By the same authors

The Leeriness Objection to the Responsibility to Protect

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter



Publication details

Title of host publication Challenges for Humanitarian Intervention
DatePublished - 5 Jun 2018
Number of pages29
PublisherOxford: Oxford University Press
EditorsC.A.J. Coady, Ned Dobos, Sagar Sanyal
Original languageEnglish
ISBN (Print)9780198812852


I discusses a new objection to the Responsibility to Protect, which I call the leeriness objection. For the sake of the argument, I grant that the moral principles underlying RtoP are morally justified, and that RtoP can be reliably implemented, so that it is never abused by implementing institutions. I argue that implementing RtoP may still be morally unjustified if states have insufficient epistemic reason to trust the institutions that implement RtoP, because this lack of trust can undermine their ability to know that RtoP is indeed implemented without abuse. Lack of this knowledge can undermine compliance with the norm of non-aggression. This indirect negative effect of RtoP on states could outweigh any of the positive moral contributions RtoP otherwise makes. The argument is original in showing that justifications of international norms need to meet a third requirement over and above moral adequacy and institutional feasibility, namely epistemic adequacy: not only do we need to take into account whether morally adequate international norms can be reliably implemented, but also that states are in a position to know that they are reliably implemented. It also brings to bear recent debates on trust and testimony on the ethics of war.

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