The Responsibility to Protect in Southeast Asia: Between Non-Interference and Sovereignty as Responsibility
The responsibility to protect (R2P) comprises each state's responsibility to protect its own populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, the international community's duty to assist states in this endeavour, and a responsibility for the international community to take timely and decisive action in situations where the host state has manifestly failed. At first glance, the latter two elements of this principle seem to require behaviour that contradicts the principle of non-interference. This raises questions as to why R2P was endorsed by Southeast Asian governments and whether it can be localised in a region whose politics are underpinned by non-interference. This article argues that processes of norm localisation are producing an accommodation between the two principles. This accommodation involves the formal retention of both principles but the subtle realignment of each in order to make them compatible and make support for both coherent. It is this third explanation, we argue, that best explains the relationship between R2P and non-interference in Southeast Asia: R2P has been revised to limit its capacity to legitimise coercive interference, whilst non-interference is in the process of being recalibrated to permit expressions of concern, offers of assistance and even the application of limited diplomatic pressure in response to major humanitarian crises. Thus, whilst the region remains largely hostile to doctrinal revisions to non-interference, subtle changes are evident in practice. This article outlines the evolution of R2P as a challenge to traditional notions of state sovereignty, provides an overview of non-interference and past efforts to revise the principle, and examines two case studies to understand how the two principles are being accommodated in practice.
The Pacific Review