The ABC’s of RWP

OpenCanada talked to Dr. Malte Brosig about how the Responsibility While Protecting differs from the Responsibility to Protect.

By: /
27 March, 2013

So what does Responsibility While Protecting really stand for? Is it meant to replace Responsibility to Protect? OpenCanada asked Dr. Malte Brosig, Senior Lecturer in International Relations at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and expert on peacekeeping and norm promotion in Europe and Africa, to give us the ABCs of RWP.

What is the value-added of the RWP concept as an amendment or re-imagining of the R2P doctrine?

RWP is not a new concept. It has been mentioned prominently in the famous report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) of 2001.  However, the current debate around RWP is important and somehow forms an addition to the norm of R2P because it has not been explicitly endorsed by the World Summit document in 2005, which gave R2P universal recognition. In general, R2P and RWP cannot be separated, and should be seen as one set of principles or norms. RWP re-emerged as a reaction to NATO’s intervention in Libya in 2011. The concept recalls the need for intervening powers to apply constraints when using force. Classically, this means force is only an instrument of last resort, must be applied proportionally, with good intentions and collective oversight. The lack of oversight that the UNSC has over NATO, as well as NATO’s straightforwardly open endorsement of regime change—these have caused some controversy in Africa and within the UNSC.


Is Brazil the right state actor to be advocating for the normative development of RWP, and if so, what could it be doing more effectively?

The responsibility to protect firstly requires the state to act domestically in order to prevent mass crimes.  When the state fails to act is this responsibility referred to the international community. No single state can claim to be the sole representative of a community. In principle, any state can engage in norm construction.   What is needed is not stronger action by a single state but a much broader alliance that expresses a collective will. This can, for example, be achieved in the form of a UNSC or GA resolution. At the current stage of R2P development, it must be clear that R2P is a “norm in the making,” which needs further operationalization through application and norm construction.

The monograph you’ve compiled on R2P entitled: ‘From evasive to reluctant action’ concentrates on the role of Middle Powers/GIBSA countries (Germany, India, Brazil, and South Africa). Do GIBSA states share particular qualities that make them effective arbiters and leaders on intervention policy? 

GIBSA countries are all stable democracies and show restraint when it comes to the application of force. On average, they have contributed constructively to global conflict resolution. In their particular regions, they have played a vital role in managing crises and preventing them from spreading.  As a consequence, we can explore a clear trend towards more regionalization in security issues. Because GIBSA countries have no permanent seat or veto power in the UNSC – but are regional hegemons – this qualifies them as interlocutors between regional bodies such as the EU, AU and/or the UN. However, in practice, we will see if their potential is used effectively.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity

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Also in the series

The Mirage of R2P’s “BRICS Wall”

The Mirage of R2P’s “BRICS Wall”


Patrick Quinton-Brown on how a shifting world order is shaping the political debates over intervention.

A Responsibility to Prevent

A Responsibility to Prevent


OpenCanada talked to Naomi Kikoler about the need to clarify when and how the international community should step in to prevent mass atrocities.

With Power Comes Responsibility

With Power Comes Responsibility


OpenCanada talked to Gilberto Rodrigues about Brazil’s increased interest in and impact on R2P.