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Dangerous Duties: Power, Paternalism and the Responsibility to Protect

Cunliffe, Philip (2010) Dangerous Duties: Power, Paternalism and the Responsibility to Protect. Review of International Studies, 36 (S1). pp. 79-96. ISSN 0260-2105. (doi:10.1017/S0260210511000076) (KAR id:23946)

Language: English
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This article provides a critique of Louise Arbour's article ‘The responsibility to protect as a duty of care in international law and practice’. Proceeding through criticisms of Arbour's specific propositions, the thesis is advanced that the perverse effect of the ‘duty of care’ is to undermine political accountability and by extension, political responsibility. It is argued that this is an imperfect duty that no specific agent is obliged to fulfil. This poses insuperable problems of agency that are exposed in Arbour's efforts to actualise the doctrine. As there is no mechanism for enacting the ‘duty of care’, I argue that it will be powerful states that will determine the conditions under which the ‘responsibility to protect’ is discharged. This means that the ‘duty’ will remain tied to the prerogatives of states. In order to resolve this problem of agency, it will be shown how Arbour is forced to replace the idea of law with the principle of ‘might makes right’. The ‘duty of care’ is also shown to have regressive effects on the domestic sphere: the demand that states be made accountable to the international community ends up making states responsible for their people rather than to their people.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1017/S0260210511000076
Uncontrolled keywords: sovereignty, responsibility to protect, international law, state, rights, democracy, representation
Subjects: J Political Science
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Depositing User: Philip Cunliffe
Date Deposited: 29 Mar 2010 10:16 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:02 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Cunliffe, Philip:
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