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The Development of the Responsibility to Protect – From Evolving Norm to Practice

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Why does the genocidal mentality persist? Is there hope that humankind can curb or end the shocking mass atrocities that have plagued our globe over the last century and during the beginning of this century? These questions are addressed in this essay through an examination of the evolution of the normative narrative that resulted in the eventual emergence of the concept of 'responsibility to protect' (R2P or RtoP). The evolution of this narrative includes the genocide convention, the promulgation and promotion of universal human rights, the recognition that war crimes and other crimes against humanity are the gravest of all crimes and ought to be punished, the utilisation of humanitarian intervention as a means of curbing egregious mass atrocities, the imposition of punitive and smart sanctions to stem genocidal practices, the codification of international criminal law, enforcement measures through Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the introduction of ad hoc criminal tribunals and the establishment of a permanent international criminal court through the Rome Statute to punish individuals who commitment core crimes, the advocacy of norm entrepreneurs, and the conceptual work of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) that eventually led to the embrace of the R2P norm by the international community. rough that evolving narrative the level of consciousness of people and their state leaders has been raised in regards to the need to see and treat all people on our planet – regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or social standing – with human dignity, and to focus on 'putting people first' when it comes to security. It is argued in this essay that R2P builds upon the foundation of this narrative a new normative architecture designed to address the most egregious of crimes (core crimes) committed against innocent people. Despite efforts to derail its implementation, the R2P norm may eventually turn words into deeds, and promise into practice if it is allowed to become more robust.


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