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The International Community's Responsibility to Protect

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The concept of the responsibility to protect (R2P) holds that not only do sovereign states have a responsibility to protect their populations, but so too does the international community. The international community is said to be responsible for encouraging and assisting states to protect and also for taking collective action to enforce the protection of populations in instances where states fail to carry out their obligations. This idea that the international community itself bears not merely a right but a responsibility to protect, through military intervention if necessary, is perhaps the most novel aspect of the R2P concept, and it would seem to have extraordinary implications. Yet it remains largely under-examined. In this article, I consider how the notion that the international community bears a responsibility to protect might be fruitfully understood and conceptualised. After briefly outlining from where this idea has emerged, I consider two interrelated questions: What kind of responsibility is it – moral, legal, or political, or some combination of the three? And who in particular bears the responsibility – the international community broadly speaking, particular international institutions such as the Security Council, regional organisations, or individual states?


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