The Stanley Foundation in May released a policy report titled The Role of Regional and Subregional Arrangements in Strengthening the Responsibility to Protect. Based on the proceedings of a conference hosted by the foundation, the report analyzes the differences in methods of implementation of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) across different regional organizations.

The report hails the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as one of the most successful in incorporating R2P. The authors attribute this in part to Europe’s commitment to the principles of human rights and conflict prevention and response, which were articulated and matured in European-level institutions before being addressed at the international level. For Europe the provisions of R2P have long been the norm.

Asian regional organizations—specifically the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)—have developed impressive policy frameworks to promote regional compliance with R2P. The problem, says the report, lies not in commitment but in capacity: ASEAN is too underfunded to develop adequate crisis prevention and response tools, or to sponsor programs that properly promote norms without outside help. Despite this, one of ASEAN’s greatest strengths is the dialogue it maintains with international organizations—cited as a key factor to successful implementation of R2P.

In the Americas, R2P faces ideological resistance. The Organization of American States (OAS) has tried to balance a firm belief in protecting human rights with an equally firm belief in territorial sovereignty. This has resulted in skepticism towards what some countries within the OAS view as the interventionist tendencies of R2P, leading to policies that are “more reactive that proactive.”

The African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have good policies in place, but lack the capacity needed to enforce the policies. While their flexibility allows for a huge array of responses, ranging from political pressure to military force, a lack of capacity has hamstrung their ability to respond to crisis effectively. The authors of the report give the example of the AU’s inability to muster sufficient military force from member states in response to the recent crisis in Cote d’Ivoire.

Despite vast differences between these regions, the report recommends some universal policies necessary for successful implementation of R2P. These include a high level of public engagement and education concerning R2P; the creation or modification of institutions that can viably perform the tasks necessary; and continued development of the capacity of regional arrangements to respond.

Photo: UN.org

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