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‘Never Again!’ – R2P Book Could Save Lives

  • September 28th, 2008
  • Posted by Monique Ross

garethevans.jpgA new book by International Crisis Group (ICG) President and former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, shows how the emergence of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine may fundamentally change the international landscape. It could potentially save many lives.

The book, Responsibility to Protect – Ending Mass Atrocity Crimes Once and For All, examines the philosophy of collective international responsibility, and the scope, principles and use of R2P.

The grim death toll from catastrophes like Rwanda and the Balkans in the 1990s offers ample evidence that the international community has struggled when faced with humanitarian crises.

The R2P concept is that any state or government has primary responsibility for protecting its own people from crimes of mass atrocity crimes — and state sovereignty strongly implies responsibility; rather than a license to kill.

The legal concept being argued by Gareth Evans is that, when a state is unwilling or unable to halt or avert such crimes, the wider international community then has a collective responsibility to take appropriate action, to intervene – ranging from persuasion to the use of military force in exceptional cases.

There will be those made uneasy by this doctrine, making it struggle to gain international acceptance.However among its influential supporters, Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, labeled R2P “the most important and imaginative doctrine to emerge on the international scene for decades.”

Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister, said the new book will be “vitally important in enabling understanding and acceptance” of R2P. aaaa.jpg

In an address to the Global Philanthropy Forum, Gareth Evans said:

“it’s one thing to have formal agreement, quite another to have the real agreement that means that when the next conscience-shocking atrocity situation comes along, as it surely will, the universal reflex action, all round the world, will be not to ask whether to act, but only where, when and how to act.”

The principle of R2P was unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly at the 2005 World Summit, but has remained controversial and misunderstood by many.

“So many people think, ‘Isn’t this just a bit of an excuse for the big guys to throw their weight around again?’ said Mr Evans on Australian radio. “But R2P is focused on prevention, not intervention.”

The new book promotes diplomatic and political means as the best for protection- using persuasion, diplomatic pressure, and sanctions, through to international criminal prosecutions.

Force as a last-resort would only occur after a series of specific conditions were met, to ensure it was justified, well-intentioned, practical, authorised by proper authority (specifically the UN Security Council) — and would not cause more harm than good.

Evans pointed to now-stemmed violence in Kenya as an example of the effectiveness of persuasion.

“Mass atrocity crimes were occurring and were about to occur on a much larger scale if some very rapid reactive action did not take place,” he said.

“It didn’t necessarily have to be military; there are other options available and they proved successful in this case.”

Another supporter, Mary Robinson, a previous UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002) said the UN’s adoption of the R2P was “a red letter day for human rights”. It put significant international weight behind the promise of peace over conflict , ‘Never Again!’

Gareth Evans has been President and CEO of the ICG since 2000, after serving eight years as Australia’s Foreign Minister. The ICG is an independent, non-governmental organisation committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict. Mr Evans co-chaired the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty that initiated the R2P concept in 2001, and has most recently been appointed to the new International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, which he will co-chair.


Crisis manager: Gareth Evans believes the best way to solve a conflict is not to get into one in the first place.

New Book has potential to save lives,


Australian Council For International Development, “R2P: New Book” 10.09.08.

Foreign Policy, “Seven Questions: How to End Violent Conflict”. 12.09.08.

Inner City Press, “Rebranding the Responsibility to Protect”. 17.09.08.

International Crisis Group, “New Book Release…”. 12.09.08.

International Crisis Group, Speech Archive, “The Responsibility to Protect…” 11.04.08.

Lisa Millar, ABC Radio,Australia, The World Today. “Former minister puts UN policy under the microscope”, 26.09.08.

The Individual Responsibility To Protect. 17.09.08