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Responsibility to Protect: A Framework for Prevention

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Most agree that prevention is the most important aspect of the Responsibility to Protect. The best way, after all, to protect populations from mass atrocities is to ensure that they do not occur in the first instance. Nonetheless, since the adoption of the R2P Doctrine at the World Summit, academic and policy debates concerning the legal and normative content of R2P continue to neglect its preventative dimension. This paper seeks to fill that gap in scholarship by examining the relationship between developing international human rights law on protection/prevention and the developing norm of R2P, with two specific objectives. The first objective is to bring a much needed focus to the law on prevention. The second objective is to mediate the debate between those who claim R2P is a major departure from existing law and those who claim it adds nothing new to the existing body of international law. The paper concludes with two propositions: First, resting upon international human rights principles, R2P provides, under certain circumstances, for an obligation of 'due diligence' requiring states to take such reasonable measures of prevention as could be expected of states in a similar position; and second, one of the R2P doctrine's greatest strengths is that it harnesses the disparate body of law on the duty to prevent and provides a modicum of conceptual clarity and discipline to its application to mass atrocities.


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