The Responsibility to Protect

R2P photo

Who has the Responsibility To Protect individuals from mass atrocity crimes?

The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is at the centre of debates on human rights, sovereignty and international intervention.

The R2P concept holds that sovereignty is not a right; rather, it is a responsibility states undertake that includes protecting civilian populations from atrocities. The international community has a duty to help states uphold this responsibility. If a state fails to meet its responsibility, and if peaceful methods of intervention (i.e. diplomacy) are ineffective, then the United Nations Security Council may need to authorise coercive action.

Genocide in RwandaDevastating tragedies such as the genocide in Rwanda and the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo have challenged the traditional conceptions of state sovereignty in the international community. In the 2005 World Summit outcome document, states unanimously signed their support for the idea of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P).

This norm reinforces the idea of sovereignty as responsibility and can be divided into three main pillars:

Pillar One
States have the primary responsibility to protecttheir citizens from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Pillar Two
The international society must assist states in carrying out their responsibility to protect, and should help those states that are under stress.

Pillar Three
If a state fails to protect its citizens, or commits crimes against them, the international community has a responsibility to act collectively using a range of political, economic and humanitarian means depending on the case. If these fail, they must use forceful measures, authorised by the UN Security Council, following the rules laid out in the UN Charter.

Very few people have heard of R2P, and yet it is playing an increasingly vital role in international relations, as we saw in Libya and are seeing in many of the debates surrounding Syria. It is for this reason that UNA Wales is campaigning on the issue – we believe the public should know more about this ever important norm.

UNA Wales firmly supports the idea of sovereignty as responsibility; we believe that states do have a duty to protect their citizens. We also believe that assisting states in this capacity is vital, and advocate the use of preventative action, such as monitoring countries and creating early warning systems. These can enable the international community to assist states before an uneasy situation turns violent.


Raise awareness of R2P

UNA Wales
has designed a leaflet, which will provide those who had never heard of the principle, or those who know a fair amount already, understand how R2P is something which all of us in Wales can play a part in.

Download the leaflet (PDF)

R2P Lesson Plan

UNA Wales has designed lesson plan, aimed at 14 - 18 year olds, dealing with the concept of R2P, and the importance of understanding how this is relevant in the modern world. 

Our 'Responsibility to Protect' Teaching Aids © have been sent out to hundreds of schools around Wales.

Download the lesson plans

R2P: Helpful Links

Please see below for a list of helpful links for anyone interested in the concept of R2P.

International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect

UNA UK: R2P in detail

Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

United Nations and R2P


R2P and the 2005 World Summit
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