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Humanitarian Intervention Essay

1919 words - 8 pages

The issue of humanitarian intervention has become increasingly prominent in worldwide debates regarding its role in ethics and legitimacy in international relations. Uncertainty arises as to whether there are any moral obligation for humanitarian intervention and the concerning justifications of the violation of state sovereignty. In viewing the matter ethically and applying Immanuel Kant’s principle of cosmopolitan law from his 1795 essay Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Essay, humanitarian intervention can be established as a conflict between a cosmopolitan responsibility, which is to protect and promote human rights because of their universality, and an obligation to respect state sovereignty as a crucial basis for moral and political international order. Inevitably, fulfilling one set of responsibilities can involve the violation of the other in situations for example where governments are actively abusing the fundamental rights of their own citizens. Many Third World leaders, consider the concept of humanitarian intervention to be potentially destabilising for the international system, and view it as an excuse for more powerful nations to undermine and threaten their state sovereignty (Ayoob, 2004; p.99). By using the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) as a reference point, this essay will investigate the relationships between states when dealing with human rights standards and cultural differences. In examining the doctrine of ‘the responsibility to protect’, this essay will justify humanitarian intervention as a moral requirement of international order by focusing on the idea that the broader community of states must assume the responsibility of intervention when individual sovereign states are unwilling or unable to protect their own citizens from avoidable catastrophe. Using ethnographic examples, fundamental political theories will be examined thoroughly as I deem Third World suspicion illegitimate and focus on intervention as a responsibility of all international actors.

There is no one standard or legal definition for humanitarian intervention, however the countless different interpretations and justifications all comprise of the same basic feature. This feature involves, one state (generally from the West), in response to situations where humanitarian objectives are under threat, interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign state (generally in the Third World), through the employment of threats and use of military force (Frye, 2000; p.5). The Third World, a term applied to all developing postcolonial states, have socio-economic and political attributes, which make them particularly vulnerable to internal conflict and external interference (Ayoob, 2004; p.100). According to Mohammad Ayoob (2004), these vulnerabilities over time have “greatly influenced [Third World] attitudes towards humanitarian intervention and international administration” (p.100). When it comes to humanitarian intervention, many...

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