The need to protect people from acts of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing is a global responsibility. This panel will look at what can be done before such atrocities are carried out so that states can focus on prevention rather than response, examining international inactivity, proactivity and reactivity in response to atrocities. Where the principle of ‘responsibility to protect’ confers no legal obligation, it has succeeded in creating an emerging norm that acknowledges a political commitment to a collective approach to preventing atrocities.The effectiveness of the ‘responsibility to protect’ principle risks being undermined by apathy and the controversy of its perception as effectively enabling state intervention ‘by the back door’. Could an alternative approach, focused on and wider stakeholder engagement, garner international support and re-energize a failing norm? How can world powers be proactive, rather than reactive, in the fight against ethnic cleansing? How can we balance a proactive approach alongside state autonomy?