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Blood and Borders

The Responsibility to Protect and the Problem of the Kin-State

image of Blood and Borders
Inter-ethnic conflict and genocide have demonstrated the dangers of failing to protect people targeted by fellow citizens. When minority groups in one country are targeted for killings or ethnic cleansing based on their group identity, whose responsibility is it to protect them? In particular, are they owed any protective responsibility by their kin-state? How can cross-border kinship ties strengthen greater pannational identity across borders without challenging territorially defined national security? As shown by the Russia-Georgia conflict over South Ossetia, unilateral intervention by a kin-state can lead to conflict within and between states. The protection of national minorities should not be used as an excuse to violate state sovereignty and generate interstate conflict.

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The responsibility to protect: A forward-looking agenda

One of the most dramatic normative developments of our time relates to the use of military force to protect human beings by finessing the tension between state sovereignty and international intervention through a redefinition of “sovereignty” and “humanitarian intervention” as the “responsibility to protect”, the title of the 2001 report by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS). Traditional warfare is the use of force by rival armies of enemy states fighting over a clash of interests: us against them. Collective security rests on the use of force by the international community of states to defeat or punish an aggressor from within the community, whoever that may be: all against one. Peacekeeping involves the insertion of neutral and lightly armed thirdparty soldiers as a physical buffer between enemy combatants who have agreed to a ceasefire: us between formerly fighting enemies.

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