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International Relations Relating To Humanitarian Intervention

1739 words - 7 pages

In the following essay I will discuss aspects of international relations relating to humanitarian intervention and how they affect a nation’s responsibilities in the international arena. I will be drawing parallels to historical examples of intervention and to recent world events. I will inspect the classical realist notion of non-intervention and sovereignty and another newer line of thought, more adapted to the modern system. What I hope to bring forth in this paper is a clearer understanding of the situation and the responsibilities of the actors in current international relations in regard to humanitarian rights and intervention.

Today the world stands more connected than ever before in human history. Nations form economic empires. Lines of trade run intertwined. Influence and interests span the globe. Power is global. With this brave new world come new responsibilities. No longer, can state sovereignty, force rigid impenetrable boundaries between states and command sole responsibility for their citizens.

But still national sovereignty in classical international law is untouchable. With the philosophical roots of international relations established with the treaty of Westphalia 1648 (Plant 1995: 190) According to it all sovereign rulers have absolute authority within their nations and no state has the right to intervene in the domestic matters of other sovereign states.

This idea has been the very building block of modern international relations since 1945 and the establishment of the UN. The UN Charter clearly prohibits the use of force in international relations to threaten the “territorial integrity or political independence of any state “(United Nations 1945: Chapter 1 Article 2.4). This idea is so concrete in international politics that anything challenging it is justifiably considered almost self-destructive to the international order.

Even if non-intervention is ignored, as it often has been throughout history, intervening powers till try to maintain an illusion of adhering to the non-interventionist principles. A good example would be the Soviet Union using the pretext of ‘invitation’ in order to justify its interventions in its former satellite states of Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan.(Plant 1995:197) The non-intervention principle has formed a foundation stone of international order, and lent a degree of predictability-in theory, at least-to the conduct of interstate relations.(Thomas 1994:18)
However as we enter a new century the world is changing and becoming more interconnected than ever. In today’s world national sovereignty and human rights have become almost contradictory. As the first insist ‘upon the sole responsibility (for better or for worse) of a state over its subjects, while the latter upon all 'people' having a right to self-determination independent of the state‘(Alston and Macdonald 2008:2)
Sovereignty implies immunity from international prosecution for internal-state matters but where...

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