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 unanimously affirmed 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.
A key member of GCRP’s International Advisory Board is Gareth Evans, who spent more than two decades in Australian politics (including eight years as foreign minister) and is widely regarded as the founder of the R2P principle. An affiliate of the Australian Fabian Society, Evans serves as co-chair of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament and is president emeritus of the International Crisis Group (ICG), which he headed from 2000 to 2009. Sitting alongside him on the ICG executive board is the billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who avidly who supports the concept of R2P. Evans and Soros also serve together on the board of the William J. Clinton Foundation‘s “Clinton Global Initiative.”
Evans is closely tied to yet another R2P advocate, Samantha Power, National Security Council special adviser to President Obama. Evans and Power have been joint keynote speakers at a number of events where they have championed the R2P principle together.
Accompanying Evans on the GCRP International Advisory Board is Juan Méndez, president emeritus of the International Center for Transitional Justice. Prior to joining GCRP, Méndez had spent 3 years as the United Nations Secretary-General’s “special adviser on the prevention of genocide” and 15 years working with Human Rights Watch.
Noteworthy patrons of GCRP include:
Kofi Annan, who served as secretary-general of the United Nations from 1997-2006
Jan Eliasson, former Swedish foreign minister and UN General Assembly president
David Hamburg, who served as president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York from 1982-1997
El Hassan bin Talal, who was the Crown Prince of Jordan from 1965-1999 and currently sits on the International Crisis Group’s board of trustees
Between 2007 and 2010, GCRP received financial backing from the governments of Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Rwanda, Sweden, the United Kingdom. It was also supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Open Society Institute.
In early 2011, GCRP identified 10 locations around the world as regions of major concern: Burma/Myanmar, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, and Sudan.
GCRP’s mission is closely aligned with that of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect.