Anti-genocide Activists and the Responsibility to Protect: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Anti-genocide Activists and the Responsibility to Protect

1st Edition

By Annette Jansen


228 pages | 2 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9780367248031
pub: 2019-05-31
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Hardback: 9781138691414
pub: 2017-05-05
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Although the Genocide Convention was already adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1945, it was only in the late 1990s that groups of activists emerged calling for military interventions to halt mass atrocities. The question of who these anti-genocide activists are and what motivates them to call for the use of violence to end violence is undoubtedly worthy of exploration.

Based on extensive field research, Anti-genocide Activists and the Responsibility to Protect analyses the ideological convictions that motivate two groups of anti-genocide activists: East Timor solidarity activists and Responsibility to Protect (R2P)-advocates. The book argues that there is an existential undercurrent to the call for mass atrocity interventions; that mass atrocities shock the activists’ belief in a humanity that they hold to be sacred. The book argues that the ensuing rise of anti-genocide activism signals a shift in humanitarian sensibilities to human suffering and violence which may have substantial implications for moral judgements on human lives at peril in the humanitarian and human rights community.

This book provides a fascinating insight into the worldviews of activists which will be of interest to practitioners and researchers of human rights activism, humanitarian advocacy and peace building.


"Combining deep conceptual innovation and insight with original primary research, this important new book illuminates the world of 'responsibility to protect' activism and identifies the values, concerns and motives that lay behind the global campaign to eliminate mass atrocities. Experts in the field and new students alike will benefit from this book's critical reflections and its insights have relevance well beyond the world of R2P and mass atrocities." – Alex Bellamy, Director of the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, The University of Queensland, Australia.

"Annette Jansen explores with great sensitivity the idea of the "sacred in the secular" as a distinctive motivation for humanitarian interventions – and therefore as acts that are neither purely altruistic nor simply part of global power play. The book argues that it is not merely the urge to prevent or stop genocide that energizes the call for humanitarian intervention but the sense of horror at the assault on Humanity as a sacred entity. A rich and nuanced comparison is made between the discourses of the Responsibility-to-Protect advocates on the one hand (Rwanda, Yugoslavia, etc.), for whom the aim is to save "Humanity," and solidarity activists on the other (e.g., East Timor), whose primary concern is to protect and promote the political independence of a particular national entity. This book is a significant contribution to the literature on humanitarianism." – Talal Asad, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology Emeritus, Graduate Center City University of New York, USA.

"Scholars have spent a lot more time trying to understand the perpetrators of genocide and atrocity crimes than they have the individuals who feel it is their duty to stop such crimes from taking place. What motivates these human rights activists and humanitarians is the focus of Annette Jansen’s fascinating book. Although they are attempting to save potential victims, they also see themselves as attempting to save a universal humanity that they hold to be sacred. In their defence of the sacred, they are not only following their beliefs, they also are saving themselves from losing faith in humanity altogether." – Michael Barnett, George Washington University, USA.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. A History of Two Movements

3. Preserving the Life of the Group

4. Horror at Mass Atrocities

5. Advocating Moral Truths

6. Legitimising Interventions

Conclusion: The Sacralisation of Humanity

About the Author

Annette Jansen has a professional background in humanitarian policy making and obtained a PhD in social cultural anthropology at Amsterdam VU University, Netherlands. She currently works as an independent researcher and policy adviser on themes related to conflict, peace building, religion and gender.

About the Series

Routledge Humanitarian Studies

The Routledge Humanitarian Studies series in collaboration with the International Humanitarian Studies Association (IHSA) takes a comprehensive approach to the growing field of expertise that is humanitarian studies. This field is concerned with humanitarian crises caused by natural disaster, conflict or political instability and deals with the study of how humanitarian crises evolve, how they affect people and their institutions and societies, and the responses they trigger.

We invite book proposals that address, amongst other topics, questions of aid delivery, institutional aspects of service provision, the dynamics of rebel wars, state building after war, the international architecture of peacekeeping, the ways in which ordinary people continue to make a living throughout crises, and the effect of crises on gender relations.

This interdisciplinary series draws on and is relevant to a range of disciplines, including development studies, international relations, international law, anthropology, peace and conflict studies, public health and migration studies.

To submit proposals, please contact the Development Studies Editor, Helena Hurd (

Series Editors:

Alex de Waal, Tufts University, USA

Dorothea Hilhorst, Wageningen University, The Netherlands

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Genocide & War Crimes
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Developing Countries