Contesting Discourses in the UNSC: Legitimization discourses, R2P and the UNSC P5 on the case of the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, August 2017 – May 2018.
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The goal of this thesis is to give insight in the complexity of a ‘timely and decisive’ response by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in a clear case where the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle is applicable, namely the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar. I do so through a discourse analysis of the way the UNSC Permanent Five (P5) member states use R2P language and legitimize their positions in official statements (inside and outside the UNSC). The P5 are divided into a ‘progressive’ position, existing of the USA, UK and France, and a ‘conservative’ position, existing of Russia and China. I use the analytical framework ‘Strategies of Legitimization’ as posed by (Reyes 2011) and define R2P language to inform this framework. R2P language is primarily found in the progressive position. Especially the R2P crime ethnic cleansing and the first pillar of the R2P principle can be found. Moreover, frequently used legitimization strategies in relation to R2P language are rationality, voices of expertise and altruism. However, it can be concluded that while certain elements of R2P language are part of the (legitimization) discourses the progressive P5 members present, the elements that would bring serious implications or obligations are avoided. Moreover, the conservative P5 members avoid using R2P language regarding the Rohingya crisis altogether. Therefore, unified ‘timely and decisive’ action from the UNSC proves to be a complex matter. This research is thus in line with major critiques on both the UNSC structure and the R2P principle. However, it also shows that language from the R2P principle has become part of the general discourse of three out of five permanent UNSC member states. It is thus also in line with R2P advocates who argue that as a norm, R2P has been accepted into the UN.