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Protecting Civilians from Mass Atrocities: Meeting the Challenge of R2P Rejectionism

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The three broad challenges that obstruct R2P’s implementation are conceptual, institutional, and political. Most scholarly work on R2P deals with the conceptual or institutional obstacles, paying insufficient attention to the political process. In this paper I analyse the motivations behind country opposition to the responsibility to protect and make recommendations to address the drivers of R2P rejectionism. A mix of underlying variables feeds this opposition, in particular experiences with state repression, mass atrocities and external interference, tactical maneuvers by UN delegations, and state revisionism. The political context for R2P implementation is not ‘a given’, but to some extent susceptible to external influence. In order to move R2P from an aspiration into an accepted norm, advocates with significant political leverage could undermine R2P opposition where possible. Neutralising rejectionism is key to obtain a stronger consensus resolution, move R2P into the normative mainstream, and increase the pressure to formulate rapid and robust responses to imminent or ongoing atrocities.


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