The selective implementation of the responsibility to protect principle: a comparative case study of Libya, Côte d’Ivoire, and Yemen



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Tartu Ülikool


The Responsibility to Protect principle was created as a response to the Rwandan Genocide in 1994 and the Srebrenica massacre in 1995. During the United Nations General Assembly in 1999, Secretary-General Kofi Annan contemplated the future of sovereignty and the responsibility that comes with it. He implored the international community to accept responsibility in the protection of people should the state manifestly fail to do so. As a consequence of his request, the Responsibility to Protect principle was created as a call to action. This thesis examines the conflicts in which this principle has been utilized, compares and contrasts the conflicts with similar situations in which the principle was not used, and discusses the factors that could explain why. It seeks to fill the gap in existing literature and offer an alternative explanation for states’ behavior. The theoretical framework juxtaposes two theoretical lenses, Realism and Constructivism, to illustrate that at the intersection of the two is best suited to be used in the comparative case study of Libya, Côte d’Ivoire, and Yemen. The results of the research demonstrate that states behave in accordance to maintaining power and resources when that overlaps with upholding norms and values. It is only at this intersection that this principle is utilized. The purpose of the thesis is not to provide an alternative theory or principle, but rather to demonstrate that states’ behavior can be explained through the theoretical framework proposed in this thesis. Also this thesis suggests that in order to properly utilize R2P, it should be implemented in all conflicts that meet the intervention criteria. By selectively implementing R2P the international community is disregarding the original intent of the principle and allowing for future misuse. If R2P is not going to be properly implemented, it should not be considered an option.