This article argues that—contrary to the way that it is often framed—the first pillar of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) is not best understood as an instantiation of a broader international responsibility to protect human rights. Firstly, the RtoP reverts to a discourse of powerful savours and passive victims, which runs against advocates’ claim that the RtoP is a ‘rights-based norm’. Secondly, although it distinguishes between prevention and response, the RtoP is still fundamentally a discussion of retrospective responsibility. The responsibility to protect human rights, by contrast, is importantly prospective. The article’s separation of prospective/retrospective responsibility from the responsibility to prevent and to respond is an independent contribution, with broader significance beyond the RtoP context. Thirdly, the RtoP becomes activated when atrocity is building, imminent or underway; whereas the responsibility to protect human rights may be breached even without a clear causal link to harm.
Hugh Breakey‘Protection Norms and Human Rights: A Rights-Based Analysis of the Re-sponsibility to Protect and the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict’Global Responsibility to Protect4:3 (2012) pp. 309–33; see also Melissa T. Labonte ‘Whose Responsibility to Protect? The Implications of Double Manifest Failure for Civilian Protection’ International Journal of Human Rights 16:7 (2012) pp. 982–1002.
Gareth Evans‘From Humanitarian Intervention to the Responsibility to Protect’Wisconsin International Law Journal24:3 (2006–7) pp. 101–20; Gareth Evans ‘The Responsibility to Protect: An Idea Whose Time Has Come… and Gone?’ International Relations 22:3 (2008) p. 295.
Peter Singer‘Famine, Affluence, and Morality’Philosophy and Public Affairs1:3 (1972) pp. 229–43; Allen Buchanan ‘Justice and Charity’ Ethics 97:3 (1987) pp. 558–75. See also: William Easterly The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Little Good (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2006).
H.L.A. HartPunishment and Responsibility (Oxford: Clarendon1968); Graham Haydon ‘On Being Responsible’ Philosophical Quarterly 28:110 (1978) pp. 46–57; Peter Cane Responsibility in Law and Morality (Oxford: Hart Publishing 2002).
Evans‘The Responsibility to Protect: Ending Mass Atrocity Crimes Once and for All’ p. 11; Abdullahi Boru Halakhe ‘"R2P in Practice": Ethnic Violence Elections and Atrocity Prevention in Kenya’ Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect Occasional Paper Series 4 (2013).
Christopher CramerCivil War Is Not a Stupid Thing: Accounting for Violence in Developing Countries (London: C. Hurst & Co.2006); Mark Duffield Security Development and Unending War: Governing the World of Peoples (Cambridge: Polity Press 2007); David Chandler ‘R2P or not R2P? More Statebuilding Less Responsibility’ Global Responsibility to Protect 2:1 (2010) pp. 161–66; Jan Selby ‘The Myth of Liberal Peacebuilding’ Conflict Security and Development 13:1 (2013) pp. 57–86.
Johan Galtung‘Violence, Peace, and Peace Research’Journal of Peace Research6:3 (1969) pp. 167–91; Karp ‘The Concept of Human Rights Protection’ in Mills and Karp (eds.) Human Rights Protection in Global Politics p. 142.