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Is Humanitarian Intervention Ever Justified?


According to Weiss (2007), Humanitarian intervention is the threat or applying force on the borders by a state or any group of states to prevent or bring to an end the spread and misuse of the available human rights of the people; who are not the citizens of that particular nation. This is done without the directions from the leaders of the country where discrimination is applied. The resultant suffering is due to civil war, the crisis between human beings, and other offenses done in the country which includes genocide. Intervention by the humanitarian is not as a result of territories being against each other due to political reasons or interference with the boundary, but to make sure that civilians do not suffer within the state.

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Justifications of humanitarian intervention

In the book by Holzgrefe & Keohane (2003) the right to the intervention is due to the belief and shared values with custom law that is applied internationally, in the process of making sure that sovereignty of the state is not disregarded to ensure that all people are treated as equals and have a common humanity. Those who take care of humanitarian intervention try to justify it by saying that people should not be allowed to die by interfering with their morals.

This idea originated from the declaration that was made internationally to take care of human rights in the year 1948. It is believed that intervention can only be implemented when there is a high degree of going against the rights of human beings. However, care must be taken to ensure it is initiated using an organization that operates globally by the security council of the united nations. According to article 28, there is a right to have international order where the rights of human beings are taken care of.

According to Newman (2009), the United States should participate in humanitarian intervention because it is capable of intervening effectively. Intervention can have motives that are either positive or for selfish goals. The issue of allowing the military to intervene is in the hands of advisers and there should not be any oversight to the same. United Nations in collaboration with the United States has intervened in foreign countries especially in situations that are against their interest.

The question that arises is that it is an internal concern to interfere with regulations that are set for a different country. During the Second World War, there was a conflict that resulted in famine and great suffering occurred. The western press covered this but leaders in the government ignored it completely saying it was neutrality and no existence of any intervention. As a result, many nongovernmental organizations were created to defend an idea where health institutions were to justify extraordinary actions. The responsible nations are called upon to involve the military in an attempt to maintain peace and security in the nations that are affected.

Principles of humanitarian action

According to Mosely & Norman (2002), the Action of humanitarians consists of ten principles which include the right to life with dignity, the distinction between combatant and non-combatants, and the principle of non-refoulment. The seventh chapter has all the powers the Security Council of the United Nations has which help in carrying out legitimate intervention to prevent all that can threaten security and peace all over the world.

During the years of 1990s, people were made to understand what it means when we talk about the threats to international peace. This included refugees moving from one area to another to justify intervention in some selected countries where United Nations tried to seek permission in the states involved but did not succeed. For any human intervention to take place, nations are required to form coalitions so that they can reach an agreement.

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In a study by Newman (2009), it should be noted that naturalists doctrine known as utilitarianism is a very important measure to use in justification of any humanitarian intervention. This is whereby the consequences have to be more favorable than unfavorable to all who are concerned. The justice of intervention should hinge on whether it benefits or harms the national interest. The right to interfere is representation in attempting to have a right recognized or having several nations going against the sovereignty of a nation through a mandate that is obtained from supranational authority.

In case of urgency by the humanitarian, the mandate is finally mandated. The act of interfering is an issue that occurs to many states to assist supranational authority as much as possible. In a real sense, this is what explains what humanitarian intervention is supposed to mean although the available right is eventually translated to a duty that is taken care of by the available supranational authority. Despite the human-oriented motive trying to explain this concept to emphasize self-government together with respecting every individual right, there are many questions about this idea since it came about.

The issue of implementing it has been debated and the mission of intervention may be against the United Nations fundamental objectives especially the goal to ensure peace is maintained. However, the charter of the united nations talks about interventions with an argument that it may not be necessary to create new rights, instead, the rights that are already in existence are the ones that should be applied. The most serious problem is where contradictions arise as a result of humanitarian intervention, as a result of the confusion that arises from interfering and blurring the available rights.

Difficult situations arise due to this confusion and it becomes impossible for separation to occur between the motives of humanitarians and motives of politicians, which have an assurance that the powers that are involved in the intervention are not interested in benefiting themselves. Most of the time, the intervening nations could just be interested in the economic gain from the countries that they are dealing with. As much as the intervention is claimed to be for the international benefit, the western countries are the ones that are mostly concerned with human rights declaration.

In the book by Moore (1998), it is important to note that humanitarian intervention encounters many challenges and it is not always easy to make sure it is successful. To bring together all the poor states, humanitarian intervention is necessary. However, it should be noted that even in Western countries, humanitarian intervention has been opposed. This is because it somehow presents itself like colonialism of the 19th century and that such interventions are just ways of benefiting economically. The other argument is that it was a way of bringing about the western culture and doing away with other cultures and political systems and assuming that they have no value. In other words, some countries just want to selfishly introduce their political and traditional ways of lifestyles.

For any intervention to be successful where the military is involved, troops must be used. Also, what one state does is not a must that another state still does the same? When change takes place very fast, states will be confused on what role they should play which results in uncertainty of the outcome that is expected. The intervention organized by United Nations supports international forces which require a troop for maintaining peace.

Humanitarian Intervention control tool

To clear doubts resulting from the issue of humanitarian intervention, a control tool known as Humanitarian Accountability and Quality Management was put in place. Once the scheme is put in place, it ensures that the management is fully satisfied and at the same time in a position to offer high-quality services according to the expected standards. In a study, Mosely & Norman (2002) argued that Certification by HAP is varied for three years and provides editors from outside who get access to the mission of the organization, finance, and systems of control to ensure there are transparency as well as accountability as intervention takes place.

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When making a comparison between processes in an organization, all the policies together with the products, it becomes easy to know how quality is assured in an organization as well as accountability when carrying out humanitarian duties.

In his study, Moore (1998) found that the standards set should be complied with by the agencies and commitment to the set principles to ensure that there is high-quality management. All the important information should be provided to the stakeholders about the quality management to be applied. The decisions are made by the beneficiaries through their active participation and giving their consent.

Competencies of the staff and development needs are determined as well as procedures for handling complaints that may arise. Conduct is established and there is reliance on the measures provided by the military. According to the available report, many people are against how the humanitarian intervention is perceived and they try to change its meaning. The argument is that having the intervention right has problems that need protection to replace it.

When the protection of individuals is taken to be more important than intervention, it is believed that intervention should aim at ensuring that every citizen is secure and there is protection from attack by outside states. There are three stages involved in responsibility which include preventing things from happening, reacting to issues where necessary, and trying to rebuild. Protection was supported by many nations such as Europe, Africans, and those who were supporting human security although others were against it, for example, critics from Asian nations.


Wheeler (2000) concluded that Humanitarian intervention is not always justified but it’s very necessary. For instance, during the Rwanda genocide, humanitarian intervention in which the international community sought to stop killings was very authentic. In situations where security personnel from the United Nations are employed, the citizens who have committed no offense are set free. However, if a country allows the forces from the military to fight in other countries if the main objective is to own it through application force so that they can own the resources available, then that one is disqualified from being termed as humanitarian intervention.


Holzgrefe, J.L. & Keohane, R. (2003) Humanitarian intervention: ethical, legal and political dilemmas. Amazon, Cambridge university press.

Moore, J. (1998) Hard Choices: Moral Dilemmas in Humanitarian Intervention. Lanham, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Mosely, A. & Norman R. (2002) Human rights and military intervention, Burlington, Ashgate.

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Newman, M. (2009) Humanitarian Intervention: Confronting the Contradictions. Columbia, Hurst.

Weiss, T. (2007) Humanitarian intervention: ideas in Action, Cambridge, Polity Press.

Wheeler, N. (2000) Saving Strangers: Humanitarian intervention in International Society. Amazon, Oxford University Press.

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