I am pleased to announce that the Sentinel Project is the newest member of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP). Following last week’s approval by the Coalition’s steering committee, we are now one of 45 members of an international network of organizations dedicated to implementing the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). Considering our mission to predict and prevent genocide, R2P is clearly a topic close to our hearts here at SP. This international norm was established by the United Nations in 2005 (as a Canadian-led initiative, no less) in order to address the issue of mass atrocity crimes internationally, specifically war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and genocide.
At the core of R2P is a reframing of the idea of state sovereignty as a responsibility rather than a right, emphasizing that states must protect their citizens from mass atrocities but that if they are unwilling or unable to do so then the international community must step in and assume these duties. This is, of course, all the more urgent in cases where the problem is not only a matter of states failing to protect civilians but rather where states are actively perpetrating atrocities. Although R2P is increasingly invoked as a justification for humanitarian military intervention, notably in the recent case of Libya, there is much more to the norm than the high-profile use of force to protect civilians. Along with provisions for intervention, R2P also emphasises the need for prevention, including the creation of early warning mechanisms, and reconstruction efforts to help the survivors of mass atrocities rebuild their lives in more peaceful societies.
The ICRtoP’s goal is to promote the growing implementation of the norm while ensuring that when R2P is put into action the international community does so responsibly. Guarding against the abuse of the norm, especially its use purely to advance national interest, or an overemphasis on military intervention, is an essential part of this work. As a Coalition Member, the Sentinel Project will do what we can to support these efforts. Furthermore, because of the early warning element within R2P, we bring a unique contribution to the Coalition and will take whatever opportunities we can to incorporate the norm into our own work and promote it publicly.
Aside from the honour of being welcomed into the ICRtoP and the work that we will do to support it, membership in the Coalition is also a great practical advantage for the Sentinel Project. In particular, we are now a member of a worldwide network of organizations all dedicated to the common cause of ending mass atrocities. With Coalition Members ranging from New York to Poland to Ghana and many places in between, we now have more partners to draw upon in developing our methodology, gathering information, and implementing preventive measures.