International Academy of the Social Sciences
Journal of Alternative Perspectives in the Social Sciences
In 2001, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) released a report arguing that states and the international community have a responsibility to protect (R2P) citizens from major human rights violations and war crimes. The coming years saw much discussion of the concept and supportive votes at the U.N., but there was little practical implementation. In 2011, world events and U.N. action breathed new life into R2P. Libya was the first case of the U.N. using R2P to authorize the use of force against an existing state to protect civilians. Debates over Libya before the authorization of force, and discussions of the mission both as it continued and afterward show that there remain deep divisions within the international community over key issues in authorizing and implementing R2P intervention. For an emerging norm, perhaps the only thing worse than being ignored is being implemented in a way that reinforces old fears and raises new controversies. The Libyan case already has shaped discussions of possible action in Syria. R2P has been dealt a severe setback, so it will not emerge as a meaningful new norm, will not serve as the justification of new interventions, and may in some cases actually delay the adoption of less coercive responses to human rights violations.