What is the Responsibility to Protect?

The World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) is a global nonprofit organization representing and coordinating a membership of over 100 national United Nations Associations.
UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz
UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

Adopted as a norm at the United Nations World Summit in 2005 the Responsibility to Protect - known as R2P - refers to the obligation of states towards their populations, and towards all populations at risk of genocide and other large-scale atrocities.

The R2P commitment is outlined in three pillars;

  • Pillar 1:The sovereign states have an obligation and carry the primary responsibility to protect their citizens from mass atrocities
  • Pillar 2:The International Community has the responsibility to assist states in capacity building to fulfill this responsibility to prevent mass atrocities before, during and after conflict
  • Pillar 3:If the state in question fails to act appropriately, the responsibility to do so – in a timely and decisive matter either diplomatically, humanitarianly, peacefully and as a large resort by stronger measures - falls to a larger community of states.

R2P works on the premise of three additional elements;

  • The Responsibility to Prevent:The obligation to prevent mass atrocities, develop early warning systems and address the root causes of conflict
  • The Responsibility to React:A commitment of measures which should be taken in the face of mass atrocities
  • The Responsibility to Rebuild:The obligations of the International Community post-intervention to rebuild and prevent the reoccurrence of mass violence.

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