International Affairs Article

Justin Morris
  • This article examines recent UN Security Council deliberations over events in Libya and Syria and in particular assesses the extent to which Council members sought to justify their positions and voting behaviour by reference to the 'Responsibility to Protect' (R2P). 
  • It shows how limited invocations of R2P were with regard to Libya, before proceeding to demonstrate how, somewhat paradoxically, R2P-sceptics such as Russia and China subsequently drew upon concerns over the manner in which NATO implemented its UN-mandate in Libya to cast doubts over R2P during debates over Syria. 
  • Contemplating the implications of the Libyan and Syrian cases for the future of R2P, the article concludes by arguing that the concept’s international standing can best be preserved through the excision of its most coercive elements; R2P should be reconstituted as a standard of acceptable sovereign behaviour and a mechanism geared towards the provision of international guidance and support, while decisions over coercive military intervention, inevitably infused with considerations of strategic interest, should be made outside the R2P framework.
This article is from the forthcoming September issue of International Affairs.
The full journal will be online from 6 September.
More on Syria.