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Displaced Congolese with their few belongings gather in a tent set up by the UN in the Kibati refugee camp outside Goma, Eastern Congo, Friday, 14 November 2008.

R2P, Africa and the EU: towards pragmatic international subsidiarity?

Analysis - 20 November 2008

by Damien Helly

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To be implemented on the ground, the responsibility to protect (R2P) should first be accepted as a new norm on the basis of states’ commitments to new policy behaviour aimed at avoiding mass atrocities. This is controversial and has led to several highly politicised debates. But the very fact that debates are going on, particularly in the framework of the UN General Assembly, is a sign that R2P is not, as too many pessimists have argued, still-born.

Tremendous progress has already been achieved in the recognition of the norm and in concrete efforts to enhance capacities to prevent, react and rebuild. However, R2P is to some extent victim of its own success. It has raised expectations that have not been met, particularly in Darfur and in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Controversies around R2P are nurtured by the severe lack of information, misunderstandings or political resistance about the concept and how it addresses sovereignty and noninterference. Debates about the implementation of R2P have raised new or confirmed old practical and operational challenges…

In this article, EUISS Research Fellow Damien Helly looks at how R2P can be promoted and implemented in Africa through the principle of subsidiarity, and what the EU can do to ensure that the R2P doctrine becomes more than just an expression of good intentions.