International Law, the Responsibility to Protect and International Crises

Cambridge University Press has released the new publication Theorising the Responsibility to Protect. Edited by Ramesh Thakur and William Maley the book is a collection of essays written by leading theorists and policy makers in the area of conflict and the responsibility to protect.

Among the collections contributors is Professor of Law and Global Affairs and the Director of the Division of Global Affairs Dr. Jean-Marc Coicaud.  Dr. Coicaud's chapter is entitled "International Law, the Responsibility to Protect and International Crises" (pp. 162-180). This chapter evaluates and examines the extent and limits of the responsibility to protect (R2P) in international law; the R2P in the context of the crises in Syria, Ukraine, and Gaza; and lessons and the future of the principle of the R2P.

Chapter Abstract

The notion and agenda for of The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) emerged against the backdrop of the controversies over humanitarian crises and interventions in the 1990s.  This amounted to less than a straightforward international legal obligation, but more than the simple appeal to moral decency that had prevailed previously, for instance in the context of the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.  Later, on the occasion of the 2005 United Nations (UN) World Summit, the international community went further by officially endorsing R2P as a legitimate norm and tool.  This evolution has not, however, settled the debates about R2P. This is especially the case concerning the use of force, by far the most controversial aspect of R2P.  This chapter analyses R2P, with special attention given to its use of force component, in relation to the structure of international law and some of the latest crises of the period. It is organised in three parts.  First, it examines how the normative and power structures of international law are key to understanding the extent and limit of the Responsibility to Protect.  Second, it refers to R2P in the context of three of the defining crises of recent years.  Third and finally, the chapter draws some lessons and touches upon the future of R2P.

The book can be purchased here.


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