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R2P and the Role of Regional Organisations in Ethnic Conflict Management, Prevention and Resolution: The Unfinished Agenda

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The Responsibility to Protect (hereafter R2P) agendas have established a fairly high threshold for engagement by third parties in ethnic conflict when seen through the lens of direct intervention by means of force or coercion in order to mitigate overt forms of ethnic conflict such as ethnic cleansing and genocide. The absence of regional organisation activity in this area is understandable given the enormous political and financial costs associated with intervention. Yet the R2P agenda also carries with it a preventive component, and in this regard there is reason to be a little more optimistic. Ten years ago on the advice of the Brahimi Report, investments were made by most regional organisations to strengthen capacity for preventive action. In this article, we return to the question of whether and how regional organisations can or do conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the R2P's preventive component. The article unfolds in four sections. In the first part, we assess the role of regional organisations in implementing the R2P agendas. We begin with an identification of each regional organisation that either implicitly or explicitly references the R2P framework in their mandates, charters and doctrine. These organisations include the OSCE, the AU, the OAS, SAARC, ECOWAS, and ASEAN among others. Second, we provide a comparative framework that specifies the ways in which R2P is reflected in the activities of each regional organisation, with reference to capacity building, charter development, preventive diplomacy, direct engagement, and conflict management. This evaluative framework allows us to determine if there has been any shift in the way in which these organisations conduct themselves with respect to R2P principles. In the third part of the article we assess the Darfur case to illustrate our evaluative framework. The question we ask is: are the actions of the organisations involved in these conflicts consistent with R2P in its preventive as well as its interventionist interpretations? In the fourth and final section we conclude with implications for theory and policy and make some recommendations for future research.


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