Report: U.S. Should Embrace Responsibility to Protect (R2P)

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Date: 
August 1, 2013

A July 2013 report written by Madeleine K. Albright, a former U.S Secretary of State, and Richard S. Williamson, a former special envoy to Sudan, argues that the U.S. should embrace the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) concept to help prevent genocide and other mass atrocities from occurring.  Endorsed by world leaders at the 2005 United Nations World Summit, including the U.S., R2P calls for the use of numerous tools short of military force, from diplomacy to economic sanctions, to try to curb atrocities. “If the Responsibility to Protect doctrine can do anything,” Albright writes in Politico, “it is to begin to help move us away from a policy of indifference and waiting for the worst, and more aggressively adopt policies that prevent atrocities before they begin.”

R2P consists of three main pillars:

  • Nations bear the primary responsibility to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity;
     
  • The international community has a responsibility to assist and encourage the state in fulfilling its protection obligations; and
  • If a state fails to protect its populations or is in fact the perpetrator of these crimes, the international community has a responsibility to take appropriate diplomatic and humanitarian action to help protect populations from these crimes. The international community must also be prepared to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, in accordance with the UN Charter.

The report recommends several steps to bolster R2P, including holding high-level meetings between officials from the U.S. and non-governmental  organizations (NGOs) “to assess dangers, share information, and explore options related to the ongoing and future implementation of R2P,” institutionalizing mechanisms to prevent or reduce atrocities, and adapting modern technologies to advance R2P objectives.