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Humanitarian Intervention in International Society Essay


Humanitarian intervention is the act of employing tough measures mostly by military forces from the outside in an effort to make sure that the rights of civilians are protected and accessed without the local authorities assent (Weiss 303). The principle responsibility and practice of humanitarian intervention carried out by the international community is to prevent unnecessary deaths, suffering and help in protecting human rights in situations where the sovereign state is either unwilling or unable to carry out such functions.

However, several situations have led to the international community being divided over the forcible intervention matter in relation to human protection purposes in relation to mass killings. This is because humanitarian intervention has been depicted as to rely upon justifiable forces in order to protect other state inhabitants from persistent abuse and arbitrary treatment. This intention is to surpass the authority limiting the sovereign states to act with justice and reason (Baylis, John & Owens 103).

Humanitarian intervention is completely different compared to the humanitarian aid. Though somehow related, humanitarian intervention involves deploying of military forces by a state or sometimes more than one state to protect the civilians of a given sovereign state from humanitarian carnages.

Humanitarian aid, on the other hand, is mostly offered by non-governmental, as well as international organizations which distance themselves from any political association and provide medical care, shelter and food to civilians. Humanitarian intervention has been made distinct following the inaction of the international humanitarian law which governs the provisions and protections of humanitarian relief delivery during military intervention (Rieff &Anthony 228).

Benefitsof Humanitarian Interventions

In past years, Humanitarian interventions have been beneficial as they ensured protection from suffering and unnecessary deaths. A good example of such benefiting humanitarian intervention includes the United Nation intervention in Somalia. Before this intervention, Somalia was suffering from conflicts among clans, lawlessness, famine and lack of a government.

The UN responded to this situation by deploying troops to offer humanitarian reliefs. This humanitarian intervention was to the interest of Somalia as a nation. The humanitarian intervention is believed to have been beneficial to civilians is the Kosovo international intervention.

The war in Kosovo was as a result of the NATO efforts to end repression campaigns against Albanians, which was being carried out by the Yugoslavian president (Murphy 427). This humanitarian intervention was carried out in such a away that it ensured the lives for those on the ground as well as the financial costs involved were saved. The intervention was successful as it protected the Albanians from oppression.

The Harm Associated With Humanitarian Intervention

After the Cold War, humanitarian intervention took a different dimension. The interventions remained independent of the restrains and limitations by the conceptual war that was in the past witnessed between superpowers such as Russia and the United States. Most of the conflicts after this period remained confined within national boundaries of collapsed states or repressive governments. Such conditions were observed to lead to human rights gross violation in most cases.

In history, there has been several international interventions that have been recognized as to have played a significant role in the protection of civilians but still went ahead to take a political role that was not supported by the intervening state. More so, some of the campaigns by most colonies were validated in the 19th century on the basis of humanitarian intervention. An example of such intervention includes the efforts to salvage Christian minorities that were being threatened in Muslim lands during the Ottoman Empire.

This intervention was questioned for the expenses and efficiency involved. The other case involved the move by Britain to intervene in Sudan with the motive of abolishing slave trade and revenging Charles Gordon death. This move by Britain has raised many debates as to whether the intervention had been conditioned to benefit Britain in its cause (Bellamy 150).

Several dangers have been associated with using military force in the humanitarian intervention process as this might lead to increased suffering while trying to protect the initial abuses. It is therefore an important consideration to make sure that any humanitarian intervention would eventually mend the humanitarian watershed and not worsen the situation. Such a situation was observed when the United States went into war against Iraq.

In some situations, interventions led to suffering and death of the people that they were meant to save.This led to the rise of the ‘responsibility of everyone to protect’ principle and was later included in the making of international laws. The sovereign states were given the responsibility of protecting their citizens from avoidable devastations. In cases where such states proved to be unable or not willing to take on this responsibility, the responsibility was given to the broader state’s community (Belloni 340).


Despite being independent of the sovereign state assent, humanitarian interventions actions which employ military force have to be approved by the UN first. However, considering the fact that the UN Charter does not overtly recognize humanitarian crisis as being a legitimate aim for such intervention, Security Council members have in several occasions been able to prevent interventions that have been proposed by using their veto or at times using threats.

The humanitarian intervention decision is majorly based on the opinion of the public, as well as the pressure put on the state under intervention and political considerations. On the top of the political and legal doctrine that supported human intervention, most humanitarian intervention movements in the mid-1990’s experienced hardships and could not operate safely in areas facing conflicts. This led to heated debates on the feasibility, as well as legality of humanitarian intervention (Wheeler 78).

This followed events like the international community failure to stop the genocide that took place in Rwanda. It was stressed that it was important for any intervention to make use of intervention means that were recognized by the humanitarian law and the international human rights. The Security Council intervened and regarded such human rights violation to be a threat to both, peace and security on international levels.

In response to this, the council employed economic consents or, at times, force in cases where there was need to do so. The humanitarian intervention concept from then considered its priorities as being the rule of law, democracy and human rights. The increasing need to protect distressed people meant that it was everyone’s responsibility to assist the affected victims without taking into consideration the traditional legal regulations (Baylis, John & Owens 78).

Alternatives of Humanitarian Intervention

Following the harm associated with humanitarian intervention, several debates have come up opposing the use of such interventions, especially when military force is involved. This has led to the international community seeking alternative means in situations where it needs to intervene. One of the formulated alternatives is the ‘international responsibility to protect’ commission that is being sponsored by Canada to protect civilians facing massacre.

The UN has also come up with its version of intervention through its General Assembly endorsing the Security Council to introduce measures of preventing genocide and other massacres in individual states that have failed to protect their citizens from abuse. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is another working alternative of the humanitarian intervention.

The organization brings together more than 53 countries with its primary aim to be diplomacy preventative, protect human rights, control arms, and come up with measures intended to build security. The OSCE operations does not involve the military thus offers better interventions than those associated with NATO. Its work is exclusively solving problems in a cooperative manner and does not involve with any hegemonic acts.

The functions of this organization fall under the United Nation Charter and operate as the agent of the United Nation. OSCE involves itself in all types of conflicts including preventing conflicts, management and rehabilitation after conflicts. The member countries include the superpowers like the United States, Russia, and Canada thus there is no interference from such nations (Weiss 305).


The humanitarian intervention protection responsibility mainly focuses its operations on supporting and protecting civilians and not observing the intervener rights. However, the moral oratory normally employed by western countries during wars has led to the ‘responsibility to protect’ to be misused. Most western countries take advantage of humanitarian interventions to benefit themselves. This has led the international community main principle of protecting civilians to fail in its translation into reality.

The international community is not ready to surpass individual interests and sovereignty so as to provide humanitarian intervention in violation of human rights and genocide cases. The humanitarian intervention has proved to be unlikely in areas lacking economic and geopolitical importance. The international community is now challenged to ensure that humanitarian interventions accomplish the main aim of protecting civilians.

This can be achieved by the international community coming up with means of doing with the gap between perceptible commitment and prevention of verbal support. There is a need for more focus to be put on prevention rather than embracing intervention. International community efforts to make sure that there is good governance and accountability in sovereign states is a key to promoting economic and social development, protecting of human rights and fair resource distribution.

Though there are several disadvantages associated with humanitarian interventions, when properly executed, such interventions have proved to have significant benefits to the civilians. This means that the interventions should be embraced so as to provide protection.

In situations where such humanitarian interventions seem to be inappropriate, alternative measures have to be put in place. There have been many debates and opposition to humanitarian intervention but still this international community effort to protection is justified.

Western countries have proved to be the main violators of the ‘responsibility to protect’ role by the international community as they put their interest before the civilians in the sovereign states. In such situations, the humanitarian interventions are more likely to lead to more harm and deaths than protecting civilians and preventing abuses.

Works Cited

Baylis, John and Patricia Owens. The Globalization of World Politics. New York, NY: Norton & Company, 2002. Print.

Bellamy, Alex. “Whither the Responsibility to Protect?” Humanitarian Intervention and the 2005 World Summit, Ethics & International Affairs. 2(2006):143-169. Print.

Belloni, Roberto. “The Tragedy of Darfur and the Limits of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’”. Ethnopolitics. 4(2006):327-346. Print.

Murphy, Sean. Humanitarian Intervention:The United Nations in an Evolving World Order, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996. Print

Rieff, David and Anthony Dworkin. Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know, New York, NY: Norton & Company, 2002. Print.

Weiss, Thomas. Military-Civilian Interactions, Humanitarian Crises and the Responsibility to Protect, Oxford, UK: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005. Print

Weiss, Thomas. “The Sunset of Humanitarian Intervention?” The Responsibility to Protect in a Unipolar Era. Security Dialogue. 2 (2004): 135-153. Print

Wheeler, Nicholas. Savings Strangers: Humanitarian Intervention in International Society, New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print

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1. IvyPanda. "Humanitarian Intervention in International Society." September 13, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/humanitarian-intervention/.


IvyPanda. "Humanitarian Intervention in International Society." September 13, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/humanitarian-intervention/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Humanitarian Intervention in International Society." September 13, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/humanitarian-intervention/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Humanitarian Intervention in International Society'. 13 September.

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