The International Crisis Group is pleased to announce the release of a new book by its president, Gareth Evans, The Responsibility to Protect: Ending Mass Atrocity Crimes Once and for All, published by Brookings Institution Press.

After the Holocaust, the world vowed it would “never again!” permit such atrocities to occur. Yet many mass atrocity crimes have since gone unchecked, from the killing fields of Cambodia to the machetes of Rwanda to the ongoing nightmare in Darfur. In this new book, International Crisis Group President Gareth Evans shows how the emergence of the new Responsibility to Protect (R2P) norm has fundamentally changed this landscape and can effectively mean an end once and for all to such large scale suffering.

The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) concept was born out of the catastrophes in Rwanda and the Balkans in the 1990s and captures a simple and powerful idea. The primary responsibility for protecting its own people from mass atrocity crimes lies with the state itself. State sovereignty implies responsibility, not a license to kill.

But when a state is unwilling or unable to halt or avert such crimes, the wider international community then has a collective responsibility to take appropriate action, not excluding the use of military force in extreme and exceptional cases.

R2P was unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly at the 2005 World Summit. But many misunderstandings persist about its scope and limits, compounded by its use and misuse in debates about the appropriate reaction to recent events, for example, in Iraq, Darfur, Myanmar and Georgia. And much remains to be done to solidify political support and to build institutional capacity.

The book examines how big a break R2P represents from the past, and how, with understanding of its scope, and its acceptance in principle and effective application in practice, the promise of “never again!” can at last become a reality.

The Author

Gareth Evans has been President and CEO of the International Crisis Group since 2000, after serving eight years as Australia’s Foreign Minister. Evans co-chaired the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty that initiated the Responsibility to Protect concept in 2001, and he was a member of the UN Secretary-General’s High Level Panel in 2004 that successfully proposed its adoption by the 2005 UN World Summit.

Subscribe to Crisis Group’s Email Updates

Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.