Publication details

The Responsibility to Protect: Much Ado about Nothing? in: Review of International Studies 36: Special Issue S1, 55-78.


Author(s): Reinold, Theresa
Year of publication: 2010

Abstract: Despite its newness, the concept of the responsibility to protect (R2P) looks back at a stellar career. It has been the subject of numerous conferences and academic publications and has been affirmed by the major UN bodies. Indeed, if one were to assess the development of an international norm by the amount of academic attention and general rhetorical support it enjoys, one could be inclined to believe that the responsibility to protect is rapidly evolving into a norm of customary international law. This article subjects the R2P hype to critical scrutiny and asks probing questions about R2P's viability as a norm. Beneath the thin veneer of rhetorical acceptance of R2P lies a range of hotly disputed issues – in particular but not exclusively regarding the concept's implications for the use of force – which are unlikely to be resolved in the near future. In this article I examine R2P's potential to ‘ripen’ into an international norm. I argue that in the absence of an intersubjective consensus about what R2P actually means, the concept's chances to ‘harden’ into a norm of customary international law are remote. I posit that R2P cannot be considered a ‘new norm’ or an ‘emerging norm’ as it is frequently called, because the vast majority of states simply does not want to be legally bound to save strangers in remote regions of the world.

Subject(s): political science

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