Failure of “Responsibility to Protect” Doctrine



Even after witnessing the constant failures in its worldwide implementation, there is still a ray of hope that Responsibility-To-Protect doctrine will be sincerely obliged by all nations to avoid the rapid extinction of humanity.


The implementation of R2P has been a popular topic of discussion. The events that took place in Rwanda, followed by the genocide wars in Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya, Syria and many others have brought up questions of concern. As the wars that outbroke in Kosovo, Libya and Syria disregarded the principles of R2P, it became a necessity for the governing authorities to protect its population.


A mass atrocity took place in Kosovo in 1998 where the forces of the Republic of Yugoslavia fought the Kosovo Liberation Army. During that time, the Yugoslav army killed many Kosovar civilians who were not part of the military. Similarly, fighters of the Kosovo army proceeded to attack the Yugoslavian civilians by acts of kidnappings, executions, massacres, etc. There was an observation that more than half of the Kosovar army was underage, which directly falls under the category of child soldiers.

After this, in March 1999, there came another wave which shook the Kosovar Albanians. The Serbian forces got accused of launching ethnic cleansing against them. This particular event led NATO to respond to the act by seeking approval by UNSC to intervene. Thus, this case of Kosovo and the NATO intervention deeply divided the international community, check upon the populations from atrocity crimes and other sorts of crimes that were then arousing which declined the hold of Responsibility-to-Protect.

The case study of Libya is also one such example where R2P failed as the population suffered a huge loss. The first Libyan Civil War that started in 2011 was an armed revolution that escalated into conflicts between Muammar Gaddafi’s forces and those seeking to raise voice against his government. After that, comparatively small-scale conflicts and protests rebellion spread across the whole country that led to mass civil war. During the time of war, Qaddafi ordered many bombardments and completely disrespected the orders of NATO and even broadcasted messages about his aims of defeating and taking over the powers. He ordered his men to “turn the blue sea red” which ultimately led to thousands of attacks and atrocity crimes as the civilians were left unprotected, not to forget the bombardments that became the worst nightmare of the Syrians.


Five years have passed since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War between the Arab organizations like Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), the Free Syrian Army and its democratic forces involved in the fight with the Syrian government. Throughout this fight, there has been a vast use of weapons, cluster bombs and chemicals that targeted civilians resulting in numerous deaths and injuries of the commoners. This intervention of the Syrian Organizations into the R2P proved that government failed to halt atrocities, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.


Now, when we look around from Syria to Rwanda to North Korea, we see millions of people who lost their lives and families. There are still millions of ordinary people who suffer a loss of freedom and live their lives every day without any security from these deadly crimes. After the attacks, there were many attempts to solve the issue. The issue of the implementation of the Responsibility-to- protect is a real ethical based issue as practical solutions are almost hard to find. With all the hardships that followed to keep R2P failing further, we witness that Security Council was the best fitting organ to implement the R2P when needed, and it has also stated several times that it should only be the one doing so. A UNSC reformation was the most pragmatic attempt to solve the issue after all the destruction took place.


With the case studies of R2P intervention stated above, we’ve come across a question: How effective is R2P?


Well, now that we’ve learned that R2P doctrine is significantly reaffirming the UN’S commitment to promoting human rights. However, whether or not it has been successful in achieving its aims is debatable. The R2P doctrine has done little for human rights as it notoriously falls short of acting efficiently. There are atrocity attacks on the weaker sections. R2P has failed over these years. As we look around the state of the world today, there are intensely horrifying signs which threaten the fundamental pillars of R2P. In places like Libya or North Korea, we witness the threat of humanitarian intervention into the lives of the ordinary peoples with numbers and numbers of innocents dying as an aftermath of these attacks. Political fundamentalism is on the rise, with non-state terror groups threatening the lives and safety of the civilians.


The one added reason to the rising threat of such terror groups is the developed means of communication. We all know that mode of communication has considerably impacted our lives, it has made our lives a whole lot easier, but just like everything, and it has its pros and cons. Through this high technology and communication, extremist groups can recruit new members, spread hate and plan cyber attacks, thereby making all of us vulnerable than ever before.


We are living in highly extraordinary and challenging times marked by new opportunities but also by new disruptors which, if not controlled, will surely have a devastating effect on each and everyone’s life.


-Diya Chatterjee