Essay about Human Rights And State Sovereignty

Essay about Human Rights And State Sovereignty

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When considering the concepts of human rights and state sovereignty, the potential for conflict between the two is evident. Any humanitarian intervention by other actors within the international system would effectively constitute a violation of the traditional sovereign rights of states to govern their own domestic affairs. Thus, the answer to this question lies in an examination of the legitimacy and morality of humanitarian intervention. While traditionally, the Westphalian concept of sovereignty and non-intervention has prevailed, in the period since the Cold War, the view of human rights as principles universally entitled to humanity, and the norm of enforcing them, has developed. This has led to the 1990’s being described as a ‘golden era’ of humanitarian activism (Weiss, 2004:136). Nonetheless, that is not to say that in the reality of 21st Century global politics, human rights have become indisputably more important than sovereignty. At present, the norm of humanitarian intervention is still ‘embryonic’ (Beitz, 2001:269) as evidenced by the somewhat selective humanitarian interventions of recent decades. Through an examination of the key arguments surrounding humanitarian intervention, including legality, morality, the abuses of intervention, and moral pluralism, one can only conclude that, at least in a conditional sense, human rights should further develop to supersede the concept of sovereignty.

The simplest arguments relating to the importance of humanitarian intervention, are those that debate the existing legitimacy of intervention within international law. Although, within the U.N. Charter of 1945, Article 2(4) prohibits the use of force against ‘the territorial integrity or political independence of any state’ (U....


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...n sanctioned by an impartial body, with proper safeguards in place to avoid the abuse of self-interested powers. Furthermore, only ‘core’ rights which are considered truly universal and nonpartisan should be enforced through humanitarian intervention, again to avoid the potential of ‘abuse’ by powerful western democracies forcefully imposing their own values. That is not to say that the broader interpretation of human rights is invalid, rather, humanitarian intervention to enforce disputed views, is simply much harder to justify. A final interesting point to consider is that, for human rights to truly ‘take root’ within oppressive sovereign states, perhaps the desire and ‘revolution’ must arise from within, rather than being imposed by external intervention at all. As J.S. Mill stated, ‘no people ever remained free’, but because it was determined to do so’ (1859:6).

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