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2 J. Int'l L & Int'l Rel. 95 (2005-2006)
A Victory for Common Humanity - The Responsibility to Protect after the 2005 World Summit

handle is hein.journals/jilwirl2 and id is 97 raw text is: A Victory for Common Humanity?
The Responsibility to Protect after the 2005 World Summit'
Amidst the general disappointment that accompanied the outcome of the United
Nations World Summit in September 2005, there were several important rays of
hope. One of these, and perhaps in the longer term the most important, was the
General Assembly's (GA's) endorsement of the responsibility to protect. One
hundred ninety-one states committed themselves to the principle that the rule of
non-intervention is not sacrosanct in cases where a government commits genocide,
mass killing, and large-scale ethnic cleansing within its borders. United Nations
Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan described this new commitment as a most
precious2 one in terms of protecting endangered populations, and some state
leaders boldly claimed that, had such a declaration existed in 1994, this would have
prevented the Rwandan genocide, and the massacres a year later at Srebrenica. For
example, the United Kingdom's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Jack Straw,
stated in his speech to the Labour Party conference on 28 September that [i]f this
new responsibility had been in place a decade ago, thousands in Srebrenica and
Rwanda would have been saved.3 This paper critically reflects on this claim by
considering how far the General Assembly's adoption of the responsibility to protect
significantly changes the parameters shaping humanitarian intervention in
contemporary international society. The UN's endorsement of this new norm fails to
address the fundamental question of what should happen if the Security Council is
unable or unwilling to authorize the use of force to prevent or end a humanitarian
tragedy, and second, it fails to address the question of how this norm could be better
implemented to save strangers in the future.
The argument proceeds in three parts: first, I consider the genesis of the
responsibility to protect in the report produced by the Canadian sponsored
Some of the ideas in this article build upon Nicholas J. Wheeler, Strangers in Peril
(2005) 61:8-9 The World Today 15. I am grateful to Alex Bellamy, Ken Berry, Justin Morris
and Jennifer Welsh for their comments on earlier versions of this article, and to the
editors of the Journal for their very helpful advice when revising the piece for
publication. I would also like to thank all those who contributed to the panel on the use
of force at the Symposium organised by the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto,
Toronto 5-6 October 2005, especially Ambassador Paul Heinbecker, Dr. Mary Ellen
O'Connell and Dr. Ian Johnstone.
Director, David Davies Memorial Institute, Department of International Politics,
University of Wales, Aberystwyth.
2   Kofi A. Annan A glass at least half-full Wall Street Journal (19 September 2005) A16.
3   Speech by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Address (Address at the Labour Party
Conference, Brighton, 28 September 2005) [unpublished], online: The Labour Party

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