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The Responsibility to Protect at Ten

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This article introduces the special issue and identifies three key contributions. First, RtoP advocates are right to mark the progress that has been made, but that should not – and generally does not – lead norm diffusers to rest on their laurels or to fall into a complacency that sees moral progress as inevitable. Second, the burden of concrete protection practices – whether they be reflected in contributions to peacekeeping missions or the granting of asylum – is being unfairly distributed across international society. This hierarchy is potentially destabilising and it demands that the great powers – or those laying claim to that identity – recognise their ‘special responsibility to protect’. Third, the great powers do have an important responsibility to reconcile the demands of human protection and international peace and security. It is difficult to reconcile these if we look narrowly at the former in terms of intervention, especially military intervention. Reiterating RtoP to remind states that other prudent options are available – such as receiving refugees – is an important step, especially in the current context.

Affiliations: 1: University of Leeds,; 2: Universities of Leeds and Queensland,


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