Abstract – Responsibility to Protect (R2P)

Responsibility to Protect: An Instrument for the Re-legitimization of War or a Medium for the Ostracization of War?

A joint research project of the professorship of International relations and the Institute for Theology and Peace.

After the controversial debate about „humanitarian intervention“ in the 1990s, the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) gained general acceptance in the UN community within a surprisingly short amount of time. Only four years after the introduction of the concept of Responsibility to Protect by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) in 2001, it was already included in the final declaration of the UN World Summit in October 2005. On the basis of this concept, the respect for human rights is supposed to be strengthened within a context of heavy military conflicts. The observation of human rights is supposed to be actively demanded by states or even to be protected by military means even when clashing with other basic rules of international law such as the prohibition to intervene or state sovereignty. Accordingly, a normative conflict becomes manifest between the presently existing principles of international law and R2P: State sovereignty and the prohibition to intervene are key elements in the law to avoid war and thus serve to protect human rights as well. Ostracizing war serves to protect human rights; however, at the same time elements of the ostracization of war such as the rule of non-interference into the sovereign affairs of another state and the prohibition to intervene can constrict the protection of these same human rights.

The critical debate about the R2P concept in the scientific literature starts with these normative and practically complex tensions. Four points of criticism are of particular importance (1) The responsibility to protect suggests that violence is permissible for a good cause and thus undermines the prohibition of the use of force, (2) Military instruments would eventually bring about more harm than good, (3) the concept of R2P could be abused to justify unilateral or preventive military strikes, (4) Finally, R2P could misuse interventions justified on humanitarian grounds to spread Western ideologies.

So far, there is a lack of theoretically informed empirical studies which deal in depth with these objections and examine possible negative and unintended consequences of the R2P concept. This is where the interdisciplinary research project comes into play. It focuses on effects R2P may have on the program of structurally overcoming war. The overall question of this research project is: Does R2P as a normative concept and policy instrument contribute to the ostracization of war? Three specific questions will be answered by subdividing the issue into three areas:

First, the ICISS approach as a norm complex: What is the relation between this norm complex and the program for the ostracization of war? Could this concept possibly be used in a way which allows or even demands wars in the name of human rights?

Second, the reception process of the Responsibility to Protect in terms of acceptance, pervasiveness and change: How sound is the political consensus on R2P?

Third, unintended effects of the Responsibility to Protect: Does the concept contain shortcomings which endanger the goal of ostracizing war and lead to a re-legitimization of war as an instrument of politics?

The overall project is intended to be interdisciplinary by involving ethics of peace and political science and also integrates the development of international law. The common cognitive interest regarding the importance of R2P for the program of ostracization of wars provides the overarching framework. Only the synopsis of different perspectives and approaches of different academic disciplines provides a comprehensive and profound answer to the overarching question.


Letzte Änderung: 24. Juni 2019