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Humanitarian Intervention and the English School

Humanitarian Intervention and the English School

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The English School of International Relations and how it justifies humanitarian interventions.
The English School of International Relations and how it justifies humanitarian interventions.

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Published by: Yalí Noriega Curtis on Oct 14, 2013
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Araceli Yalí Noriega CurtisMATS, University of Salford@00329380
Humanitarian Intervention and the English School
Over the last couple of decades, the world has seen a marked increase in concern for issues such ashuman rights, the environment or democracy. This is manifested not only in the form of internationalagreements, but also as justifications for actions taken in the global arena. This was indeed the casewhen George W. Bush announced he was going to intervene in Iraq almost ten years ago. Humanitarianinterventions, as they have come to be known, have both informed and been informed by the EnglishSchool theories of International Relations.At face value, it is hard to argue with the principles of humanitarian intervention. It makessense, at a very basic level, to try to save other human beings from hardship and suffering. And if tosave them we need to use force, so be it. Human lives should certainly take precedence over the rightsof states; violating a state's sovereignty in order to protect its citizens is apparently a noble goal.However, if we stop to question our conceptions of what human rights are, or what we mean when wespeak of international society, things begin to look differently.In this paper I will look first at the English School and its basic concepts of internationalsystem, international society and world society. Then I will tak briefly about the division between pluralists and solidarists, as well as about humanitarian intervention and the mandate of Responsibilityto Protect, which would seems like the triumph of solidarism. Then I will address some of thecriticisms that have been raised against the English School as the justification for humanitarianintervention operations around the world. There will be some examples to illustrate the points. Themain critiques I will dwell on come from the realist theories of International Relations and from post-colonial approaches, although I will touch briefly on some feminist commentary and contributions frominternational law.The English School has been developed from the second half of the 20
th
Century onwards. Itsmain proponents have been English (hence the name) and they are concerned mainly with thedevelopment of what they consider international system, international society and world society. Aninternational system refers to the existence of two or more states that might have some interaction butkeep primarily to themselves. International society refers to the development of interactions betweenstates, based on shared values, as well as the norms and institutions that spring from them. These
 
 preserve the independence of states and thus order in the international arena and therefore, maintain peace. For states, according to Bull (1977), “war should be waged only for 'just' cause, or a cause the justice of which can be argued in terms of common rules” (18). International society goes beyond asimple international system because it implies norms built upon shared values. Bull exempliefies thiswith Europe after the fifteenth century, where the foundations of state interaction were Christian innature. Today, the most important norms of coexistance for states are the respect for sovereignty andnon-intervention, although respect for human rights is also becoming a pillar through internationalmechanisms such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.In contrast, world society refers to the individuals living within those states, their interactionsand the influence they might have in shaping states and their relations. Human beings have inherentrights, but they still live and act under state sovereignty. Thus, states regulate person to personinteractions, but people can influence state policies through organizing around shared interests. Buzan(2004) indicates that this concept contains ideas about states, non-state actors, identity and thetransnationalization of ideas in general.English Scholars consider that international and world society are global in scope, believing that“the referent group for universal principles must necessarily be humankind as a whole” (Buzan 2004:17). Even though it seems that both ideas go hand in hand, there are some conflicts between them. Onthe one hand, international society gives primacy to states and their preservation; on the other, worldsociety gives more importance to individuals and their relationships and interactions. In fact, worldsociety would appear a threat to international society, as social organizations cross boundaries and seemto erode or even oppose state institutions.This situation has led to an internal debate within the English School, among what are known asthe pluralists and the solidarists. The pluralists are those who defend the integrity of states, arguing thatinternational law and institutions should strengthen and enforce the principles of sovereignty and non-intervention. They believe that international law is and should be written by states. Solidarists, on theother hand, maintain that there is only one humanity and international law should translate humanity'svalues and make them a reality. They want to expand international order, therefore arguing for interventions based on human rights, for example, that could be seen as undermining the sovereignty of states. To state it simply, the pluralist position argues that diversity is best contained in the largestnumber of independent states, whereas the solidarsits argue in favor of the promotion of human rightsover independence and non-intervention.As solidarists argue for intervention when it concerns human rights and other humanitarianissues (such as, perhaps, famine), it is useful to restate its definition. It is interesting to note that most
 
theorists from the English School – indeed, from any branch of International Relations – fail to providea definition for it. Much as with the conceptualization of the state system or international anarchy, it isa given. I turn, then, to political philosopher Bhikhu Parekh for a definition of humanitarianintervention. In Rethinking Humanitarian Intervention (1997), Parekh defines both terms. Anintervention is the intrusion of one state in the internal affairs of another, against its will, with the purpose of influencing its conduct rather than annexing it. To count as humanitarian, an interventionmust be motivated by feelings of humanity and its goal should be to solve a violation of human rights.For Parekh, a humanitarian intervention may not necessarily involve the use of force. He does stress,though, that humanitarian intervention is different from humanitarian aid in that the latter only consistsin alleviating suffering but not creating a climate of peace and order.In contrast, Wheeler (2000) considers that the use of force is almost usually the norm and provides four other considerations for an intervention to be considered humanitarian. These are:
there must be a just cause, that is, a supreme humanitarian emergency, where the lives at risk can only be saved by intervention;
the use of force must be only the last resort. This proves difficult because we can never knowwhere is the line that will indicate to us diplomacy has failed, and is compounded with the factthat human rights violations continue while negotiations are taking place;
the use of force must be proportional to the violations, that is, it should not take more lives thanit is saving; and
there must be a high probability that the intervention will achieve a positive outcome, that is,that human rights will be restored.In order for solidarists – indeed, for any one – to promote the cause of humanitarianintervention, there needs to exist a basic belief that humanity is founded upon common values. Theexistence of international organizations, both at inter-state level and among civil societies, reinforcesthis idea. It can be seen for example, in Amnesty International, where people from all over the worldget together to demand that states defend and protect human rights. These organizations also exert pressure on states themselves by demanding the ratification of international treaties and conventions.Thus, states have created institutions such as the Human Rights Council and other UN agencies that provide relief and support to communities around the world. These institutions all stress the idea of acommon humanity and strengthen the cause of humanitarian intervention, in that any state couldintervene in another with the purpose of saving its population from abuses; of course, to be considered

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