The Responsibility to Protect Ten Years on from the World Summit: A Call to Manage Expectations

in Global Responsibility to Protect
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This article draws on non-Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) research into expectations to argue that in the aftermath of the intervention in Libya and non-intervention in Syria scholars have to manage RtoP expectations. In so doing, it introduces four types of expectations into the RtoP discourse: ‘expectation gaps’, ‘expectation vacuums’, ‘expectation clouding’, and ‘inherited expectations’ – the latter of which is this author’s own contribution to the discourse. To illustrate the utility of the expectations approach, the article focuses on the debate over inconsistency in order to highlight the role of expectation gaps and inherited expectations. Going forward, it calls for further research into RtoP expectation management to be conducted and identifies key debates which need to be addressed. Ultimately, it advances an understanding of the RtoP that is inherently more sensitive to its limitations and possibilities.




Aidan Hehir, The Responsibility to Protect: Rhetoric, Reality and the Future of Humanitarian Intervention, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), p. 12.


Aidan Hehir, ‘The Permanency of Inconsistency: Libya, The Security Council and the Responsibility to Protect’, International Security 38/1: 137–159 (2013).


Michael Newton, ‘R2P is Dead and Done due to Response in Syria’, Vanderbilt Journal of International Law, 2013,, accessed 24 February 2014. See also, David Reiff, ‘R2P R.I.P’, New York Times 2011, 7 November 2011; Stewart M. Patrick, ‘rip for R2P? Syria and the Dilemmas of Humanitarian Intervention’, The Internationalist, June 12 2012,, accessed 24 February 2014; Mohammed Nuruzzaman, ‘The "Responsibility to Protect" Doctrine: Revived in Libya, Buried in Syria’, Insight, 15/2: 57–66 (2012).


Alex Bellamy, R2P – Dead or Alive?, The Responsibility to Protect – From Evasive to Reluctant Action? (Pretoria: Institute for Security Studies, 2012), p. 11.


Matthew Continetti, ‘Whatever happened to the "Responsibility to Protect"?’, Weekly Standard, 23 February 2011,, accessed 12 March 2011.


Jennifer M. Welsh, ‘Norm Contestation and the Responsibility to Protect’, Global Responsibility to Protect 5/4: 365–396 (2013), p. 368.


Jennifer Welsh, ‘Implementing the "Responsibility to Protect": Where Expectations Meet Reality’, Ethics and International Affairs 24/4: 415–430 (2010). Cristina Badescu, Humanitarian Intervention and the Responsibility to Protect. (New York: Routledge 2011), pp. 165–167. Alex Bellamy, ‘The Responsibility to Protect Turns Ten’, Ethics and Inter­national Affairs, 29/2: 161–185 (2015).


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Christopher Hill, ‘The Capability-Expectations Gap or Conceptualizing Europe’s International Role’, Journal of Common Market Studies, 31/3: 305–328 (1993).


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Mark Bevir, and R.A.W. Rhodes, ‘Studying British Government: Reconstructing the Research Agenda’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 1/2: 215–239 (1999), p. 224. Such thinking has been developed further through the Intepretivism in Inter­national Relations bisa Working Group (iirwg). In 2013, iirwg released its flagship volume, Mark Bevir, Oliver Daddow and Ian Hall (eds.), Interpreting Global Security (New York: Routledge, 2013).


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Adrian Gallagher, Genocide and Its Threat to Contemporary International Order (New York: Palgrave, Macmillan, 2013), pp. 108–121.


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Badescu, Humanitarian Intervention and the Responsibility to Protect. p. 166.


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Aidan Hehir, ‘The Permanency of Inconsistency: Libya, The Security Council and the Responsibility to Protect’, International Security, 38/1:137–159 (2013).


Adrian Gallagher, ‘A Clash of Responsibilities: Engaging with Realist Critiques of the R2P’, Global Responsibility to Protect, 4/3:334–357 (2012).


Hehir, ‘The Responsibility to Protect’, pp. 228–254.


Heather M. Roff, Global Justice, Kant and the Responsibility to Protect: A Provisional Duty (New York: Routledge, 2013), pp. 113–117.


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Ruan Zongze, ‘Responsible Protection: Building a Safer World’, China Institute of International Studies,–06/15/content_5090912.htm, accessed 20 June 2012. Also, Aidan Hehir ‘The Responsibility to Protect as the Apotheosis of Liberal Teleology’ in Aidan Hehir and Robert W. Murray (eds.), Libya, The Responsibility to Protect and the Future of Humanitarian Intervention (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), pp. 44–45.


Thomas Weiss, ‘R2P Alive and Well After Libya’, Ethics and International Affairs, 25/3: 287–292 (2011), p. 291.


Nicholas J. Wheeler, Saving Strangers: Humanitarian Intervention in International Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 305.


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