14 Global Governance 135 (2008)
Conflict Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect

handle is hein.journals/glogo14 and id is 143 raw text is: Global Governance 14 (2008), 135-156

Conflict Prevention and
the Responsibility to Protect
Alex J. Bellamy
Although the International Commission on Intervention and State Sover-
eignty identified the responsibility to prevent as the single most important
aspect of its report The Responsibility to Protect, most scholarly and polit-
ical attention has been given to the concept's reaction component rather
than to its prevention component. This article aims to correct this imbal-
ance by examining progress with, changes to, and attitudes toward the
responsibility to prevent since the publication of the commission's report
in 2001. It seeks to explain the relative neglect of prevention in debates
about The Responsibility to Protect, arguing that the answer can be found
in a combination of doubts about how wide the definition of prevention
should be, political concerns raised by the use of prevention in the war on
terrorism, and practical concerns about the appropriate institutional locus
for responsibility. The article moves on to identify some basic principles
that might help advance the responsibility to prevent. KEYWORDS: respon-
sibility to protect, conflict prevention, UN, institutions, war.
A      ccording to the International Commission on Intervention and State
Sovereignty (ICISS), the Responsibility to Protect concept com-
/prises three responsibilities relating to deadly conflict and other
human-made catastrophes: to prevent, to react, and to rebuild. I The respon-
sibility to react has received significant political and scholarly attention and
has dominated debates about the adoption of the responsibility-to-protect
principle by the UN General Assembly at the 2005 World Summit.2 Like-
wise, the responsibility to rebuild has been accompanied by renewed interest
in questions of justice after war (the so-called jus post bellum) and was in-
stitutionalized by the World Summit through the creation of the UN's Peace-
building Commission. Despite being described as the single most important
dimension of the responsibility to protect, the responsibility to prevent has
been relatively neglected.3 In the World Summit's Outcome Document, the
UN's commitment to conflict prevention was kept separate from its commit-
ment to the Responsibility to Protect, and states committed only to help es-
tablish an early warning capability for the UN and to support the secre-
tary-general's Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide.4 The call of
the ICISS for measures to centralize preventive efforts, tackle the root
causes of conflict, and enhance direct prevention capabilities was over-
looked in favor of this focus on early warning.

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