The Future of Responsibility to Protect

The Future of Responsibility to Protect
Event date: 
19 Feb 2013
3:00pm to 5:00pm
Chem Sciences Building (F10) Room M11, UNSW Kensington campus
9385 1803

Two opposing views on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) will be presented in this afternoon's program: Communicative Action and the Responsibility to Protect: the case of Libya with Professor Tim Dunne & Associate Professor Kath Gelber and Outdated and Useless: R2P after Libya and Syria with Dr Christopher Michaelsen.

Refreshments to follow, please RSVP to for catering purposes.

This event is sponsored by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Globalisation & Governance Research Network, and the Australian Human Rights Centre.

Communicative Action and the Responsibility to Protect: the case of Libya


This paper examines international debate between actors in the UN Security Council and key regional bodies before, during and after the NATO-led intervention in Libya in March 2011, from the perspective of Habermas’ communicative action. It makes a contribution to three inter-linked debates about moral argumentation in world politics in relation to the responsibility to protect norm: how and why a consensus was established on military action; how and why this was punctuated so soon after the bombing began; and lastly, what this tells us about the possibilities and limits of communicative action in relation to forging an agreement on coercive intervention.

TIM DUNNE is Professor of International Relations in the School of Political Science and International Studies, and Research Director at the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, University of Queensland. In addition to IR theory, he has published on human rights, intervention, foreign policy, and internationalism. He has written and edited ten books, which include Terror in our Time co-authored with Ken Booth (Routledge, 2012). He is currently an editor of the European Journal of International Relations. He serves on the governing council of the International Studies Association, and is President of the Asia Pacific regional section. For more details see

KATHERINE GELBER is Professor of Public Policy, and Australian Research Council Future Fellow in the School of Political Science & International Studies at the University of Queensland. Her research is in human rights, with a particular emphasis on freedom of speech and the regulation of hate speech. In 2011 she was the Australian Expert Witness at a United Nations’ Asia-Pacific regional meeting discussing States’ compliance with the free speech and racial/religious hatred provisions of international law. She is the recipient of several ARC grants and has published widely in top-ranked journals including Political Studies, Review of International Studies and Contemporary Political Theory.

Outdated and Useless: R2P after Libya and Syria


The paper challenges the widespread assertion in the public and academic discourse that the military intervention in Libya was a successful first true test of the doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). It argues that if anything, the Libyan and Syrian crises demonstrate an urgent need to move away from R2P and call for an exploration of alternative legal and political frameworks with the potential of minimising the catastrophic humanitarian costs of intra-state conflict.

CHRISTOPHER MICHAELSEN is a Senior Lecturer at the UNSW Faculty of Law and the Director of Human Rights and Social Justice Programs. A member of the Australian Human Rights Centre, he teaches and specialises in public international law, human rights and international security. Prior to joining UNSW, he served at the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Warsaw, and at the Department for Disarmament Affairs in the UN Secretariat in New York.