Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Bunting, M. Anne


Law, International law, International relations, NGOs, Responsibility to protect, Constructivism, Realism, United Nations, TWAIL, International legal scholarship, Soft law, Hard law, Idealism, INGOs, Morality, Values, Ethics, Humanitarian intervention, Human rights, War crimes, Crimes against humanity, Genocide, Ethnic cleansing, Sovereignty, Libya, Legitimacy, Global governance, Just post bellum, Security Council


The dissertation involves a study of the emerging international norm of ‘The Responsibility to Protect’ which states that citizens must be protected in cases of human atrocities, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and genocide where states have failed or are unable to do so. According to the work of the International Commission on the Responsibility to Protect (ICISS), this response can and should span a continuum involving prevention, a response to the violence, when and if necessary, and ultimately rebuilding shattered societies. The most controversial aspect, however, is that of forceful intervention and much of the thesis focuses on this aspect.

The history and context of the Responsibility to Protect are examined as an evolving norm in international law. The study thus serves as an analysis of how a fundamental and controversial international principle has been established: its promotion, creation, formulation, acceptance, and ultimately its implementation. The dissertation identifies five critical sociopolitical issues of significance affecting the evolution of the Responsibility to Protect in international law and its implementation and considers remedies where appropriate.

Analysis of an application of the principle through force is undertaken in the context of the UN sanctioned intervention into Libya in 2011. This case study provides a clearer picture of what the Responsibility to Protect means as a legal basis for international intervention in genocidal situations. The study finds that international law is but one factor in the substantiation of the Responsibility to Protect – legitimacy counts as well as legality and for it to be implemented the self-interest of states must acknowledge ‘universal’ legal and ethical principles of a humanitarian nature. Also contributing to the success of a Responsibility to Protect intervention are nongovernmental actors as part of transnational governance who in a particular situation cry out for action in the face of evolving humanitarian atrocities in spite of rules of sovereignty and state hegemony. The more general significance of this research is in its understanding of existing and new forms of hard and soft governance and how they adapt in the international and transnational arena.