘virtually exclusive emphasis on prevention’ (2011, p. 1). While this does not constitute a totally illogical focus on an unrelated issue, this chapter argues that this new direction for, if not reinvention of, the concept is a dereliction of the concept’s original raison d’être. As noted in the first sentence of the 2001 ICISS report the origins of R2P stem from the debate surrounding the issue of militarily responding to, rather than holistically preventing, intra-state crises:
This report is about the so-called right of ‘humanitarian intervention’: the question of when, if ever, it is appropriate for states to take coercive — and in particular military — action, against another state for the purpose of protecting people at risk in that other state. (ICISS, 2001a, p. vii)
The increased emphasis on prevention is, I argue, indicative of R2P’s failure, as detailed in the previous chapter, to affect change in the laws, procedures and institutions regulating the response of the international community.
Aidan Hehir

Chapter 5. Political Will and Non-Intervention

Abstract
To a striking extent, advocates of R2P have come to predicate its entire utility on changing the disposition of statesmen by pressurizing them into doing the right thing. R2P emerged at a time when the laws and institutions governing and regulating the use of force had lost credibility and there was a general mood amenable to the idea of reform. Rather than building on this widespread acceptance that the system required change, R2P has adopted a strategy which has ignored systemic reform in favour of moral advocacy. This strategy requires a focus on altering the collective political will and the humanitarian impulses of world leaders. In the words of the Global Centre for R2P the challenge is to create sufficient momentum to generate the ‘will and imagination that will make mass atrocities a thing of the past’ (2009a). This is quite obviously an extremely ambitious and onerous task. In this chapter, I argue that we must have reservations about R2P if it is this heavily dependent on something as transitory as political will and the disposition of statesmen.
Aidan Hehir

Beyond R2P

Frontmatter

Chapter 6. In Defence of Humanitarian Intervention and the Potential of International Law

Abstract
R2P has come to dominate the discourse on humanitarian intervention and today serves as a unifying concept for those eager to ‘do something’ in response to intra-state atrocities. Advocates of humanitarian intervention now invariably champion R2P, though the category ‘R2P supporters’ is undeniably broad and heterogeneous. It almost seems, nonetheless, that if one is in favour of humanitarian intervention one must support R2P, whatever reservations one may hold about the idea. The fact that people with often conflicting perspectives find reasons for aligning with R2P is illustrative of the concept’s virtual monopoly as the pro-intervention framework and evidence of R2P’s dramatic ascendency.
Aidan Hehir

Chapter 7. Understanding the Tension between Sovereignty and Intervention

Abstract
Sovereignty has always been a ‘contested concept’. According to Lassa Oppenheim:
there is perhaps no conception the meaning of which is more controversial than that of sovereignty. It is an indisputable fact that this conception, from the moment when it was introduced into political science, until the present day, has never had a meaning which was universally agreed upon. (2006, p. 129)
This is particularly evident with respect to the debate on humanitarian intervention and R2P, as reconciling humanitarian intervention with state sovereignty, ‘represents a profound moral and political challenge’ (Danish Institute of International Affairs, 1999, p. 34). Addressing this challenge, this chapter argues that the creation of a right of humanitarian intervention does not necessitate the abandonment of sovereignty — understood broadly as comprising two principles, inviolability and equality — nor, I contend, should it.
Aidan Hehir

Chapter 8. Grasping the Nettle: The Parameters of Viable Reform

Abstract
As stated in Chapter 6, to only critique existing proposals for dealing with intra-state humanitarian crises is of limited utility. There is, obviously, some merit in critique, as this potentially improves existing proposals or highlights flaws that may ultimately undermine policy. Nonetheless, it is my contention that an alternative strategy to that currently proffered by advocates of R2P does exist and that those interested in regulating humanitarian intervention should explore innovative means by which the structure of the international system can be reformed, as indeed some have already done (Buchanan and Keohane, 2011; Pattison, 2010). The aim of this chapter, and this book more generally, is to articulate the parameters of viable reform in the hope that the focus can be orientated away from R2P-type moral advocacy towards specific legal reform. That is not to suggest that the proposal advanced here is sufficiently detailed to be operable or that it is beyond critique, but rather that it constitutes an alternative to systemic status quo and moral advocacy.
Aidan Hehir

Chapter 9. Conclusion: The Future of Humanitarian Intervention?

Abstract
This book is about the responsibility to protect but it is also about humanitarian intervention. The idea that R2P can, or should, distance itself from the issue of humanitarian intervention is, I contend, illogical. The very first sentence of the 2001 report The Responsibility to Protect reads:
This report is about the so-called ‘right of humanitarian intervention’: the question of when, if ever, it is appropriate for states to take coercive — and in particular military — action against another state for the purpose of protecting people at risk in that other state. (ICISS, 2001a, p. VII)
Aidan Hehir
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