A Reading List on: Humanitarian Intervention

Books in perspective: Flickr/darren 131

Proponents of humanitarian intervention argue that it responds to a fundamental moral imperative, the prevention of human suffering. The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) — which obliges states to protect their own populations and the rest of international community to hold to them to their word — was unanimously adopted at the 2005 UN World Summit and has become part of everyday diplomatic discourse.

Yet for all its moral urgency, critics point out that humanitarian intervention undermines the sovereignty especially of weak states and has imperialistic overtones.  Or, on the other hand, that it too often amounts to little more than empty rhetoric, offering little protection to the vulnerable.

Profound disagreements also exist about the proper application of R2P.  Russia invoked R2P in relation to Georgia, but the principle has yet been applied in the context of Sudan or Somalia.

This syllabus will introduce you to one of the most contentious topics in international politics.


A Reading List On: Market Intervention

Books in perspective. Photo: Flickr/darren 131

The prerogatives of the state are diminishing in some domains, but growing in others. In what will be a four-part syllabus series, the ISN will look at ‘intervention’ as an evolving norm in international politics, in a variety of contexts. We’ll kick off with the latest and greatest literature on ‘market intervention’ and the emerging role of the state in international political economy.

With the bailouts that accompanied the 2008 financial crises and the current Eurozone crisis, state frontiers may be making a comeback — even in Europe. But what do these developments say about ‘market intervention’ as an evolving international norm?

Read and form your own opinion!

Integrity and Voodoo

Switzerland: The Disneyland of liberty? Photo: Loren Javier/flickr

Freedom House has long held the view that there is a correlation between human trafficking and despotic political regimes. If you read the latest world trafficking report by the US State Department and compare it with Freedom House’s most recent list, you’ll see what I mean.

The State Department’s report looks at the type and extent of trafficking activity, as well as the government response, in order to assess a country’s commitment to protecting human rights.

So, which country might we expect to be the most vigilant in ending modern day slavery?

IAEA Conference: Asking the Right Questions?

The earthquake and tsunami that hit the Fukushima nuclear plant is a long overdue wake up call. Image: Douglas Sprott/flickr

In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident in March, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Monday began a five-day Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety in Vienna. The objective, according to Director General Yukiya Amano, is to identify the ‘lessons learned’ from the accident and determine how to improve the Agency’s efforts to increase nuclear safety worldwide. To be sure, public confidence in the safety of nuclear power plants has plummeted in recent months, particularly in Japan and Germany where demonstrators have taken to the streets demanding nuclear energy be phased out.

A glance at the conference‘s stated aims and objectives, and at what the media has thus far reported, suggests that discussion of these  ‘lessons learned’ has focused on : 1) safety in nuclear installations, 2) emergency preparedness, and, 3) effective first-response to accidents.  While the savvy reader will know that the focus of international conferences can change as unpredictably as the weather, a distinct pattern is emerging.

On Monday, the conference adopted a Declaration on Nuclear Safety which expresses the participants’ resolve to enhance nuclear safety around the world. Among the measures it proposes are : 1) enhancing knowledge about nuclear safety; 2) promoting international cooperation and coordination around the issue; and, perhaps most relevantly to Fukushima, 3)  meeting the public expectation to provide “factually correct information and assessments of nuclear accidents.”

But the response to the Fukushima accident must address not just the technical and political issues that have dominated the conference so far but, moreover, how we fundamentally think about nuclear safety. What the Japanese people experienced – an earthquake, followed by a tsunami, followed by a nuclear disaster – should, in this sense, be an urgent wake up call.