"Saviours" or "Bystanders"? Framing the "International Community" in the Responsibility to Protect
IDS Convening Space
When faced with the shocking atrocities of genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity, we often hear calls for the "international community" to act (i.e. to intervene militarily) in order to save victims, or hear condemnation of the way in which the international community "stands aside", remaining a passive "bystander to genocide".
This framing of the international community as either an active saviour or a passive bystander is reproduced at the heart of the responsibility to protect—an international commitment to prevent and respond to mass atrocity crimes through military intervention when necessary. According to its supporters, this commitment is the best hope for limiting or ending mass atrocities.
This seminar, by contrast, will argue that the responsibility to protect is not fit for purpose. Once we move beyond a framing of the international community as active saviours or passive bystanders, and instead recognise the already-existing economic and political interventions that both destroy livelihoods and generate a world in which ethnic cleansing, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity are more likely to occur, we start to see that the responsibility to protect works to legitimatise devastating military interventions performed by actors that are already involved in malicious economic and political forms of intervention. Bringing into the picture these already-existing forms of intervention helps to open up avenues for demilitarising international responses to mass atrocities.
About the speaker:
Dr Robin Dunford researches and lectures in globalisation and contemporary war, with special interests in the practices and theories of transnational resistance at the University of Brighton. Robin's particular research focus is on how practices of resistance re-orientate understandings of human rights, citizenship, democracy and emancipation. He has written on practices of autonomous peasant resistance, focusing both on grass roots practices of land occupations and on transnational demands for rights to food sovereignty.