About the Working Group
The Working Group on the Responsibility to Protect is a joint project of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the United States Institute of Peace, and the Brookings Institution. It is co-chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and former Presidential Special Envoy to Sudan Richard Williamson.
The Responsibility to Protect Principle
Originally articulated in 2001 by the Canadian-sponsored International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty and later accepted by heads of state and government at the UN’s 2005 World Summit, the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle stipulates that:
- Every state has the responsibility to protect its populations against genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing. The wider international community has the responsibility to encourage and assist individual states in meeting that responsibility.
- If a state is manifestly failing to protect its populations, the international community must be prepared to take appropriate collective action in a timely and decisive manner and in accordance with the UN Charter.
Working Group Members and Objectives
The R2P Working Group comprises former US government officials, academics, foreign policy experts, political analysts, and media professionals and draws on the 2008 recommendations of the Genocide Prevention Task Force.
The R2P Working Group seeks to:
- Enhance understanding of the political and practical impediments to the prevention of genocide and related crimes
- Assess how R2P has worked in practice in relevant cases
- Identify concrete steps to bolster the political will of US decision makers to respond in a timely manner to threats of genocide and mass atrocities.
The working group co-chairs are expected to release a report of their findings and recommendations in December 2012.
From the Working Group Chairs
“The concept of the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing is one of the most important recent developments in the world’s ongoing efforts to eradicate genocide and mass atrocities. It provides us with a useful way forward as we struggle to address how nations can best respond when populations are threatened with the gravest international crimes.”
“For a decade now, the Responsibility to Protect doctrine has been debated largely on philosophical and intellectual terms. However, there is a considerable and costly gap between its aspirations and reality—and now it is time for us to wrestle with the challenge of how to break down the barriers to [its] implementation and bolster the political will for effective action.”