October 2012: UN Secretary-General Report on “RtoP: Timely and Decisive Response”


Introduction to the Month's Focal PieceEditor's introduction: UN Secretary-General Report on “RtoP: Timely and Decisive Response”

Responsibility to Protect: Timely and Decisive Response” Ban Ki-moon, July 2012.


Philip CunliffeResponsibility to Regulate: How the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ Expands State Power
by Philip Cunliffe

“The doctrine of RtoP is often defended on the basis that it extends protection to individuals against predatory and rapacious states. In fact, the doctrine extends state power: it can legitimate authoritarian measures as seen in the Secretary-General’s exhortations to chisel away at free speech, and it legitimates the power of strong states to act against weaker states – empowering regional hegemons such as Saudi Arabia to act as regional protectors of human rights.”


Eric A. HeinzePolitics as Usual at the UN: Implementing Pillar Three of RtoP 
by Eric A. Heinze

“Thus, what is preventing a truly ‘timely and decisive’ response is, as usual, politics on the Security Council, and ‘RtoP-talk’ is unlikely to change this. We therefore either need to admit that ‘timely and decisive’ action will continue to be subject to the whims of the Security Council and that little can be done to overcome this, or begin the search for other loci of authority to take such action in its stead.”


James PattisonThe RtoP and Responsibility while Protecting: The Secretary-General’s Timely and Decisive Report on Timely and Decisive Responses
by James Pattison

“I am not sure that being glib towards the RWP concept is judicious. First, although the suggestion in some quarters that the RWP concept could “save” the RtoP is far too strong (after all, the RWP and criticism of the RtoP really concern only humanitarian intervention – other aspects may be largely unaffected), the RWP concept is nevertheless important for advancing the RtoP. This is not simply because of the need to ameliorate states’ concerns about the conduct of humanitarian intervention in light of the campaign in Libya. It is also because the RWP maintains interest in the RtoP. It engenders new debates and controversies, and so will keep states and other actors in the international community talking about the RtoP, which is surely important for its continuing progression.”


H.M. RoffStrategies & Decisiveness: What is Implied by a “Timely and Decisive Response” for RtoP Situations
by H.M. Roff

“Timely and decisive responses are, therefore, only comprehensible as operational or tactical level determinations in the pursuance of a larger RtoP strategy. The result of this semantic analysis is twofold: it does no favors to RtoP to dress it up as a non-coercive norm, even though many would argue that it is impolitic to say so; and it makes no sense to discuss “timely and decisive” responses without taking stock of the militaristic and strategic implications. “Decisiveness” is necessarily coercive, as one has to employ force against a point until it capitulates. Perhaps states are aware of this fact, and this is why there is such reticence to actually develop an RtoP strategy.”


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