Letter from David Hannay

The World Today Updated 6 April 2020 Published 1 February 2008 1 minute READ


Anne Wittman’s article When Something Must Be Done: Human Intervention in a Global Age in the January edition of The World Today, sets out the considerations relating to the responsibility to protect in a reasonably coherent way. But it manages completely to overlook three rather salient developments:

  • That then-United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, a body containing representatives of all regions of the world, in December 2004, advanced the responsibility to protect as in certain circumstances overriding national sovereignty.
  • That, in March 2005, Annan, in his paper In Larger Freedom also endorsed that view and commended it to member states.
  • And in September 2005 the UN summit accepted that view by consensus.
  • These are surely three rather fundamental omissions.

The problem the international community faces now is not therefore whether the responsibility to protect exists as a legitimate concept. It clearly has since September 2005. The problem is to apply it. And that, as we can see in Darfur, is a lot more difficult.