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Forcible Intervention- Irrespective Of Wether It Is Humanitarian Or Not Should Only Be Undertaken Under The Authority Of The Un- Do You Agree?

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The changing international agenda since 1945: Pir-40005

Forcible intervention- irrespective of whether it is humanitarian or not- should only be undertaken under the authority of the UN. Do you agree?

Broadly speaking an intervention is any action where an actor interferes in the affairs of another actor (dictionary). A more precise definition is offered by Vincent who views an intervention as, 'that activity undertaken by a state, a group within a state, a group of states or an international organisation, which interferes coercively in the domestic affairs of another state,' (Vincent in ?). Forcible intervention, therefore, implies the use of force, often military although force applied in other areas is often used i.e. economic sanctions, to interfere with other states, or within other states, affairs. Since the end of the Cold War one of the most prominent aspects of international relations has been the increased involvement of the UN, intervening into conflicts between or within states (Jackson).

Problems arise due to the present nature of the international system, which stems from the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which views the international system as consisting of individual states. The Westphalian concept of state sovereignty implies that actions that occur within the territory of states are their own affair. This concept is reinforced by international laws and values such as the UN Charter, which supports the principle of non-interference in the state affairs of others (Abbott). However the UN, initially created from a military alliance, state their main aim as global peace and stability, and in recent times have been more willing to go against the non-intervention norm (Roberts). This has created a conflict within the hierarchical structure of the state system -which has the higher authority, the sovereign state or international organisations such as the UN?

The end of the Cold War resulted in instability within the international system and states released from a centrally controlling system and the creation of a number of new states. This created a new international environment, 'characterised by many dangerous, troubled, failed and even murderous states,' (Hoffman). This has led to the central debate about interventions, with those supporting interventions using mainly moral arguments and those against, highlighting the importance for respect of sovereignty to the international system (Hoffman). This was summed up by the current Sectary General of the UN, Kofi Annan, 'On the one hand is it legitimate for a regional organisation to use force without a UN mandate? On the other, is it permissible to let gross and systematic violations of human rights, with grave humanitarian consequences, continue unchecked?' (Annan in Abbott).

With one of it's essential aim being global peace and stability, the UN would appear to be an appropriate organ to legitimise the use of interventions. This essay will asses arguments both for and against interventions by the UN and address the question; forcible interventions- irrespective of whether they are humanitarian or not- should only be undertaken under the authority of the UN.

One of the main arguments in favour of interventions under UN authority is that the UN supposedly represents a set of trans-national values that represent the global community; therefore any action undertaken by the UN is representative of the global community. The UN is placed at the top of the hierarchical structure of the international system. This legitimises the use of interventions and reduces the possibility that an intervention is viewed as an invasion. Any accusations of links between an intervention and colonialism or imperialism by an individual country are avoided if the intervention is under UN authority (Abott). However, this is a grey, contradictory area ( ?) within the UN charter and international law, which supports the respect for the sovereignty of states, whilst maintaining it's over-riding aim of peace and stability. The UN, and the principal tenants of international law, were founded during the aftermath of World War II and reflect the thinking and the realities of that time. Much has changed within the international system during the inception of the UN and international laws that has left them out of touch with the current international environment. They require amendment and adaptation to match the changing international system. The aim of peace and stability was reaffirmed through the 2001 UN report on the 'responsibility to protect', which promotes the view that individual states have the responsibility to protect their citizens and if they are unable or unwilling to fulfil this responsibility then it falls to the wider international community (Abbott). Essentially interventions under the authority of the UN have an increased legitimacy and legality within the international system due to the very nature of the UN as being composed of and representing the international community (shinoda).

The argument for interventions under the authority of the UN has gained strength due to the increased international cooperation since the end of the Cold War. During the Cold War the two super-powers conducted numerous interventions in other states affairs, usually justified on the basis of self-defence (Jackson). Interventions under UN authority could be paralysed by the use of the veto by members of the Security Council. However, with the reduction in hostilities between the two sides, it has become easier to work effectively within the UN. As Jackson suggests, 'it brought the former protagonists into a relationship of cooperation (or at least partial cooperation) on many issues which had previously been thwarted by their incessant rivalry,' (Jackson). With the increased cooperation, the Security Council has been better able to attempt to fulfil one of it's primary functions, namely the maintenance of peace and stability, and as a consequence of this has become more actively involved in interventions across the globe.

The nature of the UN provides further support for interventions only under UN authority. The UN is not seeking any territorial or material gains from interventions and, is not acting in any one country's national interest, but is in theory intervening due to ethical considerations (Hoffman). Accusations of imperialism, which can be used against unilateral interventions, are reduced due to the multi-state composition of the UN. Unilateral interventions that occur without the UN support are more likely to be accused of acting within their own national interests and not under the ethical values that justify

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