Intervention and International Society

The Responsibility to Protect and Prosecute: The Political Sustainability of Liberal Norms in an Age of Shifting Power balances

Principal Investigator: Jason Ralph
Project Team: Adrian Gallagher (Leeds); Aidan Hehir (Westminster) James Pattison (Manchester)

Project Type: ESRC funded seminar series (9 one day events)  Seminar 1 part funded by BISA Working Group on Intervention and Responsibility to Protect

Dates: November 2013 – October 2016

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In this section:

Project synopsis

This project focuses on R2P and the International Criminal Court as examples of what it calls the liberal trajectory of contemporary international society. This captures the sense in which the meaning of sovereignty has changed and the state’s right to govern is now contingent on it fulfilling certain responsibilities to its population. The question of who decides when a state is unwilling or unable to meet those responsibilities and what action ‘the international community’ should take has, however, proven extremely contentious.

The debate centres on a concern that states will use the humanitarian agendas associated with the RtoP and ICC as veils to disguise the pursuit of political (even neo-imperial) goals; and while this argument has long been present in the academic literature and in the statements of rejectionist states, it took on additional significance during the 2011 Libyan crisis when the NATO-led coalition was accused of going beyond the politically neutral protection of civilians mandate to pursue a politically loaded policy of regime change. Reinforcing this was the longstanding African frustration with the Security Council’s unwillingness to listen to its requests for the deferral of ICC investigations. What makes this argument potentially significant is that it was voiced by the emerging powers or BRICS states (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

This poses the question of whether the shifts in global power toward these states will undermine international society’s commitment to RtoP/ICC, and what might be done to sustain political support for these two aspects of the liberal order. The aim of the seminar series is to answer this question by exploring the challenges to the political sustainability of RtoP/ICC in light of these shifting patterns of power.

Publications and Outputs

Working papers accompanying the seminar series will be posted here.

Jason Ralph and Adrian Gallagher ‘Legitimacy Faultlines in International Society. The Responsibility to Protect and Prosecute after Libya’. Unpublished paper presented at European International Studies Association, Warsaw, 18 September 2013.  The final version of this paper was published in The Review of International Studies online from October 2014.

Seminar Four

Seminar: “China and The Responsibility to Protect”

Thursday December 4 2014

University of Leeds, The Nathan Bodington Chamber, The Parkinson Building No. 60 (campus map)

Panel 1: R2P and the Great Powers: A Greater Responsibility to Protect? / How do concepts travel? China, R2P and the Western/Asian divide / China and the responsibility to protect (MP3 file) – Justin Morris / Cath Jones / Astrid Nordin. Chair: Aidan Hehir (University of Westminster)

Guest Lecture: The concept of Responsible Protection (MP3 file) – Ruan Zongze, Vice President China Institute of International Studies. Chair: Adrian Gallagher (University of Leeds)

Panel 2: Chinese Perspectives on Humanitarian Interventions: The case of Syria / China’s Responsible Protection Concept: A Constructive Re-Interpretation of R2P? / Scholars, Policymakers, and the Responsibility to Protect Debate in China (MP3 file) – Shogo Suzuki / Andrew Garwood-Gowers / Kingsley Edney. Chair: James Pattison (University of Manchester). Download the article Andrew Garwood-Gowers refers to in his presentation here.


09:45 – 10:25 Registration

10:25 – 10:30 Welcome

10:30 – 12:00 First Panel with Q&A

R2P and the Great Powers: A Greater Responsibility to Protect?

Justin Morris, University of Hull

Abstract: In 2000 the then UN General Assembly Kofi Annan asked the UN membership to contemplate how the organisation could best resolve the ‘Dilemma of Intervention’: ‘if ‘both the defence of humanity and the defence of sovereignty are principles that must be supported … which principle should prevail when they are in conflict?’ Through the idea of ‘sovereignty as responsibility’ and all that flows from it, the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is heralded by many as the solution to this conundrum, but recent (non-)events in Syria suggest that the concept might not be the ‘end of the argument’ (Evans, 2011) after all.

Across a wide array of IR theorising Great Powers are seen as having special responsibilities for trying to address problems such as these, but with regards to the R2P today’s Great Powers, in the form of the UNSC’s five permanent members, seem to contribute more to the problem than to solving it. Why is this so? This paper looks briefly at the nature of Great Power responsibility, before examining: the nature of intra-P5 disagreement over the R2P; how these differences might manifest themselves within the Council, particularly with regard to the use of the veto power; and how R2P-difierences might best be mitigated.

How do concepts travel? China, R2P and the Western/Asian divide

Cath Jones, University of Warwick

China’s rise and responsibility in the twenty first century

Astrid Nordin, University of Lancaster

Abstract: China’s rise and future effect on world order is one of the most important opportunities and challenges of the 21st century. International policy and scholarly communities contemplating China’s rise regularly ask ‘whether, when and how’ China will become a ‘responsible’ great power, including in relation to the R2P norm. This article reviews the understanding of responsibility that has been at work in these debates to date.

Though answers to these questions vary significantly, I argue in this paper that the fundamental idea of responsibility that underpins them is surprisingly uniform. It revolves around compliance with pre-established rules or norms, whether of the ‘international community’ or drawn from specifically Chinese thought. I suggest that the debates would benefit from drawing on other intellectual resources in order to develop a more pluralist notion of responsibility.

12:00 – 13:00 Break for Lunch

13:00 – 14:30 Guest Lecture on the concept of Responsible Protection: Ruan Zongze, Vice President China Institute of International Studies

14:30 – 14:45 Break for Tea and Coffee

14:45 – 16:15 Second Panel with Q&A

Chinese Perspectives on Humanitarian Interventions: The case of Syria

Shogo Suzuki, University of Manchester

Abstract: Humanitarian intervention has long been a controversial issue in the international community. Despite the increased importance of non-state actors, sovereign states are still one of the key actors in the international system, and the concept of sovereignty remains a norm that is jealously guarded by many states. Such tensions have been visible most recently in debates surrounding the case of the Syrian civil war. For the moment, the possibility of intervention in Syria by the international community seems remote. A significant stumbling block seems to be Russia¹s and the People¹s Republic of China¹s (PRC) continued opposition to military intervention in Syria. China¹s and Russia¹s seeming intransigence has led to widespread condemnation by Western leaders, but as far as the case of the PRC is concerned, it would be hasty to conclude that China values sovereignty over human rights. China¹s attitude towards R2P is not characterized by simplistic opposition and obstruction. Beijing does tend to take a more conservative view towards sovereignty, to be sure but it no longer contests the notion that intervention by the international community is warranted in certain cases. Thus, recent arguments surrounding cases like Syria are actually more of a tension between China¹s recognition that certain human rights abuses need prevented and how these goals should be attained. Put differently, they are a reflection of the gap between ideals and praxis.

“China’s Responsible Protection Concept: A Constructive Re-Interpretation of R2P?”

Andrew Garwood-Gowers, Queensland University of Technology

Abstract: This paper assesses the extent to which the semi-official Chinese concept of “Responsible Protection” (RP) offers a valuable contribution to the normative debate over R2P’s third pillar following the controversy over military intervention in Libya. It identifies points of convergence and divergence between RP, the original 2001 ICISS report and Brazil’s “Responsibility while Protecting” (RwP). While RP draws heavily on both the ICISS and RwP concepts, by amalgamating and re-packaging these earlier ideas in a more restrictive form the Chinese initiative represents a new and distinctive interpretation of R2P. However, some aspects of RP appear to be framed too strictly to provide workable guidelines for determining the permissibility of military intervention for humanitarian purposes, and would benefit from clarification and refinement. Nevertheless, the Chinese proposal remains significant because it offers important insights into Beijing’s current stance on R2P. More broadly, China’s RP and Brazil’s RwP initiatives illustrate the growing willingness of rising, non-Western powers to assert their own normative preferences on sovereignty, intervention and global governance.

Scholars, Policymakers, and the Responsibility to Protect Debate in China

Kingsley Edney, University of Leeds

Abstract: Most analysis of China’s approach to the emerging global norm of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) focuses on the behaviour and statements of Chinese representatives at the United Nations. Within China, however, recent growth in the public discussion of the norm has been generated largely through the work of academic writers rather than official state representatives. The aim of this paper is to analyse how China’s scholarly community might play a role in shaping China’s approach to the RtoP norm. Drawing on recent studies that have attempted to map Chinese academics’ views on the RtoP, the paper attempts to contextualise this public discussion of the norm by examining the structural relationship between scholars and policymakers in China’s political system. Although China’s policymaking process remains relatively opaque, investigating the role of scholars more closely will improve our understanding of processes of socialisation and norm resistance in relation to the RtoP in China.

16:15 Close

Past seminars inc. recordings

In this section:

Seminar 1

Title: Responsibility to Protect and the Crises in Libya and Syria

When: 5 December 2013, 11am start.

Where: The Boardroom, University of Westminster, 309 regent Street, London, W1B 2HW

The opening address by Professor Jennifer Welsh, Special Adviser on R2P to the UN Secretary General.

Panel 1: Assessing R2P’s Efficacy During the Crises in Libya and Syria (MP3 file) – Chris Brown (LSE) / Philip Cunliffe (Kent) / Justin Morris (Hull) / Aidan Hehir (Westminster). Chair: James Pattison (Manchester)

Panel 2: “R2P After the Arab Spring” (MP3 file) – James Kearney (UKUNA) / James Pattison (University of Manchester) / Adrian Gallagher (University of Leeds). Chair: Jason Ralph (University of Leeds)

Seminar 2

Title: Responsibility to Protect and Prosecute. The International Criminal Court after Libya.

When: 24 April 2014, 11am start.

Where: Lecture Theatre G.01, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT

Responsibility to Protect and Prosecute. Plenary lecture by Professor Carsten Stahn, University of Leiden, at second seminar in ESRC series, University of Leeds, April 2014.

The opening address by Carsten Stahn (MP3 file),  Professor of International Criminal Law and Global Justice and Programme Director of the Grotius Centre for International Studies. Chair: Jason Ralph (University of Leeds).

Panel 1: From Sheriff to Judge: Reimagining Punishment, Justice and International Relations (MP3 file) – Anthony F Lang and Aidan Hehir. Chair: Adrian Gallagher (University of Leeds).

Panel 2: R2P and ICC: Common cause, shared problems (MP3 file) – Kirsten Ainley (LSE); Andrea Birdsall (Edinburgh); Jason Ralph (Leeds); Andrew Jillions (LSE). Chair: Benedict Docherty (University of Leeds)


11:00 Arrival Tea Coffee

11:20 Welcome


Carsten Stahn, University of Leiden

Carsten Stahn is Professor of International Criminal Law and Global Justice and Programme Director of the Grotius Centre for International Studies. He has previously worked as Legal Officer in Chambers of the International Criminal Court (2003-2007) and as Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law (2000-2003)

1.00 LUNCH

2.00 LECTURE: From Sheriff to Judge: Reimagining Punishment, Justice and International Relations.

Anthony F Lang, Jr holds a Chair in International Political Theory in the School of International Relations at the University of St Andrews and is Director of the Centre for Global Constitutionalism. Dr Aidan Hehir is the Director of Security & International Relations program at University of Westminster and a Co-Investigator on the Seminar Series.

Abstract: The Responsibility to Protect has become a prominent term in the discourse surrounding intervention in the current international order. While it is referred to by many, it is nebulous and lacks a strong legal foundation; its deployment by powerful actors in the international order is, therefore, more akin to the role of a wild west sheriff than an agent of a fully function political and legal order. We argue that R2P includes a punitive dimension which is selectively applied and that this results in a practice that reinforces the power of some in the international order without creating long term peace and stability. Invoking R2P and selectively issuing referrals to the ICC, allows the Security Council – like the sheriff – to subjectively determine which situations to address and which lawbreakers to prosecute; this consolidates, and indeed expands, the power of the Security Council in relation to other agents of the law. In order to move away from the sheriff and toward the judge, this paper argues that those concerned with the consistent enforcement of international human rights law and the punishment of human rights violators must accept the need for reforms to the current international order that would allow a better integration of R2P into international law and practice. Our reforms – advanced in the form of general principles taken from legal theory – propose locating R2P more firmly in a global constitutional order, one that would include a more active role for the ICC, ICJ, and other judicial structures.


4.00 PANEL: The role of the ICC in R2P. Common cause and common problems

Dr Andrea Birdsall (The University of Edinburgh)

Legitimacy Faultlines in Contemporary International Society. The Responsibility to Protect and Prosecute after Libya.

Jason Ralph and Adrian Gallagher (Leeds)

Abstract: There is a perceived legitimacy deficit in contemporary international society. A symptom of this is the political contestation surrounding the 2011 Libyan crisis and its influence on the 2011-3 Syrian crisis. This involved criticism being levelled at the coalition led by the so-called Permanent-3 for the way they implemented the protection of civilians mandate, as well as for the referral of the Libyan situation to the International Criminal Court.  How the P3 respond to these developments will be driven in part by how this ‘legitimacy fault line’ is interpreted. The purpose of this paper is to first give an interpretation that is informed by the work of contemporary English School scholars and the political theorists they draw on; and second to provide the context in which specific policy recommendations may guide the response of the P3 states.   We argue that because the new legitimacy fault line divides on the procedural question of who decides how international society should meet its responsibilities rather than substantive disagreements about what those responsibilities are (i.e. human protection and criminal justice) the challenge to the liberal agenda of the P3 is not radical.  However, we also argue that ignoring the procedural concerns of the African and BRICS states is not outcome neutral and could in fact do harm to both the ICC and the wider implementation of R2P.  We consider two proposals for procedural reform and examine how the P3 response would impact on their claim to be good international citizens.

ICC and R2P – Back to Ad Hocery?

Mark Kersten (LSE)

Abstract: Early proponents of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) believed that these normative and legal instruments would challenge and transcend the ‘realpolitik’ of international relations. That ‘realpolitik’ was seen as responsible for the inaction and selectivity that characterized humanitarian and judicial interventions in the twentieth century. It appeared that the permanent International Criminal Court and the doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect could push the international community beyond ad hocery of international criminal justice and atrocity prevention. Their creation would result in interventions grounded on moral and humanitarian convictions rather than the narrow political interests of states. This paper contends, however, that neither R2P nor the ICC have been able to achieve this aim. Both remain heavily constrained by the political calculations of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. In examining the invocation of R2P and the intervention of the ICC in Libya, it is ultimately argued that the ad hocery of humanitarian and judicial interventions is compounded rather than alleviated by the increasingly close relationship between R2P and the ICC and that a clearer separation of R2P and the ICC would bolster the legitimacy of both.

Failing Humanity: Reforming the ICC and R2P post-Syria

Dr Kirsten Ainley (LSE)

Abstract: The International Criminal Court and the Responsibility to Protect process are the most important innovations in international ethics for decades. They were set up both to deal justly with present or past suffering, but also, and more importantly, to deter future breaches of state responsibilities or international criminal law. However, these two institutions are argued by many to be in crisis, in particular due to their failure to prevent or prosecute acute and systematic human rights abuses in Syria since the uprising began in March 2011. It is tempting to try to solve these crises by seeking ways to bring the ICC and R2P closer together – to use them to help to build a more robust global constitutional structure that will strengthen each institution. However, I argue in this article that even if such a move were possible, it would be a mistake. The ICC is not an institution that functions well when embroiled in on-going conflict, not least because it can only make the situation worse as far as some key actors are concerned. If the Court seeks to prosecute atrocities committed by only one side of the conflict (as it did in the Libya case), the institution appears to be a tool of politics. If it seeks to prosecute atrocities on each side, it hampers good politics by making more difficult the rehabilitation of rebel groups that is often necessary in order to establish them as a legitimate government once the fighting has ceased. The article argues that the Court’s most successful actions have not been in the context of live conflict, but in less well-known situations such as long-term negotiations with Colombia over reform of its domestic criminal system. Also, the closer the relationship between the ICC and R2P, the more the ICC will have to rely on the UNSC for referrals of cases, which is to be avoided. The drafters of the Rome Statute worked hard to carve out a space of authority for the ICC which was not subject to UNSC power, and positioning the ICC as an instrument that can assist in live conflict situations will unsettle this authority and make the Court look like an instrument of the UNSC. The article concludes that the reforms that would be most useful and viable for the ICC and R2P might take them further away from each other but would make each more true to its original mandate. The ICC should devote more resource to its complementarity agenda, in order to deter future conflict through stronger domestic criminal systems (and, by extension, more robust legislatures and more accountable governments), and advocates of R2P should focus less on intervention in live conflict situations and more on building within states the resources and willingness to protect their own populations via the responsibility to prevent.

Tragedy or farce, diplomacy and the ethics of intervention in Syria

Dr Andrew Jillions (LSE)

Seminar 3

Workshop on “Rising Powers and the Responsibility to Protect: Brazil, Liberal Norms, and the Responsibility while Protecting Concept”

When: 1 August 2014

Where: Politics, School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester
All sessions take place in the Board Room, Second Floor, Arthur Lewis Building (building no. 36 on the campus map)

Session 1: Emerging Powers and Intervention Norms: Norm Localization and Subsidiarity in the “Responsibility while Protecting” Initiative / Responsibility While Protecting: A Constructive Attempt to Consolidate R2P Normatively? (MP3 file) – Kai Michael Kenkel / Cristina Badescu. Chair: Adrian Gallagher (University of Leeds)

Session 2: Brazil as a Norm Entrepreneur: The RwP experience / Regulating Intervention: Brazil and the Responsibility to Protect (MP3 file) – Thorsten Benner / Oliver Stuenkel. Chair: James Pattison (University of Manchester).


10:30-11:00 Arrival

11.00-12.30 Session 1

“Emerging Powers and Intervention Norms: Norm Localization and Subsidiarity in the “Responsibility while Protecting” Initiative”

Kai Michael Kenkel, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro

Abstract: “This paper empirically applies the concepts of norm localization and norm subsidiarity, as developed and Acharya and revamped by Prantl and Nakano, using as an example the “responsibility to protect” initiative launched by Brazil in November 2011. The RwP diplomatic paper is the result of one of the clearest instances of the clash between local and putatively global/universal norms in recent years. The paper itself is not innovative, and its final intention is unclear; it contains elements of both norm localization and of the desire to establish the subsidiarity of Brazilian and regional traditions of non-intervention. As such it recasts the responsibility to protect in language acceptable to a Brazilian public while simultaneously seeking to inject regional interpretations into the larger, global debate. The paper makes use of Acharya’s model to outline drivers and resistances in the localization process, identifying the extent to which successful localization has occurred and contributing to more clearly differentiating the notions of localization and subsidiarity. RwP contains elements of both, which the paper clearly identifies in Brazil’s initial forays into the intervention.”

“Responsibility While Protecting: A Constructive Attempt to Consolidate R2P Normatively?”

Cristina Badescu, Western University, Canada

Abstract: “This paper discusses the merits of the concept note Brazil introduced to the UN Security Council in November 2011, in light of the controversies following NATO’s intervention in Libya. The goal is to assess the impact the responsibility while protecting (RwP) initiative has had on R2P and its implementation. The first section explores the meaning of RwP by discussing the complementarities and tensions between RwP and R2P. The starting point is the assumption that the RwP initiative illustrates the rising powers’ resistance to Western normative dominance, and their attempt to reform the traditional normative order. While RwP acknowledged the existing consensus on R2P and its legitimacy, it emerged to clarify how R2P is implemented, especially in regard to its third pillar. The second section of the paper emphasizes RwP’s focus on one small, but very important component of R2P’s third pillar, namely the use of force. It is in this context that the Brazilian initiative rightfully detected that R2P lacks ‘specificity’, which is deeply problematic for any emerging global norm, and, as such, proposed refinement. Two of the most contentious aspects of the original RwP proposal are discussed in this section: the idea that the three pillars of R2P ‘must follow a strict line of political subordination and chronological sequencing’, and the need for accountability, through establishing a monitoring and review mechanism to keep Security Council members informed about mandate implementation. While the former is incompatible with some of the basic tenets of R2P, the latter has potential to clarify R2P. The last section of the paper equates the Brazilian initiative’s potential to consolidate R2P to developing concrete proposals vis-a-vis such key elements of RwP, which would refine the terms of R2P’s implementation. Given Brazil’s lack of interest to engage with RwP further, there is a clear need for other rising powers, such as India or South Africa, to revive the Brazilian proposal and participate in shaping a common interpretation of the third pillar of R2P. If rising powers are to increase their normative clout, which they aim to do, they need to engage with global norms like R2P, to show they are indeed committed and capable of shaping global responses to some of today’s most serious global problems.”

12:30-13:30 Lunch

13.30-15:00 Session 2

“Brazil as a Norm Entrepreneur: The RwP experience”

Thorsten Benner, Director, Global Public Policy Institute, Berlin

Abstract: “The paper looks at the RwP experience from the perspective of norm entrepreneurship. The paper argues that the RwP story is revealing in terms of the conditions for successful norm entrepreneurship of a democratic emerging power from outside the Western core of countries. What led Brazil to venture into the business of norm entrepreneurship in such a contested area that is sovereignty and R2P? What explains the initially negative reaction (and then change of mind) on the part of Western powers? What lessons should those interested in the success of R2P draw from the experience?”

“Regulating Intervention: Brazil and the Responsibility to Protect”

Oliver Stuenkel, Getúlio Vargas Foundation, São Paulo

Abstract: “In the last decade, Brazil has engaged with the idea of an international responsibility to protect (R2P) in a notable fashion. As a frequent member of the Security Council in the post-Cold War era, the country resisted suggestions of a responsibility to intervene in humanitarian crises, fearing it would serve to justify military action outside of the scope of the UN Charter and international law. Following the adoption of R2P in the 2005 World Summit, Brazil engaged with the concept more closely. This culminated in the ‘responsibility while protecting’, a proposed addendum that would ensure clearer criteria and greater accountability of UN-authorised military interventions. What were the Brazilian foreign policy perspectives through this period? What was their contribution to the political and normative development of R2P? I argue that while Brazil has become more vocal and proactive in relation to the norm in recent years, its positions remained driven by some of its most traditional foreign policy arguments: the strengthening of the authority of the UN Security Council and the establishment of a multilateral order in which all states are treated equally.”

15:00-15:30 Tea

15:30-17:00 Session 3

“The (ir)responsibility to Remember: Keeping Brazilian Peacefulness”

Henrique Furtado, University of Manchester

Abstract: In Writing Security (1992) Campbell re-signified the notion of foreign policy as the constant production of what is foreign to a particular national identity through a double exclusion that connects internal unwanted populations to external threats. This particular conception of foreign policy, with an understanding of Brazilian remembrance of “state terror” might help to clarify the problematic interaction between the depiction of Brazil as a peaceful nation and its increasing interest, as a “rising power”, to partake and lead peacekeeping operations. In 2009, the 3rd National Program for Human Rights instituted the right to memory and truth about past violations of human rights during the Cold War dictatorship. In 2012 the National Truth Commission (CNV) was instituted and started scrutinizing the crimes of former state agents. One particular aspect of this official project of remembrance is that it systematically portrays, in a rather common fashion, perpetrators of violence in a discourse of monstrosity. The military that tortured, assassinated and disposed of the mortal remains of dissidents are described as monstrous, pathological state terrorists trained by American, British, French and Israeli intelligence services. Here, memory, the politics of creating foreignness, and peace-keeping are intertwined in the potentially permissive consequences of a discursive apparatus. I argue that, the truth commission carries out, in a double exclusion, the connection of former perpetrators with western imperialist pretension. Official remembrance, feeding into the discourse of “Brazilian Peacefulness” exorcises violence from the nature of Brazilian people. As a consequence, by irresponsibly remembering past perpetrations of violence as “foreign” to Brazilian national identity, as a series of “metastases” into society that are now being “extriped” by the truth commission, we create the conditions to dismiss present and potential forms of violence committed by Brazilian troops. Hence, by “keeping Brazilian peacefulness” this remembrance creates the conditions to raise Brazil as the perfect peacekeeper.

Protecting Human Rights in Brazil: Non-state Actors’ Responsibility

David Karp (University of Sussex)


UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect Jennifer Welsh speaking recently at The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), The Evolution of the Responsibility to Protect: Securing Individuals in a World of States September 30, 2013

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