Has Social Media Revolutionized Awareness of Humanitarian Abuses and the “Responsibility to Protect”?

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Abstract:

In 2001, the foundations of the international concept, the 'Responsibility to Protect' (R2P) were laid following a period of humanitarian abuses, catastrophic inaction, and failed interventions during the 1990s. At the same time, media communications were fundamentally changing with the birth of social media websites. During the Arab uprisings in 2011, these concepts came together as the international community witnessed a series of revolutions across North Africa and the Middle East, as civilians called for democracy, the protection of human rights, and the overthrow of political leaders. The speed at which the protests crossed the region was momentous. Some even labelled the protests the “Twitter Revolution” as online citizen journalists increased awareness of humanitarian abuses, encouraged fellow countrymen to protest, raised international interest in the region, and in some cases, called for the implementation of R2P. Until this time R2P had remained an unpractised concept, but it was soon pushed to centre stage as the international community debated whether the Arab uprisings presented a precedent-setting opportunity for its implementation. As events have subsequently shown, R2P was only implemented in Libya; the protests in Egypt and Tunisia were resolved without recourse to military force, and although questions about the implementation of R2P in Syria persist, its implementation there is somewhat unlikely. This essay therefore seeks to explore the relationship between these concepts during the Arab uprisings, questioning whether social media has revolutionized the world's awareness of humanitarian abuses and R2P.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2013

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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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