The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCRP) was created in February 2008 to “catalyze action” on a 2005 World Summit agreement in which the United Nations General Assembly had unanimouslyaffirmed that “when a state proves either unable or unwilling to protect peoples” from mass atrocities occurring within its borders, “that responsibility shifts to the international community.” This principle, dubbed by its adherents at the World Summit as the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P), specifies four types of transgressions that warrant foreign intervention: genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
GCRP was founded by leading figures in government and academia, as well as by Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group, Oxfam International, Refugees International, and WFM-Institute for Global Policy. In its quest to prevent atrocities from being carried out against civilian populations, the Centre “engages in advocacy around specific crises”; “originates and sponsors research designed to further understanding of R2P”; “recommends and supports strategies to ... help states” avert catastrophes; and “works closely with NGOs, governments and regional bodies which are seeking to promote and operationalize the responsibility to protect.”
GCRP emphasizes the importance of intervening “preventively,” rather than after “mass crimes have already occurred.” The “tools of action” which the organization endorses include, first and foremost, “diplomatic, legal, and other peaceful measures.” If those prove unsuccessful, “coercive measures” such as sanctions, arms embargoes, or “the threat to refer perpetrators to international criminal prosecution” may be tried.
In the event that all these measures fail, military force can be employed as a “last resort.” In early 2011, for example, GCRP exhorted “UN member states [to] be prepared to take timely and decisive action to protect populations at risk” in Libya, where longtime dictator Muammar Qadhafi was using “horrific violence” against “unarmed civilians” as he sought to quell an uprising against his regime.
On balance, however, GCRP takes pains to emphasize the potential dangers inherent in military intervention. Condemning, for instance, the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq as illegitimate and unwarranted, the organization notes that “[n]either the George W. Bush administration nor its allies sought to justify the war, and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, chiefly as a humanitarian response to the regime’s tyranny.”
GCRP's executive director is Monica Serrano, a professor of international relations at El Colegio de México and a senior research associate at Oxford University's Centre for International Studies.