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The Politics of the United Nations and the Reality of Responsibility to Protect: The Case Study in Libyan Crisis

The International Institute for Science, Technology and Education (IISTE)


There has been intense debate on the appropriateness of interventions in sovereign states. This has resulted in a divide which has pitched those in favour against those against intervention. In a concerted effort to resolve the differences and enhance the protection of civilian populations in times of conflict, the World leaders in 2005 adopted the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) which seeks to reconceptualise/redefine intervention and sovereignty as that of responsibility or duty to defend a population. The first resort to R2P by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) was in its resolution 1973 which was aimed at protecting the civilian population caught-up in the violence that erupted in Libya in 2011. The UNSC resolution 1973 and its implementation in the 2011 Libyan crisis has been a test case for the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect. It is therefore important to use it as a case study in determining if humanitarian intervention in sovereign state is possible without undermining the sovereignty of the state; the possibility of intervening state(s) using R2P as a platform to promote self-interest; and finally, the continued perpetuation of unprecedented human right abuses, war crimes, genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity under the covering of sovereignty. The research examines recent NATO led intervention in Libya with a view of ascertaining its intent and appropriateness, traces the origin and pillars of R2P then, further examines its implementation in the 2011 Libyan crisis with the objectives of determining its appropriateness and its level of success if indeed it was successful. Finally, the research examines if politics in the Security Council enhances or impedes the implementation of R2P and what the future holds for the doctrine. The work in its propositions assumed that the members of the UNSC advance their national interest in implementing R2P and that the UNSC’s prompt intervention in Libya was driven by a regime change agenda. The methodology adopted in gathering and analysing data in this work is the historical methodology and the secondary sources of data collection were employed. In conclusion, this work supports the recourse to the doctrine of Responsibility to protect in the 2011 Libyan crisis as it adjudges it appropriate. It also adopts as necessary the NATO’s rise to the challenge of implementing the Security Council Resolution 1973. The work argues that the intervention in Libya was a success as the protection of the civilian population from impeding mass slaughter in the hands of the Ghaddafi-led regime was averted. The research also submits that the United Nations Security Council did not engage in the form of politics that could have endangered the continued relevance of the doctrine of R2P. In its final recommendations, this research advises that R2P as was approved in 2005 is appropriate though with a little fine-tuning in the basic strategy of military engagement in conflict area. It urges the International community to ensure its continued existence and relevance therefore the adoption and implementation of the Responsibility to Protect must be devoid of all forms of United Nations politics. The protection of civilian population in any crisis must be done primarily with humanitarian interest in focus. Keywords: Responsibility to Protect, United Nations, Libya, Humanitarian Intervention

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