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The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and its Evolution: Beijing's Influence on Norm Creation in Humanitarian Areas

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This paper outlines the origins and development of the concept of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and also traces the 2009 discussion in the United Nations (UN) General Assembly of how this concept might be implemented. In particular, it details and explains China's contributions to these developments. Beijing was a full participant in the debate that generated the World Summit Outcome document of September 2005 and its references to R2P in paragraphs 138 and 139. It also took part in discussion of the concept's implementation in July 2009. Several important findings in relation to China and the development of R2P emerge from analysis of these developments. While Beijing has not obstructed the development of the concept, it has placed its main efforts behind the state capacity-building functions of the R2P mandate—what is referred to as Pillar I in the UN Secretary-General's concept paper. It has also worked to ensure R2P's focused application and a definition that constrains the operational methods associated with humanitarian intervention. China, alongside many other governments, has been a norm-shaper in this issue area. Specifically, Beijing has aimed to develop the norm in a direction that gives primacy to the preventative aspects of R2P in the hope of diminishing the instances where the norm of non-interference in the internal affairs of states is breached. China's position is not far removed from the international consensus on the concept, although its interpretation of R2P lies at the conservative end of the spectrum when compared with the positions of several of its Asian neighbours.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-02-01

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  • The St Antony's International Review (STAIR) is the only peer-reviewed journal of international affairs at the University of Oxford. Set up by graduate students of St Antony's College in 2005, the Review has carved out a distinctive niche as a cross-disciplinary outlet for research on the most pressing contemporary global issues, providing a forum in which emerging scholars can publish their work alongside established academics and policymakers. Past contributors include Robert O. Keohane, James N. Rosenau, and Alfred Stepan.
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