Politics

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Humanitarian intervention poses a hard test for an international society built on principles of sovereignty, non-intervention, and the non-use of force. Immediately after the holocaust, the society of states established laws prohibiting genocide, forbidding the mistreatment of civilians, and recognising basic human rights. These humanitarian principles often conflict with principles of sovereignty and non-intervention. Sovereign states are expected to act as guardians of their citizen’s security. Armed humanitarian intervention was not a legitimate practice during the cold war because states placed more value on sovereignty and order than on the enforcement of human rights. There was a significant shift of attitudes during the 1990s, especially among liberal democratic states, which led the way in pressing new humanitarian claims within international society. The UN Secretary General noted the extent of this change in a speech to the General Assembly in September 1999. Kofi Annan declared that there was a developing international norm to forcibly protect civilians who were at risk from genocide and mass killing. The new norm was a weak one, however. At no time did the UNSC authorize forcible intervention against a fully functioning sovereign state and intervention without UNSC authority remained controversial. States in the global south especially continued to worry that humanitarian intervention was a Trojan horse rhetoric designed to legitimate the interference of the strong in the affairs of the weak. At the same time, however, a group of liberal democratic states and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) attempted to build a consensus around the principle of the responsibility to protect. The responsibility to protect insists that states have primary responsibility for protecting their own citizens. However, if they are unwilling or unable to do so, the responsibility to end atrocities and mass killing is transferred to the wider „international community‟. The responsibility to protect was adopted by the UN General Assembly in a formal declaration at the 2005 UN World Summit. Its advocates argue that it will play an important role in building consensus about humanitarian action whilst making it harder for states to abuse humanitarian”. “Claudette Werle, former foreign minister in the Aristide government, explained that even though UN-sanctioned forces intervened in Haiti at the request of the people as well as of the legitimate government in exile, and even though Aristide was reinstated, her country is now more politically and economically dependent than before. In the case of Kosovo on the other hand, Editha Tahiri, a Foreign Relations advisor to the Democratic League of Kosovo, argued that NATO had "successfully saved a nation threatened with extinction". National sovereignty poses another dilemma. On the one hand, nation states are the guarantors of international law, the effectiveness of the United Nations and the principles of human rights protection. On the other, many nation states are getting weaker and weaker. National sovereignty can seem an out dated notion in relation to the globalized economic power of transnational companies and "proxy agencies" like the World Trade Organization, World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Many states have completely lost their capacity to function through "self-dismantlement and corruption. In these circumstances, participants said, UN authority becomes indispensable, but the fact that powerful nations dominate the UN Security Council is a problem. The UN needs to be made more democratic and impartial. It needs reform and strengthening. Several participants noted that changes in international law sometimes follow those in customary law, and that breaches in international law are needed before it can be reformed. The need to come to people's aid in a timely fashion may mean that the decision to intervene has sometimes to be taken without UN sanction. But to act outside...
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