The Concept of Responsibility to Protect and Comparative Analysis of Libya and Syria Examples


The end of the Cold War era and the evolution to a unipolarity movement by the US caused changes in the field of human rights law. The disappearance of ideological polarization in the field of human rights has led to more progress than ever before in the field. Increasing humanitarian crises during the post-cold war order led various regional and global powers to decide military interventions seeking for humanitarian grounds. However, the theoretical uncertainty of Humanitarian Intervention paved the way for the development of the Responsibility to Protect concept developed by ICISS in 2001. The purpose of this article is to examine the theoretical basis of the concept of Responsibility to Protect. By examining the legal, ethical, political and practical infrastructure of the concept, it analyzes the importance of this concept in achieving peace. Article strengthens this analysis through the Libyan Intervention and the Syrian Non-Intervention examples.

The article respectively deals with the definition and theoretical background of the R2P[1] concept, the legal basis of concept, and the legal and ethical criticisms. As a case study examines the theory and practice dilemma in the Libyan Intervention and reasons of Syrian Non-Intervention from a historical, economical and legal perspective.

Keywords: United Nations, Responsibility to Protect, International Law, Libya Intervention, Syria Non-Intervention.

1. Definition of Responsibility to Protect (R2P)

Responsibility to Protect term developed in 2001 by International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) project. ICISS R2P Report which contributed to the theoretical development of the concept also guided the development of the 2005 World Summit Outcome related articles. The main aim of the R2P concept is to prevent aggression of national states over its own citizens. After the number of failures and different practices over Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya interventions set a crucial challenge to the United Nations (UN) and its role as an international community.

Firstly, the main purpose of the R2P criticized heavily and these new challenges hampered the UN’s role in disputing solutions. According to 138.139.140 articles of World Summit Outcome every state has a responsibility to protect its own people by genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, ethnic cleansing. This concept accepts sovereignty as responsible and also requires the prevention of these four crimes. If a related state could not protect its own citizens or unwilling to protect R2P allows the international community to use diplomatic, humanitarian and peaceful means in accordance with VII part of the UN Charter (A/RES/60/1, 2005: 30).
Namely, when the state could not provide a solution to the humanitarian crisis, in response to the four crimes and crises listed above, responsibility devolves to the UN. First of all, peaceful means implemented and as a last resort, military intervention can be decided. However, these steps do not need to be taken sequentially. In this respect, while R2P imposes responsibility on national sovereignty, if it fails, responsibility is transferred to the UN which means international community.

The UN put forward a three-pillar strategy at the 2005 summit. This strategy deals with the prevention responsibilities of the national state in the first pillar, international aid and capacity building in the second pillar, and the timely and decisive response in the third pillar. In contrast to the rebuilding responsibility of the international community determined in the ICISS report, the third pillar is not included in the official R2P concept.

1.1. Conflict Prevention

Firstly, preventive intervention has more and more occupied the agenda of the UN after the 2000s. However, in reality the formation of conflict prevention mechanisms is not a new phenomenon. For instance, The League of Nations, the United Nations or Concert of Europe were established for providing preventive diplomacy (ICISS, 2001: 29). This prevention stems from the structure of the UN that is committed to stop threats to the peace.

The ‘’Progress Report on The Prevention of Armed Conflict‘’ (A/60/891, 2006) acknowledges that the responsibility for prevention is primarily the responsibility of national states. Therefore, it offers structural conflict avoidance proposals to global problems and regional problems that require action by the international community. The Report recommends structural and purposeful responsibilities to UN specialized agencies to prevent military conflict through the early warning system, good offices and mediation, democracy, good governance and culture of prevention, disarmament and arm control, equitable socio-economic development, human-rights humanitarian law and international justice. This report is an example showing that the UN Secretaries General are in an important position in an idea-building step in the UN.

Secondly, conflict prevention mechanisms have also been established by regional organizations. For instance, Mechanism for Conflict Prevention of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), The European Union (EU) provided preventive diplomacy mechanisms and The European Union (EU) has commissioned a number of missions to propose conflict prevention strategies in countries at risk such as Indonesia, Fiji and Nepal. Moreover, there is an attempt as the Rome Initiative on conflict prevention established by G8 states or preventive mechanisms created by individual states (Bellamy, 2008: 516-518). Taking the consideration ICISS, it presents the early warning system model as a conflict prevention and argues that governments, UN members and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) actually realized the situation in Rwanda in 1993. The problem is that the flow of information is important in deadly conflicts but not enough for effective prevention (ICISS, 2001: 37).

To conclude, conflict prevention and adaptation policies are a crucial agenda for the UN and accepted as an integral part of the R2P. Conflict prevention represents an important responsibility for global and regional organizations, non-governmental organizations and state authorities.

1.2. Reaction, Timely and Decisive Response

The second column contains the reaction responsibility. For addressing reaction responsibility, the ICISS has introduced some criterias, similar to the jus ad bello and jus ad bellum traditions. The qualities required for the intervention are limited as follows: right intention, last resort, proportionality, expectation of positive development, and right authorization. Reaction tools can be provided by the UN classified as follows: direct political measures, direct economic – social measures, direct constitutional legal measures and direct security sector measures. Direct security sector measures include peacekeeping for civilian protection, safe zones and no-fly zones, arm embargoes, jamming and radio frequencies, threat or use of military force (Evans, 2008: 150).

Accepting these tools shows the bright side however, efficient application of tools are criticized heavily. Taking the case of Libya, application of no-fly zone by France shows a controversy and economic sanctions over Iraq showed that, although these attempts aim at reducing atrocities, usually heavy economical burden affects civilians. Therefore, peacekeeping efforts demonstrated inefficiency in specific areas such as Bosnia intervention. As a comprehensive international organization, its lack of control of its own employees caused heavy criticisms and new attempts (See: ‘The Whistleblower’, Larysa Kondracki, 2001).

The third column is timely and decisive response concluded as ‘’In a rapidly unfolding emergency situation, the United Nations, regional, subregional and national decision makers must remain focused on saving lives through “timely and decisive” action , not on following arbitrary, sequential or graduated policy ladders that prize procedure over substance and process over results’’(A/63/677, 2009: 22-23). It has always been criticized for being political and inadequate for the UN to take timely and decisive decisions. The UN’s bureaucratic structure, absence of an army, and the anti-democratic nature of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have repeatedly been questioned according to humanitarian intervention decisions.

1.3. Responsibility to Rebuild and the UN

Responsibility for rebuilding includes a number of tools that help maintain order after the crisis. These tools include political, economic, constitutional-legal and security sector measures (Evans, 2008: 107). Not only the UN, but also the effective involvement of NGOs, specialized agencies, regional organizations can help to restore order in a specified area. The concept of rebuilding presented by the ICISS report in 2001 was not included in the responsibility to protect in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document. The Peacebuilding mission was processed differently under the 2005 World Summit Outcome. This amendment in Implementing the Responsibility to Protect Report concluded as the three-pillar structure which are preventive action, reaction and timely and decisive response (A/63/677, 2009: 2).

Peace building in reality also a discourse that states have used in international relations for centuries to increase their influence in a particular region. Taking into consideration Iraqi intervention and President Bush’s words: “Free nations have a duty to defend our people by uniting against the violent …as we have done before, America and our allies accept that responsibility” (The Guardian, 2003). As seen in the Iraq intervention, a certain geopolitical discourse was attempted to be legitimized with discourses such as bringing peace to the region.

This real-political approach is variable and depends on the individual decisions of the states. For example; given the almost absence of peace building in the Rwanda intervention. The R2P concept allowed for the restraint of contradictory discourses such as bringing democracy to the region. Therefore, R2P limited the reason for the intervention to four major crimes. Thus, statements such as “Saddam is a dictator”– presented as an argument in the Iraq intervention- or “Saddam has weapons of mass destruction”, despite the lack of evidence by the international commission, could not constitute a legitimate basis for intervention. With the R2P concept, it has been tried to create a value for the military intervention to be made with only humanitarian values.

Legal Framework of R2P

Whether the Responsibility to Protect is in line with international law is a frequently discussed issue. This section will attempt to determine the legal status of the concept.

Those who argue that the R2P concept does not comply with international law object to the three reasons: R2P violates state sovereignty, non-intervention in domestic affairs and prohibition of the use of force.

2. R2P vs. International Law

Firstly, UN Chapter I article 2(4) concludes and determines state sovereignty as follows: “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” R2P challenges the view of the territorial integrity and independence of the state in internal affairs which was accepted as a norm from Westphalia to the present. And in today’s modern societies, preventing human rights violations is under the responsibility of the legitimately chosen state. However, the R2P concept rejects this structure and paves the way for other states to intervene. According to critics, R2P not only restricts state sovereignty but also predicts regime change under the umbrella of protecting human rights (Pak, 2020: 6). Forcing the legitimately elected government to regime change also brings political unrest. The dilemma that arises whether the aim is to protect civilians or claiming power in the region.

Secondly, the principle of non-infringement of borders challenges the R2P concept. For criticals, states’ ignoring the attitude of the protection of their citizens in practice is not common. However; R2P also justifies the intervention in internal affairs (Pak, 2020: 7). Usually, the aim of the interventionist states are not primarily for humanitarian reasons. Therefore, defined ‘crimes against humanity’ reason did not provide a sufficient legal infrastructure on how to define violations against human rights, genocides, ethnic crimes.

Thirdly, prohibition of the use of force defined in UN Charter article 2(4) also concludes exceptions in the articles 51 and 41. The first exception to the use of force is self-defense and the second one is the UNSC decision. However, in these exceptions R2P is not included.

2.2. R2P Complies with International Law

Those who argue that R2P is in compliance with international law emphasize the changing nature of international law. Taking into consideration institutional changes after Rwanda, Kosovo and Bosnia interventions paved the way for R2P concept implementation. Moreover, ICISS supported that although for implementing R2P UNSC authorization more suitable, there may be legitimate R2P interventions although there is no UNSC decision (Bellamy and Wheeler, 2017: 522). In order to put R2P on a positive basis R2P admitted in line with the principles of international law by the UN, considering treaties such as international human rights law. ICISS Responsibility to Protect Report, UN General Assembly Reports, 2005 World Summit Outcome’s articles of 138,139,140, Human Rights Law and other states’ commitments adopted as a legal framework of the R2P.

Supporters of the R2P acknowledged human rights as an integral part of the UN aims. While strengthening these inferences by referring to Article III of Part I of the Charter, they consider the responsibility to protect important in terms of respect for human rights. Article III of the Charter clearly states that human rights are among the aims of the UN, despite its editorial style that may raise suspicion (Göçer, 2009: 9). This point of view is also an indicator of the change in the concept of hard and soft politics which reflects the transition of the globalized world. Therefore, with changing dimensions of human security approaching to be a part of hard politics.

Advocates of humanitarian intervention also argue that states have intervened in sovereignty with human interests in centuries. That is, as it is argued, independence in full context in internal affairs is not actually applicable. R2P is not the only intervention that breaks this rule. The most important example of this was encountered during the Kosovo crisis. Intervention without UNSC authorization has been advocated as an “illegal but legitimate” intervention (Karagül, Erbaş, 2014: 482-483). Concept of legitimacy argument is compatible with the concept of opinio juris in international law. The opinio juris defines the fact that the continuing behavior of states over time constitutes a rule of law.

3. Ethical Criticisms of the R2P

International awareness has been created for the prevention and protection of human rights violations after two devastating world wars. As a result, human rights are frequently discussed in the UN Charter. As a second peak, the dissolution of the Soviet Union brought about a series of violations reflecting human rights violations and instability in the international order in the 1990s. The discussions in the changing world order have been conducted over the shortcomings of Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq interventions. The main indicator of all these humanitarian crises is that the concept of humanitarian intervention or human rights discourses can easily serve the individual interests of states. The second major drawback is that the UNSC’s veto power also has ethical reservations. It cannot be determined whether the real aims of the states that can veto the intervention are ethical or political.

Especially the attitude of China and Russia on this issue raises the criticism of the structure of the UNSC regarding the right authority and the right purpose. The evaluation of the Bosnian intervention as a late intervention and the realization of the Kosovo intervention without the approval of the UNSC are examples of this reservation. Because it is emphasized that the intervention in Kosovo is not wanted to be late as in the Bosnian intervention.

Thirdly,the following speech by Secretary General Kofi Annan is interesting: “If humanitarian intervention is, indeed, an unacceptable assault on sovereignty,how should we respond to a Rwanda, to a Srebrenica, to gross and systematic violation of human rights that offend every precept of our common humanity?” (UN Department of Public Information, 2012: 1). When questioned ethically it is an obligation to respond to human rights violations as the UN Charter acknowledges. In the globalizing world, the dependencies between human, state and international community are even more pronounced. Despite all the criticism in this respect, the ethical responsibility of the international community is to respond to these violations.

4. Other Arguments Against Intervention

The arguments that criticize the concept of humanitarian intervention are as follows: uncertainty about compliance with international law, not being sure of the ethical goals of states, the problem of abuse, the selectivity response of the region to be intervened, and whether the interventions carried out so far have been successful or not (Bellamy and Wheeler, 2017: 516-518). To sum up, clearly the concept of R2P is controversial. Advocates argue that the concept of humanitarian intervention may be an ethical norm as a result of the globalizing world. On the other hand, those who are against humanitarian intervention are suspicious of the change in the existing concept of international law, system, and sovereignty.

5. Libya Intervention

5.1. Historical Challenges in Libya Towards R2P

Libya was ruled by an authoritarian regime that came to power in 1969 with a coup. In the international arena, Gaddafi was often criticized especially by western states for his propagandist movements against international organizations. Internal unrest prevailed in the country, such as Gaddafi’s policies and border problems with neighbors. In addition, between 1992 – 2003, political sanctions were imposed by the UN for supporting international terrorism (Şentuna, 2019: 211).

The event that exacerbated the crisis in Libya is the Arab Spring. After the Arab Spring, which increased the sphere of influence in the Middle East in a short time, was affected in Libya. The first uprisings started in Benghazi on February 14-15. These uprisings have turned into slogans for Gaddafi, who has ruled the country for almost 42 years, to leave the power (Sak, 2015: 141). Gaddafi’s harsh interventions against citizens were criticized by many international organizations and states, especially by the UN. As a result of the civil war that started in the country and in 2011 Gaddafi was overthrown at the end the opposition and the supporters of the regime were divided into two aggressive groups. These political centers are the House of Representatives in Tobruk and the Government of National Accord based in Tripoli. The main power supporting the Government of National Consensus is the UN. Support practices of other states vary. The main force supporting the government of national consensus is the UN. Considering the recent developments, Turkey and Italy support the Government of National Accord. Egypt and the United Arab Emirates support Haftar’s advocates. Russia, the USA and France have a pragmatic approach that can be inconsistent over time. To summarize, in the historical process state discourses in the region undergo changes with inconsistent, impartial or biased approaches.

5.2. The Libyan Intervention: Theory and Practice Dilemma

In 2010 and 2011, a total of 24 meetings were held at the UN to discuss the situation in Libya and as a result, 6 resolutions were created under the VII part of the UN Charter (UN, 2010-2011: 82). 1973 Resolution considered under Chapter VII which includes Action with Respect to The Threats to The Peace, Breaches of the Peace and Acts of Aggression. The 1973 Resolution is the agreement that allows military intervention, but it is necessary to examine other resolutions to explain the course of the situation.

In the 1970 Resolution UN stated that the civil war in Libya as a threat to international peace and accepted there were massive humanitarian attacks on the civilian population. Other threats cited in the region where migration and insufficient medical equipment. The UN recalled the Libyan authorities’ responsibility to protect its population–sovereignty as responsibility understanding-, as responsibility for prevention rests firstly under the nation state. Therefore, the UN has urged Libyan authorities to allow international humanitarian law, international human rights monitors, security of foreign nationals, safe passage of medical aid and restrictions on the media. Therefore, called on the international community to encourage sanctions such as arms embargo, travel ban and asset freeze (UN, 2011:2,3). In this respect, the 1970 Resolution is an appropriate resolution that implicates peaceful sanctions. However, the quick decision of military intervention on 17 March 2011 after the 1970 Resolution created a controversy. The resolution 1973 which approved military intervention within 31 days, sparked critiques over the fact that state officials did not have enough time to comply with the regulations laid down in the 1970 decision.

It is generally argued that the Libyan intervention is the first application of the responsibility to protect, involving military intervention. However, the attempts suggest that considering the Libyan intervention under R2P is problematic. Firstly, the Libya crisis clearly evaluated under prerequisites of responsibility to protect and comply with the right reason. However, state intervention attempts and rhetoric were not clearly asserted under the discourse of the responsibility to protect.

Another crucial point is that the 1973 Resolution made the establishment of a no-fly zone decision for the first time under the protection of civilians argument. That means; compared to the claims in previous humanitarian intervention decisions, the 1973 Resolution uses the phrase “to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack”, setting a more inclusive “civilian populated areas” argument instead of the word “close” referred to in prior interventions (Dunne and Gifkins, 2011: 8).

To summarize, the first practice criticized in the Libyan intervention is the time difference between the 1970-1973 decisions. The point forgotten here is that the responsibility to protect is not necessarily to take the prevention and reaction columns orderly. However, it is clear how long and compellingly the previous intervention decisions were decided at the UN. In this respect, considering that Libyan intervention concerns the political interests of some UNSC members, and it is not vetoed, decision to intervene not comply with the right purpose. The Libyan intervention has also been supported by regional actors. The support of the League of Arab States, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Organization of the Islamic Conference actually caused China and Russia to abstain from vetoing (Steele and Heinze, 2014: 108-109). On the other hand, Countries abstaining from the decision numbered 1973 Resolution were Brazil, Russia, India, China and Germany. This means that none of the four BRIC countries (two with Security Council veto power and two regular members on rotation) did not support the mission. The main reasons why these members hesitate to vote are regarded as two: they believe that the intervention has a low chance of success and they doubt the decision ahead of them (Dunne and Gifkins, 2011: 8-9).

Secondly, the Libyan intervention is often accepted as an intervention in which responsibility to protect is exercised. However, although reference is made to the relevant sections in paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome, there is no obvious reference to the statement of responsibility to protect in the 1973 Resolution (Gözen Ercan, Online interview, 2021). From this point of view, it is obvious that the UN continues not as a new discourse language, but a classical discourse. The decision refers to the prevention responsibility of the Libyan authorities and in particular refers to acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations.In other words, the UNSC has used the R2P language carefully and avoided challenging the UN’s established practice and authorization terminology (Gözen, 2019: 328).

6. Syrian Crisis

The purpose of this chapter is to discuss why there was no military intervention in Syria while Libya was intervened, including historical and social factors.

6.1. Historical Challenges: A Road to Civil War

First, the winds of the Arab Spring, which affected Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, inevitably affected Syria. The unrest against democracy and authoritarian regimes was felt remarkably.

Each country has its own characteristics. The unique characteristics of Syria are the ethnic and religious diversity, unitary and single party structure in the state. Especially after the Iraq intervention was carried out in violation of international law with so-called democratic rhetoric, totalitarian governments were again at risk. The administration that continues with the hereditary legacy in Syria has been named as Presidential Monarchy. The fragile structures, economic problems, religious and ethnic problems within the country have clarified the segregation within the country. The civil war that started in 2011 has become a threat to the stability of the international community in a brief time. Refugee crises, poverty in the region, conflicts between power blocks still continue. Although the civil war in Syria is attributed as an international threat by some states, it has also been evaluated as Syria’s internal problem. This dilemma led to ineffectiveness to give an international collective response. This deficiency motivated the interest policies of the regional powers to prevail in the region. In this respect, Russia, Turkey, USA, different interests of states such as Iran gave direction to the politics and rhetoric. Russia and China vetoed the military intervention in Syria, which led to the failure to take a UNSC decision. Crucially, understanding Russia’s policy towards Syria is based on historical background. The primary reason for supporting the Assad regime is the strong close diplomatic relations dating back to the Soviets. The second reason is Russia’s propensity for civil war as a domestic problem. The third reason is Russia’s reservation on Western imperialist intentions in the case of an intervention. (Yılmaz, 2014: 183-184) Russia has vetoed the decisions taken by the UNSC 16 times. The other state that supported Russia in most of these vetoes was China (Reuters, 2020). Russia has thus rejected not only intervention but also humanitarian aid plans via Turkey in the region. Explanations about why not intervention decision implemented centered on the two implications which are special circumstances of the Syria Crisis and probability of the harsh consequences of the intervention (Karagül and Erbaş, 2017: 481).

The Syrian crisis has led to unavoidable refugee crises all over the world, and while visible humanitarian tragedies have occurred in the region, the failure to implement the responsibility to protect reduced the credibility of the R2P term in theory and practice. Many non-governmental organizations and peacekeepers frequently voiced the need for stopping human rights violations and the protection of civilians. Implementation of veto power once again included in political aims. The determination of the right authority as the UNSC and this institution as a political authority led the Syrian crisis to an impasse. Regional powers are dominant in Syria now. Unilateral interests of states decide whether groups should be supported or not. Accepting the problem as an internal problem criticized and has already turned into an international and regional problem which turned into a conflict of interest involving other actors. The credibility of the international community has been questioned once again.

7. Did R2P contribute to peace? Libya Intervention and Syrian Non-Intervention

It is very difficult to determine the contribution of R2P to peace. It has been determined that the implementation of R2P, which includes military intervention, is problematic in practice in Libya intervention. In short, military success in the field has not been able to bring order to Libya. But it has initiated the tendency of reducing high human rights violations. There are reasons for the hesitant approach in making a military intervention decision. There is the consideration that military intervention may increase human losses and political problems.

Indeed, directly or accidentally not to harm civilians is not possible in a military intervention. Taking in the consideration not only the Libyan example but also other intervention instances indicated the economic, social and psychological effects of military interventions are immense. Namely, it is not accidental that R2P accepts military intervention as a last resort.

In fact, it is normal for peace building to take time in a country. Because establishing long-standing and powerful peace is much more difficult than halting aggression. By examining the position of Libya in today’s circumstances it has not reached a stable order. At this point, instability in the region stems from the ineffectiveness of the peace building and problems in implementation. At least we know that military intervention success is the responsibility of the interventionist states. The problem of implementation originates from the careless actions of states. Therefore, it is improper to attribute failure of action as the total problem of the concept.

Although extensive work has been carried out within the framework of the UN in this area, an example of an intervention where the UN has failed in general is Libya. The political solution has not worked. The conflict between the Fayez al-Sarraj government and the Haftar government still continues. Military intervention did not offer a solution in the region.

Taking in consideration non-intervention in Syria, for some scholars experience of the Libyan intervention was the reason for the lack of strong international response to the situation in Syria and prevented a possible intervention decision (Gözen, 2016: 97). Russia’s and China’s vetoes in Syria have created a deadlock as discussed above. The point that is overlooked is that if there is a violation of human rights and the nation-state cannot maintain internal order despite all warnings, it becomes easier for regional or interest actors to be involved. As of September 2014, the US led a bombing campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, companioned by nine of the Member States of the European Union. In short, considering the criticisms that there was no intervention in Syria, it was obvious that foreign military intervention in the region continued with other interests (Gözen, 2016: 99). In other words, there was no collective intervention, but there were interventions against groups within the state. This is another version of the intervention in internal affairs with groups that are clearly or implicitly suppressed within the framework of terrorism.

To summarize, although the United Nations in both examples provide minimum benefit in achieving peace instantly, a continuous peace building is never in question. Moreover, the contribution of intervention or non-intervention to peace is reserved.

8. Responsibility to Protect: Reflection of the Change

The ideological opposition to human rights in the UN has disappeared after the Cold War. For some scholars, the USA has been seen to be the only power for a time which guides the unipolar movement. In this environment, two significant interventions have been discussed since the early 1990s which are the Bosnian Intervention (1992) and the Kosovo Intervention (1999). First, while the Bosnian Intervention is a decision taken by the UNSC decision, there is no UNSC decision in the Kosovo Intervention. This situation demonstrated once again the anti-democratic political decision-making mechanism in the UNSC, even if the intervention decision was based on humanitarian grounds. This discrepancy shows that the right purpose criterion offered by ICISS is inadequate as we can never pinpoint the exact intentions of states. Secondly, the Bosnian Intervention was evaluated as a late intervention by the international media and some states. The fact that the last resort criterion was too late has caused the positive development expectation criterion to be questioned over time. The lesson here is that it is very crucial to make a timely and decisive response. Because, after examining that NATO intervened in NATO without a UNSC decision in Kosovo, it was argued that this intervention was carried out in order not to be indecisive compared to the Bosnian Intervention. When Kosovo gained its independence in 2008, Serbia’s territorial integrity and political independence were lost. This situation has brought to mind that the purpose of the intervention is regime change, that is, to bring independence to Kosovo (Acar, 2005: 128).

These examples show that decisions that can not be determined on time in the field of prevention or intervention empower other states and international organizations to behave. There are also examples that describe this situation, as we have discussed in history. Thirdly, the fact that R2P directs the measures involving military intervention leads to a biased attitude towards the concept. Videlicet, in reality the ‘protection’ and preventive responsibility part of R2P is ignored. Truly, there is no example of a properly implemented military intervention under R2P authorization however; preventive sanctions are more successful compared to military intervention. Therefore, it is not possible to say that a possible military intervention will bring an effective and permanent solution, whether under the name of R2P or not because military intervention causes civilian casualties.

In the light of these discussions R2P is a problematic concept. It does not seem possible that it can bring a solution to peace alone. As the effective actors of this concept, it places a great responsibility on the states themselves. Since the UN does not have an army and usage of NATO as a deterrent often creates critiques over implementation.

More importantly, the other reflection of change is the understanding continuation evolved into the responsibility to protect from humanitarian intervention. Humanitarian intervention can be defined as the use of force without the decision of the Security Council and without the consent of the national state to protect part of a country’s population from serious human rights violations (Ortakovski, 2018: 305). The conclusion from this statement is that if a state cannot protect its own people, it constitutes the military steps taken by international actors to establish peace and stop aggression. Although some interventions are classified as humanitarian intervention despite being approved by the UN, legally the concept of humanitarian intervention represents action taken without UN permission (Doğan, 2014: 65). With the Responsibility to Protect, definition and action dilemma has disappeared. The only legal authority has been designated as the UNSC and it has also legalized military intervention.

To conclude, this planned and programmed change is not accidental. The problems brought about by rapidly increased neo-liberalization since the 1990s, the expansion of human awareness, changing dimension of human security, rising internationalism, roles of non-governmental organizations etc. are examples of this change. Clearly, R2P is a reflection of how intertwined the concepts of high-low politics are. 


R2P has a significant place in the literature. This importance stems from its controversial legal and political background. From a historical perspective, increasing humanitarian crises after the Cold War turned America into the unipolarity movement. The most dramatic consequence of this power imbalance has been the decision to intervene in Iraq. However, after the 2000s, the trend towards the multi-polar world order started. In this multipolar order, it was difficult to make a consensus on human rights as it was in the Soviet era.

Undoubtedly, the threats presented by the globalizing world after the 2000s have supported humanitarian-based approaches and policies. However, the Libyan Intervention and the Syrian Non-Intervention crises have again questioned the moral position of the humanitarian perspective. As a result, real political interest-based approaches were on the political agenda again.

R2P is an important concept reflecting the change in international law. The reason for that is R2P’s pressure of amendment over sovereignty, non-intervention in internal affairs and prohibition of use of force. Moreover, the concept of ‘’sovereignty as responsibility’’ has opened a new era. The theoretical background representing the human-centered approach shows the change of the traditional hard politics concept.

The R2P’s failure and criticism continue in two directions. These are the advocates of traditionalist order and advocates of change. It should not be overlooked that the world is in a period of rapid change. It is in a period where global problems that will threaten not only the lives of states but also the lives of individuals are encountered. In this respect, it is important to realize human-centered policies and concepts.

Ayşe Ecem METE

Uluslararası Örgütler Staj Programı 


Acar, Z. (2005). Humanitarian Intervention During the Process of Doctrinization: Nato’s Intervention in Kosovo and the Concept of Responsibility to Protect. 113-131

Bellamy, A., Wheeler N., J. (2017). The Globalization of World Politics. In Humanitarian Intervention. 514-528.

Bellamy, A., (2008). Conflict Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect. In Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations. 135-156.

Doğan, N. (2014). Birleşmiş Milletler ve Meşru Güç Kullanımı. Siyasal Kitabevi.

Dunne, T., Gifkins, (2011). Libya and the State of Intervention. Australian Journal of International Affairs, 515-529.

Evans, G. (2008). The responsibility to protect. Brooking Institution Press.

Göçer, M. (2009). İnsan haklarının korunması ve BM. Nobel Akademik Yayıncılık

Gözen, E., P. (2016). Debating the future of the ‘responsibility to protect. 85-104.

Gözen, E., P. (2019). UN general assembly dialogues on the responsibility to protect and the use of force for humanitarian purposes. Global Responsibility to Protect, 313-332.

Gözen, E., P. (n.d.). Online interview about responsibility to protect and UN.

ICISS. (2001). The responsibility to protect. International Development Research Centre.

Karagül, S., Ervaş Ç., E. (2017). Koruma sorumluluğu doktrini açısından Suriye krizi: Bir ‘insancıl müdahalesizlik’ örneği. Journal of Administrative Sciences. 481-510.

Larysa, K. (2010). The Whistleblower.

Nichols, M. (2020). Russia, China veto Syria aid via Turkey for second time this week. Reuters. Retrieved from:

Ortakovski, V. (2018). Humanitarian intervention and international law. Journalism and Mass Communication. 303-311.

Pak, H., Son H., and Jong K. (2020). Analysis on the legal nature of “Responsibility to Protect’’. International Studies. 1-17

Sak, Y. (2015). Uluslararası hukukta insancıl müdahale ve Libya örneği: Suriye’de Yaşanan Ya Da Yaşanacaklar İçin Dersler. Uluslararası İlişkiler Dergisi, 121-153.

Steele, B., J., Heinze, E., A. (2014). Norms of intervention, R2P and Libya suggestions from generational analysis. Global Responsibility to Protect, 6(1), 88-112.

Şentuna, T. (2019). Libya Askeri Müdahalesinin Uluslararası Hukuka Uygunluğu ve Koruma Sorumluluğu Kavramı Çerçevesinde Meşruiyeti. The Turkish Yearbook of International Relations, 50, 201-224.

The Guardian. (2003). Full text: Bush’s speech. Retrieved from:

United Nations. (2005). World Summit Outcome Document. A/RES/60/1. Retrieved from:

United Nations. (2009). Implementing The Responsibility To Protect. A/63/677 Resolution. Retrieved from:

United Nations. (2011). 1973 Resolution. Retrieved from:

United Nations. (n.d.). Charter I Article 2(4), Article 2(5), Chapter I,III and VI. Retrieved from:

United Nations. (2010-2011). Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council. Retrieved from:

United Nations. (2012). UN Department of Public Information. Retrieved from:

United Nations. (2011). 1970 Resolution. Retrieved from:

United Nations. (2006). Progress Report on The Prevention of Armed Conflict. A/60/891. Retrieved from:

Yılmaz, M. E. (2014). Suriye’de barış nasıl inşa edilebilir?. Journal of Social Sciences. 177-200.

Sosyal Medyada Paylaş


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Bu site, istenmeyenleri azaltmak için Akismet kullanıyor. Yorum verilerinizin nasıl işlendiği hakkında daha fazla bilgi edinin.


Beğenebileceğinizi Düşündük

Xi Jinping Düşüncesinin Gerçek Kökleri

Xi Jinping Düşüncesinin Gerçek Kökleri: Çinli Siyaset Filozoflarının Moderniteyle...

Özgürlükten Kim Korkar? Liberalizmin Geleceği İçin Mücadele

Bu yazı ilk olarak CUNY Lisansüstü Merkezi'nde Tarih ve...

Somali – Türkiye Anlaşması Onaylandı

Somali ile Türkiye arasında 8 Şubat'ta imzalanan Savunma ve...

İki Yıl Sonra Ukrayna’da Sırada Ne Var?

Rusya'nın Ukrayna'daki savaşı üçüncü yılına girerken, savaş alanında görünürdeki...