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Is R2P, the Responsibility to Protect, an example of norm change within the international system?

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The Responsibility to Protect, or R2P, is a new norm that emerged from the UN World Summit in 2005. Ever since the atrocities of the Holocaust were revealed to the world in the 1940s, activists, world leaders, and governmental agencies have been working together to establish a framework for nations to follow to try to ensure that genocide and other abhorrent acts never happen again. But R2P did not emerge until after the international community failed to prevent mass casualties in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. R2P is a commitment from many member nations of the UN to prevent genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

R2P is expressly embodied in Paragraphs 138 and 139 of the World Summit Outcome Document, a well crafted and inspired work that serves as a guiding commitment for member nations of the international community to follow. The document contains a lot of language, but the responsibilities can be summarized in three basic principles. There is a responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing. The international community is responsible for helping other nations in achieving that. If a nation is not protecting its residents, member nations must collectively take action to ensure that the residents are protected.

R2P is undoubtedly an example of norm change in global affairs. Prior to the beginning of the 21st century, nations did not involve themselves in preventing mass atrocities in other nations. In fact, nations had condoned abhorrent acts in other nations throughout the 20th century. However, since the adoption of R2P in 2005, the commitment has been mentioned in dozens of UN Security Council resolutions, Human Rights Council resolutions, and General Assembly resolutions. This norm change in international relations provides hope for a more peaceful, safer world in the future.

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