Responsibility Determined: Assessing the Relationship Between the Doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect and the Right of Self-Determination
University College London Human Rights Review, Vol. 4, pp. 52-73, 2011
22 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2012 Last revised: 25 Feb 2017
Date Written: 2011
Despite consistent affirmations of the right of self-determination by states, international organizations and international courts, practical invocations of the right have often been met with apprehension outside of the colonial context. This paper suggests that this unease may be the result of the uncertainty surrounding the margins of the right, particularly with regard to claims of external self-determination. This paper seeks to locate possible boundaries of the right of self-determination through a functional account of the right grounded in a symbiotic relationship with the emerging doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect. While not suggesting that the right should be confined to its role in the R2P framework, this paper, nonetheless, proposes that the right’s minimum guarantee may be consistent with the minimum guarantee of R2P itself: the responsibility lies with the state to ensure, at minimum, sufficient political, cultural, social and economic freedom to facilitate the creation of a state where all citizens are protected from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. Ultimately, the Responsibility to Protect doctrine and the right of self-determination outside of the colonial context have a symbiotic relationship: the invocation of self-determination provides the R2P doctrine with a broadly affirmed right in which to ground its rhetoric and work; and R2P provides the right of self-determination with a possible framework and context through which to circumscribe its uncertain boundaries and define the content of its minimum entitlement.
Keywords: self-determination, responsibility to protect, international law, international human rights
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation