Monday, February 18, 2008

Conference: R2P: The Responsibility to Protect: A Framework for Confronting Identity-based Atrocities

The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law Program in Holocaust and Human Rights Studies will host a conference on "R2P: The Responsibility to Protect: A Framework for Confronting Identity-based Atrocities," March 10-11, 2008, in New York City. The program is here. Why attend?

At the UN’s 60th Anniversary World Summit in 2005, one hundred and fi fty world leaders made an historic decision: to embrace The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) vulnerable populations outside their own states from genocide and other mass atrocities. UN member states committed themselves to “use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means…” to protect threatened populations. They also agreed to use force only as a last resort. The UN Security Council has since endorsed R2P in resolutions concerning the protection of civilians in armed conflict and peacekeeping in southern Sudan and Darfur.

The responsibility to protect doctrine is multidimensional. Simply, it requires that when a state is either unwilling or unable to fulfill its responsibility to protect its own populations, UN member states are obligated to take action to minimize human suffering. Most importantly, it involves the responsibility to prevent such atrocities from occurring, and if prevention fails, it requires states to react and rebuild.

The R2P doctrine is one of the most significant steps toward preventing genocide and other mass atrocities since the Nuremberg Trials. However, there has been little momentum to act on or even decide when we are facing an R2P situation. Moreover, R2P evolved in direct response to genocide and ethnic killings, and yet the ethnic dimensions of mass atrocities continue to be elided when contemplating the proper response; Iraq and Burma are but two examples. R2P’s application to identity-based issues of mass atrocities thus deserves special attention.

The conference seeks to provide a forum to conceptualize the normative legal and political content of R2P; to examine the R2P framework against identity-based atrocities including ethnic conflict and genocide and to address the political and operational challenges to the implementation of R2P. The proceedings will be published at a later date.