Sample Paper on The Dilemma of Humanitarian Intervention

The Dilemma of Humanitarian Intervention


Humanitarian intervention is the threat or use of force across borders of a state, or a group of states, aimed at the prevention or termination of widespread and critical violations of the guaranteed human rights of persons other than its own citizens, without the permission of the state on whose territory the force is applied (Buchanan). The waging of war against another state is generally illegal in international law unless it is sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council. If there is proof that international peace has been breached, the Security Council may then authorize states within the United Nations to take actions against the culpable state. What is more, this council has limited members with the power to veto the decision.

The United Nations Charter states that, “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any member or non-member state,”. However, it does not single out the application of force in case there is a threat to peace, a breach of peace, or acts that demonstrate aggression by the state. The Genocide Convention held in 1948 also overrode the principle of non-intervention by restating the commitment of the global community to prevent and punish. Nevertheless, that remains to be seen.

In the past when states have sent their military forces into other nations’ territories, arguably, rarely has it ever been purely for humanitarian intervention only. Often, there are other underlying interests that will be mentioned before; states only engage other states in war under the guise of humanitarian intervention, while nondescriptly pursuing their own national interests – gaining territory, Geo-strategic advantage, or forcibly gaining control of precious assets, all in the name of “humanitarian intervention”. Of the leaders who have to convince their citizens of such moves by their military forces, they often describe such efforts in the cloud of high moral and humane purposes – justice, peace, stability, democracy and civilization. During the era of colonialism, majority states and  governments in Europe lauded their actions, insisting that they were trying to promote higher commitments that were innately important to the human race itself, baptizing their action by calling colonialism the “white man’s burden” or “la mission civilisatrice” (Holzgrefe & Keohane 4). Today, humanitarian intervention remains the common obfuscation by politicians, and to call an example of the 2003 US-UK invasions and subsequent occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, which was termed “humanitarian intervention” by then UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

However, in a crisis such as the Rwandan Genocide, or the uprising in Syria, can the global community, sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council fulfil its responsibility as per the gains made by the 1948 Genocide Convention? Is it its responsibility to protect innocent civilians, or do such gains only pave way for greater power abuse? This is the dilemma of humanitarian intervention.

This paper will focus on one of the international laws that have paved the way for humanitarian intervention; the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) Doctrine, which owes its success from the Canadian government, having obtained its existence via their initiative (Wolff, p. 45).

The Responsibility to Protect Doctrine (R2P)

In 2000, the Canadian government alongside other players established the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS). This Commission was formed to act on the challenge the global community faces in its mandate to act in cases of critical human rights violations, while still respecting the sovereignty of that state. In 2001, the chairs of the ICISS, Gareth Evans and Algerian diplomat Mohammed Sahnoun wrote this in Foreign Affairs:

“If the international community is to respond to this challenge, the whole debate must be turned on its head. The issue must be reframed not as an argument about the ‘right to intervene’ but about the ‘responsibility to protect.'”          (Evans & Sahnoun)

The ICISS included natural and environmental disasters to the list of events that could pre-empt international intervention by the global community, given that the state had failed in its mandate to protect its citizens. In 2005, the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine was included into a United Nations outcome document, but environmental disasters were dropped from this inclusion as a cause for intervention. This document did mention that it was every state’s mandate to protect the citizens from “genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity” (McMahon). In the event that the state fails to accomplish its mandate, then it is the imperative of the international community to step in and protect the populace as per Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. Note that Chapter VII allows for the use of military force by the global community if peaceful measures such as multilateral intervention have not yielded any adequate results. This doctrine was unanimously adopted by United Nations member states, but it is not legally binding.

In as much as it appears as a noble gesture by the international community, with the aim of preserving humanity, the problem lies, in part, that there are only a few countries in the world that have the assets that are required in carrying out such mandates as sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council (Evans & Sahnoun).

The first success of the Responsibility to protect was its application in the mediation in Kenya’s post-election violence, after the highly disputed election, which sprawled into mass-crimes, such as forcible eviction of citizens from their native lands, murder and other atrocities. Following these negative developments in the country, political and diplomatic pressure was quickly applied by other states in order to bring the crime and violence to a stop, and foster a solution to the dilemma, resulting in a coalition government. Before the Kenyan situation, the United Nations Security Council had invoked this doctrine for the very first time in 2006, in its resolution to expand the UN mission in Darfur (McMahon).

The Responsibility to Protect Doctrine has also been blamed or credited for regime changes. According to the authors of the 2001 R2P report, it is purposed not only with “responsibility to react” but also with the “responsibility to prevent” and “… build”.   The 2005 United Nations outcome document also corroborates with the aspect of prevention.

“We also intend to commit ourselves, as necessary and appropriate, to helping States build capacity to protect their populations,” the document said, “and to assisting those which are under stress before crises and conflicts break out” (McMahon).

Following the Libyan crisis in 2011, calls for a change in the regime were made and at that time, political scientist Ramesh Thakur argued: “”R2P is not solely about military intervention, but, if it is to have any meaning at all, must include that option as a last resort” (McMahon). Thus, Muammar Gadhafi was ousted from power, but not before an arms embargo had been imposed and an issuance of a warrant for arrest and investigation by the International Criminal Court.

Of importance to note is that the international legal arena is complex, and cannot be completely separated from the international political arena, and therefore, it is not a level playing field. For example, there was speculation that France’s eagerness to engage Gaddafi in war was partly calculated to win President Sarkozy votes, seeing as he had been facing a terrible rating at the time. This is an acute reflection of the manner that the Falklands War won Margaret Thatcher public support in 1982 (Joseph). This is to say that the motivations behind humanitarian interventions are never purely human, and that the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine can, and has been used for political and economic gains.

In many cases, the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine is and has been used as an alibi for war rather than for the intention of protecting citizens caught in the crosshairs of warring parties. If the United Nations Security Council had adopted a resolution for war against Gaddafi and his regime by authorizing military support to the rebels, it would have been a suitable proposition, but not under the guise of this doctrine. There is more to the R2P than just fighting the enemy. There should be soldiers on the ground that would be protecting the places where people are gathered for safety, unlike the case of Srebrenica, where this concept was the missing link in the R2P chain, and with unimaginable consequences. A responsibility to protect force would be more acceptable because it would have the strict and robust mandate of protecting civilians on the ground (Faber).

The next section will look at examples of countries that have had their borders permeated in the name of the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine.

Examples of nations with the responsibility to protect Doctrine


On October 2011, President Obama deployed 100 troops in Uganda with the objective of rooting out the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony from his hideout. This announcement sparked a buzz over the timing of the deployment of these troops, and what it means for United States foreign policy and the war on the LRA. The timing of Obama’s statement may be indicative of a shift in political tides in Uganda. Even the acting Foreign Affairs minister, Henry Okello Oryem remarks that Uganda has asked the United States for military assistance for the past 20 years, so why did it suddenly become convenient to deploy troops into Uganda? (Kersten)

Then again, Uganda has recently discovered huge oil reserves, and as of recent months, President Yoweri Museveni’s grip on the emerging industry has tightened. Estimates indicate that the country may be able to produce between 2.5 billion to 6 billion barrels. A Wikileaks cable dated March 2008 details a request made by the Ugandan government to the United States government “for assistance to train and equip a lake security force which could enforce Uganda’s territorial waters, protect Uganda’s oil assets, and reduce violent incidents” (Kersten). However, this request was almost completely ignored, which would leave one top conclude that the US does not seem to have any interests in Uganda, yet it would not be a surprise if oil had been a factor in President Obama’s decision to deploy troops in the same area.

Another issue that comes into the fold with mention of Joseph Kony, the de facto leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the decision to send troops into Uganda by the Obama administration is celebrity humanitarian efforts. Brian Lepard argues that the perpetual enthusiasm for humanitarian intervention is geared by the rapidly expanding human rights movement across the globe and powered by television images of victims of human rights abuse. He poses that technology has given the world an instantaneous awareness of atrocities in real times. Bundled with lessons from history, such as the Holocaust or the Rwandan Genocide, the pressure to do something is always mounting. Such explains campaigns by groups such as This organization seeks to create awareness of the atrocities committed by Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army and brings a permanent end to it, while maintaining that the responsibility of apprehending him largely is at the hands of governments. In 2012, the organization launched a campaign dubbed KONY 2012 that went viral globally. The campaign attempted to increase awareness of the activities of the LRA and therefore increase pressure on the United States Government and the international community to intervene. The problem, according to Lepard, is that intervention usually affects humanitarian NGOs’ roles, which have traditionally remained politically neutral. This results in a militarization of humanitarian aid, where NGOs are pulled into conflicts, due to the presence of foreign peacekeeping forces (8).


Haiti’s democratically elected president Jean Bertrand Aristide was in 2004 overthrown by an opposition movement, which was backed by powerful members of the global community; the United States, France and Canada. Sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council, these nations were the firsts to send their military forces into Haiti with the mission to stabilize the country. They joined forces with the anti-Aristide opposition and the rebel insurgency. Whilst this was being staged, these nations orchestrated a puppet regime that was populated by western-friendly “technocrats” and “technical assistants”, and completely avoided any members of Aristide’s Lavalas party (Faber).

By late 2004, the United Nations’ Multilateral-Interim Force (MIF) had become the Brazilian-led MINUSTAH, a low-intensity counterinsurgency war kept on through 2006, and thousands of Haitians lost their lives in this conflict. The United Nations’ military and policing occupation is still in place in Haiti even today, alongside Brazilian leadership and members of other Latin America countries. The United States, Canada and France have since recalled back the personnel from their own countries and subsequently withdrawn their military role, but are still the most powerful external actors in Haiti.

The stability that had been the cause of the intervention by the international community has not been achieved, and even with UN-sanctioned military occupation, life for the majority of Haitians has not had any change (Faber). There are still calls from a popular movement for the return of former President Aristide, who has since gone into exile. Given the scenario that he returns to the country today and run in a future election, few would object to the claim that Aristide would win with a landslide victory.


Two years after French and British troops intervened in Libya, toppling Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011 and French troops arrested former Ivorian President, Laurent Gbagbo in 2011, French troops once again made an intervention in Africa. This time their mission was to combat terrorist and criminal groups who had for a while, posed a menace to the peace in a democratic country, as well as the safety of around 5000 expatriates, and externally, by the security of Africa and Europe.

Looking at the statistics, France has a long history of military intervention in Africa, specifically the sub-Sahara, which, traditionally, has been used to safeguard or install governments that are friendly to France or to protect French interests in the region and in entirety to boost France’s role in the world. Between 1960 and 2005, there have been 46 French military excursions in French-speaking Africa (Alison). Thanks to Africa, France has been able to scope out a status for itself as an important international player.

However, following the 1994 Rwandan genocide and specifically the unclear role that France played in the crisis, its perception of itself as Africa’s army has over time become increasingly unpopular, and their official stance has been to deny the claims that France is a neo-colonial power. While considering these fears and the past eras, the French President, Francoise Holland, iterated that France had no nationalist interests in Mali, and was only interested in rescuing the state and fighting terrorism. Yet, Mali’s proximity to Niger, a producer of a large portion of the uranium used in France’s power plants, one has to wonder whether that is of any coincidence (Deffner & Efforth).

However, the Mali intervention is also grounded on legitimacy. Sanctioned by United Nations Security Council resolutions 2056, 2071 and 2085, and particularly the request put in by Mali’s interim president, Dioncounda Traore for military support, Operation Serval has also received support from African regional organizations such as the African Union (Alison). Even so, the veil of legitimacy cannot entirely obfuscate France’s past relationship with Africa, where it has termed its historical responsibilities and ties with many Western African countries as justification for military intervention.

While the intervention in Mali is perceived as the expression of goodwill and commitment of France, the communication and discourse that accompanies the Malian intervention is somehow indicative of the worldview through which French elites see their country’s role in the international community. Recent debates in French parliament have expressed without any doubt that France sees its global role with reference to its colonial sphere of influence. For example, in a recent debate, a Green Party MP Christophe Carvard reminded the house of France’s historic mandate not only in Mali, but the West African region as a whole (Alison).

Discussions of intervention nowadays relate France’s future as being tied to that of the African continent. In light of this dependence, it is out of the question for France and Europe to leave Africa to its own devices. Therefore, by exporting its institutions and values, France envisions durable peace and long-term African development. One such development of France’s approach is the value that is given to the Francophone, which is an international organization with headquarters in Paris and whose mission is promoting the French language and culture through numerous channels and platforms. The idea of France as caring and giving power continues to build, but with it, is its clenching grip on Mali, and other former French colonies in the sub-Sahara and the neighbouring countries.


            Syria has experienced a number of wars for many years now. The widening as well as worsening civil war in the country has contributed to the growing death toll on the country’s civilians, which has further raised heated debate concerning the international community’s response as well as responsibility to scale a humanitarian intervention through outside forces to the Syrian nation. However, any thoughts about this by the international community appeared to be tremendously overshadowed by the experience in Libya. In the year 2011, the United Nations’ Security Council summoned the responsibility to protect doctrine as well as adopting a resolution in 1973, which contributed to a no flying zone in the Libyan nation. The council also authorized all other member states to take necessary action in order to protect all the civilians who were under attack by the Libyan government. The western powers ousted the government and prompted criticism from the Security Council member states such as Russia, which held that the responsibility to protect was cover for a government change scheme.


From the period December 2007 until January 2008, the republic of Kenya was faced with ethnic violence that swept the entire nation, which was as a result of a disputed presidential election that was held on 27th December 2007.  On 30th December 2007, the country’s electoral body in Kenya declared Mwai Kibaki as the winner of the presidential elections and then was sworn in as the nation’s president hours later. This announcement of Kibaki as the country’s president prompted a widespread as well as a systematic violence across the country and thus, leading to more than one thousand deaths and over five hundred thousand people displaced. The clashes that resulted in Kenya as a result of the disputed presidential elections were heavily characterized with ethnically targeted murdering of civilians aligned to Orange Democratic Movement and the Party of National Unity.

The external intervention from other nations was almost instantaneous. The French foreign as well as European affairs ministers made an appeal to the United Nations in January 2007 to react in the name of responsibility to protect before the republic of Kenya was engulfed into lethal ethnic clashes. On 31st of the year 2008, the United Nations’ Secretary issued a statement expressing his concern for the ongoing conflict, calling on the people of Kenya to remain calm as well as the Kenyan forces to remain unbiased. A compromise was later realized with agreements to form a coalition government after Kofi Annan was accepted by both parties to initiate a mediation talk. Moreover, a reconciliation commission was also established in order to bring the people of Kenya together. This rapid as well as highly coordinated reaction from the international community was highly eulogized as a model of democratic action under the umbrella of the R2P.

Côte d’Ivoire

In reaction to the increasing and post-election conflict against the people of Côte d’Ivoire in late 2010 and earlier 2011, the United Nations security council unanimously reached for a resolution in 30th March the year 2011 condemning the mass as well as disgusting violations of the fundamental human rights that were committed by the supporters aligned to ex-president Gbagbo as well as President Ouattara.  The resolution that was adopted by the United Nations cited the primary responsibility for every nation to protect the people of Côte d’Ivoire.  The resolution also called for direct transfer of power to Ouattara, who won the elections and reaffirmed that the United Nations commitment in Côte d’Ivoire could apply all the necessary as well as available means in order to protect the lives as well as properties of the people of Côte d’Ivoire.  Moreover, in efforts to protect the people of Côte d’Ivoire from further conflicts, the United Nations started a military operation on 4th April the year 2011. President Gbagbo was removed from power on 11th 2011 and arrested by the forces. In November the same year, president Gbagbo was transferred to the international criminal court in order to face charges of gross human violations including murder, inhumane acts, as well as rape.

The Central African Republic

            In the year 2012, a loose rebel named Seleka began a military campaign in order to overdraw the government of CAR and its president. This rebel coalition was mostly composed of sections of armed individuals in the northeast region, who accused the government of disregarding their region. The rebel group quickly captured a number of strategic cities and were also poised to take the capital city. A quick intervention by the nation of Chad as well as the economic community of central African states called for the rebel group to negotiate with the CAR government. This led to the agreement of Libreville in 2013, which stipulated a three years power sharing accord.

However, the economic community for African states failed to observe the implementation of the agreement and the government never took any of the necessary steps agreed upon under the coalition government.  This contributed to the resurgence of the rebel group, which now took control of the capital city and 15 of the CAR’s 16 provinces in 2013. The rebel group’s leader declared himself as the president and suspended the country’s constitution. A summit held by the ECCAS did not acknowledge the rebel’s leader as the nation’s president. The ECCAS summit initiated a transitional council that lead to the new creation of a constitution, which required an election in 18 months time in order to elect an interim president. The council then chose the rebel’s leader as a sole candidate to run for the interim position.

However, as from December the year 2012, the rebel, which was predominantly Muslims, undertook grave human rights violations against the people of CAR throughout the nation. This rebel particularly targeted the Christians who were the majority in the country. In response the Christians formed militias, which also committed grave atrocities against the Muslim community. Massive killings of both Christian as well as Muslim civilians have been carried out in the country. This situation quickly worsened in December 2013 and marked a significant escalation. The United Nations estimated a total of four hundred thousand people were displaced. Humanitarian organizations have since alerted on the critical conditions in CAR republic, emphasizing that more than 2 million civilians are in need for humanitarian assistance.

The conflict in the country is a case for the R2P because of the massive atrocities against human rights that are by both sides. The international community adopted a resolution and sponsored by France, strengthened as well as broadened the mandate of the United Nations. France has been able to offer a military intervention to CAR in order to end the conflict. In February 2014, the international court also declared to begin preliminary investigations into the war crimes in the republic of CAR.


Since earlier the year 2003, the government of Sudan has actively reacted to the insurgency by rebel groups in the region of Darfur through unleashing its proxy militias. The government of Sudan has supported the resulting tribal cleansing campaign with well and coordinated air strikes as well as joint operations. This campaign has resulted to more than 200,000 people dead as well as forcing more than 2 million civilians out of their homes. The government of Sudan has the primary role as well as responsibility of protecting its people against any form of atrocities, but has failed to do so. Recently the Darfur peacemaking agreement was reached by the Security Council and the government of Sudan has not even made any visible efforts to meet its fundamental commitments to its people. A number of international organizations as well as agencies have since been to Sudan in order to end the conflict as well as protect the people of Sudan. In 2006, the United Nations deployed a number of forces to Darfur in order to help with the ongoing peacemaking from other organizations such as the African Union.  Moreover, the response to the situations engulfing the republic of Sudan has speedily agreements that have tried to solve the prevailing situations. The deployment of military assistance from the African Union and United Nations has done tremendously in order to ensure an enduring peace in this region.


            The nation of Somalia has had an effective and efficient government since the year 1991, when presided Barre was removed. The problems that affected the national government of Somalia in earlier 1990 are also well documented as well as even continue to the present time, though in different forms. In the year 2006, a Muslim rebel group tried to take over the country, but the group was removed from power by the Ethiopian forces that invaded the nation of Somalia with the support of the United States.   The sections of this group still continue to perpetrate evils in the country of Somalia.

The United Nations’ humanitarian assistance in the region had tried to draw to the distressing conditions for humanitarian assistance from the international community. Almost half of the Somalia population are in dire need for humanitarian assistance. In addition, the nation of Somalia is now suffering seasons of drought and food crisis coming soon. The circumstances in Somalia represent the situation that is envisioned under the responsibility to protect idea. There are a number of humanitarian suffering as well as strong evidence of human rights violations.

However, the international community has in the recent intervened in Somalia in order to initiate peace. In the period 2005, IGAD supported a mission in Somalia together with IGASOM. Several other communities have perceived the situation in Somalia as threatening and have resorted to intervene in order to end the situation in Somalia. The African Union in Somalia has been mandated to offer humanitarian aid in efforts to bring stabilization to the nation of Somalia.


The United States, Britain and France invaded Libya with almost everything they could muster; from stealth bombers to attack jets. The number of civilian dead from these attacks still remains unknown. This military intervention was sanctioned by UN Security Council through Resolution 1973, with the aim of protecting Libyan civilians.

Resolution 1973 began with the call to Muammar Gaddafi’s government to cease-fire. It reminded the authorities of their responsibility to protect the citizens of Libya and authorized United Nations member states to “take all necessary measures … to protect civilians and civilian populated areas” (Cohn).

However, the ceasefire was not pursued between Libya and the United Nations, but rather immediate military action was made. Peaceful means to end the crisis in Libya were not exhausted before the intervention began. Other than that, after the passage of Resolution 1973, Gaddafi accepted the ceasefire and offered to step down from power but these offers were rejected by the opposition.

The United Nations Charter demands that all its member states to settle their international disputes through peaceful means, maintain international peace, justice and security. Members must also not threaten to or use force against the territorial sovereignty and integrity of another state in a manner that does not follow the purposes of the United Nations (Cohn). In the case of an armed attack by another country, the state can act in self-defence, whereby the need to defend itself had been overwhelming, and it had no choice and no moment to deliberate (Weller, p. 245).

Libya had not attacked another country and therefore, for the United States, Britain and France to be in Libya, they were not acting in self-defence, because Humanitarian concerns are not included in the clause for self-defence. Additionally, the attacking state leaders, Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron wrote in the International Herald Tribune that NATO forces would fight until Muammar Gaddafi had been rooted out, yet Resolution 1973 did not sanction a forcible regime change (Cohn).

Russia, which abstained from voting on Resolution 1973 during the Security Council meeting that decided on it, vowed to block future efforts of sanctioned interventions. The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said that the international community had had taken sides in the Libyan situation, and that Russia would not allow the Security Council to sanction anything similar in the future (McMahon).

In a discussion on July 2009 at the General Assembly over the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine, the government of Cuba raised some very pertinent questions, which were targeted at supporters of this doctrine:

“Who is to decide if there is an urgent need for an intervention in a given State, according to what criteria, in what framework, and on the basis of what conditions? Who decides it is evident the authorities of a State do not protect their people, and how is it decided? Who determines peaceful means are not adequate in a certain situation, and on what criteria? Do small States have also the right and the actual prospect of interfering in the affairs of the larger States?   Would any developed country allow, either in principle or in practice, humanitarian intervention in its own territory? How and where do we draw the line between an intervention under the Responsibility to Protect and an intervention for political or strategic purposes, and when do political considerations prevail over humanitarian concerns?” (Cohn)

The Need for Responsibility to Protect Doctrine (R2P)

There is high need for R2P in almost all the nations of the world. It is in each nation’s interest to prevent every sort of internal atrocity violations that are capable of attracting human intervention as well as R2P. The entire international community bears a profound responsibility in their efforts to protect the right to life as well as to ensure security for every citizen as contained in Article 3 of the United Nations of 1948 declaration of the fundamental human rights as well as freedom. The R2P as well as human   intervention also helps nations that are severely affected by a number of natural disasters.  Many of these nations have the responsibility to go for such humanitarian assistance. For instance, nations such as Haiti, Chile, and China suffered from these natural disasters in 2010. While the Haiti government looked for assistance from the international community, both Chile as well as Chinese governments managed their situations themselves. Despite the need for humanitarian interventions as well as R2P, there are a number of factors that militate against them.

Responsibility versus sovereignty

            The United Nations was formed after the aftermath as well as consequences of World War II in order to foster and promote peace as well as stability in the world. The establishment of this body recognizes the issue of state sovereignty, particularly for newly formed and independent states or those nations that are seeking for independence from their masters. The United Nations’ charter resonates that nothing is contained in the present charter, shall give the United Nations the power to intervene in those matters that are fundamentally under the domain as well as the jurisdiction of the state. Therefore, this principle does not rule out the application as well as use of enforcement methods in case threats to peace, or breach of peace, or sometimes acts of violations on the part of the state or nation. The genocide convention of 1994 overrode the non-intervention rule that required lying down the commitment of the world nations to prevent as well as punish. Furthermore, the inaction for any response during the 1994 Rwandan genocide and the failure to stop the 1995 Srebrenica killings heightened the complexities as well as challenges of international responses to the violations and crimes against humankind.

The establishment of the international commission on the international and state sovereignty was created with major objectives as well as aims, in order to address the challenges of the international communities’ responses to act in the face of aggravated situations, authorization for intervention was granted to the international communities in the year 2000. It has also been argued that for the international community to appropriately respond, then whole debate need to be turned on its head. Moreover, it is also argued that the issue has to be reframed not as an argument concerning the right to intervene, but as an argument concerning the responsibility to protect. The commission entailed both the environmental as well as natural disasters as likely events that the international community can intervene if the nation or state has failed its responsibility to protect its people.

Earlier momentum

            Originally, the doctrine to protect against civilians in nations that governments has failed its responsibility to protect, was most notably applied to the events following the post-election violence in the republic of Kenya in the year 2008. This intervention has been referred to as the most successful responsibility to protect to date in the history of the world. Following the deadly as well as massive killing of civilians after the 2008 elections, many of the international communities across the world applied both the political as well as diplomatic pressures in the efforts to halt the acts of violation and embrace a political solution, which resulted into a coalition government.

Factors that militate against R2P as well as humanitarian interventions

Throughout the 1990s as well as the years prior to 2001, there were very elevated hopes that the R2P would sooner than later become a custom of international relations and afterwards a customary international law. Prior to the introduction of the R2P, the humanitarian interventions had taken root in almost every nation. There was a very high prospect for the humanitarian interventions and this kind of optimism led to the many arguments on the prescripts of humanitarian interventions, thus contributing to a concept that placed people above the government. The concept of R2P enjoyed a lot of optimism during its initiation as well as before America’s unilateral intervention in the affairs of Iraq in 2003. However, after the intervention by America in Iraq, many of the opinions that emerged did not seem to be favourable in regard to ICISS report concerning R2P.

The consequences that followed the unilateralism appeared to be the greatest obstacle for the full realization of the set objectives for R2P. The non-authorization by the United Nations as well as United Nations’ inability to stop the 2003 Iraq invasion by America, contributed to one of the major drawbacks of the cardinal pillars of R2P, which is the United Nations as the right power to command for such an intervention. Many of the diplomats perceived the debate that surrounded the resolution surrounding the R2P to be withdrawn. There exist two worlds as described by some diplomats, including the United Nations as a global in membership and the United States as the global power. The unilateralism of America on humanitarian intervention made many nations, particularly from Africa, to wonder whether the concept was just a ploy for the stronger as well as bigger nations to intervene in the internal affairs of the weaker as well as smaller nations.

It has also been stated that the limitations of the humanitarian interventions lies in the issues of authorization, unilateralism, selectivity, as well as absence of a general doctrine. The major factors that challenge the R2P are described as conceptual challenges, which are borne out of misconceptions. Another challenge is that of institutional preparedness as well as the lack of the capacity to handle issues. Political preparedness accompanied by deaths of a number of political wills is yet another challenge. However, it may also be argued that the issues of doctrine in regard to humanitarian interventions have been addressed by the concept of R2P. Moreover, the inter-related issues of authorization as well as selectivity still exist. The humanitarian interventions under other institutions such as the regional bodies have also exposed themselves to regional interests just like the strong as well as powerful states. On equal measures, the United Nations’ security has to succumb to the problem of hegemony of the enduring members, which often reflects the issues of double standard as well as subjectivity.

Instances, such as the Rwanda, Bosnia, as well as Kosovo genocides were not particularly met with the interventions by either the United Nations or America. In the nation of Cambodia, the total deaths were approximated to be between 1.8 million and 2.5 million people. In Rwanda, the death toll in the year 1994 was estimated to be about 800, 000 people for a period of only four months. Moreover, during the 1992-1995 Bosnia massacres, a death toll of between 100, 000 was estimated with a total of about 1.8 million people being displaced. There were a number of unilateral American interventions without the authorization of the United Nations in Haiti, Nicaragua, as well as Iraq. Some of the interventions only came after the deeds have been done. Indeed, this confirms the challenges as well as issues of selectivity and unilateralism in terms of interventions by the United States, which are purely founded on self-interests; the interests could be in form of direct, indirect, economic, or political. Moreover, these interventions could also be as a result of the projections from the regional power dominance as well as noble ideas such as democracy. One might also wonder as to why the systematic starvations and repression in the nation of North Korea as well as the situations surrounding Myanmar have not had any intervention as espoused by R2P. Also, one might wonder why the killings in Darfur, a state in western Sudan, were not been met with interventions from the year 2003 up to the year 2007 in spite of the fact that America described the mass killings in this nation as genocide (Bellamy, Alex, and Paul, p. 35).

It is also good to note that though the R2P is that of the state, the international community requires responding in an immediate as well as prompt manner as a preventive measure in order to help nations in helping themselves. Each conflict as well as other potential conflicts needs to be treated as potential situations of R2P. Thus, effectual prevention of conflicts may be based on conflict prevention as well as post conflict reconstruction. It also needs a more proactive as well as coordinated diplomatic agreements at significant stages as circumstances in the violations go more fragile as well as react more swiftly and effectively to massive conflicts at the level of diplomatic engagements deadlock ((Bellamy, Alex, and Paul, p. 37-67).

The International Law, R2P, and the Humanitarian Interventions

The universal foundation for the justified intervention in international law has been chapter VII of the United Nations’ charter that authorizes the coercive intervention in the affairs of a country in case of threats to the international peace and security. As long as the international law remains anchored in the statist concept, no legal basis for intervention may be available outside chapter VII of the United Nations. Similarly, in the current state of international community, there exists absolutely no possibility for securing general agreements between nations concerning the legitimacy of the R2P concept.

Another concept of the international law, which is challenged by the concept of R2P, is sovereignty. Before the coming of the R2P concept, the issue of state sovereignty was challenged by other factors such as globalization as well as the growth of HR movements, which increased as a result of the tremendous traffic across national borders of humans, financial resources, information, as well as economic resources. Moreover, sovereignty has also been challenged by the interstate power differences and presently, it has become subject to even more fiction that ever before.

Drawing from the challenges of sovereignty, the R2P also challenges the principle of non-intervention, which makes one of the major founding principles of article 2(4) of the United Nations’ charter. It may be said that the R2P sets out to generate novel situations for intervention in the sovereign nation in addition to the provisions that are outlined in chapter VII of the United Nations’ charter. Despite many other challenges to the concept of sovereignty as well as the principle of non-intervention, R2P remains to be the most explicit challenge state sovereignty as well as the concept of non-intervention (Scherrer 234).

The deployment of Military intervention

            The contentions that surround the military intervention as contained under the third pillars of the responsibility to protect still remain highly controversial.  Many nations have argued that the responsibility to protect should not entail the international community to participate in terms of military interventions to states, since doing so leads to an infringement to the sovereignty of nations. Other states also argue that the responsibility to protect is highly necessary because it is the last resort in order to stop massive atrocities against humanity. Another argument that remains deals with the issue whether more specific methods need to be developed in order to establish when the United Nations should authorize military interventions.

The way forward on the dilemma of R2P as well as humanitarian intervention

The dilemma facing R2P as well as the humanitarian intervention can be better addressed through the idea of prevention. Various governments might accomplish this by ensuring that the conditions, which often necessitate the R2P and humanitarian interventions, do not emerge. This is very possible through initiating effective as well as appropriate prevention measures of human rights violation. In return, this would help in avoiding the pitfalls of interventions as well as its antagonism. The success of the R2P as operationally effective ideas depends not only on solving the challenges highlighted, but also on addressing the challenges of institutional as well as political preparedness (Weiss 23).

The difference between the humanitarian intervention as well as R2P

            The R2P is different from humanitarian intervention in a number of ways. The humanitarian intervention is only a military intervention, whereas the responsibility to protect is a preventative measure that stresses on state responsibilities.  Military interventions can only be undertaken as the last resort; after all other non-coercive methods have totally failed to reach a peace agreement. The responsibility to protect is to a large degree the intervention that is beyond a military intervention as well as encompasses a wide range of responsibilities (Weiss et al, p.27).

The responsibility to protect addresses the root causes of any internal conflicts, which is considered as the most important responsibility by ICISS. The responsibility to react also responds to the satiations of forceful human needs with appropriate methods, which can sometimes include sanctions and military interventions. Moreover, the responsibility to protect approach as deeply rooted in the international law and particularly, the law pertaining to state sovereignty, peace, and human rights. Humanitarian intervention usually violates the United Nation’s charter that outlines for territorial integrity for every independent nation. The responsibility to protect avoids this because it holds that a military intervention must first be authorized by the United Nations (Weiss et al, p. 35-68).

The humanitarian intervention also assumes the right to intervene, while the responsibility to protect is based on the principles of the responsibility to protect. Both the humanitarian intervention as well as the responsibility to protect concurs on the fact a country’s sovereignty is not absolute. However, the responsibility to protect moves beyond the state sovereignty and concentrates on civilian protection as a principle (Branch, p.29).

Military intervention

            According to Crocker et al (p45-98), the responsibility to protect concept points out to the duty to react to circumstances in which there is a forceful need for humanitarian assistance.  If any preventive method fails to resolve or contain a certain situation as well as when the country in question is unable to offer protection, then any intervention by other nations may be required. Coercive techniques may then entail economic, political, as well as judicial steps. In many of the extreme situations, military intervention may be required.

Defensive principles for intervention

            According to Lepard (p.29-78), the defensive measures that are needed to justify humanitarian intervention have to meet certain thresholds, which are referred to as principles. The first principle is the right intention and the fundamental purpose of this principle is to stop or sometimes avert human suffering. There exist a number of methods that are used in order to ensure that this principle is met as well as satisfied. One method is to involve a military intervention which usually takes place in a collective basis. Another method is to look at the degree to which the humanitarian intervention is supported by the civilians for whose gain the intervention is meant to assist. In addition, looking at the degree at which other nations within the same region perceive the intervention is also important. The military risks as well as costs that are involved in order to initiate a military intervention are sometimes very huge.

The second principle is the proportional means, which implies to the duration, scale, as well as the intensity of the planned military intervention, which should be at the minimum in order to ensure the protection of the people. The scale of the action that is taken or reached needs to be commensurate with its intended purpose as well as should be within the boundaries of the original provocation. The impacts of the political structure of the nation that is targeted need to be limited to what is required in order to achieve the humanitarian intervention’s objectives (Scherrer, p. 67-98).

The third principle is known as the principle of the last resort. This implies that military intervention may be justified when all other non-military methods for prevention or peaceful resolution have failed, with reasonable grounds for believing that lesser methods would not succeed.  The responsibility to react with the use of military coercion may be also justified when the responsibility to prevent has been completely utilized.

Another principle is the principle of reasonable prospects, which stipulates that there must be a reasonable ground for success in averting or ending a conflict justifying the action for intervention. The principle also holds that the consequences for the intervention should never be worse than the consequences of inaction. This implies to the fact that any military intervention should never lead to a bigger conflagration. Therefore, applying this particular principle would possibly preclude a military intervention against all the members under the United Nations.

Approaches to humanitarian intervention

            Although many people agree on the concept of the humanitarian intervention there is needs to be undertaken on the basis of multilaterally, the issue of ambiguity still remains over which specific agents of the United Nations or any other organizations that should act in regard to the massive atrocities against humanity (Blanchet, Karl, and Martin, p. 74-175). Many questions concerning the effectiveness, motives, as well as conduct of the country that is intervening as well as the extent of the legal authorization have also been raised as the likely criteria for assessing the legitimacy of the potential nations to intervene. There are always to approaches to intervention, including the unauthorized as well as authorized interventions (Pattison, p. 12-103).

The Right to Authority

            The most complicated as well as contentious principle to use is one that deals with the right to authority. When it comes to the issue of authorizing a military intervention for human protection reasons, the argument is highly undeniable that the United Nations should be the first one to act. The most difficult question that has been raised regards whether the United Nations should be the last to act (Thakur, p. 23-86).

However, the issue about this principle is sometimes not arguable. The United Nations is unquestionably perceived as the principal organ for consolidating, using authority, as well as building the international community. The United Nations was established in order to be the linchpin of stability as well as a framework through which the international community negotiate various accords on the principles of behaviour as well as legal norms of proper conduct. The absolute authority of the United Nations is underpinned not through the coercive means, but through its role as the applicator of authority.  According to Thakur (p. 86-98), the idea of authority acts as a connecting bridge between the utilization of authority as well as the recourse of power. All the efforts that are intended to enforce authority may be only made through a legitimate agent. All the nations regard the collective intervention bestowed on the United Nations as legitimate because it is a representative of the international organization. Those who usually evade and undermine the authority of the United Nations risk eroding the UN’s authority as well as undermining the principle of the world order.

Other challenges to R2P

There are a number of critical voices that question the real impact of the responsibility to protect on linking the gap among the state sovereignty as well as human rights. Some people argue that the weight given to protection in the notion of responsibility to protect may be interpreted in various ways by various states in the name of protecting their people against internal conflicts as well as external aggression. Moreover, the idea of the responsibility to protect appears to have been endorsed during the 2005 world summit, just because it was believed that it could not create legal obligations.

There also exist very strong resistance against the concept of the responsibility to protect, particularly from nations that could be the likely interveners, based on the idea that these nations do not want to be forced by the concept of the responsibility to protect or to be assumed responsible if they fail to intervene. The responsibility to protect was seen as a limiting option by various states. It is based on the belief that if nations need to justify their interventions, then they must fight for the right cause. Many criticisms have been directed against the humanitarian intervention processes. A number of both inter-governmental as well as commissions have barely expressed the distorting and selectivity of geopolitics that are behind the humanitarian intervention. In order to obtain less criticism, one had to turn to the social perspectives and particularly, those that are shaped by many of the independent scholars.

Coleman (p. 23-49) argues that some people have argued that the humanitarian intervention is just the modern manifestation of the west. The humanitarian interventions have also been directly associated with the legacies of the colonial rule. Other people argue that the dominant nations, particularly America as well as its coalition partners, are utilizing the concept of humanitarian in order to pursue their own goals as well as objectives. Many of these people also argue that the United States has continued to act in its own interest and that the issue of humanitarian has become just but the concept of the United States. Another kind of criticism deals with the issue of inconsistency as well as event based nature of many of the policies that are used on the humanitarian intervention. These people argue that there is a tendency for the idea of humanitarian intervention to invoke action.

Branch (p. 65) noted that the concept of the humanitarian intervention has particularly remained of major issue to the foreign policies and especially since the intervention of NATO in Kosovo in the year 1999. This highlighted the tension among the principle of a country’s sovereignty as the defining pillar of the United Nations as well as the international law. In addition, it has led to the normative as well as empirical debates concerning its legality and the ethics of applying military intervention in order to response to situations of human rights violation. This is due to issues such as when the intervention needs to occur, who need to intervene, as well as whether the intervention would be effective.  Others consider the humanitarian intervention as the excuse for military force, which is often devoid of the legal sanction that usually deploys and achieves ambitious results. Further, just like the humanitarian intervention, the responsibility to protect also faces a number of criticisms on various magnitudes. A number of countries fail to acknowledge the importance of the responsibility to protect, and instead perceive it as a means to intervene with the state’s sovereignty as well as internal matters (Joesph, p. 34-71).


The Responsibility to Protect Doctrine suggests that in particular situations, the Security Council has the mandate and obligation rather than the right to authorize force under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter if convinced of the need to do so. Endorsed by the 2005 General Assembly, it imposes the duty, though not legally binding to member states, on states to protect their citizens to critical human rights violations and crimes against humanity. If a state fails in its duty to do so, the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine then falls to the international community, whereby forcible action is sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council.

There are proponents of this doctrine who stand that the violation of territorial sovereignty and integrity on the basis of humanitarian intervention are within permissible exclusion from the fundamentals laid down in the United Nation Security Charter. However, this argument is also challenged by opponents of the doctrine who assert that humanitarian intervention is in the neighbourhood of territorial violation to a certain and prohibited degree (Agbu 12).

Given the above named case studies of countries, such as Libya, Haiti and Mali, where territorial intervention has been without doubt carried out on the basis of humanitarian intervention, but at the same time, for narrow nationalistic and even narrower neo-colonialist purposes, the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine is one that has paved the way for vices such as double standards and selfishness, and therein lies the dilemma of humanitarian intervention (Alison 20).


Works Cited

Alison, Simon. “Global Policy Forum.” Military Intervention in Mali: A Dangerous Idea With Too Much Support. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2014.

Alston, Philip, and Euan Macdonald. Human Rights, Intervention, and the Use of Force. Oxford: OUP Oxford, 2008. Internet resource.

Agbu, Osita. West Africa’s Trouble Spots and the Imperative for Peace-Building. Dakar, Senegal: Council for Development of Social Science Research in Africa, 2006. Internet resource.

Blanchet, Karl, and Boris Martin. Many Reasons to Intervene: French and British Approaches to Humanitarian Action. New York: Columbia University Press, 2011. Print.

Bennett, Wayne W, Kären M. Hess, and Christine M. H. Orthmann. Management and Supervision in Law Enforcement. , 2007. Print.

Branch, Adam. Displacing Human Rights: War and Intervention in Northern Uganda. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Internet resource.

Bellamy, Alex J, and Paul Williams. Peace Operations and Global Order. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, 2014. Internet resource.

Bass, Gary J. Freedom’s Battle: The Origins of Humanitarian Intervention. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008. Print.

Crocker, Chester A, Fen O. Hampson, and Pamela R. Aall. Leashing the Dogs of War: Conflict Management in a Divided World. Washington, D.C: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2007. Print.