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date: 28 November 2020

From Humanitarian Intervention to the Responsibility to Protectlocked

  • Kurt MillsKurt MillsDepartment of Politics & International Relations, University of Dundee
  •  and Cian O’DriscollCian O’DriscollSchool of Social & Political Sciences, University of Glasgow

Summary

In contrast with humanitarian access or the provision of humanitarian assistance, humanitarian intervention is commonly defined as the threat or use of force by a state to prevent or end widespread and grave violations of the fundamental human rights of individuals other than its own citizens, without the permission of the state within whose territory force is applied. In support of their cause, advocates of humanitarian intervention often draw upon and reference the authority of the notional “just war.” The four main ways by which humanitarian intervention has been connected to the idea of the just war relate to the ideals of self-determination, punishment, responsibility, and conditional sovereignty. For a humanitarian intervention to be considered legitimate, there must be a just cause for intervention; the use of force must be a last resort; it must meet the standard of proportionality; and there must be a good likelihood that the use of force will contribute to a positive humanitarian outcome. The historical practice of humanitarian intervention can be traced from the nineteenth century to the recognition of the Responsibility to Protect by the World Summit in 2005 and its application in Darfur. Major conceptual debates surrounding humanitarian intervention include the problematic relation between sovereignty and human rights, the legal status of intervention, the issue of multilateralism versus unilateralism, and the quest for criteria for intervention.

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