Peace cannot be built on humanitarian intervention – discuss.
The aim of the assignment is to discuss the above claim. Firstly, the essay will begin by defining humanitarian intervention and the newly adopted ‘responsibility to protect’ principle. Secondly, Mahmood Mamdani’s claim, that ‘peace cannot be built on humanitarian intervention, which is the language of big powers’ will be discussed briefly. Thirdly, the assignment will address the debate by looking at humanitarian intervention in the former Yugoslavian Republic – Bosnia-Herzegovina. Finally, the essay will evaluate both the successes and failures of humanitarian intervention and in particular its contribution to creating and enforcing peace in protracted ethnic conflicts such as that in Bosnia.
Roberts (1999) defines humanitarian intervention as “coercive action by one or more states involving the use of armed force in another state without the consent of its authorities, and with the purpose of preventing widespread suffering or death among inhabitants” (quoted in Burgess, 2002: p.262). The principle of humanitarian intervention [now under the new name ‘responsibility to protect’] was further reinforced at the United Nations 2005 World Summit where the majority of governments agreed on “the collective international responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” (World Summit, 2005). The agreement further announced a “willingness to take timely and decisive collective action for this purpose, through the Security Council, when peaceful means prove inadequate and national authorities are manifestly failing to do it” (World Summit, 2005). Thus, under a new agreement, the international community has a legal right and moral duty to protect populations from genocide and other atrocities when their own governments are incapable or unwilling to do so. The international community, through the Security Council, may resort to coercive actions including diplomatic and economic sanctions and, in extreme cases, military intervention. The latter must be authorised by the UN Security Council and should only be used as a ‘last resort’ when other peaceful means prove inadequate.
It must be reiterated that the ‘responsibility to protect’ is not only limited to providing military security to help protect the vulnerable. According to Tharuk (2008), the doctrine embraces three phases:
The responsibility to prevent requires addressing both the root causes and direct causes of internal conflict and other man-made crises putting populations at risk. The responsibility to react requires the international community to respond to situations of compelling human need with appropriate measures, which may include coercive measures like sanctions and international prosecution and, in extreme cases, military intervention. The responsibility to rebuild requires the international community to provide, particularly after a military intervention, full assistance with recovery, reconstruction and reconciliation, addressing the causes of the harm the intervention was designed to half or avert. (p. 257)
This notion of military intervention for humanitarian purposes has been the subject of heated controversy among UN member states and legal practitioners. There are critics who argue that the UN Charter does not expressly authorise the use of force on a humanitarian basis. As a matter of fact, the Charter prohibits states from resorting to the threat or use of force to settle disputes. Art. 2(4) of the UN Charter states, “all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations” (Evans, 2009: p.10). There are two exceptions to the above rule. Firstly, under Chapter VII, Art. 42 of the Charter, the SC may authorise the use of force in order to maintain or restore international peace and security (Evans, 2009: p. 16). Secondly, Art. 51 of the UN Charter permits the use of force in individual or collective self-defence (Evans, 2009: p. 18). Hence, the only exceptions to the Art. 2(4) prohibition are when force is used in either self-defence or with a mandate from the Security Council. Similarly, all member states are sovereign equals (Art. 2(1) of the UN Charter) and no state can intervene in the domestic affairs of another state (Art. 2(7) of the Charter).
One of the vocal critics is leading anthropologist Mahmood Mamdani, who is sceptical about the idea of humanitarian intervention and its ability to establish and secure peace in protracted ethnic conflicts. In his commentary, the “Politics of Naming: Genocide, Civil War, Insurgency,” published in the London Review of Books, the author discusses the Darfur crisis comprehensively and criticises the de-politicisation of the conflict by the media (in particular, the US journalist Nicholas Kristof) and peace campaigners (the Save Darfur Coalition). Mahmood Mamdani argues that the camp of peace must realise that “peace cannot be built on humanitarian intervention, which is the language of big powers” (Mahmood Mamdani, 2007). He bases his argument on the recent U.S. intervention in Iraq.
Unlike most other leading academics, Mamdani views the Darfur and Iraq conflicts as similar. He writes: “The similarities between Iraq and Darfur are remarkable. The estimate of the number of civilians killed over the past three years is roughly similar. The killers are mostly paramilitaries, closely linked to the official military, which is said to be their main source of arms. The victims too are by and large identified as members of groups, rather than targeted as individuals. But the violence in the two places is named differently” (Mamdani, 2007). Hence, his findings lead him to conclude that peace cannot be achieved through humanitarian intervention in Darfur. In fact, he argues that a unilateral intervention (or, as he puts it, “an Iraqi-style intervention”) in Darfur will only exacerbate the conflict and risk turning into yet another Rwanda. Instead, he calls for a political solution to the Darfur conflict. According to Mamdani, “strengthening those on both sides who stand for a political settlement to the civil war is the only realistic approach. Solidarity, not intervention, is what will bring peace to Darfur” (Mamdani, 2007).
Finally, he questions the true intentions of big powers when intervening in other countries. There is a common belief that “there is a risk that humanitarian action will be informed by the wrong kind of politics, serving – rather than confronting – the interests of the politically strong not defending the rights of victims” (Macrae, 1996: p. 284). Nevertheless, Mamdani’s claim that “peace cannot be built on humanitarian intervention, which is the language of big powers” is highly debatable. This assignment will address this debate by looking at humanitarian interventions in the former Yugoslavian Republic, in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
There are a number of cases in which the UN SC has expressly approved military intervention on humanitarian grounds. Many of these interventions in humanitarian crises were authorised under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which is concerned with threats to international peace and security and with acts of aggression. Since the Charter does not authorise intervention on a humanitarian basis, “the Security Council is using the argument that a state’s domestic policies may pose ‘a threat to international peace and security’, especially if such policies produce an outflow of refugees to other states” (Klinghoffer, 1998: p. 133). Military intervention was, therefore, approved for Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Security Council assigned the UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR) and later approved NATO’s forces’ presence in the former Yugoslavian Republic.
The international community described the humanitarian crisis in BiH as “ethnic cleansing” perpetrated by the Serbian leadership and its armed forces against Bosniaks/Bosnian Muslims. Despite this, the initial response by the international community to the humanitarian crisis in BiH was very slow. The results illustrate the consequences of such a poor response and provide a case study of what not to do in a humanitarian crisis. By the end of 1994, more than “250,000 civilians were killed, the total number of refugees, war victims and IDPs stood at 2.74 million, 50,000 people were victims of torture and estimates of female rape victims vary between 20,000 to 50,000” (Weiss, 1999: p.124).
The limited and under-resourced UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR), consisting of only 2000 troops in 1993, could not create and enforce peace in BiH. Between 1994 and1995 the SC authorised the creation of safe havens under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and NATO forces soon became responsible for protecting the no-fly zone. In late August 1995, in order to deter further Serbian attacks, NATO launched a two-week military operation involving air strikes which targeted primarily Bosnian Serb air defences, communications, command and control, and ammunition depots (Weiss, 1999: p.128). This tactic succeeded in bringing the parties closer to the bargaining table. The General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, also known as the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA), was formally signed in Paris on 14 December 1995. The new peace agreement finally brought three years of brutal civil war in BiH to an end.
However, one question which remains is whether NATO’s intervention brought peace to BiH. From a strictly military perspective, NATO’s intervention was a success. Firstly, the military operation made a considerable difference in halting the Serbian atrocities, including gross human rights violations. Secondly, it forced all the parties to the negotiation table and enforced peace through signing of the Dayton Peace Accords, which continue to maintain the peace and ensure civilian security to the present day. Hence, there has been no resumption of violence between the parties since NATO’s intervention in 1995.
Many critics, though, have questioned the contribution of the international community to the restoration of peace in BiH. The main criticism arises from the consideration of civilian benefits after intervention, which are also said to help evaluate the success of the humanitarian intervention. Many leading academics have criticised the lack of progress on the ground by the international community, namely NATO’s and the OSCE’s efforts in stabilising the region. It is believed that “by the end of 1995, some 1.3 million people still remained internally displaced, with an additional 1.4 million categorised as ‘war-affected’ persons” (Weiss, 1999: pp.133-4).
This illustrates that military force alone cannot guarantee lasting peace in BiH and that the international community must address the root causes of the conflict, namely, political, economic and social factors that gave rise to the conflict in the first place. According to Heathershaw, “force alone cannot create peace; it can only create the space in which peace must be built” (Heathershaw, 2008: p.15). From the beginning, the international community emphasised the importance of post-war nation-building in order to ensure stability, peace and democracy in Bosnia. Hence, the international community ensured that peace-building was accepted by all the parties in the Dayton Peace Accords. The first step in nation-building begins by ensuring the continuation of post-conflict peace-building. Peace-building in BiH involved not just creating and enforcing peace that ensured civilian security; it also involved political, economic, military and civil society development in the country. The link between peace-building, development and democratization has been highlighted as imperative by the UN. The former Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali emphasised the importance of peace for development and democracy and vice versa: “Without peace there can be no development and there can be no democracy. Without development, the basis for democracy will be lacking and societies will tend to fall into conflict. And without democracy, no sustainable development will occur; without such development, peace cannot long be maintained” (quoted in Heathershaw, 2008: p.3).
Both the UN and the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) were responsible for civilian operations in BiH. The Dayton Peace Accords assigned the OSCE with specific responsibilities for military stabilisation (Annex 1-B of the DPA), elections (Annex 3) and human rights monitoring (Annex 6) (U.S. Department of State, 1995). To be more precise, the OSCE Mission was “to elaborate and implement agreements on confidence- and security-building measures and regional and sub-regional arms control; to adopt and put in place an elections programme, supervise the preparation and conduct of elections, and establish a Provisional Election Commission; and to appoint, through the good offices of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, a Human Rights Ombudsman” (Beecroft, 2006: p.2). Hence, the key priorities of the OSCE Mission to BiH would be: security, democratization and human rights. These were – and still are – at the core of its work (Beecroft, 2006).
Despite its contribution to the military stabilisation of the region, the OSCE failed in its primary function of promoting a moderate, multi-ethnic government in BiH. The new government was meant to address the biggest challenge in Bosnia, the strong ethnic resentment that still existed between Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats. As mentioned earlier, ethnic division was the main obstacle to ensuring lasting peace with thousands of Bosnians still remaining internally displaced and unable to return to their original homes. The role of the new government was also to undermine the nationalist political parties which were the primary source of social disharmony in BiH. However, the election results have been disappointing in that they confirmed that “the post-war political landscape in Bosnia was dominated by the three main nationalist parties, i.e. the Bosniak Party of Democratic Action (SDA), the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) and the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ)” (Oliva, 2007: p.194). Hence, ethnic tension is still strong as each ethnic group continues to support its own nationalist party. The election results have been a major setback in the OSCE Mission which focused on promoting moderate and multi-ethnic municipal governments in BiH.
It is said that the same challenges that faced Bosnia ten years ago continue to exist today. The three main nationalist parties, the Bosniak Party of Democratic Action, the Serbian Democratic Party and the Croatian Democratic Union, continue to resist changes imposed by the international community. For instance, Fabio Oliva reports that “nationalist leaders challenged the Dayton Agreement in many ways: they prevented the emergence of political opposition, refused to cooperate in the common institutions at the federal, entity and municipal level alike , and obstructed minority returnees as a way to consolidate the
consequences of ethnic cleansing and discouraging the restoration of a multiethnic society” (Oliva, 2007: p.194). Similarly, the main objectives of the OSCE Mission – to promote democratic reforms at all levels of state institutions so that the country can join the E.U. – have been shattered by the three nationalist parties. According to Sarajevo Ambassador, Robert L. Barry,
[M]any leaders of nationalist parties continue to work behind the scenes for a future outside the framework of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Despite many calls to board the train for Brussels, these same leaders refuse to part with the baggage they cannot bring on the train. Most political party leaders resist steps to promote intra-party democracy. (Barry, 2006: p.9)
There are a number of factors responsible for the slow progress towards peace in BiH. Firstly, the Dayton Peace Accords are themselves an obstacle to achieving democratic reform in Bosnia. According to Bildt (1996), the Dayton Accords created “the most decentralized state in the world” (Dijkstra, 1999: p.226). The new constitution divided Bosnia into two ethnically defined entities: the Bosnian-Croatian Federation and the Bosnian Serb Republic (or the Republika of Srpska). The critics of Dayton argue that “the entities it created were too close to being states in their own right and that the arrangement reinforced separatism and nationalism at the expense of integration” (BBC News, 2010). Similarly, the International Crisis Group criticised the new arrangement, claiming that “embracing Republika Srpska (RS) under international law essentially rewarded the vision of Greater Serbia and the expulsion of non-Serbs that allowed its creation” (Talentino,, 2002: p.33).
Secondly, the weak economy is also said to be a factor obstructing democracy and peace in BiH. There is no economic infrastructure, few job prospects and virtually no foreign direct investment. The international community is often criticised for concentrating primarily on achieving political reform at the expense of economic development. However, the focus
[O]n politics rather than economics means that a foundation for consensus is still lacking, and it ignores the fact that the two are linked. Economic deprivation allows hardline appeals and scapegoating of others to continue to find fertile ground among frustrated citizens, ensuring that the politics continue to reflect division rather than inclusion. (Talentino, 2002: pp.38-39)
Finally, the belief that proceeding with quick elections assists with the reintegration process is highly questionable. So far, the election results have confirmed that strong ethnic resentment between Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats remains, as each group continues to support its own nationalist party. In conclusion, Mahmood Mamdani’s claim that “peace cannot be built on humanitarian intervention, which is the language of big power,” is open to debate. Considering humanitarian operation missions in Bosnia in particular, the international community’s effort towards peace-building illustrates both the successes and failures of humanitarian intervention. Despite Mamdani’s claim, ruling out the option of humanitarian intervention in future crises will jeopardise the international community’s commitment toward promoting international peace and security. Most importantly, in extreme cases such as Bosnia-Herzegovina, humanitarian intervention may be the only hope of survival for the victims of genocide, ethnic cleansing and war crimes. NATO’s military intervention in Bosnia illustrates the contributions towards enforcing peace on all the parties to the conflict and ensuring civilian security.
Yet, despite the successes of military stabilisation of the region, little progress has been made in the political, economic and civil society development. Nevertheless, many leading academics and legal practitioners argue that it is too early to evaluate the success of humanitarian intervention in Bosnia. According to Talentino, “the overwhelming consensus of international workers in Bosnia is that rehabilitation will work, but is likely to take 20-30 more years” (Talentino, 2002: p.41).
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