Humanitarian intervention is the act of protecting people from degradation, deprivation and destruction physically, materially, socially and legally. The intervention is motivated by both altruistic humanitarian intentions and a philosophical paradigm that view individuals, communities and nation states as responsible to greater global ideals and humanity. Although the motivation to intervene and protect the rights of others is conceived or perceived as just, often the intention is obscured, at least in part for the benefit of the intervening party. Compounding the issue is the unforseen outcomes and consequences of actions that change one facet of a given situation yet create other problems more complex and insidious. Further to the issue of intervention is the potential for abuse of power by the intervening force; this is not considered humanitarian or consistent with the motives for the intervention. The concept of humanitarian intervention cannot be divorced or viewed apart from the idea of human rights. Human rights underpin the motivation for humanitarian intervention.
Without exploring the historicity of the development of human rights, the specific codification of human rights is a modern concept that stems from a jurisprudence idea of justice for all and the concept is most evident in modern, liberal Western societies where the ideals of justice and dignity are deemed pillars of democratic life. Culturally individual human rights had limited importance; one never viewed oneself as an individual outside of the tribal sphere. Historically a human being is described as one who ascribes to the codes, laws and morals that society decrees, therefore there is no real individual but one part of a group; the individual absorbs the beliefs and the culture of the society in which they live. The tension for "modern man" is the disparity between those nation states that recognise and promote the rights of the individual and those states that do not.
Over time, societies have changed from communities that worked as one to individuals working for themselves. The wide-ranging effects of industrialisation, education and democratisation have lead to the sociological phenomenon of the autonomous, modern man. Modern man can choose privacy and therefore develop a sense of the individual. Human rights reflect a society that is autonomous, liberal and ideological.
While not condemning society and the needs of the collective, the right of the individual to claim inalienable rights is important to all human beings and, regardless of a person's station in life, all are entitled to human rights and modern society is by its nature defined by its rights and freedoms. The tension between developed and underdeveloped nations is the view of developed liberal societies is that they have a moral duty to enlighten and intervene on behalf of the underdeveloped and oppressed. There is a sense of moral right that justifies intervention regardless of the broader political, religious and cultural considerations.
Australia is at the forefront of human rights advocacy with particular emphasis on the rights and protection of children throughout the world. Despite Australia's international child advocacy, there have been accusations of rights violations relating to Australia's indigenous peoples, refugees and the homeless. There have been national judicial enquiries and Royal Commissions into each of these issues, demonstrating the Federal Government's acknowledgement of the seriousness of these violations and a desire to tackle the underlying systematic causes of rights violations and it is considered that the standards of living, life expectancy, education, health and employment are significantly less for these groups than the Australia population as a whole (Healy (ed.), 2000). Humanitarian intervention can be tainted and influenced by national interest. National interest is described as the power of independence over...
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