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International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect
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Gareth Evans

The point of the responsibility to protect doctrine, in the minds of those of us who conceived it, has always been to change the way that the world’s policymakers, and those who influence them, thought and acted in response to emerging, imminent and actually occurring mass atrocity crimes.  It was to generate a reflex international response that genocide, other crimes against humanity and major war crimes happening behind sovereign state walls were everybody’s business, not nobody’s. It was to create a new norm of international behaviour which states would feel ashamed to violate, compelled to observe, or at least embarrassed to ignore.

R2P was designed for pragmatists rather than purists, with full knowledge of the messy reality of real-world state motivations and behaviour. Its intended contribution was not to international relations theory but political practice. It was designed not to create new legal rules but rather  a compelling new sense of moral and political obligation to apply existing ones. It was intended from the outset to stimulate the creation of new institutional mechanisms, national and international, that would help translate that sense of obligation into effective action. And above all it was designed to change behaviour:  to ensure that global policymakers would never again have to look back, in the aftermath of yet another genocidal catastrophe,  and ask themselves how they could possibly have let it all happen again.

This is the context, and these are the benchmarks, against which R2P‟s success or failure over the last decade should be measured, and its likely future over the next decade and beyond should be assessed. How does and will it stand up as an international norm? How much has it impacted, and will it in the future, on state perceptions as to what are appropriate responses to atrocity crime situations? How much institutional change has it stimulated, and will it in the future?  How much actual behavioural change has there been, and how much more can be reasonably expected? Can and will R2P’s contribution to eliminating the scourge of mass atrocity crimes from the face of the earth ever be more than marginal?

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