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Peacekeeping and the Responsibility to Protect

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This article examines the debate surrounding the responsibility to protect [R2P] with particular reference to the use of peacekeeping forces in that regard. Post-Cold War, human protection had expanded into a matter of international concern. Yet, where formerly humanitarian intervention was the mot du jour, a change in conceptual vocabulary led to the introduction of R2P and to a redefinition of sovereignty. Accordingly, the primary responsibility to protect its citizens rests with the sovereign state but, owing to international solidarity, the residual responsibility rests with the international community. Contextually, R2P is embedded in a continuum of responsibilities: prevent, react and rebuild. Proponents of the concept already see a norm in development. Still, divisions and confusion remain concerning the concept’s legal basis, its scope and its parameters. This is particularly relevant in view of peacekeeping forces, which have been increasingly deployed for humanitarian purposes. Because of ill-defined mandates and an overextension of resources, however, traditional peacekeeping is no longer suitable, lacking the resources, the personnel and the necessary expertise. To be able to fulfil the goals of R2P, peacekeeping will have to be redefined and the forces equipped with more robust mandates or fail.


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