Responsibility to Protect

In the wake of crises in the 1990s in Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda and Kosovo, policy makers, decision makers, academics, NGOs and church leaders have intensely debated and grappled with the ethical, moral and legal implications of humanitarian intervention.

The debate has often revolved around two competing imperatives:

  •  the sovereignty that protects states from external intervention in their internal affairs;
  • the humanitarian imperative to protect those who endure incredible abuses of human rights, especially in the context of states that either commit these abuses against their own citizens or are unable to protect their citizens from them.

In 2000, Project Ploughshares commissioned a paper to review the literature on humanitarian intervention.

In December 2001, the International Commission on State Sovereignty and Intervention (ICISS) released its report on humanitarian intervention entitled, The Responsibility to Protect.

  • The report was initiated and funded by the Canadian government, and as its title suggests, this report offers a new lens through which to view the moral, legal and political questions surrounding intervention, and reframes the debate from “sovereignty as control” over a population to “sovereignty as responsibility.”

In the last several years, Project Ploughshares has organized roundtables and events in Canada and in Africa to explore issues in the Responsibility to Protect document and theme.

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