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The Responsibility to Protect - Ending Mass Atrocity Crimes Once and for All

About the Book | Table of Contents | Reviews | Advance Praise | How to Order

The Responsibility to Protect has been awarded an Honorable Mention in the prestigious Council of Foreign Relations 2009 Arthur Ross Book Award, making it in the assessment of the jury one of the best three books published in the last year on international affairs. Click here for more information.

About the Book (From the Jacket Cover)

"Never again!" the world has vowed time and again since the Holocaust. Yet genocide, ethnic cleansing, and other mass atrocity crimes continue to shock our consciences - from the killing fields of Cambodia to the machetes of Rwanda to the agony of Darfur.

Gareth Evans has grappled with these issues firsthand. As Australian foreign minister, he was a key broker of the United Nations peace plan for Cambodia. As president of the International Crisis Group, he now works on the prevention and resolution of scores of conflicts and crises worldwide. The primary architect of and leading authority on the Responsibility to Protect ("R2P"), he shows here how this new international norm can once and for all prevent a return to the killing fields.

The Responsibility to Protect captures a simple and powerful idea. The primary responsibility for protecting its own people from mass atrocity crimes lies with the state itself. State sovereignty implies responsibility, not a license to kill. But when a state is unwilling or unable to halt or avert such crimes, the wider international community then has a collective responsibility to take whatever action is necessary. R2P emphasizes preventive action above all. That includes assistance for states struggling to contain potential crises and for effective rebuilding after a crisis or conflict to tackle its underlying causes. R2P's primary tools are persuasion and support, not military or other coercion. But sometimes it is right to fight: faced with another Rwanda, the world cannot just stand by.

R2P was unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly at the 2005 World Summit. But many misunderstandings persist about its scope and limits. And much remains to be done to solidify political support and to build institutional capacity. Evans shows, compellingly, how big a break R2P represents from the past, and how, with its acceptance in principle and effective application in practice, the promise of "Never again!" can at last become a reality.

About the author

Gareth Evans has been president and CEO of the International Crisis Group since 2000 and was foreign minister of Australia from 1988 to1996. Co-chair of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (2000-01), which initiated the Responsibility to Protect concept, he has since led the movement for its worldwide adoption and application. Evans has served on many other global bodies including the UN Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change (2003-04) and the UN Secretary-General's Advisory Committee on the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities (2006-present), and was named in 2008 to co-chair the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. His numerous publications include eight other books and a prizewinning Foreign Policy article on cooperative security. He is Co-chair of the International Advisory Board of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect'.


Table of Contents


A Personal Journey

Chapter 1 The Problem: The Recurring Nightmare of Mass Atrocities

Defining Mass Atrocities
The Pre-Modern Age: Centuries of Indifference
From Westphalia to the Holocaust: Institutionalizing Indifference
The Cold War Years: Cynicism and Self Interest
The 1990s: The Clash of Competing Imperatives

Chapter 2 The Solution: From "The Right to Intervene" to "The Responsibility to Protect"

Initial Attempts to Build Consensus
The Birth of the "Responsibility to Protect"
From ICISS to the World Summit
After the Summit: A Race Still Not Won

Chapter 3 The Scope and Limits of the Responsibility to Protect

Five Major Misunderstandings about R2P
Identifying Countries of R2P Concern


Chapter 4 Before the Crisis: The Responsibility to Prevent

Analysis and Early Warning
Political and Diplomatic Strategies
Economic and Social Strategies
Constitutional and Legal Strategies
Military and Security Sector Strategies

Chapter 5 During the Crisis: The Responsibility to React

Political and Diplomatic Strategies
Economic Strategies
Legal Strategies
Military Strategies Short of the Coercive Use of Force

Chapter 6 Responding to Crises: When is it Right to Fight?

The Question of Legality
The Question of Legitimacy
Legality v. Legitimacy

Chapter 7 After the Crisis: The Responsibility to Rebuild

Achieving Security
Achieving Good Governance
Achieving Justice and Reconciliation
Achieving Development The Role of the Peacebuilding Commission

Chapter 8 Institutional Preparedness: The Actors

The United Nations System
Regional Organizations: EU, AU, NATO and OSCE
Other Intergovernmental Institutions, National Governments and NGOs

Chapter 9 Building Diplomatic, Civilian and Military Capability

Diplomatic Capability
Civilian Response Capability
Military Response Capability

Chapter 10 Mobilizing Political Will

Ensuring Knowledge
Encouraging Concern
Building Confidence
Establishing Process
Demanding Leadership


2-1   R2P in the ICISS Report 2001: Core Principles
2-2   R2P in the UN General Assembly 2005: World Summit Outcome Document
4-1   The Prevention Toolbox
5-1   The Reaction Toolbox
6-1   The Use of Force: Criteria of Legitimacy
7-1   The Rebuilding Toolbox


A. Treaty Definitions of Mass Atrocity Crimes
B. The Mass Atrocity Crimes Toolbox: Prevention, Reaction and Rebuilding
C. Further Reading
D. Further Action



The Responsibility to Protect: Ending Mass Atrocity Crimes Once and for All", by G. John Ikenberry in Foreign Affairs, March/April 2009

When to Intervene", by Scott Malcolmson in The New York Times, 12 December 2008. [Also appeared in The International Herald Tribune on 10 December 2008]

Pragmatism and Principle", by Douglas Hurd in Survival, Volume 51, Issue 2 April 2009 , pages 175 - 182.

"The Norm Entrepreneur", by Allan Gyngell in Australian Book Review, March 2009.

"The Responsibility to Protect: Ending Mass Atrocity Crimes Once and for All", by Aidan Hehir in International Affairs, January 2009.

Under Western Eyes", by Glyn Ford in Tribune, 12 November 2008.

"The Responsibility to Protect", by John Polanyi in Globe & Mail, 24 January 2009.

An agenda with a difference", by David Smith in Mail & Guardian, 7 October 2009.

"R2P in Theory and Politics", by Alex de Waal, in Social Science Research Council blog, 20, 21, 22 May 2005

Advance Praise

"The responsibility to protect is the most important and imaginative doctrine to emerge on the international scene for decades. No one is better placed than Gareth Evans to lead the debate about its scope and application to contemporary crises, such as Darfur, Myanmar, and Zimbabwe. And no one could have done it better than in this comprehensive and sophisticated book."
Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 2004-2008; Chief Prosecutor, International Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, 1996-1999

"I strongly endorse Gareth Evans's eloquent argument, urging the international community to strategically operationalize R2P in all its facets, and building the necessary political will to act. This call to prevent terrible crimes against humanity like those I witnessed in Rwanda is one we must answer."
General Romeo Dallaire, author of Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda

"R2P is one of the most powerful and promising innovations on the international scene and, more than anyone else, Gareth Evans has been at the forefront of its development and promotion. This book is a major contribution, one which no one interested in the responsibility to protect and the prospects for its realization can afford to miss."
Francis Deng, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide; co-author of Sovereignty as Responsibility: Conflict Management in Africa

"A tour de force ... Gareth Evans, more than anyone, has persuaded leaders to accept their responsibility to protect the vulnerable, and convinced us that we can no longer be passive bystanders. This book is indispensable in this noble struggle."
Jan Egeland, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator 2003-2006; Director, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs; author of A Billion Lives: An Eyewitness Report from the Frontlines of Humanity

"The responsibility to protect is part of Gareth Evans's legacy as a politician and, as this volume demonstrates, there is no better author for explaining the crucial challenge that it presents to the formulation of foreign and security policy today. His book is both a passionate plea for R2P and a comprehensive guide to its implementation."
Joschka Fischer, Foreign Minister of Germany 1998-2005

"Gareth Evans is a rare combination of diplomatic and scholarly experience. This book is rich in information, ideas and proposals for conflict resolution, violence prevention and the strengthening of human rights. It will long be useful for the international community."
David Hamburg, Chair, UN Secretary-General's Advisory Committee on Genocide Prevention; author of Preventing Genocide: Practical Steps toward Early Detection and Effective Action

"In The Responsibility to Protect, Gareth Evans establishes an historical and intellectual framework for preventing the worst of humankind's self-inflicted tragedies. It is both powerful and persuasive."
Lee H. Hamilton, President and Director, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

"In 2005 the United Nations General Assembly voted unanimously in favor of a major new concept: the responsibility to protect. But did they mean it - and what did they really mean? Now Gareth Evans, one of its principal creators, has written the first major work on this noble, important and elusive concept. Anyone interested in international affairs should read this book on what is certain to be a continuing debate."
Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, US Permanent Representative to U.N. 1999-2001; Assistant Secretary of State 1977-1981 and 1994-1996; author of To End a War: Sarajevo to Dayton- The Inside Story

"We can no longer ignore atrocities beamed into our living rooms. Our conscience demands that we react whenever people suffer, from Rwanda to Srebrenica, from Darfur to Gaza. Gareth Evans's volume could not be more timely or relevant."
Kishore Mahbubani, Dean, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore; author of The New Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East

"In taking a step further the idea of 'humanitarian intervention' that I developed, the General Assembly's adoption of the responsibility to protect was a major paradigm shift for the protection of victims worldwide. Gareth Evans's book will be vitally important in ensuring that R2P is understood and accepted."
Bernard Kouchner, Foreign Minister of France, 2007-

"Gareth Evans is the best possible guide to what this hugely important development in international affairs means. A terrific book which should be required reading for every foreign minister, and anyone else wanting a better and more peaceful world."
Chris Patten, European Commissioner for External Relations 1999-2004; Chancellor, Oxford University; author of What Next?: Surviving the Twenty-first Century

"The UN's adoption of the Responsibility to Protect was a red letter day for human rights. Our greatest failure is the inability to deal effectively with egregious human rights violations such as in Darfur. This authoritative work explains why the concept is so vital. It is both timely and needed."
Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 1997-2002, President of Ireland 1990-1997

"We have been shamed so often by our failure to protect the victims of mass atrocity crimes. Gareth Evans’s book is a passionate, lucidly argued and immensely well informed guide to how the world can do better. I hope it gets the readership in high places, not least in Africa, it deserves."
Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town; Chairman of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission 1995-1998


How to Order

The Responbility to Protect: Ending Mass Atrocity Crimes Once and for All (Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2008), xiv + 348 pp, was published in September 2008. To order, visit the Brookings Institution Press website. The Responsibility to Protect is also available from Amazon US and Amazon UK.