RSS Feed

Commentary, publications, news and updates – all in a single feed.

August 1, 2016

In Alex J. Bellamy and Tim Dunne, eds., Oxford Handbook on the Responsibility to Protect (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 509-523

Abstract: Policy practitioners and scholars have tended to treat the responsibility to protect (R2P) and peacebuilding as separate domains. This chapter, in contrast, argues that these two domains are more closely connected than both the policy discourse and much of the academic literature would suggest. Peacebuilding appears to be an integral part of R2P, and peacebuilding strategies aimed at reducing the risks of conflict relapse are core strategies for preventing atrocity crimes. Further, the use of coercive military force to stop an imminent or actual atrocity crime creates its own requirement for post-crisis peacebuilding. Thus, closer analysis of the relationship between peacebuilding and R2P would benefit both practitioners and scholars.

Introduction: POLICY practitioners and scholars have tended to treat the responsibility to prote...

June 1, 2015

International Relations 29:2 (June 2015), pp. 139-176

Abstract:  How do foreign actors involved in ‘regime change’ decide which kinds of domestic governance structures to promote in place of the regimes they have deposed? Most of the literature on foreign-imposed regime change assumes that interveners make such decisions based on rational calculations of expected utility. This article, by contrast, contends that interveners are predisposed to promote political arrangements that correspond to their own governance ‘schemas’, or taken-for-granted assumptions about the nature of political authority.


March 1, 2015

International Peacekeeping 22:2 (2015), pp. 143-50

I am grateful to Ramesh Thakur, Robert Pape, David Mutimer and David Chandler for their thoughtful replies to my article on ‘The “Responsibility to Protect” and the Structural Problems of Preventive Humanitarian Intervention'. 1 They each raise interesting, albeit quite different, points. Indeed, reading the commentaries reminded me of the Roman playwright Terrence's aphorism, ‘ quot capita tot sensus ’, which in English literally means ‘as many heads, so many opinions’, or as President Franklin D. Roosevelt quipped 18 centuries later: ‘There are as many opinions as there are experts’. To wit: Thakur asserts that the structural problems described in my article are not real; Pape believes they are real, but not as daunting as I have suggested; whereas Mutimer and Chandler argue that these problems are actually manifestations of deeper processes, but have different ideas about the nature of these processes.

January 2, 2015

Centre for International Policy Studies, University of Ottawa, Policy Brief no. 26 (January 2015)

Last week we learned that Canadian troops in Iraq are spending approximately 20 percent of their effort close to, or right at, the front lines, that they have been calling in airstrikes from those front-line positions, and that there was a firefight between Canadian forces and Islamic State fighters after the Canadians had been fired upon.

These revelations appeared to contradict earlier statements by Canadian military and government leaders, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who had previously said that Canadian forces would not “accompany” Iraqi troops to the front lines. Chief of the Defence Staff Tom Lawson had also indicated last October that Canadian troops would not join Iraqi and Kurdish fighters in front-line action, nor would they be involved in guiding airstrikes.

Following the revelations about Canada’s new front-line role, General Lawson issued a statement last Thurs...

December 9, 2014

Washington Post, Monkey Cage 

These are difficult days for defenders of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine, which holds that the international community must be prepared to act when countries “manifestly fail to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.” All member states of the United Nations endorsed this language in 2005.

In the past year alone, however, mass atrocities against civilian populations in Syria, Central African Republic and South Sudan have unfolded in plain sight while international efforts to halt these crimes have ranged from tentative to nonexistent. When, contrary to this trend, the Obama administration employed military force last summer to rescue members of the Yazidi minority in northwestern Iraq, some observers asked: Why protect the Yazidis and not the multitude of other threatened groups?

The R2P doctrine was supposed to answer this question. It says that civilian populations have a right n...

October 17, 2014

International Peacekeeping 21:5 (2014), pp. 569-603

Abstract: While the normative and legal aspects of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine have been explored in great detail, scholars have largely overlooked the more practical question of whether and how international military action can avert mass atrocities. To shed light on this question, this article investigates the ‘strategic logic’ of preventive humanitarian intervention, or the assumed link between external military action and the desired outcome of preventing or stopping mass killing. It contends that there are five fundamental and seemingly irremediable tensions in this logic, all of which cast doubt on the feasibility of preventive humanitarian intervention and on the long-term prospects of R2P.

August 21, 2014

International Peacekeeping 21:4 (Fall 2014), pp. 501-508

The study of peace operations, which has undergone remarkable growth in recent years, has been paying greater attention to the ‘micro-level’ processes and local dimensions of these missions. This is a welcome development. However, the closer one gets to the local specificities of individual peace operations, the easier it may be to lose sight of the broader patterns of these missions, including how they fit into – and are reflections of – international politics writ large. This article contends that there is a continuing need for this type of ‘macro-level’ research, particularly at a moment of shifting power in the international system. It further argues that a research agenda focusing on the ‘geopolitics’ of peace operations would open up at least three interesting and potentially important avenues of macro-level study.

August 2, 2014

CIPS and CIC blogs

Does peacekeeping work? Janice Stein (University of Toronto) and I had a lively exchange on this subject on the CBC radio program “The House” this weekend. Have a listen.

Prof. Stein was unconvinced. Some studies, she said, “show that the majority [of peace operations] are failures and that there is a return to violence after 5 to 7 years. So I think the record is the reverse.”

So, which is it? Does peacekeeping generally help to prevent a return to violence, or does it generally fail to do so?

The answer to this question matters – quite a lot, actually. If peacekeeping is ineffective and if outsiders can do little to help post-conflict societies transition towards a more stable peace, as Prof. Stein suggests, then Western policymakers and other leaders would be foolish to consider contributing to, or even supporting, such efforts.

If, on the other hand, peacekeeping has a reasonably positive record, it would seem foolish for the same policymakers not to support...

June 1, 2013

Perspectives on Politics 11:2 (June 2013), pp. 538-548

The US-led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, which deposed the Taliban regime, was followed by a major international effort to stabilize that country. More than a decade later, this effort has yielded neither security nor political stability in Afghanistan. After having been ousted from power, the Taliban reestablished itself in the borderlands of Pakistan and began fighting an effective guerrilla war against international and Afghan government forces. Despite heavy losses in recent years, the insurgency shows no sign of giving up. Meanwhile, attempts to establish a credible and legitimate Afghan government have been similarly disappointing. President Hamid Karzai, once hailed as the country's democratic savior, came to be seen instead as the leader of one of the most corrupt regimes on the planet, a perception that has damaged his government's legitimacy both at home and abroad. Afghanistan's development and human rights i...

July 1, 2009

Co-edited with Timothy D. Sisk (Routledge, 2009)
"Roland Paris and Timothy Sisk have compiled the essential guide to understanding the inherent contradictions that lie at the heart of the statebuilding enterprise. Drawing on a range of contemporary cases the volume's contributors expertly dissect the dilemmas raised by the challenges of coordination, security, political economy, institutional design, and autonomy. Students, analysts or practitioners looking to reflect on the process of statebuilding will find no better place to start their enquiry."
        --Paul D. Williams, George Washington University
Publisher's website

Please reload

Roland Paris
Graduate School of Public and International Affairs

University of Ottawa

120 University Private, Room 6053

Ottawa, Ontario, K1Y 3M5, Canada

+1 (613) 562-5800 x4047

© Roland Paris 2020