First Advisor

David Kinsella

Date of Publication

Summer 8-27-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Political Science


Political Science




Responsibility to protect (International law), Humanitarian intervention -- Kosovo (Republic) -- Politics and government -- Case studies, Humanitarian intervention -- Libya -- Politics and government -- Case studies, Humanitarian intervention -- Syria -- Politics and government -- Case studies



Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 138 pages)


Humanitarian intervention has long been a secondary or tertiary concern in a security driven international system. Since NATO's intervention during the Kosovo crisis in 1999 there have been significant developments in both the language and form of humanitarian intervention as a matter of international law. The events in Kosovo sparked debate about how to handle humanitarian crisis in the future and thus humanitarian intervention evolved into a redefinition of sovereignty as responsibility and the Responsibility to Protect. The Responsibility to Protect has had a number of opportunities to continue to evolve and assert itself in an international legal context throughout the ensuing years since the Kosovo intervention.

The purpose of this research is to explore the moral, legal and practical implications of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine. Classical and contemporary theories of international relations and moral philosophy are applied in the context of the Responsibility to Protect and its effect upon the international system and specific states to cultivate a sense of the development of the norm and different actors' attitudes towards it. A literature review is conducted to show the practical and conceptual issues inherent in the framework of the Responsibility to Protect. The norm is then applied to the cases of Kosovo, Libya, and Syria to assess its effect in practice and determine its origins. The analysis of these case studies leads to a number of conclusions regarding its effectiveness and future application.

The case studies chosen for this research are Kosovo, Libya, and Syria. The case of Kosovo helps to establish a humanitarian intervention framework, the need for redefinition, and the beginning of the Responsibility to Protect. Libya shows the first strong case for the positive application of the Responsibility to Protect in a practical sense. The non-intervention in Syria shows the difficult political issues involved in intervention and presents uncertainty as to the positive develop of the norm. These cases clearly show the myriad of practical challenges to RtoP that are borne out the theoretical, moral issues embedded in its philosophy.

The conclusion drawn from the literature review and subsequent case studies is that the current efforts to assert the Responsibility to Protect are aimed at the wrong areas of international law and states, and that the norm is not developing positively in a linear pattern. To successfully promote its acceptance the Responsibility to Protect must build institutional linkages to make intervention more cost effective, exercise the regional options available to promote and ensure the legitimacy of intervention, and assure the acceptance of RtoP by the major powers in the Security Council.


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