Human Rights

Libya and the Future of the Responsibility to Protect

When UN historians look back at 2011, they may well remember it as the year of R2P—diplomatic parlance for the “Responsibility to Protect.” All states, the decade-old doctrine argues, are obligated to protect their citizens. Should they fail—whether out of inability or by design—the international community must step in. 2011 certainly wasn’t the first time civilians were endangered by their own government, but it was the first time that the world responded with such military heft, intervening with the sole justification of protecting civilians. As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon put it, “What is happening in Libya, Côte d’Ivoire and elsewhere is a historic precedent, a watershed in the emerging doctrine of the responsibility to protect.”

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