Humanitarian Intervention: a New Role for the United Nations?

  • Comfort Ero
  • Suzanne Long


Since the end of the Cold War the United Nations has found itself increasingly engaged in wrestling with domestic conflicts. But such cases as intervention in northern Iraq, Bosnia and Somalia have raised complex and difficult questions for the UN of a legal, normative and political kind, in dealing with issues that were once considered ‘essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of states’. Perhaps the most complex and difficult question facing the United Nations today is this: under what circumstances is humanitarian intervention by the international community justified? Can the international community intervene by force in order to put an end to serious human rights violations? Or should the international community abide by the prohibition of the use of force embodied in Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter? This chapter argues that there is no commonly accepted new approach or thinking on humanitarian intervention aimed at stopping the gross and widespread violations of human rights. The debate on the ‘right to intervene’ remains in a state of flux, partly because members of the UN have remained attached to the doctrine of non-intervention, and partly because the defining cases of northern Iraq, Bosnia and Somalia can be disregarded as precedents and do not necessarily herald an emerging customary law.


International Community Security Council Humanitarian Intervention International Peace United Nations General 
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© Macmillan Press Ltd 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Comfort Ero
  • Suzanne Long

There are no affiliations available

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