Norms, Institutions and UN Reform: The Responsibility to Protect
Journal of International Law and International Relations, Vol. 2, pp. 121-137, 2006
17 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2008
Date Written: July, 28 2008
The Outcome Document produced at the 2005 UN World Summit reveals both the promise and the potential incoherence of reform efforts in the UN. Although the member states were not able to agree on how to treat such fundamental questions as nuclear proliferation and representation on the Security Council, they did agree in principle on key structural changes to the UN system, such as the creation of a Peacebuilding Commission and the metamorphosis of the Human Rights Commission into a Human Rights Council. While the Peacebuilding Commission was established in December 2005 through parallel resolutions of the General Assembly and Security Council, the design of the Human Rights Council was left for future negotiations which have already proven to be exceedingly difficult.
Although the member states could not agree on a definition of terrorism or on a set of criteria for the authorization of military force by the Security Council, they did agree on one normative innovation that has the potential for transformative impact in international law and politics: the responsibility to protect. In this essay, we assess the reform potential of the responsibility to protect. We place that assessment in a context of failure to agree on institutional reform initiatives. We ask why states were able to articulate the responsibility to protect, but we also ask whether or not that articulation is likely to have any meaning when institutional reforms seem stuck.
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By Ben Saul