Operationalizing the 'responsibility to protect' and conflict prevention: Dilemmas of civilian protection in armed conflict

Hitoshi Nasu*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    19 Citations (Scopus)


    The responsibility to protect is a nascent, highly contentious concept. Although a restrictive understanding of the concept was agreed upon by world leaders in 2005, the perspective of conflict prevention reveals the conceptual gap in terms of its scope, stage, and strength, failing to bridge the gulf between rhetorical support for prevention and tangible commitment to international action. It is argued that this commitment gap can be bridged by exploring the basis and boundaries of the legal responsibility that encompasses the transcending nature of the responsibility to prevent and react at the operational level. The reach of legal responsibility to protect can be defined by drawing on the existing rules of international law relating to the protection of civilians. While such an extension of the legal responsibility to protect can be appreciated as furthering the agenda of conflict prevention, the marriage of the two concepts appears to be destined to failure, causing normative, operational and ethical dilemmas. It will be suggested that a Human Protection Council be established as an alternative 'right authority' in order to resolve or mitigate those dilemmas by separating the responsibility to protect civilians from the Security Council's primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)209-241
    Number of pages33
    JournalJournal of Conflict and Security Law
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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