Implementing the Responsibility to Protect: Domestic Processes and Foreign Assistance

Implementing the Responsibility to Protect: Domestic Processes and Foreign Assistance

Author/s (editor/s):

Cecilia Jacob

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Publication type:

Research paper

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Implementing the Responsibility to Protect conference report

Cecilia Jacob, ed., Implementing the Responsibility to Protect: Domestic Processes and Foreign Assistance, Conference Report, Canberra: Department of International Relations, ANU, July 2017.

On 28–29 October 2016, the Department of International Relations at The Australian National University, along with the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect at the University of Queensland, and with support from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, hosted the conference Implementing the Responsibility to Protect: Domestic Processes and Foreign Assistance. The conference was attended by academics, including leading experts in the field, and members and representatives of a wide range of government agencies, the diplomatic community, international organisations, and civil society organisations. Two distinguished keynotes were delivered by the Honorable Gareth Evans, ANU Chancellor and co-chair of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), and Ivan Šimonović, Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect to the UN Secretary-General (SASG).

The purpose of the conference was to bring together policymakers, practitioners, and scholars working on areas related to the implementation of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), primarily in the areas of state-level responsibility to prevent mass atrocities and protect civilian populations (what we call Pillar One of the R2P), and international assistance to states to fulfil this responsibility (Pillar Two). Recognising that the principle of R2P has gained significant traction within the international community since it was first introduced in the 2001 report The Responsibility to Protect, the conference sought to transcend longstanding debates over acceptance and legitimacy of R2P as a norm. Rather, it sought to clarify what the implementation of R2P entails for the policy and practitioner community, and to push forward new lines of academic inquiry and research that could support the implementation agenda.

At its heart, R2P implementation is about strengthening the capacity of states to prevent atrocities from occurring in the first place. Prevention requires enhancing the resilience of societies that face the risk of atrocities through improved access to security, justice, and the rule of law. Effective mass atrocity prevention requires going local – understanding the dynamics of mass atrocities in their specific historical and social contexts; and going international – ensuring that international actors effectively align their priorities, strategies, and resourcing on atrocity prevention in ways that support local and national needs. This is an ambitious agenda, and experts from a range of fields were invited to address the practical implications of implementing R2P across numerous sites. The central themes included atrocity prevention, international accountability, human rights, international humanitarian law, justice for legacies of violence, foreign policy, development cooperation, peacekeeping, and civil–military assistance. The conference brought together different communities working on aspects that support the goals of R2P in order to enhance knowledge across thematic divides, and contributed to clarifying the practical implications that commitment to R2P implementation entails for these communities across the spectrum.

This report contains the text of the keynote speeches, and condensed summaries of the panel discussions. These can be read together to provide a comprehensive synthesis of the debates occurring across the spectrum, or can be read as stand-alone sections for those with specific interest in a particular aspect of the R2P implementation.

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