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Civil-Military Working Paper 3-2013 – A Strategic Framework for Mass Atrocity Prevention

Abstract At the 2005 World Summit of the United Nations, more than 170 Heads of State and Government accepted three interlinked responsibilities, which together constitute the principle of ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P). First, States accepted their primary responsibility to protect their own population from mass atrocity crimes. Second, they pledged to assist each other in fulfilling their domestic protection responsibilities. And finally, as members of the international community, they assumed the collective responsibility to react, in a timely and decisive manner, if any State were ‘manifestly failing’ to protect its population from mass atrocity crimes. Those three responsibilities are now commonly summarised in the language of R2P’s ‘three pillars’. Among the key constitutive elements of the principle of R2P, prevention has been deemed by many as the single most important. Scholars and policy-makers alike concede that it is both normatively and politically desirable to act early to prevent mass atrocity crimes from being committed—rather than to react after they are already underway. Yet, while the more general topic of conflict prevention has been—and continues to be—a subject of explicit discussion by policy-makers, an important field of inquiry for academics, and a crucial area of advocacy for civil society groups, there…

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