The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) embodies a political commitment to end the worst forms of violence and persecution. It seeks to narrow the gap between Member States’ pre-existing obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law and the reality faced by populations at risk of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
It was endorsed by all member states of the United Nations at the 2005 World Summit.
The R2P has three pillars:
- The protection responsibilities of the state. “Each individual state has the responsibility to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity”
- International assistance and capacity-building. States pledge to assist each other in their protection responsibilities
- Timely and decisive collective response. If any state is “manifestly failing” in its protection responsibilities, then states should take collective action to protect the population.
R2P can only be used if it has been passed by a resolution in the UN Security Council.
R2P may be considered to contradict national sovereignty. All members of the UN are sovereign states, with absolute power over their people, so intervention might be seen as infringing this power.
R2P has only been used once, in Libya in 2011. This prompted criticism from world leaders and governments who might themselves have felt threatened by similar action. These included Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, South African President Jacob Zuma, President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe. In addition the the governments of Raúl Castro in Cuba, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Kim Jong-il in North Korea and Hifikepunye Pohamba in Namibia,
R2P has not been used since. For more see the Wikipedia article cited below.