Syria and the R2P Doctrine Debate: Jointly hosted by the Sheldon Chumir Foundation and the Munk School of Global Affairs

On November 13th the Munk School of Global Affairs and the Sheldon Chumir Foundation hosted a debate featuring Professor Michael Ignatieff, Professor Janice Stein (Director of the Munk School), Professor Jutta Brunnee (University of Toronto’s associate Dean of Law). They engaged in a discussion on the future of this important Canadian-initiated, global doctrine and how to bridge the apparent gap between the legality and legitimacy of intervention post-Syria.

Watch the debate on demand

In the wake of the horrific chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians last August, the threat of unilateral military intervention by the United States and an unexpected diplomatic breakthrough championed by Russia, Bashir Al Assad agreed to disclose and destroy his stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. But it has not stopped the slaughter in Syria’s civil war. This has raised many moral and ethical questions about what’s legitimate versus what’s legal when it comes to collective responsibility to avoid humanitarian catastrophe and save innocents from serious harm. The doctrine known as R2P, or “Responsibility to protect” was established by Canada in September 2000 when it accepted a United Nations challenge and formed the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS). But R2P is today under considerable attack specifically over Syria: at the Security Council, with the ongoing threat of a Russian or Chinese veto; in the British Parliament, which refused to authorize any use of force; and in the US Congress, which never got to vote but appeared likely to defeat President Obama’s plea to authorize limited missile strikes.