Mobilising the Troops

Generating the political will to act

Authored by: Tom Keating


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

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


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The absence of political will is one of the most commonly proffered reasons for the failure to implement the responsibility to protect principle (R2P). Whether it is the failure to intervene in Myanmar in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, the belated and limited response to the plight of civilians caught in the civil conflict in Darfur, or the continued neglect of the people of Zimbabwe, one always finds the lack of political will among the factors highlighted in accounting for the lack of response by national governments and international institutions. While highlighting political will as one of the more persistent roadblocks impeding the implementation of R2P has been common, addressing the issue of political will is both less common and not an easy task. The persistent references to political will might be seen as a simple excuse to divert attention away from more substantial concerns. Alternatively, to focus on political will may be a means to consider other concerns surrounding R2P, because political will involves a number of factors operating at various levels that influence if and how political leaders and their publics respond to gross violations of human rights in different corners of the world. The complexity and confusion surrounding the term may be reason enough to shy away from such an attempt. There are, for example, a variety of subjective considerations that are necessarily involved in assessing political will. The complexity and subjectivity involved also make it difficult to identify specific effective measures for advancing the political will to implement a principle as complex and contested as R2P. Given the centrality of political will in the commentary surrounding the implementation of the R2P principle, however, warrants a fuller discussion of the issue.

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