Redefining the dilemmas of humanitarian intervention

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The Responsibility to Protect Report refines, but does not resolve, the dilemmas of humanitarian intervention. By changing its vocabulary and strictly delimiting its scope, the Report goes a long way towards making humanitarian intervention an acceptable norm and practice in international society. It does not entirely succeed in separating the humanitarian imperative from the political and geopolitical constraints of a UN system that will remain dominated by the P-5. But its sincere and brave attempt to lay down the criteria should render the abuse of humanitarian intervention less likely. The Report will not entirely remove the international community's misgivings about intervention by powerful regional organisations (NATO) or ad hoc coalitions led by the major powers or their 'deputy sheriffs' (i.e., middle powers closely allied to the West. The Report's position on such issues has to be seen in the context of an understandable desire to strike a compromising tone and not to offend key UN members which might doom the prospects of the Report receiving serious attention. It is now the responsibility of the international community to take the Report as the basis of a wider debate and refinement that could result in an official consensus on the principles and practice of humanitarian intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-381
Number of pages9
JournalAustralian Journal of International Affairs
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2002


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