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As the RtoP moves from norm to operationalization, greater analysis of action to halt crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide and ethnic cleansing is needed. This uncovers opportunities and challenges associated with third pillar interventions by looking at legal, economic, political, military and alternative interventions in third-countries.




Pillar three of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) focuses on the international community’s responsibility to take “timely and decisive action” to prevent and halt genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity in those instances where a state is unable or unwilling to protect its own populations. A range of tools have been devised to aid in this “timely and decisive action”: economic sanctions, international criminal trials and, most controversially, the use of force. The recent crises that have erupted in places such as Libya, Syria and the Central African Republic highlight the continued relevance of the RtoP debate, but it also gives rise to the need to better understand the processes, opportunities and risks involved in moving from the RtoP as a norm to its operationalization under the third pillar. Important questions related to the timeliness, legitimacy, proportionality and effectiveness of pillar-three responses need fleshing out and critically analyzing. Furthermore, there is further scope in apprehending how third pillar activities interact with, and mutually affect, the first and second pillars, and preventive and re-building initiatives aimed at avoiding pillar-three situations from occurring in the first place.

Daniel Fiott, Joachim Koops

1. International Law and the Application of the Third Pillar Approach

The traumatic experiences of Rwanda, Srebrenica, Darfur, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia, among others, in the 1990s and 2000s underlined the need for an effective international response to mass atrocities. This has led to the creation of international criminal tribunals with jurisdiction to try specific individuals for “atrocity crimes” (Scheffer, 2012). The crisis and eventual military intervention in Kosovo at the end of the 20th century further underlined an apparent discrepancy between the international legality of an intervention not sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and its legitimacy, arguably stemming from it being indispensable to stop grave human rights violations (see Independent International Commission on Kosovo, 2000: p. 4). Within the framework of this debate, the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) was proposed as a comprehensive agenda delineating the collective responsibilities of states and the international community1 to prevent and, if necessary, intervene effectively and in a timely manner in order to stop mass atrocities (ICISS Report, 2001). Of particular interest for the analysis here is the third pillar of the RtoP, whereas the other two pillars are also revisited to the extent necessary to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the international legal status of the RtoP.

Thomas Ramopoulos

2. The International Criminal Court and the Responsibility to Protect

The Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) are two interconnected enterprises that seek to ensure that the world responds to mass atrocities, without however abandoning the primary responsibility of the states concerned. The RtoP is confined to four specific crimes — genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing — which are exactly the crimes that also fall under the jurisdiction ratione materiae of the ICC, together with the crime of aggression.1 Nonetheless, the RtoP is not limited to a reaction to atrocity crimes but constitutes a more holistic approach to addressing crisis situations, based on the idea that the response requires a non-military intervention by the international community that starts with preventative measures. What is more, most agree that prevention is the most important aspect of the RtoP, since the best way to protect populations from mass atrocities is to ensure that they do not occur in the first place (Rosenberg, 2009; Stamnes, 2009). Huber and Blätter even proclaim that “[t]he essence of the Responsibility to Protect is best characterized as international crimes prevention” (Huber and Blätter, 2012: p. 33). In the 2009 Report of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “Implementing the Responsibility to Protect”, the ICC is characterized as an institution that can act through dissuasion and deterrence, as just one of the atrocity prevention instruments under the third pillar of the RtoP designed to prevent or halt future atrocities (United Nations, 2009: para. 18).

Mathias Holvoet, Medlir Mema

3. Probing the Responsibility to Protect’s Civilian Dimension: What Can Non-Military Sanctions Achieve?

The ritual reminder that the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) is about “more than military intervention” has accompanied academic and political debates about the concept ever since its invention in the 1990s (Bellamy, 2009; Evans, 2008; Thakur, 2002). Nevertheless, the RtoP’s civilian dimension has never received the critical attention it deserves, particularly in discussions about the international community’s “third pillar” responsibility to enforce the protection of vulnerable populations in humanitarian emergencies.

Caroline Fehl

4. The Regionalization of the Responsibility to Protect

With the crises in the Côte d’Ivoire, Libya and Syria, the debates surrounding the developing concept of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) have shifted from the content of the norm toward its operationalization. Within these cases the operationalization has focused predominantly on the third pillar approach and the use of force to resolve the crises on the ground. The use of force in these cases has however re-ignited debates around the RtoP and its implementation, and the norm has entered a phase of re-contestation. The variation in the acceptance and implementation of the RtoP in differing regions highlights what Bellamy and Williams (2011) term the “gatekeeper role” of regional organizations — a role that is also highlighted by the divergent opinions as to what constitutes legitimate action under the RtoP.

Kate Seaman

5. China and the Third Pillar

As a rising power, China has cautiously undertaken international responsibilities such as regional stability and peace. This has included the dispatching of blue helmet and engineer troops under the UN framework to assume mine-clearing and infrastructure (re)construction in post-conflict regions. Moreover, China has accepted the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) norm, which it endorsed at the World Summit in 2005 and later under UNSCR 1674. China has accepted the RtoP principle despite its traditional doctrine of non-intervention and its “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence”. As put forward by Zhou Enlai when he received an Indian government delegation on 31 December 1953, nonintervention is central to the “Five Principles” as they refer to mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. Fifty years on, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao (2004) called the “Five Principles” “the cornerstone of China’s independent foreign policy”. At the same time, China remains persistently cautious about the non-consensual use of force and is reticent about applying sanctions, particularly when these measures are not fully backed by relevant international and regional organizations. This ambivalent attitude and behavior relates to China’s UN diplomacy, domestic realpolitik and the country’s strategic culture.

Peiran Wang

6. Russia, the Responsibility to Protect and Intervention

It is important to note at the outset that Russia fails to distinguish between the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) and humanitarian intervention. Therefore, despite the fact that the RtoP doctrine itself stipulates that the principle should not be viewed as identical to humanitarian intervention, even in the Western scholarly literature there appears to be some disagreement on whether this is in fact the case. Russia persists in conflating the two principles. This chapter will examine the possible reasons for this conflation by providing the historical and analytical context of Russian thinking on intervention since the fall of the Soviet Union. It will be demonstrated that the roots of this thinking need to be traced back to the interventions in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the resistance to US hegemony, at both regional and global levels, and what Russia sees as attempts to overturn existing norms, rather than simply focusing on more recent events such as the “Arab Spring” in isolation. Furthermore, the issue of intervention has become increasingly intertwined with domestic developments. This chapter will examine Russia’s views on sovereignty and intervention in the post-Cold War era in general, before looking at Russia’s stance on the interventions of the 1990s and the watershed case of Kosovo. Then, with the advent of the RtoP Doctrine in 2001, other relevant cases of intervention as well as nonintervention will be examined in order to give some idea of when Russia supports intervention and when it does not. This chapter also focuses on Russian understandings of the RtoP doctrine.

Natasha Kuhrt

7. India and the Responsibility to Protect’s Third Pillar

The third pillar of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) states that in cases where a state is unable to provide protection for its citizens, the international community has the responsibility to respond in a collective and decisive effort to provide protection. This aspect of authority given to the international system to be involved in the domestic affairs of a nation, even to the extent of military intervention, presents a significant challenge to India. This is a country that sees the world largely through the traditional lens of a Westphalian understanding of state sovereignty, and its long-held principle of non-interference in national affairs. Despite formally endorsing RtoP at the 2005 World Summit, India retains serious and consistent reservations when it comes to coercive measures under this doctrine’s third pillar. This chapter examines how India, an emerging rising power and an aspiring Security Council Permanent Member has dealt with and positioned itself regarding RtoP’s third pillar in the context of the 2011–2012 Libyan and the current Syrian civilian protection crises.

Roopmati Khandekar

8. The Use of Force and the Third Pillar

The most controversial operational aspect to the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) is the potential use of “timely and decisive” military force to prevent or halt genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity (“the four crimes”). Notwithstanding the fact that the UN Charter largely prohibits the use of force, military intervention is political and polarizing by its very nature. For the third pillar, this polarizing effect is amplified by the space it shares — rightly or wrongly — with “humanitarian intervention”. Unlike humanitarian intervention the use of force under the RtoP is conceptually delimited by the need to secure a UN Security Council (UNSC) mandate and is restricted only to the four crimes. Yet the principle is still perceived by some as a way to justify intervention for political reasons under the veil of ethical principles. Countering the power of the ethical rationale for RtoP-based military interventions are rationales that feel just as forcefully about absolute sovereignty and the international order enshrined by the UN Charter.

Daniel Fiott

9. The European Union and the Third Pillar

This chapter assesses the European Union’s relationship with the pillars of the RtoP, in particular the conceptual desire, political will and capabilities the organization possesses to deploy military assets in situations when a state is “manifestly failing to protect its own population” (United Nations, 2005). In undertaking this analysis, the chapter understands that the RtoP is a wide-reaching norm, encompassing both military and non-military approaches. Through focusing explicitly on the third pillar debate, an important contribution is made to an area where there has been a great deal of speculation but little substantial policy development. Moreover, the author writes in the knowledge that the use of military assets comprises only a small part of the European Union’s foreign policy tools.

David Curran

10. The Role of Business in the Responsibility to Protect

The history of international norms is marked by differential spread and uptake of ideas. In some cases, gradual shifts in internationally accepted norms have taken place over generations. In contrast, the international uptake of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) is unusual: the RtoP moved in only a few years from a concept in a few reports and papers to a serious point of discussion and debate acknowledged by numerous organizations (Thakur and Weiss, 2009). This adoption was broad as well as rapid. Organizations, including the UN Security Council (Cotler and Genser, 2011), the UN General Assembly (United Nations, 2009a), the popular press (Rieff, 2011), NATO and many INGOs, have written on and invoked the RtoP. This discussion unsurprisingly has generated a diverse and contested field of interpretations about what specifically the RtoP entails (Stahn, 2007), or what kinds of actions are appropriate outgrowths of the RtoP as generally understood (Thakur, 2011).

Conor Seyle, Eamon Aloyo

11. Social Media and the Responsibility to Protect

The role of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) can be used to both uphold and challenge the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP). Social media documentation of atrocity crimes is, for example, increasingly key to generating an international response. Specifically, the filming of crimes against humanity on smart phones and their dissemination through social media networks may also feed into a national and international criminal investigation of these crimes at a later date. While it is true that traditional communication tools such as radio were used during the perpetration of some of the most brutal crimes against humanity — the foremost tragedy of course being the case of Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines and its role in inciting genocide in Rwanda in 1994 — there is a positive role for more modern tools of communication such as ICTs in upholding the RtoP. In some cases, the documentation of crimes via social media and the cohesion and effectiveness this media can give political movements may even lead to the negation of having to implement the third pillar of RtoP at all.

Karim Hamza

12. Responsibility without Coherence? The Responsibility to Rebuild and Protect in the DRC

This chapter provides an assessment of the opportunities and limitations of the “responsibility to rebuild” in the case of the protracted conflict in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). With the help of this case study the chapter argues that a lack of coherence between measures of “prevention”, “rebuilding” and “reacting” severely undermines the international community’s ability to effectively operationalize the “responsibility to protect” (RtoP), particularly in the context of long-term peace-building. Particular emphasis will be placed on the coherence between the three pillars of the RtoP approach. Compared to pillar three, the other two pillars are of an explicitly different nature as consent, and even cooperation, based on a sense of national ownership is required. UN member states and international organizations are unable to deliver capacity-building, or support the state to improve its capacity to protect their civilians from the “four crimes”, without the political consent of the state concerned. Hence, the characteristics of the activities and interventions that are linked to the different pillars vary in nature. It is the aim of this chapter to explore the coherence between these different pillars and to analyze how within a protracted conflict, such as in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the boundaries between the different pillars can get blurred. This, the chapter argues, can complicate the effectiveness of the RtoP principle.

Esther Marijnen


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