After some 800,000 Rwandans were murdered during the 1994 genocide, “Never Again” became a rallying cry for those focused on the topic of massive human rights violations. The failure in Rwanda was a catalyst for a newly focused movement toward creating new structures for atrocity prevention, leading to the creation of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS). In 2001, this international coalition released a report called “The Responsibility to Protect.” R2P, as the principle is known, is a response to what the members believed was the need for the “internationalization of the human conscience.” No longer would the action or inaction of individual states suffice when it came to matters of the protection of civilians. While it was not the ultimate goal of this commission to solve the complex issues of genocide and crimes against humanity, it was their intent to set into motion a new dialogue, promoting new and innovative ways to respond to civilians around the world in need of help.
When We Let People Die is a collection of essays examining situations in which R2P was—or should have been—implemented, including in Darfur, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. The essays also suggest ways the international community might begin to think differently about the various aspects of the principle.
Those who read this book will walk away with a deeper understanding of R2P and question why it hasn't been implemented in places where human atrocities are obviously being committed. The reader may even question how they, a global citizen, might push governments toward more effective implementation of the the idealistic principle.
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