Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect


The Responsibility to Protect - known as R2P - refers to the obligation of states toward their populations and toward all populations at risk of genocide and other large-scale atrocities. This new international norm stipulates that:

* The primary responsibility to protect populations from mass atrocities lies with the state itself.

* When a state proves either unable or unwilling to protect peoples, that responsibility shifts to the international community.

* This obligation must be exercised preventively; states can not delay action until mass crimes have already occurred.

* The tools of action include diplomatic, legal, and other peaceful measures; coercive measures such as sanctions; and, as a last resort, military force.

These principles originated in a 2001 report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty and were endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document paragraphs 138 and 139.

The UN Secretary General released a report in January 2009 Implementing the Responsibility to Protect. In a July 2009 General Assembly Debate, UN Member States overwhelmingly reaffirmed the 2005 Commitment and passed a consensus resolution taking note of the Secretary-General's report. Read more about the historic debate here.

Additional Materials from The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect : Policy Briefs

Working Papers

Title: Getting Back on Track: Implementing the UN Regional Strategy on the Lord's Resistance Army
Date: December 2012

Title: Libya and the Responsibility to Protect
Authors: Simon Adams
Date: October 2012

Title: Report on the Regional Policy Forum on the Responsibility to Protect in Nigeria
Date: June 2012

Title: Prioritizing Protection from Mass Atrocities: Lessons from Burundi
Authors: Gregory Mthembu-Salter, Elana Berger, Naomi Kikoler
Date: September 2011

Title: Unwilling and Unable: The Failed Response to the Atrocities in Darfur
Authors: James Traub
Date: September 2010