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Whose Responsibility to Protect?

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The 2009 challenge in the United Nations General Assembly to the Responsibility to Protect was a warning call. This landmark piece of human rights legislation makes a lot of governments nervous; some of them would want to wipe R2P off the books. It might be worthwhile therefore to review how it came about and ask what its importance is to you. R2P had many “fathers”, but one important one was UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Seared by the UN experience in Bosnia, the genocide in Rwanda and the persecution of the Kosovars by Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, Annan asked the International Peace Academy to look into the basis in international law for humanitarian intervention. They couldn't find one. Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy then stepped in and set up a commission that did in a report called e Responsibility to Protect. Annan carefully laid the groundwork for international acceptance of the principle. He created a high-level panel to study security threats in the 21 st century and named former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans to it. Evans co-chaired the Canadian panel. Annan's panel endorsed R2P. With that crucial backing, he put R2P to the General Assembly, which, against all odds, voted in favor of it in 2005, making R2P international law. Humanitarian intervention is in fact a threat to national sovereignty. But so are most international treaties. Governments trade on their sovereignty when it is in their interest to do so. On R2P they did so again. Why should it matter to you? Just remember the Holocaust.


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