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Part III Security Governance Tools, Ch.44 Responsibility to Protect and Humanitarian Intervention: From Apology to Utopia and Back Again

Simon Chesterman

From: The Oxford Handbook of the International Law of Global Security

Edited By: Robin Geiß, Nils Melzer

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved.date: 25 June 2024

Humanitarian intervention

This chapter explores the responsibility to protect (R2P) and its relationship to humanitarian intervention—the notion that unilateral force can be used to protect human rights in another State. In the event that prevention and peaceful means fail, R2P does allow for action by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) under existing rules. But it neatly dodges the more difficult question of what rules should govern a humanitarian crisis when both the State in question and the UNSC are unwilling or unable to act. The chapter examines the legal framework of humanitarian intervention and how R2P came to be adopted and endorsed by United Nations Member States in general and the UNSC in particular. It highlights the present challenges faced by R2P, evident in the partially successful operation in Libya and the dismally ineffective response to the ongoing crisis in Syria. Finally, the chapter offers some tentative projections about the future, in which the language of R2P appears likely to continue to spread, but weariness of intervention on the part of Western States and the rise of Asian States defending a conservative notion of sovereignty will dampen the conversion of words to action.

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