This study examines the extent to which Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principles are embedded in the African Union’s interventionist framework. The AU has been heralded as a trailblazer of R2P, enshrining its attendant principles in the Union’s 2000 Constitutive Act, five years before the emerging norm’s adoption by world leaders at the 2005 World Summit. However, in the case of the recent humanitarian crisis in Libya, and the UN Security Council’s subsequent intervention during 2011, the AU failed to invoke R2P, jettisoning Article 4(h) of its own Constitutive Act and insisting on a negotiated solution to the crisis. This position placed the Union on a collision course with several other regional organisations, notably the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation which assumed a leading role in the implementation of the UNSC mandate to intervene. The AU’s actions also placed into question the rhetoric-reality nexus of its responsibility to protect. At issue is thus the matter of norm localisation, and whether lack thereof and/or other challenges are inhibiting consolidation of R2P within the AU’s security culture.
The study therefore traces the institutionalisation of the guiding tenets of R2P within the evolving AU Peace and Security Architecture, and investigates the operationalisation thereof (arguably the most contentious dimension to the global discourse on R2P) in the case of the 2011 UNSC intervention in Libya.