RtoP and the Evolution of State Sovereignty

Lloyd Axworthy

in The Responsibility to Protect

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199797769
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919369 | DOI:
RtoP and the Evolution of State Sovereignty

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One of the most important efforts to re-set the meaning of sovereignty took place at the 2005 World Summit in New York, which adopted as part of its reform package the concept of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP). The concept grew out of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), which was sponsored by the Canadian government and formed in 2000 to deal with the issue of protecting civilians in situations of risk, a clear expression of the human security ideal. The RtoP does not replace the concept of sovereignty but re-sets its application. It maintains that sovereignty is a necessary concept in global governance, but with its benefits come responsibility as well. In the name of protecting civilians, the legitimate ability to govern is linked to security and protection of its people. Should a state fail to do so, it is up to the international community to step in. This chapter addresses the historical evolution of this point from the perspective of a former Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs who took the initiative in setting up the ICISS. The first part begins with a brief discussion about the concept of sovereignty. With its roots in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, sovereignty has never been a rigid concept. It is a foundational concept in international law and denotes the ultimate authority over a given territory. The second section addresses in detail the changing international political context of the 1990s and its impact on the expectations of sovereign states and the creation of the RtoP.

Keywords: responsibility to protect; International Commission; human security; sovereign states

Chapter.  7472 words. 

Subjects: Public International Law

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