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September 8, 2015

An Ambiguous Responsibility to Protect- Concerns, Implementation, Road Ahead

“We can save lives. We can uphold the principles on which this house is built. We can demonstrate that sovereignty and responsibility are mutually reinforcing principles. And we can assert the moral authority of this institution,”

Mr. Ban ki Moon, the secretory general of the United Nations said these words in the General Assembly just after the Bosnia crisis. The responsibility to Protect is a doctrine which was introduced by the International Commission on Intervention and State Security (ICISS). The Responsibility to Protect doctrine stands on three basic pillars as states by the Report by ICISS- 
1.     A state has a responsibility to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing.
2.      The international community has a responsibility to assist the state to fulfill its primary responsibility.
3.     If the state manifestly fails to protect its citizens from the four above mass atrocities and peaceful measures have failed, the international community has the responsibility to intervene through coercive measures such as economic sanctions. Military intervention is considered the last resort.                     
Legal Concerns over Implementation

    The responsibility to Protect doctrine was adopted by the United Nations in 2005 in the World Outlook Meeting. However, it is interesting to observe that the R2P doctrine contradicts Article 2(4) and Article 2(7) of the United Nations Charter. While the Responsibility to protect encourages member states of the United Nations to intervene in countries where the countries' government fails to protect its populace from genocide and other crimes against humanity, the United Nations Charter says that member states must 
  1.    While most interventions are carried out under the supposed pretext of liberating and providing freedom to oppressed civilians they often have veiled agendas of powerful countries. Frequently the liberation of the people is sidelined for the economic or political agendas. For example, Iraq intervention was not only illegal but also unethical in terms of the intentions. It is believed that the United States was driven by its economic interests in one of the world’s most scarce but widely used commodities-oil. Also, a valid example for politically driven agendas might be the Caribbean interventions were largely driven by agendas such as spreading capitalism. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that intentions are reviewed before backing any intervention because that is the root cause for failure of the responsibility to Protect in many countries.
  2.  Intervening states portray themselves to be neutral peacekeepers with humanitarian motives. However, upon deploying forces into conflict states they often further divide the place into regions of “friends” and “foes” taking one side against the other, this approach tends to intensify rather than diminish the civil conflict or possibility of war. They often further subvert the region and polarize factions leading to widespread resentment towards the intervention. Currently in Syria, a very severe civil war persists. Military intervention by the United States along with its allies has forced Russia to get involved. The United States which is currently launching air strikes against the Islamic State and supports the civilians in their protests against the Ba’ath Party government has been using Syria as a war ground for a distressful clash of the Cold War rivals. The Syrian rebels have already expressed their concerns over becoming another Iraq. The United States can fulfill its responsibility to normalize the severe condition of Syria but what the States is doing is just the contrary, distressful indeed. 
     
  3.   Economic sanctions have been one of the widely accepted “coercive” measures as demanded by the R2P doctrine. I believe economic sanction is an easy way out or maybe for some nation a way to showcase their authority and influence. Though economic sanctions have been successful in fulfilling their objective and have deterred the country’s government from conducting large scale attacks against its populace, it is a loss for the international community as well as the country. When economic sanctions were imposed on Iraq, its economy was destroyed and inflation grew steeply in the country. Iraqi people starved due to unemployment and steep inflation. Secondly, consequent to the signing of an impossible deal between the West and Iran, oil prices dropped severely. If just the dreams of the rich prospects of a deal which has not been accepted by the Senate and nor by the Iranian government could drop oil prices which such great effect what would’ve happened if no Iraqi sanctions would have been applied!
  4.  The responsibility to Protect doctrine was adopted by the United Nations in 2005 in the World Outlook Meeting. However, it is interesting to observe that the R2P doctrine contradicts Article 2(4) and Article 2(7) of the United Nations Charter. While the Responsibility to protect encourages member states of the United Nations to intervene in countries where the countries' government fails to protect its populace from genocide and other crimes against humanity, the United Nations Charter says that member states must refrain in their international relations "from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state." Though these clauses might not be directly contradictory but in action they seem to be so. The Libyan intervention in 2011 had the NATO bombing over Gaddafi was a an instance where the Responsibility to Protect doctrine was upheld however, it was a "use of force" and that too "against the integrity or political independence of the country" as it is widely believed that the Gaddafi regime was loved by some sections of the society because of the reforms he brought. Therefore, it is very important that the importance and validity of the United Nations Charter and the philosophy of the Responsibility to protect doctrine work hand in hand and in accordance to each other.   
It must be understood that the criticism exhibited in the points above is just to expose the barriers in the effective implementation of the Responsibility to Protect however, they do not disapprove of the philosophy of the Responsibility to Protect or the idea of humanitarian intervention. There have been very successful interventions which have accomplished their goals like in Afghanistan. However, a general worldview and history of the Responsibility to Protect implies that most of the interventions have not been successful not because of the idea of R2P but because of its ineffective implementation. 
What Next?
How should the international community respond to human rights violation within a state? How should the international system tackle catastrophic atrocities in a state when its leaders themselves have repudiated the responsibility to safeguard the rights of their people? These are some questions that need to be addressed immediately in order to carry forward the spirit of a humanitarian intervention.

Many calls for intervention have been made over the last decade – some of them answered and some of them ignored. But there continues to be disagreement as to whether, if there is a right of intervention, how and when it should be exercised, and under whose authority. Also, there have been a lot of interventions where the consent of the state being intervened in is not taken! Though intervening parties claim to be neutralized in approach history has been evidence to the fact that intervention usually violates the legal fetters of safeguarding sovereignty and resisting intervention in domestic matters of the country. The need for a framework to combat the abuse of the Responsibility to Protect by powerful nations is much needed which must draw a line between humanitarian intervention and a breach of sovereignty!  

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