As I stood with a standing-room only crowd last fall at a United Nations University of New York (UNU-ONY) event entitled, "Prevention of Mass Atrocities: From Mandate to Realization," I began to wonder how far the responsibility to protect (R2P) could be stretched. As defined by the UNU-ONY organizers, the purpose of the event was " to explore the work of mass atrocity prevention across the UN system, with a focus on the role of the new Office of the Special Representative for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities (SRPGMA)." As I currently look at the international community's response to natural disasters such as the cyclone that devastated Burma, I reflect on the core document of this conference, the Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) entitled "The Responsibility to Protect (R2P)," and its applicability to situations that are not genocidal in nature or part of a broader civil conflict. As a result, the primary question for me is not who should be involved in such humanitarian/aid interventions, as is the case with the Falconer article, but whether the repressive government of Burma has the right, or authority, to keep any and all humanitarian assistance out of their country.

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