A Counter-Response to Dr. Orchard: Flight, Asylum, and R2P

by Alex De Waal, Jens Meierhenrich, and Bridget Conley-Zilkic

We thank Dr. Orchard for engaging the issues we raised in our essay and find that a clarification and counter-challenge are in order.

First, on the capacity of targeted populations to flee and find asylum, we do not argue that this is always possible, but rather point out that it has at times occurred and enabled people to survive. We agree that in many cases displacement is precisely the goal of perpetrators, not mass killing. Understanding this, we can then reassess response mechanisms and not jump to the conclusion, as Dr. Orchard does, that the “killings [will] continue.” In the case of the Somali Bantu, it should be noted that the primary place of refuge was Kenya, not the United States.

Second, we challenge the proponents of R2P to answer the questions: How is this norm different from humanitarian intervention? And, how is it different from good diplomacy and conflict resolution informed by the principle of “sovereignty as responsibility?” Proponents of each seem to flip flop according to the criticism of the moment. When we say that one is no good, or there’s no added value, the proponents shift to the other option. When we say it’s the other, they shift back. In other words, if R2P is a new norm (a principle guiding policy), why does it not govern cases consistently, even for its non-governmental advocates, let alone policymakers? In the case of Libya, we see it exalted at one moment as proof positive of the success of R2P, and at the next as not an exemplar of R2P at all.

If it is not a norm, does it not threaten to serve as mere amplification of ethical rhetoric that obscures the real policy debates that are, in any case, conducted elsewhere with different vocabularies?

About the Author

Alex de Waal is the Executive Director of the World Peace Foundation at the Fletcher School. Jens Meierhenrich is Senior Lecturer of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Bridget Conley-Zilkic is Research Director at the World Peace Foundation at the Fletcher School.

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