Because of the world’s failure to stop the butchering of 800,000 Rwandans, and other atrocities of the 1990s, the United Nations in 2005 adopted a principle known as the responsibility to protect, which sanctions international military action ” should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. ” Thus, a government that causes or does not prevent large-scale death inside its borders cannot use sovereignty as a shield from intervention to save lives. In effect, sovereignty lapses when masses die because a government either loses control or uses brutality to keep control. This manifestation of universal conscience is a natural consequence of the heightened awareness of human, and inhuman, conditions that come with globalization.
The responsibility to protect is being tested today by the Myanmar military junta’s refusal to allow massive aid to the victims of Cyclone Nargis, just as it has been tested by the Sudanese government’s support for genocide against the people of Darfur. In both cases, the rest of the world has been unwilling to act without the consent of the very regimes that commit these crimes against humanity, and some 200,000 people in Darfur and 100,000 in Myanmar have perished as a result. Of all countries remiss in their responsibility, China bears special scrutiny because of its influence with these regimes.