The responsibility to protect (R2P or RtoP) is a United Nations initiative established in 2005. It consists of an emerging intended norm, or set of principles, based on the claim that sovereignty is not a right, but a responsibility. R2P focuses on preventing and halting four crimes: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing, which it places under the generic umbrella term of mass atrocity crimes. The R2P has three "pillars":
A state has a responsibility to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing.
The international community has a responsibility to assist the state to fulfill its primary responsibility.
If the state manifestly fails to protect its citizens from the four above mass atrocities and peaceful measures have failed, the international community has the responsibility to intervene through coercive measures such as economic sanctions. Military intervention is considered the last resort.
In the international community R2P is a norm, not a law, however it is grounded in international law. R2P provides a framework for using tools that already exist, i.e. mediation, early warning mechanisms, economic sanctioning, and chapter VII powers, to prevent mass atrocities. Civil society organizations, States, regional organizations, and international institutions all have a role to play in the R2P process. The authority to employ the last resort and intervene militarily rests solely with United Nations Security Council.