Ethics & International Affairs Volume 25.3 (Fall 2011): Roundtable: Libya RtoP and Humanitarian Intervention: Libya and the Responsibility to Protect: The Exception and the Norm [Abstract]

Aug 12, 2011

The Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) played an important role in shaping the world's response to actual and threatened atrocities in Libya. Not least, the adoption of Resolution 1973 by the UN Security Council on May 17, 2011, approving a no-fly zone over Libya and calling for "all necessary measures" to protect civilians, reflected a change in the Council’s attitude toward the use of force for human protection purposes; and the role played by the UN's new Joint Office on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect points toward the potential for this new capacity to identify threats of mass atrocities and to focus the UN's attention on preventing them. Given the reluctance of both the Security Council and the wider UN membership even to discuss RtoP in the years immediately following the 2005 World Summit—the High-level Plenary Meeting of the 60th Session of the General Assembly that gave birth to RtoP— these two facts suggest that significant progress has been made thanks to the astute stewardship of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is personally committed to the principle. Where it was once a term of art employed by a handful of likeminded countries, activists, and scholars, but regarded with suspicion by much of the rest of the world, RtoP has become a commonly accepted frame of reference for preventing and responding to mass atrocities.

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