Responsibility to Protect

Humanitarianism: A Dictionary of Concepts

Author/s (editor/s):

Kirsten Ainley

Publication year:


Publication type:

Book chapter

Find this publication at:

Kirsten Ainley, ‘Responsibility to Protect’, in Tim Allen, Anna Macdonald, and Henry Radice, eds, Humanitarianism: A Dictionary of Concepts, Abingdon: Routledge, 2017, pp. 296-308.

The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is a way of conceptualising the nature of sovereignty that has potentially far-reaching consequences for humanitarianism in general and humanitarian intervention in particular. At its heart, R2P is an assertion that sovereignty does not allow states to do whatever they please to their own populations, but instead that the rights and privileges of sovereignty, including protections from external interventions, are or should be only afforded to those states that offer a reasonable level of protection from harm to their citizens. Despite a relatively widespread international acceptance of this assertion, at least at the level of rhetoric, there has been a great deal of disagreement over the details of the meaning of R2P, its politics and implications. This chapter outlines the main fault lines in the conceptualisation and use of R2P and assesses its impact on international politics in the decade since the core principles of the doctrine were acceded to at the 2005 United Nations World Summit.

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