R2p and Natural Disasters

Authored by: Joanna Harrington


Print publication date:  June  2012
Online publication date:  June  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415600750
eBook ISBN: 9780203117637
Adobe ISBN: 9781136304873


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In his 2008 book The Responsibility to Protect (R2P), Gareth Evans, the former co-chair of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), former president of the International Crisis Group (2000–9), and former Australian Foreign Minister (1988–96), identifies the belief that “R2P covers all human protection issues” as one of five common misunderstandings affecting the very strength of the R2P concept. 1 The concern voiced by Evans (and shared by others) is that an all-encompassing or even broad interpretation of the “responsibility to protect” obligation, as it was embraced in the World Summit Outcome document in 2005, 2 will dilute the concept’s utility as a rallying cry for both individual and collective state action. Of course, this is not to say that human protection issues or matters of human security in general do not deserve, nor require, international attention and action. But the R2P concept, 3 as adopted by the international community of states, has an agreed formulation for its invocation, and to stretch the concept beyond its agreed terms fuels suspicions held by weaker states of a hidden interventionist agenda, which will ultimately harm the utility of R2P. 4 While some may praise the notion that a concept or guiding principle of such recent creation could gain such lengthy legs in such a short period of time, I agree with Evans that the various incantations and expansive applications, even when well intentioned, risk draining the R2P concept of its vitality and strength, while also lending an air of unreality to the principle’s practical aspirations.

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