Humans Rights and Intervention
The human rights introduction into global affairs is a recent event.
The contrast between an anarchic society and the cosmopolitan desire world is massive.
Secularisation of the state brought human rights into the spot light.
The French and American Revolution also played a part. Both had a universal message of
freedom and rights.
The first embodiment of human rights happened in 1948, the universal declaration of human
rights. It is mostly western in its understanding. It lists rights exclusively for the individual.
Minorities, national liberation movement etc.
It is the peoples right for self-determination.
The nature of human rights consideration has been extended, the first generation was person,
civil and political rights, and the second generation is based more on economic, social and
cultural rights. Both are now equally recognized.
The legal question of the UN declaration of 1948 was the legal value of such a document: was it
really just a document on how to act or was it a legally applied law.
Many countries abstained from the declaration. Africa, Saudi Arabia etc.
Nonetheless, the declaration gave human rights and freedoms but it did not give a form of
responsibilities of the state and there was no way to enforce this declaration.
As a result, you needed a domestic instrument to enforce such a declaration.
The human right issue as a matter of International Relations is rather recent. The Cold War froze
every single possible mechanism linked to the human right issue. The number one priority for
statesmen in the Cold war framework was to avoid a nuclear disaster. Human rights were only
attended to in brief moments of dtentes between Moscow and Washington.
The only areas that human rights issues were allowed to take place were areas were US and
Russia was indifferent to what happened. For example, Africa did not interest either camps and
the United Nations could do its job without foreign influence. In South America, the UN could
not intervene in the US backyard. This caused the first democratization of South America to be a
The best you could achieve in terms of framework for naming and shaming with the UN level
frozen, was regional pressure that did the trick.
After the Cold War, it became possible to assess human right issues. Finally the agenda for
peace, preventive diplomacy was the first step towards the recognition of human rights at the
international level. To trace the sources and origins of R2P, it is from 1992.
The final framework of R2P was actually completed just days before 9/11. This changed with the
upcoming issue of international terrorism. This challenged the perception of sovereignty and
Two failures were at the source of R2P discussion. Kosovo and Rwanda. Kosovo was seen as a
failure because UN could not agree upon a form of move and NATO ended up acting alone.
Rwanda was also a failure. The issue of humanitarian intervention, what can the international community do when we
have fundamental breaking of human rights. This issue was given the answer of R2P.
However, this leads us to the issue of moral choice, most often defined by the conflict between
realist idea of statesmen keeping his country secure and protecting his sovereignty vs. liberal
ideas of human rights. Realists argue that human rights are used as an excuse for a country to
further their desires, expansion, ideas and resources.
One of the difficulties of moral choice in international affairs is that it is tempting for statesmen,
elected officials, to speak in terms of abstract general ideas, of nice but empty words. For
example, the start of the Bosnian civil war, President Clinton found himself with the Civil War
problem, the UN was trying to achieve a cease fire and open a space where they can put blue
helmet on the ground. Clinton opposed any attempt to have a settlement because he believed it
was a shame to negotiate with Milosovich. He was in favour of making the power level between
the Croads and the Serbians. However, these empty words of Clinton lead to much more
massacre of the Croads because they believed if they kept fighting they will receive foreign aid.
Todays world is full of politicians speaking in abstract words because they have domestic needs
Third, there is the case of double standards. On the grounds of morality, the question of why
Libya and not Syria cannot be answered. Why then and not now? This is part of the moral
dilemma. Humans rights violations by Saddam Hussein were not important two decades ago
when Iraq was an ally of the US against Iran. Two decades later he became the next Hitler.
There is also the problem of private corporations, or government owned corporations acting
immorally and aligning it with criminals breaking human rights.
Most of the time a politician has to build his case for an initiative, needing to convince public
opinion. There are a lot of people demonstrating against certain actions. London had 1 million
people in the streets against the war of Iraq. You dont see 1 million people the next year for the
intervention of Darfur. The ability to convince public opinion that something needs to be done
or domestic pressure by citizens to do something that shouldnt be done.
It is of course complex to think about all the consequences of all actions. Human rights
consideration of ending child labour in Bangladesh without a way for them to gain money or go
to school will result in more negatives than positives.
There is also a country whose identity is built on human rights and values. There is a
responsibility on such a country to be a crusader for the rest of the world or a model. The US
before WWII, had a conception that they are above everyone else, the ideal country, and as a
result had an isolationist the default position. Other countries would change to become like the
US. During the Cold War, even if that position of isolationist had changed rapidly, the position
was that Moscow would understand. The system in the Soviet Union would mellow into a
normal state, change to be like the US model.
Now America has changed into a Crusader. The US will change the world for the better (Iraq,
Afghanistan). The US has always had the position of being a crusader vs. a model champion that
needs to be emulated elsewhere. Obama has changed towards the latter after the reign of Bush. The most specific question on humanitarian intervention, the individual decision maker has to
combine moral choice with responsibility among his own citizens. The problem with everything
is that if you want to gain anything on the ground, you need to shake hands with the devil; you
need to negotiate with murderers. You have to give up 50% of food delivery, and you know you
will feed a gang of murderers. IF you dont do that, the civilians in need will never receive the
By remaining strictly neutral, you may render the civil war longer. You dont give war a chance,
because you level the field all the time. Michael Innashiaf who was key father to R2P witnessed
some of these humanitarian interventions. His belief was that in a Civil War you have to choose
a side and if you dont you will fail. You also need legitimacy in your actions. In the name of
human rights do you stick to illegal actions?
The most efficient civil war interventions have been conducted by one country with one chain of
command and one position.
The fact that civil conflict is so complicated, NGOs have claimed that it is too difficult to tackle in
the international framework. They decided to change the issue by renaming it as a Human
Security Issue, outside the world of geopolitics, outside the National Security concern, they may
be able to do something. The European Union had an official doctrine of human security;
soldiers would become agents to provide for civilians (Red Cross). However, this was a fiasco
because you dont choose a side at all. If you look at Bosnia, the UN peacekeepers on the