The Responsibility to Protect

Authored by: Alex J Bellamy

The Routledge Companion to Humanitarian Action

Print publication date:  March  2015
Online publication date:  March  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415844420
eBook ISBN: 9780203753422
Adobe ISBN: 9781135013936


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Past experience has shown that the humanitarian agencies (including UN agencies such as UNHCR, UNICEF, World Food Program (WFP) and OCHA) sometimes play a critical role in keeping people alive when populations are subjected to genocide and other mass atrocities. It is well understood, for example, that humanitarian agencies protected around two million Darfuris during the violence there and, by 2005, had even brought the region’s mortality rate down to pre-war levels (Flint and de Waal 2008: 172–173). When the storm of mass atrocities breaks, humanitarian agencies are often the only international presence on the ground. This was true even of Darfur. At the beginning of the Darfur emergency in 2003 there were very few agencies present in either Darfur or in Chad, and no peacekeepers or military observers. It was not until May 2004 – approximately 18 months after the killing and displacement began – that international agencies began arriving in significant numbers (Keen 2008: 146). More often than not, the task of protection is left to local communities themselves, sometimes with the assistance of humanitarian agencies.

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