Last week, Alex Bellamy, who writes regularly on issues of responsibility to protect, authored a blog post (on a relatively new blog, Protection Gateway) entitled, Stopping genocide and mass atrocities–the problem of regime change. He opens by positing the question, “Should international action to protect people from genocide and mass atrocities ever result in regime change?” before laying out five potential checks to guard against governments justifying armed intervention to pursue their own self interests via regime change “whilst recognising that regime change may sometimes be necessary to save lives.”:
- Intervention must have a mandate from the United Nations Security Council.
- States that champion intervention should be expected to demonstrate their humanitarian intent by acknowledging – through their words and deeds – a duty to prevent genocide and mass atrocities and respond in the most effective ways possible.
- The third test relates to the use of humanitarian justifications and their relationship to the known facts of the case. The simplest test of an actor’s intention is to compare what they say they are doing with what is known about the case.
- The calibration of means and ends. Would-be interveners should select strategies that enable them to prevail without undermining humanitarian outcomes.
- States that intervene in the affairs of others ought to recognise a duty to help the country rebuild its infrastructure, restore its autonomy, and re-establish its self-determination.
While much discussion, debate, and reporting currently focuses on the third pillar of R2P and conflates this with military intervention, the fact is that under R2P, the international community has three main responsibilities: the responsibility to prevent, the responsibility to react, and the responsibility to rebuild. In a sense, the fifth check is a reformulation of these responsibilities. Bellamy writes that interventions which satisfy these five conditions would assuredly be “pursued primarily with humanitarian intent” while also safeguarding that ” instances of protection induced regime change remain, as they have to date, rare and exceptional.”