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R2P Ten Years After the World Summit: Explaining Ongoing Contestation over Pillar III

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image of Global Responsibility to Protect

This article examines how and why contrasting interpretations of the international community’s role in preventing and responding to mass atrocity crimes continue to exist a decade after the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) was unanimously endorsed at the 2005 World Summit. Building on recent critical constructivist insights into the fluid, dynamic nature of norms, it advances two main arguments. The first is that continuing contestation over R2P’s third pillar is a product of a combination of internal and external sources of norm dynamism. R2P’s inherently complex normative structure, coupled with several external factors, including the broader normative environment, norm implementation experiences and a shift in global power towards the BRICS, have contributed to a period of renewed contestation and triggered attempts to re-formulate R2P thorough Brazil’s ‘Responsibility while Protecting’ (RwP) proposal and China’s semi-official ‘Responsible Protection’ concept. The second central argument is that such contestation is affecting R2P’s distinct normative prescriptions in different ways. While resistance to the implementation of coercive pillar III measures is currently impeding the normative progress of that component of the norm, this contestation has not prevented consensual pillar II assistance from becoming more deeply embedded in international practice and discourse.

Affiliations: 1: Queensland University of Technology,


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