This article is part of a forum on the report of the United Nations Secretary-General, 'Implementing the Responsibility to Protect', which was released on 12 January 2009. The report was written as a response to 'one of the cardinal challenges of our time, as posed in paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome: operationalizing the responsibility to protect'. The forum seeks to provide a range of perspectives on the report. It features contributions from Jennifer Welsh, Hugo Slim, David Chandler and Monica Serrano, and it concludes with a response from Special Advisor to the Secretary-General Edward Luck.
While critics have claimed that the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is a North-South polarising issue and is therefore controversial, this is a deliberate misrepresentation in a rhetorical war led by a small minority of UN member states. The first section of this article briefly reviews the evolution of this emerging norm from its inception in the 2001 report by the International Commission on State Sovereignty and Intervention (ICISS), to its endorsement in 2005 by more than 150 heads of states in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, to its more recent configuration in a three-pillar structure. The next part seeks to identify the main criticisms that have been levelled at R2P. It touches on some of the myths and allegations that have long accompanied R2P, as well as on the chief legitimate concerns underlying the shift towards implementation. The third and concluding section briefly touches upon the impact of the interventions in Libya and Côte D'Ivoire upon the evolving R2P consensus, and critically assesses the implications of a normative strategy that has put a premium on unanimity and unqualified consensus.
Mónica Serrano and Paul Kenny
Ramesh Thakur, Brian Job, Mónica Serrano and Diana Tussie