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date: 18 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the ethical and political controversies that have accompanied humanitarian intervention (coercive interference by outside actors to address humanitarian suffering within the sovereign jurisdiction of a state). It begins with a historical discussion of the development of humanitarian intervention as a political (rather than legal) practice distinct both from interstate war and formal empire, and how issues of mixed motives, inconsistency, and uncertainties around appropriate scope have affected its legitimacy. The next section examines how humanitarian intervention was “multilateralized” through changing Security Council practice after the end of the Cold War and the development of the principle of the Responsibility to Protect. The chapter concludes by analysing how material and psychological factors are constraining the practice of humanitarian intervention in our contemporary era, despite the normative power of individual-centric notions of security.

Keywords: humanitarian intervention, multilateralism, Security Council, Responsibility to Protect, civilian protection, atrocity crimes, genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing

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