The Responsibility to Protect doctrine – commonly known as R2P – was first proposed in 2001, in the wake of NATO’s controversial intervention in Kosovo. As eventually endorsed by UN Member States in 2005, R2P provides that the international community, acting through the UN Security Council, should act decisively – including as a last resort through the use of force – to halt mass atrocities.
The divided Council’s manifest failure to do so in Syria - even in the face of mass atrocity, 100,000 killed, and millions forced to flee – calls into question the relevance of the doctrine, even as it reignites support for a more robust R2P to support non-UN authorized military action.
R2P was intended to build consensus for international action, yet no such consensus is visible as regards Syria. What future for R2P? Will a unilateral US strike further undermine the doctrine, or, conversely, prove its importance in legitimizing action when the Security Council is divided? Can a new consensus be forged to support robust action to protect civilians, and if so on what terms?