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The Daily Tar Heel

A new approach to prevent violence

Never Again.” We have heard it before. We have heard it after the Holocaust, after Cambodia, after Rwanda. Does it really mean anything anymore?

The emotional power of mass atrocities prompts many to form advocacy groups and help in other ways. Yet, what “never again” truly calls for is the promise to stop violence before it starts. In other words, to ensure humanity never again reaches a point where it feels compelled to turn to genocide or where citizens are left without a structure to defend themselves against those who will.

Recently, Kenya was poised to be the next “never again” after ethnic violence broke out following the announced results of the presidential election. The world shuddered, imagining where this could lead.

Yet, something different happened this time. Swift mediation efforts headed by Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, helped quell the violence. Now people are hopeful that this type of action will gain traction.

This new type of action has a name — R2P. This new norm requires the responsibility of the international community to respond to grave violations of human rights through the aptly named Responsibility to Protect.

Under this new principle, whenever grievous violations of human rights in the form of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing or crimes against humanity are committed in a state and the government of that state is unable or unwilling to protect its citizens, then the international community has the responsibility to intervene.

Some critics consider R2P a dressed-up version of humanitarian intervention. However, R2P sends out a clear message that military intervention is really only a last resort.

One major point of contention is that R2P represents a break with the hierarchical conception of state sovereignty by acknowledging the authority of international intervention.

As Americans, we steadfastly defend our right to sovereignty and would resist any engagement of other foreign nations in our domestic affairs. Does that mean that we should duly respect this belief in dealing with other countries’ affairs?

Or are these egregious violations enough to justify intervention on the basis of defense of human rights and individual sovereignty above the right of state sovereignty?

Today, Great Decisions will host a lecture, “Kenya and R2P” by professor Andrea Bartoli, founder of Columbia University’s Center for International Conflict Resolution.

He works primarily on peacemaking and genocide prevention at George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. Most recently, he traveled to Haiti to help deliver aid as a member of the Community of St. Egidio, an organization dedicated to peace, conflict resolution and charity.

Genocide prevention is a complex issue and we encourage all who are globally-minded thinkers to come and join us to formulate their own views or at least join in the debate.

Maryam Al-zoubi is an senior international studies and Arabic studies major from Raleigh. Kelly Kilburn is a senior public policy and international studies major from Raleigh. Email Al-zoubi at and Kilburn at

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