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Overview – Setting up the Duty to Defend

Constructing the Responsibility to Protect: Contestation and Consolidation
Edited by Charles T. Hunt and Phil Orchard
Routledge, 2020

The Duty to Defend (R2P) is a political dedication adopted by United Nations (UN) member states in 2005 to sort out 4 mass atrocity crimes of genocide, battle crimes, crimes in opposition to humanity, and ethnic cleaning. Regardless of this dedication, devastating crimes which fall below the rubric of R2P proceed to rise and scourge many societies (Ferguson and Carver, 2021, p.4). Ongoing and protracted atrocities, similar to these dedicated in Syria, Yemen, and Myanmar have collectively claimed lots of of hundreds of lives, whereas leaving thousands and thousands in want of emergency humanitarian help.

Towards this backdrop, contributions like Charles T. Hunt and Phil Orchard’s edited quantity, Constructing the Responsibility to Protect: Contestation and Consolidation, are very welcome. Understanding the R2P isn’t just a matter of scholarly curiosity, however a compelling ethical necessity to be able to establish strengths and weaknesses of present efforts to curb mass atrocity crime. This glorious quantity brings collectively a spread of key thinkers and views to light up R2P’s that means and standing, serving to readers to know among the key challenges to atrocity prevention. The e book will naturally be of curiosity to R2P analysts, but in addition past this, to worldwide relations students extra broadly, and to college students of worldwide politics and related disciplines.

The central argument of the amount is that R2P is constantly ‘contested’; it’s a dedication (or a number of commitments) whose meanings and sensible necessities are interpreted by completely different actors in numerous methods. Hunt and Orchard (2020, p.9-10) pose that contestation stays in: i) what obligations R2P creates and the way these ought to be actioned in apply; ii) how R2P pertains to, impacts, and evolves alongside different vital worldwide norms; and iii) how key worldwide states problem R2P’s growth and implementation. By framing R2P’s contestation on this tripartite construction, Hunt and Orchard efficiently tie collectively the various themes of the remainder of the amount right into a coherent bundle of debates on R2P principle and apply. 

Chapters 1-3 take a look at R2P’s theoretical standing and conceptual that means, utilising constructivist norm principle. Chapter One (Phil Orchard) presents R2P as a ‘regime’: not a single norm however a bundle of a number of norms and with numerous proscriptions and prescriptions. Orchard (2020, p.29-30) believes that treating R2P as a regime allows us to successfully disentangle R2P’s a number of parts and perceive that it’s primarily coercive parts of R2P’s third pillar which stay deeply contested, whereas a lot of its different parts are accepted internationally. What Orchard does on this chapter, subsequently, is show how R2P’s multi-layered obligations forestall contestation of only one facet changing into a elementary problem to the doctrine as a complete.

Norm contestation can be implicitly vital in Chapter Two (Luke Glanville and Wesley W. Widmaier). Right here the authors emphasise the worth of ‘norm ambiguity’. Glanville and Widmaier argue that we shouldn’t be too fast to sentence the points of R2P that are vaguer and extra ambiguous, as this has helped in selling the preliminary acceptance of R2P, along with its adaptability over time (through contestation), and finally, that this has served the long-term survival of R2P as an ethical aspiration. 

Chapter Three (Sassan Gholiagha and Bastian Loges) gives an analytical framework of ‘storytelling’, arguing that R2P’s three most important conceptualising paperwork (the 2001 ICISS report, the 2005 World Summit End result Doc, and the 2009 report of the UN Secretary-Basic) include altered understandings of what R2P means and requires of actors, enabling these actors to make use of a repertoire of various, although overlapping, normative arguments about R2P. For Gholiagha and Loges, this helps us to know R2P’s simultaneous consolidation and contestation.

These opening chapters contribute to debates on R2P’s normative standing. Their mixed evaluation speaks to arguments provided within the literature (e.g. Welsh, 2019; Deitelhoff, 2019; and Zimmermann and Deitelhoff, 2020) that spotlight how contestation doesn’t mechanically undermine the acceptance of R2P’s core safety tenets. This helps to clarify why key points of R2P stay contentious (notably coercive mechanisms), however that the core concept that states have a duty to forestall mass atrocity isn’t denied.

Chapters 4-6 take a look at R2P’s interplay with different vital worldwide norms. Chapter 4 (Charles T. Hunt) explores the hyperlinks between R2P and UN peacekeeping missions with safety of civilian (PoC) mandates. Hunt argues that, regardless of some notable incongruences between R2P and PoC peacekeeping missions, convergences between the 2 doctrines means that they might have formed one another’s growth. Hunt (2020, p.105-106) tentatively claims that this may increasingly have affected the work of the UN Safety Council, notably when it comes to its willingness to mandate peacekeeping operations to guard civilian populations, with particular reference to mass atrocities.

Chapter 5 (Sara E. Davies and Sarah Hewitt) argues that each R2P and the Girls, Peace and Safety (WPS) framework can foster normative consensus that serves the aim of safety; achievable by a give attention to stopping battle, stopping atrocities, and stopping gender discrimination. This aligns with the core message of the UN Secretary-Basic’s 2020 report on R2P and the position of ladies, with its give attention to ladies’s safety and participation in atrocity prevention and post-conflict peacebuilding efforts. 

Chapter 6 (Shannon Zimmermann) suggests that there’s a logical alignment between R2P and human rights centered counter-terrorism efforts. This isn’t an uncontroversial declare (see the Global Responsibility to Protect April 2022 special issue edited by Zimmerman), although Zimmermann (2020, p.139-141) does spotlight the complementary nature of efforts to forestall assaults on civilians which represent acts of each terrorism and atrocity crime (e.g. the place terrorist acts represent crimes in opposition to humanity). This, nevertheless, speaks to a ‘softer’, non-contentious space of overlap (e.g. R2P motion to fight non-state actors committing atrocities), which presents difficult normative points, similar to when states abuse counter-terrorism narratives to undermine their R2P (e.g. Chinese language state abuses of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang).

Collectively these chapters assist as an instance the truth that R2P doesn’t exist in a normative vacuum, however fairly operates alongside different norms in methods which are typically complementary, and different occasions aren’t. These interactions have the potential to each strengthen and impair atrocity prevention efforts.

Chapters 7-8 look at two vital states and their interactions with R2P: China and Russia. Chapter 7 (Sarah Teitt) explores China’s seemingly paradoxical relationship with R2P, explaining why China has continued to rhetorically endorse the idea, however reject extra coercive points related to R2P. Teitt exhibits that China’s place on R2P is extremely nuanced, and her evaluation aligns with others similar to Fung (2019) and Foot (2020) who declare that whereas China doesn’t outrightly reject R2P as an idea, it has sought to mould it to its personal state-centric and consent-based imaginative and prescient. Teitt’s chapter may also be linked again to Chapter Two on this quantity by Glanville and Widmaier, as Teitt’s evaluation highlights that R2P’s ambiguity allows wider acceptance and flexibility. Nonetheless, we should always recognise that adaptability may very well be to the detriment of the norm’s authentic intentions if R2P is moulded into one thing fully statist and consent-based that leaves unaddressed questions of what to do when state authorities are complicit in abuses and never prepared to co-operate (Hehir 2018).

The ultimate contribution to the amount, Chapter 8 (Phil Orchard and Heather Rae), considerations Russia. Orchard and Rae observe that whereas Russia has not flatly rejected R2P, it has each contested and at occasions violated the norm. They current a contradiction in Russian coverage, noting that whereas Russia has upheld a non-interventionist stance, it has additionally been prepared to violate this the place it deems its nationwide curiosity to be at stake. This, they argue, is a results of Russia’s want to take care of nice energy standing, whereas safeguarding its privileged pursuits in close by areas. The impact is that Russia challenges among the core liberal concepts embedded in R2P (non-consensual intervention to guard human rights) in favour of conventional sovereigntism and non-interference, but can be every so often prepared to instrumentalise R2P language to additional its personal pursuits; the newest instance being its try to justify its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine by reference to its duty to halt genocide in opposition to Russian-speaking teams.

Russia and China are vitally vital to R2P’s implementation, given their everlasting seats and veto energy on the UN Safety Council. On the time of writing, Russia has simply vetoed a UN Safety Council draft decision over Syria for the 17th time. China has usually joined Russia in exercising its use of veto over the Syrian disaster. But a want to ‘hold Russia and China on aspect’ mustn’t lead R2P advocates to turn out to be Russian and Chinese language apologists. Their stances on R2P – whereas nuanced as Teitt, and Orchard and Rae word – elevate considerations about R2P’s potential obstruction, but in addition its dilution and instrumentalization.

Constructing the Responsibility to Protect: Contestation and Consolidation is a wonderful contribution to R2P literature, and one which anybody concerned about debates related to human safety will discover helpful and attention-grabbing. By elaborating on R2P’s contested nature, the e book sheds gentle on the longer term normative trajectory of human safety efforts, and does so via a spread of vital particular person contributions. 


Deitelhoff, Nicole. “Is the R2P Failing? The Controversy about Norm Justification and Norm Software of the Duty to Defend.” International Duty to Defend 11.2 (2019): 149-171.

Deitelhoff, Nicole, and Lisbeth Zimmermann. “Issues We Misplaced within the Hearth: How Completely different Varieties of Contestation Have an effect on the Robustness of Worldwide Norms.” Worldwide Research Overview, vol. 22, no. 1, 31 Dec. 2018, pp. 51–76,

Ferguson, Kate, and Fred Carver. “Being the Distinction. A Primer for States Wishing to Forestall Atrocity Crimes within the Mid-Twenty-First Century.” Safety Approaches, Edinburgh Home, Nov. 2021.

Foot, Rosemary. China, the UN, and Human Safety. Oxford College Press, 28 Could 2020.

Fung, Courtney J. China and Intervention on the UN Safety Council. Oxford College Press, 25 July 2019.

Hehir, Aidan. Hole Norms and the Duty to Defend. London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

Hunt, Charles T., and Phil Orchard (eds.). Setting up the Duty to Defend: Contestation and Consolidation. 1st ed., London, Routledge, 2020. 

Welsh, Jennifer M. “Norm Robustness and the Duty to Defend.” Journal of International Safety Research, vol. 4, no. 1, 1 Jan. 2019, pp. 53–72,

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