Third World Approaches to International Law: The Responsibility to Protect and Regional Organisations

Amber Amelia Smith


The Responsibility to Protect is administered through the United Nations Security Council, which is often criticised for being ineffective, too selective and for using its power to veto to the detriment of States in mass atrocity. Third World States within the international arena are often at the mercy of the Security Council and are excluded from decision making processes which may impact them.

This research proposes that the Responsibility to Protect should be administered by regional organisations rather than the Security Council, owing to the comparative advantages regional organisations have to offer. For example, regional organisations who have proximity to conflict are likely to understand the culture and history of States and possess in-depth local knowledge. Neighbouring States within the region also have more at risk, such as bearing the burden of unwanted armed groups in their territory, disproportionate numbers of refugees and the impact conflict can have on the economy. Regional organisations are also best suited for addressing the structural and root causes of conflict. It will be argued that regional organisations could legally intervene within the parameters of their own region through ex post facto application of Article 53 of the Charter of the United Nations.

A Third World Approach to International Law (TWAIL) will be applied throughout this research. TWAIL operates on a philosophy of suspicion which enables it to adopt a critical stance on International Law by pushing boundaries to expose injustice. TWAIL will be particularly useful in considering the Responsibility to Protect as it will assist in identifying any colonial origins, rhetoric and imperialism that is in both policy and law in this area. Doctrinal legal analysis is the method which will be applied as it will centre its focus on a comprehensive overview of the key literature in this area. A qualitative method is also used as the research involves analytical interpretation and analysis and uses TWAIL’s theoretical framework to provide legal reasoning.

It is likely that this research shall conclude that if we do not fix a system that is broken, then the international community is failing and will continue to fail in its responsibility to protect. The way to fix this is through restricting the Security Council’s ability to exercise imperialism and to identify the colonialist structures surrounding the Responsibility to Protect. Therefore, regional organisations may offer a solution with their comparative advantages, lack of veto power and through including the voices of less developed States in the decision-making processes surrounding intervention.


International Law; Responsibility to Protect; Humanitarian Intervention; Third World Approaches to International Law

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