R2P in the UN Security Council: Darfur, Libya and Beyond

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It has been argued that consensus on the responsibility to protect (R2P) was lost in the United Nations Security Council as a result of the NATO-led intervention in Libya in 2011. This argument assumes that there was more agreement on R2P before the Libyan intervention than there was afterwards. Yet, a close examination of the Security Council’s use of language on R2P shows the opposite: R2P was highly contentious within the Security Council prior to the Libyan intervention, and less so afterwards. Not only has the Council used R2P language more frequently since 2011, but also negotiating this language has become quicker and easier. To
demonstrate this I compare negotiations on Darfur with deliberations during and after the Arab Spring. Resolution 1706 on Darfur was the first time the Security Council referred to R2P in a country-specific resolution – and indeed it was the only country-specific resolution to refer to R2P before 2011 – making it an apt point of comparison. Via focused analysis on how the language used in Security Council resolution evolves over time, this article demonstrates that the Council
has found ‘agreed language’ on R2P that is acceptable to members, both for thematic resolutions and country-specific resolutions. Language on R2P in Security Council resolutions has shifted from contentious to commonplace.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-165
JournalCooperation and Conflict
Issue number2
Early online date18 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Decision making
  • Language
  • resolutions
  • the responsibility to protect
  • the United Nations Security Council


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