n Conflict Trends - Operationalising the Responsibility to Protect

Volume 2012, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1561-9818


The United Nations Security Council's (UNSC) response to the recent crises in Libya and Cote d'Ivoire needs to be seen in the context of its increasing willingness to authorise all necessary means for human protection in peace operations. This is so even though it has previously remained reluctant to authorise force against states. Responsibility to Protect has become a commonly accepted frame of reference for preventing and responding to mass atrocities. In these two cases, the problem was not that military force was used to protect civilians from mass atrocities. In both Libya and Cote d'Ivoire this had been authorised by the UNSC, but the use of force resulted in regime change despite the Council not specifically authorising it. This has reinvigorated the debate over the Responsibility to Protect. However, what has so far been largely missing from the debate is to protect civilians from regimes; that is, the operationalisation of the Responsibility to Protect. Exploring this problem leads to a number of important questions that need answers in order to investigate 'whether there are ways of maintaining a clear distinction between Responsibility to Protect and regime change without sacrificing the protection of civilians'. How is protection defined as a military objective? What is the role of the use of force? How should we define military success? Is the cessation of attacks against civilians sufficient? Can we ensure protection without regime change?

This article argues that a distinction between the Responsibility to Protect and regime change is, from a military standpoint, illogical when intervening on behalf of a civilian population against a regime that is committing mass atrocities. Rather, the best way to ensure the protection of civilians from mass atrocities committed by regimes is to remove that regime.

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Article metrics loading...


This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error