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Progress Or Setback?: The Implications Of The International Intervention In Libya On The Norms Of The R2 P

3454 words - 14 pages


In the 1990s, the international community experienced a loss of more than five million people to warfare, chiefly as a result of internal conflicts (UN, 2000: 43). In the last decade of the 20th century, the debate over humanitarian intervention gained prominence. The question raised—following a series of failures to halt massacres in Rwanda, Somalia and Bosnia and the disputed military intervention in Kosovo without a UN Security Council Resolution—was whether the international community has a right to intervene in the affairs of a sovereign state to protect civilians whose lives are threatened (Evans and Sahnoun, 2002: 100). In 2001, the idea of the responsibility to protect (R2P) was introduced to replace the right of intervention by shifting the language from ‘right’ to ‘responsibility’, which is more helpful in viewing the protection of people positively (Evans and Sahnoun, 2002: 101). Tanguy (2003: 5) states that the world ‘revisit[s] the Pandora's box of intervention’ by recalling the time when the idea was revealed.
Since the report which gave origin to the R2P was first released from the Canadian government-sponsored International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) in 2001, there has been a great deal of discussion on R2P. Nearly a decade later, the military intervention in Libya, undertaken by a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation-led (NATO) force after the adoption of two Security Council resolutions, 1970 and 1973, implemented to protect suffering civilians, was considered a pioneering case for the application of R2P (Dembinski and Reinold, 2011: 6-8). The mass killings came to an end with Muammar el-Gaddafi’s death and the subsequent regime change. This event has been proclaimed by some as a ‘triumph for the R2P’ (Thakur, 2011: 23), although others argue that these claims are ‘fables of moral innocence and righteousness’ created by Western society (Rieff, 2011). What was the event all about? Was it a milestone signalling that the international community will never let humanitarian disaster take place? More research needs to be done to investigate the R2P debate further.
The main purpose of this research paper is to analyse how the military intervention in Libya in March 2011 strengthened the R2P norm by illustrating how R2P can be applied, in this case through a series of international attempts to protect Libyan citizens, with a description of theoretical development of R2P itself, and to offer insight into further policy associated with the future R2P debate.

There is still space for the R2P discourse, which stemmed from the debate over humanitarian intervention, to be investigated in the scope of normative and practical senses within academic and political arenas. The one main line of debate might be characterised by its normative status, which justifies the use of force against another state’s sovereignty for humanitarian purposes. In particular, the question of...

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