Responsibility to Protect: Rethinking the relation between Sovereignty and Humanitarian Intervention

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1 Responsibility to Protect: Rethinking the relation between Sovereignty and Humanitarian Intervention Guilherme M. Dias LA SALLE University - Niteroi Paper to be presented at the 21 st World Congress of Political Science Santiago, July 2009 DRAFT COPY: COMMENTS WELCOME, BUT PLEASE DO NOT CITE WITHOUT EXPRESS WRITTEN PERMISSION FROM AUTHOR

2 Abstract The conciliation of antagonistic elements in the international system has led to the discussion on the relationship between State sovereignty and the practice of humanitarian interventions; there is the need of changes to assure the Nation-States a minimum basis of autonomy. On the other hand it is necessary to make sure to the populations that their fundamental rights will be safe so as to avoid instability of inter- States relations. The suggestion of adapting the Westphalian principle of sovereignty to an irreversible humanitarian logic highlights the Responsibility to Protect. The hypothesis of the weakening of sovereignty meaning the strengthening of the practice of humanitarian intervention is not confirmed. But the shortage of regulatory tools in regard to the humanitarian interventions do limit the possibilities of their legitimacy. Criticisms and dissent often override the positive points. 2

3 Table of Contents Introduction Kofi Annan and the humanitarian crisis The Responsibility to Protect Conclusion Bibliography

4 Introduction From 1989 to 1991, the world watched astonished the fall of the Berlin Wall and, following, the Soviet Union split. The international community tried a period of uncertainty. In fact, the only conviction was that the Cold War was finished and a new world order would arise. But in which terms? After a period trying to understand how the Soviet giant disappeared without any significant military movement, the winners of Cold War started to implement plans to expand their influence into the former communist areas. The idea was advertising, suggesting the beginning of a peaceful era, where the western values would be widespread worldwide. In 1991, the American President George H. W. Bush, in his State of the Union address 1, proposed a new world order based in four key aspects: peace, security, freedom and the rule of law. If we analyze the multilateral action over Iraq-Kuwait crisis, all of them were included, reinforcing values defended by the free world member-states during the ideological dispute. Iraq-Kuwait crisis, however, was a specific situation where the interests of global players were coincident, in particular because many states were still trying to adapt to a non-bipolar world. The UN Security Council members, specially the 1 BUSH, George H. W. State of the Union: 1990 to

5 permanents, took a quick decision in order to assure that every country would respect the international norms, particularly the Charter of United Nations. Despite the agreement on the actions that should be taken to restore Kuwaiti sovereignty, there was no guarantee that new conflicts would have the same solution. In this case, the atmosphere of cooperation turned into a logic of disagreement and instability when another international conflicts broke out. The Balkan Crisis and the genocide in Rwanda brought back a dilemma that was forgotten since the Kampuchea crisis in 1979: can the international community respond a humanitarian emergency without violating state sovereignty? This is one of the most asked questions in International Relations since 1992 and still do not have a definitive answer. However, to help finding a response to this question we have to define the two concepts that will be used in this article. Many policymakers discussed separately humanitarian intervention and sovereignty. For us, humanitarian intervention is an action, not necessarily with the use of force, from a state or a group of states, without the agreement of the intervened state in order to eliminate human rights violations 2. On the other side, according to Krasner, sovereignty is defined as the exclusive possession of full control over all affairs, within a territory and its people, by an 2 This concept was adapted from Robert C. Johansen s contribution. The most significant change is that we are not considering that the military action is needed to be often used. 5

6 independent authority structure capable of effectively regulating activities within its own borders 3. After defining the concepts that will be used to support our analysis, it is possible to start discussing the Responsibility to Protect and consider new perspectives for both sovereignty and humanitarian intervention. As stated by Johansen 4, the clear definition of concepts is crucial to avoid misinterpretations later. 3 KRASNER, Stephen. Problematic Sovereignty, p JOHANSEN, Robert C. Limits and Opportunities in The Ethics and Politics of Humanitarian Intervention, p

7 Kofi Annan and the humanitarian crisis After successive human rights violations in the 90s, one of the claims for a solution regarding the humanitarian intervention-sovereignty relation came from the former United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. Actually, the diplomat stated that both concepts should be adapted to the new reality that emerged in the end of the Cold War. For him, sovereignty should be understood in a different way, as a responsibility. In signing the Charter of the United Nations, States not only benefit from the privileges of sovereignty but also accept its responsibilities 5 In this new reality pointed by Mr. Annan, intrastate conflicts are the new concern, with groups fighting inside state s borders and threatening their own citizens. The causes of that struggle are specially ethnic, religious and political divergences and the international community seems to be unprepared to solve this issue. The cases in Rwanda and Balkans had shown that Security Council was blocked with the disagreement among its members and could not took an effective decision. Annan stresses that the international norms (for him mostly the UN Charter) aim to protect the individual but as far as we can see, states are unwilling to have the same interpretation over the rules. He recognizes that Security Council has an important role in solving the humanitarian crisis, but declares that its inaction has serious 5 UNITED NATIONS. A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility, p

8 consequences, not only for the people that suffer with mass murder and other human rights violations. Also the whole international system faces other challenges as the UN inaction increases instability enlarging the possibility of unilateral and selective actions. The former Secretary uses the example of Kosovo crisis, when the Security Council was unable to reach consensus and NATO decided to act without authorization of the international community. The result was a lack of confidence in United Nations, with many people questioning the organization s effectiveness. The original problem, a normative one, was the challenge of intervening in humanitarian basis without threatening state sovereignty. Now, there are many other questions arising and we can emphasize at least two: what to do when states are unwilling to avoid human rights violations (selectivity) and what to do when the collective security system is obstructed by a not feasible agreement. As his predecessors, Kofi Annan called the international community to find a common ground on the relation between humanitarian action and sovereignty. Clarifying some points, he made clear that intervention is not only the use of force but also a long process based in universal values and actions such as peacekeeping, reconstruction and others. According to him, the traditional sovereignty needs to be changed and adapted to the new challenges. Instead of a national interest, states must be ready to 8

9 have a broader vision, being sure that humanity problems should be dealt with unity. In his words, "collective interest is the national interest" 6. The last two themes stressed by the former Secretary-General are the Security Council action and the international commitment after the conflict. It is fundamental for world stability that member-states of Security Council are conscious of their mission: maintenance of international peace and security. Political issues cannot overcome the necessity of agreements that can alleviate the suffering of many people. Keeping the focus on commitment, the international community shall perceive how important is to work on reconstruction, helping people that suffered with human rights violations to restore their lives. Without a serious involvement in rebuilding internal institutions, States that faced the terrible reality of war can return to this situation. Each aspect listed by Mr. Annan needed to be discussed in more detailed terms by the states, the policymakers, NGOs. From this claim of change, the Canadian government decided to support, with other organizations, the elaboration of new proposals to rethink sovereignty as a concept more related to human rights protection and to implement humanitarian interventions without discrimination and selectivity. The result was the Responsibility to Protect, a report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty that we are going to explore next. 6 idem 9

10 The Responsibility to Protect The initiative of answering the United Nations Secretary-General demands about humanitarian issues and the rule of sovereignty with an innovative alternative resulted in a relevant contribution to International Relations debate. The Responsibility to Protect is a proposition, where we can find suggestions not only for states but also to international organizations and other political entities. The main idea of this report is to perceive sovereignty as responsibility. Recalling the contractarianism contribution to political science, the citizens transferred their power to a new structure, the highest level of authority, built to protect them from any threat. In these terms, the document addresses that the question posed by Kofi Annan is in order because some States are failing in their commitment to human rights norms and provide peace and security to their populations. Thus, if States are inapt to accomplish their mission, why should they keep their sovereign privileges? ( ) Sovereignty as responsibility, in a way that is being increasingly recognized in state practice, has a threefold significance. First, it implies that the state authorities are responsible for the functions of protecting the safety and lives of citizens and promotion of their welfare. Secondly, it suggests that the national political authorities are responsible to the citizens internally and to the international community through the UN. And thirdly, 10

11 it means that the agents of state are responsible for their actions; that is to say, they are accountable for their acts of commission and omission 7 Although we already had discussions about sharing sovereign rights 8, especially regarding failed or collapsed states, any possible suppression of those benefits from States is not a real possibility yet. Sometimes the own state is willing to recognize its problems and accept external assistance. However, what about state reluctance to acknowledge their problematic status, that still pose a threat to international peace and security? Instead of reaffirming military action as the only possibility to deal with humanitarian crisis, prevention is the word used in "Responsibility to Protect" as the most appropriate answer to the previous question. Many analysts in humanitarian intervention consider the use of force as the only method to restore compliance with human rights norms.. Even when intended to protect human beings, violent action shall be the last resort. When the interveners consider first the use of military resources, they reinforce the atmosphere of violence, reducing the legitimacy of their action. Intervention can be seen as a political act instead of its humanitarian objectives when the international community recognizes that it was possible to prevent bloodshed using other mechanisms. 7 ICISS. The Responsibility to Protect. p KRASNER, Stephen. Failed States and Shared Sovereignty, p.3. 11

12 The Responsibility to Protect highlights its commitment to prevention, stating that it is mandatory to end other resources before appealing to use of force. Moreover, the report defines the prevention as its first action and divides the process in three phases: early warning, preventive toolbox and political will 9. According to the ICISS, the preventive procedures seem to be interconnected and interdependent. To put them into practice, it is crucial that international community understand each case and its risks, recognize that political involvement is really effective and ensure that national interests will not surpass the opportunities to solve any crisis.. Moreover, the correlation among those three phases demands attention from international community to another aspect: the root causes of instability. The report refers to problems such as poverty, misery, political repression and inequitable distribution of resources. Without any significative action to resolve this concern, the humanitarian emergency will happen repeatedly. Furthermore, the implementation of suggestions listed in "Responsibility to Protect" should start as soon as possible. The report affirms that early warning procedures are still unstructured and mostly ad hoc. It is clear that only defining a continuous procedure to be followed by interveners, it will be possible to definitively avoid the use of force as the first and only resource to settle humanitarian crisis. The report has some suggestions but they need to be developed and more discussed. 9 ICISS. The Responsibility to Protect. p

13 Humanitarian agencies and international organizations shall demand the involvement of States to consolidate early warning. Regarding the preventive toolbox, States and organizations can work together to establish more diplomatic efforts before the widespread of humanitarian crisis. Transparency is another important aspect that have to be considered. In this case, the more information is provide to the international community, the more involved it can be and the more support can be given. The report clarifies the issue of legitimacy. Along the last two decades, sovereignty and humanitarian interventions tried a constant loss of legitimacy. States, specially the most powerful ones, have their humanitarian actions seen as focused only in maximizing power instead of alleviating people s agony. Acting to achieve their own interests using the humanitarian justification, States are impinging to those that work hard to promote the full respect to human rights norms the malefaction of doubt and mistrust. It is important to establish unequivocal commitment to the original idea of humanitarian action, in order to assure that this practice will not be seen as a political instrument. Here we find the idea of political will. That is where commitment is mostly needed. If States have information about human rights violations, have many tools to deal with it before the crisis turn into a bloodshed, and do not act because of political 13

14 interests, the international system will face a lack of confidence that can have serious consequences. The selective actions and the lack of commitment with humanitarian principles were decisive to the critics that state sovereignty face along the last twenty years. Only changing this perspective it will be possible to reinforce the status of States before the international community. Now, we can go back to the idea of sovereignty as responsibility, with States having their internal mission to provide peace, security and dignity to their people and defending human rights in international level when one State fail in its responsibility. The report, however, still needs to be more detailed in its terms. The prevention process can be a cornerstone in promoting non-violent action on behalf of human rights if the proposals define strictly what States should do to guarantee the rights of every human being. Even though, the Responsibility to Protect reinforces the humanitarian aspect of interventions and provides to States an opportunity to recover the legitimacy lost along the past years. They should reconsider the status of sovereignty, recognizing that those rights are the counterpart of a huge responsibility, and commit themselves to effective long term humanitarian practice. 14

15 Conclusion It is possible to rethink the relation between sovereignty and humanitarian intervention. To carry out effective changes in both concepts, a new approach, more related to legitimacy, is decisive. In fact, the propositions from Responsibility to Protect, even in need of more details, are interesting tools to implement the needed transformation. Sovereignty as responsibility does not represent a step back on state s rights. We think that, in other way, the more states fulfill its citizens demands, the more strong would be their sovereignty. As even States now accept that the time of absolute sovereignty has passed, the idea of responsibility will legitimize the defense of sovereignty as an relevant principle of International Relations. In fact, sovereignty experienced notable changes during the last twenty years, especially if compared with the Cold War period. New challenges are even more present in international agenda and they are demanding new concepts, new answers, and new thoughts. One of those challenges has been posed by humanitarian crisis and the necessity to intervene. They had an important role in reinforcing the commitment that states must have to their people. But that idea of humanitarian intervention only with armies and weapons is not the response anymore. 15

16 Before claiming for States armies, humanitarian agents must support non-violent efforts in order to look for solutions. Once again we have the idea of legitimacy as the people that suffered the violation will not feel disrespected once again and the interveners will not threaten their national s life. The implementation of Responsibility to Protect, after defining some generic aspects, can represent a step forward in the relation between state sovereignty and humanitarian intervention. Prevention and legitimacy are the main actors of this change. Only with them in first place it will be possible to answer the questions that were made when peoples around the world suffered with inaction and selective actions. 16

17 Bibliography ANNAN, Kofi: Two Concepts of Sovereignty. The Economist, Londres, 18 de setembro de ANNAN, Kofi: The Legitimacy to Intervene: International action to uphold human rights requires a new understanding of state and international sovereignty. Financial Times, Londres, 31 de dezembro de BOBBIO, Norberto. A Teoria das Formas de Governo. 10ª edição, Brasília: UnB, BULL, Hedley. (ed.). Intervention in World Politics. Oxford: Clarendon Press, COLLINS, Cindy; WEISS, Thomas G.. Humanitarian Challenges & Intervention. Boulder: Westview Press, FERON, Bernard. Iugoslávia: A guerra do final do milênio. Porto Alegre: L&PM, HOFFMANN, Stanley (org.). The Ethics and Politics of Humanitarian Intervention. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, ICISS. The Responsibility to Protect, Ottawa: International Development Research Centre, KARDAS, Saban. Humanitarian Intervention: A Conceptual Analysis. Alternatives: Turkish Jounal of International Relations, Vol. 2, Nº 3 e 4, 2003, p KRASNER, Stephen D. Failed States and Shared Sovereignty. Working paper, Global Security,

18 . (ed.). Problematic Sovereignty: Contested Rules and Political Possibilities. New York: Columbia University Press, MELLO, Celso D. de Albuquerque. Curso de Direito Internacional Público. 14ª edição. Rio de Janeiro: Renovar, NOVAES, Adauto (org.). A Crise do Estado-Nação. Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, PATRIOTA, Antônio de Aguiar. O Conselho de Segurança após a Guerra do Golfo. Brasília: Fundação Alexandre de Gusmão, PAREKH, Bhikhu. Rethinking Humanitarian Intervention. International Political Science Review, Vol. 18, nº 1, 1997, p RODRIGUES, Simone Martins. Segurança Internacional e Direitos Humanos: A Prática da Intervenção Humanitária no Pós-Guerra Fria. Rio de Janeiro: Renovar, SEITENFUS, Ricardo. Manual das Organizações Internacionais. Porto Alegre: Livraria do Advogado, 3ª edição, UNITED NATIONS. A More Secure World. New York: United Nations Department of Public Information, Basic Facts About the United Nations. New York: United Nations News and Media Division, VAN EVERA, Stephen. Guide to Methods for Students of Political Science. New York: Cornell University Press,

19 WHEELER, Nicholas J.. Saving Strangers: Humanitarian Intervention in International Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press,