Realizing the un’s Protection Promise: A Central Challenge for the Next Secretary-General

in Global Responsibility to Protect
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Today the relevance, legitimacy and credibility of the United Nations are widely seen as a function of its efforts to end civil wars and prevent the worst mass atrocities. Despite advances in recent years, the un’s protection record over the past decade is mixed. Considering the ever-growing global expectations of the un to protect populations from large-scale violence, along with a rise in protection risks, these issues will naturally feature highly on the agenda of António Guterres when he assumes the post of Secretary-General in January 2017. He will need to overcome a number of daunting challenges to ensure the un realizes its protection promise and restores the organization’s damaged credibility in this area. To achieve this, he will need to make progress on three fronts in particular: first, fostering a renewed consensus around the Responsibility to Protect norm; second, strengthening the ability of peace operations to implement protection mandates while ensuring that expectations are in line with what blue helmets can deliver; and third, improving the un’s response to severe human rights violations in non-mission settings.




Center for Civilians in Conflict, “A Refuge in Flames. The February 17–18 Violence in Malakal PoC”, 2016.


Sam Jones, “Ban blames Russia for Collapse of Syria Talks”, The Financial Times, 5 February 2016.


Colum Lynch, “Israel’s Shield,” Foreign Policy, 1 June 2015.


Jeffrey Goldberg, “The Obama Doctrine,” The Atlantic, April 2016.


 See for instance Kenneth Roth, “Obama & Counterterror: The Ignored Record,” The New York Review of Books, 5 February 2015; also ohcr and osce, “Open Letter to the Government of the United States of America on the occasion of the 14th anniversary of the opening of the Guantánamo Bay detention facility,” 11 January 2016.


Gareth Evans and Ramesh Thakur, “Humanitarian Intervention and the Responsibility to Protect: Correspondence with Robert Pape,” International Security, Vol. 37, No. 4 (Spring 2013), pp. 199–214.


Colum Lynch, “They Just Stood Watching,” Foreign Policy, April 7, 2014.


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