The need to prevent violence and to protect people from the excesses of their governments has been argued by many, but serious societal, operational and structural strategies that help prevent the ultimate need for protection are significantly more theory than practice. Prevention and protection have a complementary relationship, but it is the prioritization of prevention that is lacking in much of the discourse. When the need to protect arises then prevention has failed to protect those most at risk, and protection, if it occurs at all, becomes a rearguard action to prevent an already calamitous situation from becoming even worse. The progression of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) from concept to principle to formal ratification by most states at the 2005 UN World Summit has been a very difficult one with a great deal of disagreement over the validity of R2P as a substantive or even a formative norm in international affairs. The disagreement is not that protection and prevention are unimportant nor is it that the international community does not have some sort of responsibility to try to stop extreme human rights violations. The disagreement is primarily about how fine sounding principles in R2P are supposed to work in practice and of what possible use such ‘principles’ are when governments and policy makers continue to ignore the basic premise of responsibility to protect. This is not just a theoretical debate and it is not only about semantics or use of terms, although both are evident in the proliferation of literature on this topic.
|Keywords:||Protect, Prevent, R2P, R2Prevent, Responsibility, Substantive Norm, Formative Norm|
Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore, Queensland, Australia
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