Security/development in the neoliberal age: Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in the United Nation’s security/development dispositif

Resource type
Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
The concept of ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P) as a response to situations of violent conflict and insecurity, was first formally articulated by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) in 2001, and subsequently endorsed by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly through the Summit Outcome Document (SOD) in 2005. Since then, various UN agencies appear to have accepted R2P by incorporating aspects of the concept into their institutional and operational mandates. Literature on the subject places R2P in the security realm where it is either heralded as a ‘paradigm shift’ towards progressive humanitarianism or denounced as a mask for imperial militarism. My research expands this conversation by locating R2P in the historical context of the liberal/neoliberal ‘security/development dispositif’ which has informed the UN system’s policies and programs since its inception. Using Foucauldian genealogy, I analyze how/where R2P ‘fits’ within the UN’s historically evolving security/development discourses and practices with two related objectives. First, ‘map’ empirically R2P’s institutional and operational manifestations in the UN to gauge the degrees/forms of its incorporation. Second, assess critically whether R2P’s institutional manifestations represent a significant change in the way the UN has approached the relationship between security and development since 1945. To achieve this second objective, I use Foucauldian concepts of ‘dispositif’, ‘governmentality’ and ‘biopolitics’ to ‘make sense’ of the map by unpacking the meanings (ideational and normative) of R2P. A genealogical analysis of the evidence supplemented by interviews, supports my hypotheses to reveal not only R2P’s uneven and contested incorporation across UN agencies, but also how the liberal/neoliberal security/development dispositif as a discursive structure of knowledge and power privileges particular interpretations and applications of R2P’s ‘three pillars’ (responsibility to react, prevent and rebuild). R2P, then, is a discursive rearticulation; a more limited kind of change than a discursive shift, with the emphasis on ‘protection’ and ‘responsibility’ signifying both continuity and change in the evolving liberal/neoliberal security/development dispositif.
Copyright statement
Copyright is held by the author.
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes.
Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Busumtwi-sam, James
Member of collection