Ethics & International Affairs

Roundtable: Libya, RtoP, and Humanitarian Intervention

RtoP Alive and Well after Libya

Thomas G. Weiss

With the exception of Raphael Lemkin's efforts on behalf of the 1948 Genocide Convention, no idea has moved faster in the international normative arena than “the responsibility to protect” (RtoP), which was formulated in 2001 by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS). Friends and foes have pointed to the commission's conceptual contribution to reframing sovereignty as contingent rather than absolute, and to establishing a framework for forestalling or stopping mass atrocities via a three-pronged responsibility—to prevent, to react, and to rebuild. But until the international military action against Libya in March 2011, the sharp end of the RtoP stick—the use of military force—had been replaced by evasiveness and skittishness from diplomats, scholars, and policy analysts.

(Online publication August 12 2011)

Thomas G. Weiss is Presidential Professor of Political Science at the CUNY Graduate Center and Director of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies. Past President of the International Studies Association (2009–2010) and Past Chair of the Academic Council on the UN System (2006–2009), he was the research director for the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. His latest single-authored books are Humanitarian Intervention: Ideas in Action (2007), What's Wrong with the United Nations and How to Fix It (2009), and Thinking about Global Governance: Why People and Ideas Matter (2011).