Responsibility to protect

The work of this Study Group has been completed.


CSCAP Australia, CSCAP Canada, CSCAP Indonesia and CSCAP Philippines.


The Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) was unanimously adopted as a key principle of international affairs by UN Member States at the 2005 World Summit, and reaffirmed unanimously by the UN Security Council in 2006. Although there is a shared view that more work needs to be done to clarify the principle and identify pathways to implementation, the principle itself is based on a unanimous consensus of world governments, including governments in the Asia Pacific region.

This study group will explore the implications of this new norm for regional actors and organizations. It will also provide policy recommendations regarding possible regional contributions to the global debate surrounding the implementation of RtoP.

Specific agenda

The Study Group will take as its point of departure the international community's commitment in paragraphs 138 - 140 of the 2005 World Summit document to protect vulnerable populations against genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. [i] As agreed upon in the World Summit document, RtoP rests on three equally weighted and non-sequential pillars:

(1) Each state's responsibility to protect its own population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity, and from their incitement;

(2) The international community's commitment to assist states in meeting these obligations; and

(3) The responsibility of UN Member States to respond in a timely and decisive manner, using, as appropriate and as decided on a case-by-case basis, peaceful, diplomatic and humanitarian measures as well as Chapters VI (Pacific Settlement of Disputes), VII (Action with Respect to the Threats to the Peace), and VIII (Regional Arrangements) of the UN Charter, when a state is "manifestly failing" to provide such protection.

This principle was adopted by the unanimous agreement of UN Member States at the 2005 World Summit (General Assembly Resolution 60/1) and was unanimously reaffirmed by the United Nations Security Council in 2006 (Security Council Resolution 1674). In his recent report on Implementing the Responsibility to Protect, the UN Secretary-General helped clarify the nature and scope of the three pillars and identified measures which Member States may wish to consider when implementing the principle. The framework, agreed upon by Member States and elaborated by the United Nations Secretary-General, will inform the Study Group's discussions.


The Study Group co-chairs will submit a Final Report to the CSCAP Steering Committee in June 2011. This report will reflect the interpretations and parameters agreed upon by Study Group members. This report will underscore the role that the ARF and other regional mechanisms might be called upon to play in the implementation of the Responsibility to Protect. It is hoped that the ensuing discussions within the CSCAP Steering Committee may lead to the issuing of a CSCAP Memorandum.


This Study Group has held the following meetings:

3rd and Final Meeting: 27-28 April 2011, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Download the meeting report.

2nd Meeting: 19-21 September 2010, Manila, The Philippines.
Download the meeting report.

1st Meeting: 26-27 February 2010, Jakarta, Indonesia.
Download the meeting report.

Download a brief report from the scoping meeting.

Paragraphs 138 - 140 of the UN World Summit Outcome document

138. Each individual state has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. This responsibility entails the prevention of such crimes, including their incitement, through appropriate and necessary means. We accept that responsibility and will act in accordance with it. The international community should, as appropriate, encourage and help States to exercise this responsibility and support the United Nations in establishing an early warning capability.

139. The international community, through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter of the United Nations, to help protect populations from war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. In this context, we are prepared to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the Charter, including Chapter VII, on a case-by-case basis and in cooperation with relevant regional organisations as appropriate, should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. We stress the need for the General Assembly to continue consideration of the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and its implications, bearing in mind the principles of the Charter and international law. We also intend to commit ourselves, as necessary and appropriate, to helping States build capacity to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and to assisting those which are under stress before crises and conflicts break out.

140. We fully support the mission of the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide.