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R2P — How to make the international system more responsive?

24 November 2008

Enshrined by the Outcome Document of the 2005 World Summit, the principle of R2P is still subject to much debate. The Panel addressed some of the fundamental questions relating to the content and implementation of R2P, for example looking at whether the formulation of this concept has made a difference in the international response of states and international organisations to mass atrocities, and whether greater clarity on the principle would lead to better implementation or rather unnecessarily complicate states’ responses. It was considered that the reference to R2P in the Outcome Document has not led to a higher engagement of the main global actors, including the EU, in the response to ongoing massacres. Doubts were cast as to whether the debate on the concept will lead to more resources at national or international level as the principle already exists under international law and R2P does not entail new mechanisms or rules. However, it was considered valuable by some participants for public awareness reasons. Concerns were raised over the possibility that the debate on R2P at the UN General Assembly, when it considers a draft report on the subject by the UN Secretary General in March, will get caught up with disagreements over Security Council representation, as well as opposition from some emerging powers to openly refer to coercion for upholding human rights obligations, and fears of unbalanced application to different states depending on their political power.