Como Workshop on Intervention, Sovereignty and International Security

2nd Pugwash Workshop: Intervention, Sovereignty and International Security
Como, Italy, September 2000

Report by Jeffrey Boutwell 

Editor’s Note: The commissioned papers by Vladimir Baranovsky, Chu Shulong, Radha Kumar, and Adekeye Adebajo/Chris Landsberg have been published as the next issue of the Pugwash Occasional Papers and are now available on the web.

The second meeting of the Pugwash study group on Intervention, Sovereignty and International Security took place in Como, Italy, from 28-30 September 2000 and was attended by 24 participants from 19 countries. Pugwash gratefully acknowledges the support of the Municipality of Como and the Landau Network–Centro Volta in hosting the meeting, and the Rockefeller Foundation for providing travel and publication support.

Following welcoming remarks from the Mayor of Como, dott. Alberto Botta, and from Maurizio Martellini, Secretary General of the Landau Network-Centro Volta, the opening session began with a review of the major issues inherent in any discussion of the tensions existing between humanitarian intervention and national sovereignty, including historical and legal precedents, sovereignty v. individual rights, and whether a new regime in international affairs is evolving.

Changing Landscape of Humanitarian Intervention

Since the study group’s first meeting (Venice, December 1999), several events have further shaped the debate over humanitarian intervention: the ongoing crisis in Sierra Leone (most notably the arrival and failure of the UN intervention force); the 17 August publication of the Brahimi report; UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s call at the Millennium Summit for an extended UN role in the protection of human rights; and continued post-conflict tensions in Kosovo.

For some, the implications of these events are that international legal case law is reinforced for humanitarian intervention and that the success of the UK’s Operation Palliser in Sierra Leone demonstrates a need to think more expansively of how to conduct military interventions (e.g., strategic raids that can change the political equation on the ground without necessarily having to achieve victory). On the political side, however, the recommendations of the Brahimi report are caught in a vice, with there being no means to implement them. It seems clear that the UN is incapable of commanding and conducting the type of military intervention (deploying quick reaction forces) that could be effective in reversing a deteriorating situation.

Within the UN, Cuba and North Korea have blocked efforts at giving the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) greater military competence (e.g., by appointing seconded officers). Combined with the UN’s bureaucratic nature and the absence of strong US involvement, the Kofi Annan initiative at the Millennium Summit raises more questions than answers regarding the UN’s ability to be an effective command operation.

Accordingly, many in the group felt that the ‘franchising’ of military operations will be necessary if the international community is to have the resources it needs for timely and effective intervention; more thought is needed on how to efficiently subcontract military operations, especially to deal with perceptions of double standards when it comes to committing troops. One problem of many with subcontracting; however, is that those who provide peacekeepers often expect to reap the economic benefits of reconstruction (a form of neocolonialism). In the case of Sierra Leone, for example, there is the problem of British troops providing training to local troops who are led by a former warlord.

In a discussion of how concepts of state sovereignty and individual human rights are evolving, one participant noted that both have been integrated since their origins in the 12th century, and that what is new is the concept of international security, beginning with League of Nations in 1919, and evolving through the 20th century. What China, Cuba, North Korea, and others defend is a concept of absolute sovereignty, but sovereignty has never been absolute. In western countries, sovereignty is maligned by stressing its negative connotations, but sovereignty is a positive concept when grounded in equality (extending to both territory and the individual). Human rights in both international law and the UN charter have now become a “major legal net” of rules, procedures, statutes, albeit of a different character than the body of international law surrounding sovereignty. Another view stressed that the right of rebellion and self-determination, as epitomized by the American Revolution, is based on universal rights; in a similar way, the spirit of the UN Charter is in its preamble.

Problems arise with the tendency of powerful states to export their values, however worthy, through illegitimate means (e.g., the messianism of the French Revolution in exporting democracy). Comparisons today would be countries exporting free-market and democratic values through trading policies (globalization) or through military means; noteworthy ends not always implemented by legitimate means.

How far can states go in acting without official UN sanction? The use of force in international affairs was not prohibited until the creation of the UN Charter (article 2), so there was a tradition of humanitarian intervention that evolved prior to 1945 that did not need the official sanction of a body like the UN. Some argue for a concept of legitimate countermeasures that can be considered lawful in counteracting blatant abuses of human rights and violations of humanitarian law; the corollary is that the actions of Russia and China in blocking effective action to deal with a situation such as Kosovo were illegitimate.

Other participants agreed that there are no absolutes regarding concepts of human rights, sovereignty, and intervention; the problem is one where western countries are seeking to impose their will on the majority. Moreover, the consequences of military interventions often end up making the situation worse.
UN Peacekeepers [UN Photo #157214]

The United Nations

What measures could in fact strengthen UN humanitarian action? Changing the Security Council veto process was thought unrealistic, as was allowing the General Assembly to substitute itself for the Security Council (e.g., the 1950s Dean Acheson proposal). More feasible would be strengthening the UN’s early warning and conflict prevention mechanisms. Some suggested a more active Secretary General (a lá article 99) who acts as the conscience of the Security Council. In response, it was noted that Kofi Annan has been encouraged by the Security Council to act according to article 99, but is then reminded to be more of a Secretary and less of a General. In addition, as was evident during the Kosovo crisis, there is a fundamental split in the UN between the legal and political departments (anti-intervention) and humanitarian affairs (pro).

Regarding the Millennium Report, one should turn the question around, asking those with doubts about intervention – just how should the international community respond to Rwanda, Srebrenica, etc.? One problem in forging an international consensus is that support for interventions among developing countries is not helped by the fact that the Balkans receive a majority share of UN post-reconstruction funds. Plus, the UN will never support interventions against the major regional powers, much less against the P-5. And, despite the moral imperative cited by Annan, the logistics difficulties of intervening in a country like the Democratic Republic of Congo (where seven different militaries are currently operating) will block that prospect. Oftentimes, the UN’s problem in calling upon member states is that the willing are not able, and the able are not willing. Taking but the most recent example, India joins what it thinks is a peacekeeping force, not an intervention force, its relations with Nigeria sour, so it leaves Sierra Leone.

Where does the UN go from here? As noted in the Brahimi report, interventions/ peacekeeping must be based on a well-defined mandate and backed by appropriate resources, or they shouldn’t be undertaken. The notion of an all-volunteer UN force is a non-starter; the G-77 won’t agree to it, because they say it will be used against them, and the US won’t agree because it will have to bear the cost. So, there will continue to be problems in getting timely authorization to use standby forces.

Looking at the larger picture, the UN has not even done proper reviews of how to conduct successful preventive diplomacy (only one success cited, between Iran and Afghanistan) and post-conflict reconstruction. Sentiments were expressed that humanitarian intervention does not have to be military intervention; a wide range of options and agencies are available, and early warning can be more effective than it has been.

Regarding US attitudes towards the UN, one participant expressed understanding for the criticisms of American exceptionalism, but thought that Americans should turn the question around – why is the US so often called in at the last minute to resolve problems that have been festering for years? Only through more effective UN mechanisms for conflict prevention and collective intervention will the US not be the ‘force of last resort.’

Another participant asked if groups like Pugwash could help the process by defining the criteria for intervention, which could then make humanitarian interventions more timely, more of an automatic process, and of a nature that targets those responsible rather than injures innocent civilians. One response was that the Security Council would never agree on “rules of the road” beforehand, but perhaps could reach agreement on general principles. The primary problem is that the number of UN mandates is increasing, but not the resources to carry them out. A particular problem is that, although the US is willing to pay 25% of the costs of authorized peacekeeping operations, it is billed by the UN for 30%, thus increasing the US debt and locking in an incentive for the US not to join peacekeeping efforts.

Politically, humanitarian interventions seem to be focusing at present on protecting ethnic minorities (and in a selective manner), rather than on protecting individual human rights (as in Somalia), which undermines the possibility of reaching consensus.

The point was made that the essential failure of the League of Nations was that it was asked to do more than it could; we should avoid the same problem with the UN. The UN and the Secretary General should be ‘norm setters.’ Sovereignty is about both power and legitimacy. The UN focus should be on peace-building, not continuing to fight battles over where and when to intervene. This means less focus on chapters 6 and 7, and more on chapter 12. And wouldn’t this be the best way to re-engage Russia, China and others in a collective UN effort?


The commissioned paper by Vladimir Baranovsky, “Humanitarian Intervention: Russia’s Approaches,” noted a diversity of Russian views on these issues, but stressed that criticisms of such interventions are similar to those found in other countries, particularly in regard to normative, messianic strains of humanitarian intervention “making the world safe for human rights” (ironically recalling how the Soviet Union imposed its values on others in the past). Feeling insecure and relatively weak, Russia will remain wary of humanitarian intervention. While Russia’s approach to humanitarian intervention is evolving, its course will be largely determined by how self-confident Russia feels about itself.

The discussion that followed noted how the intervention/sovereignty debate is becoming one of “the West vs. the Rest”, the rest including both countries who are intervened against, and the other great powers (the dissident great powers) who disagree with western concepts. The problem thus becomes one of: where do we disagree, why do we disagree, and what do we do about it?

To a large extent, the problem isn’t one of humanitarian intervention per se, but of peace building and state building, and that a consensus is forming among the great powers on these issues. Humanitarian intervention confuses and confounds the issues of human rights, democratization, etc., of the west imposing its values on others, which issues really come into play in post-conflict reconstruction.

Why do we disagree? There are four reasons: (1) the impact of history (and the Soviet legacy), which makes the Russians neuralgic about Western interventions once seen as the tool of “imperialism” and which de-sensitizes them to the implications of their own interventions in nearby states. The latter then opens them to the charge of hypocrisy and clumsy double-standards. (2) Self-interested fears, that NATO unilateralism might be applied to Russia, or in Russia’s immediate vicinity, something which, while utterly implausible to most Western observers, figures easily in Russia’s prevalent worst-case analysis. (3) Humanitarian interventions and the reasons for them tend to be a low priority among Russian politicians and the elite, given the scale of problems with which they are wrestling at home and in their own neighborhood. (4) While the first three factors have parallels for China and India as well, the fourth factor is unique to the Russian case: Russian disaffection with the West and the United States’ approach to humanitarian intervention owes in part to the steady deterioration in the overall relationship with the West and the United States. General frustration finds expression in tangible cases like Kosovo.

What then to do? One needs to surmount the problem of great power irresponsibility in the first decade of the post-Cold War era. That is, one needs to overcome the unwillingness of the great powers – whether the US, Japan, China, Russia or major European states – to make major sacrifices and run substantial risks to address the underlying problems at the root of what become crises requiring “humanitarian intervention.” In short, the great powers have done far too little to aid with the formidable state building and rebuilding tasks that, when beyond the wit and resources of societies caught in their grip, serve as the single most important threat to international peace and stability. As for the case of humanitarian intervention itself, there should be a basis for consensus between the West and the ‘dissident major powers.’ Provided the West is prepared to respect their concern over procedure and agency, they are likely to accept the legitimacy of forceful intervention to stop massive violations of fundamental human rights, including genocide.

Discussion of Russia noted its attributes as both a superpower and a super problem (with the former deriving in part from the latter). Russia is a critical actor in a critical region (the post-Soviet space). This, along with two other attributes (its UN veto, nuclear weapons) makes Russia a great power. Russian (and other) criticism of the US is that the US is being a superpower on the cheap, engaging in unilateralism when and where it wants. A second can of worms is that the high threshold of genocide and ethnic cleansing on which you might get agreement beforehand doesn’t cover all the cases of peace and state building on which the great powers and the UN should devote their resources (the post-Soviet space among many others). We have an extraordinary moment where the absence of strategic rivalry makes possible new dynamics of great power relations for peace building. Strategic rivalry is reappearing, however, especially in the post-Soviet space.

The discussion noted how NATO’s Kosovo operation was one of several reasons why Russia used more force in the second Chechen war. Also, Moscow could point to human rights abuses in Chechnya between the first and second conflicts as a legitimate pretext for Russia intervening. For most Russians, Kosovo did little to promote the validity of humanitarian intervention.

There is also the downside of overloading the concept of humanitarian intervention, of trying to have it do too much. While one can sympathize with the normative values underlying the concept of humanitarian intervention, one should be equally cautious about wreaking too much collateral damage (to civilians, to the international system) in carrying out such interventions. We should adhere to the medical edict of ‘do no harm’, and more rigorously analyze concepts of the ‘legitimate use of force.’ To the two current variants permitted by the UN Charter (in self-defense and to ensure international peace), a third variant is needed that better defines and circumscribes the use of force for humanitarian aims. One should be especially cautious of defining modes of humanitarian intervention as a means of fighting terrorism. In short, cooperation, responsibility, and accountability need to be essential components of humanitarian interventions.

The Post-Soviet Space

Discussion of the conflict between Georgia and Abkhazia focused on the relationship of conflicts and secession, and the need for conflict prevention on the part of international community. History is the story of nations and empires changing, being created, dissolving; yet many still believe sovereignty should have a clear priority over self-determination. It was especially ironic that the administrative borders within the old Soviet Union (itself an unusual creation) automatically became national borders following the dissolution of the USSR. Georgia then voided the legal relationship it had with Abkhazia (an autonomous republic within Georgia) to incorporate it, leading to armed conflict.

A different view held that the particular name or status of a territory is of less importance than the fact that this territory protects the individual human rights of its citizens. Clearly, the international community did not give enough thought to the consequences of the break-up of the Soviet Union. Georgia was upset over Russian intervention to help Abkhazia, and Abkhazia in turn voiced the possibility of asking for NATO’s help. Parties to a conflict naturally turn to external sources of help – i.e., intervention. Humanitarian intervention can not be applied subjectively to aid one side or the another in a particular dispute of sovereignty vs. self-determination. The UN needs to be restructured to be more flexible and responsive to such cases, before they lead to armed conflict.

Widening the discussion, it was noted that there is a fundamental paradox that intervention won’t happen without self-interest, but intervention based on self-interest is often one-sided. What about Somalia, though, where the US had no special interests? Other participants disagreed, saying the US role was not totally dis-interested, as American domestic politics played a large role in prompting President Bush to send US troops. Much the same was true in Australia taking the lead on East Timor. It used to be that the UN didn’t want neighboring countries or others with direct interests to provide peacekeepers, but as peacekeeping has become more dangerous, only those countries with definite interests will be motivated enough to provide troops.

Regarding the post-Soviet space, international interventions are very unlikely, so it is up to national authorities, NGOs and other actors to engage in conflict prevention and resolution. The track record of such efforts is not very encouraging; e.g., there has been an OSCE Minsk group on Nagorno-Karabakh in existence for years, but it’s not very successful.

Kosovo clearly symbolized Russian and Chinese sensitivities about secession and self-determination. One participant cited the Ted Robert Gurr article in Foreign Affairs about the dwindling number of conflicts due to secession because nation states have been more willing to grant autonomy to minority populations. Others demurred, saying that latent conflicts in the post-Soviet space stemming from self-determination are not resolved, and Gurr may be missing these. Multilateral institutions could have played a more direct role with Russia in managing the break-up of the USSR, at least until 1993. Russia must be accountable in the role it plays; it should work with organizations like the OSCE and the UN; actors such as Ukraine and others who have regional interests should also be involved.

China and East Asia

The commissioned paper by Chu Shulong, “China, Asia and Issues of Sovereignty and Intervention,” described three categories of attitudes on intervention and sovereignty in the region: a non-traditional group of countries (Japan, South Korea) that is more integrated in the international system and that supports some concepts of intervention; a middle group (ASEAN countries) that has shifted in recent years to accepting notions of interdependence and the need at times for intervention; and the traditional group (China, North Korea, Burma, Vietnam) that strongly defends the principal of non-interference in internal affairs.

In noting the different characteristics of the three categories of East Asian states, the traditional group consists of states that are totalitarian, one-party, with poor records on human rights, but with a desire for incorporation into the world economy, and (in case of China) to be in the G-8. Non-traditional states are democratic, pluralistic, and are integrated into the world economy (they are part of the G-8 or are taken account of by the G-8). The middle group are transitional democracies, single-party hegemons with fragile economies, ambivalent on human rights, and semi-peripheral and ambivalent about their place in the world economy.

China’s attitude is based on historical experience (19th and 20th century imperial incursions into China) and it’s multi-national composition (56 nationalities, with many minorities living in border areas). Demands for independence for Tibet, Xingjing and other areas heighten Chinese sensitivity to issues of intervention and sovereignty. While neighboring India accepts that Tibet is an autonomous region of China, for example, many in India protest Chinese policy in Tibet.

Above all, there is the issue of Taiwan, which is sine qua non considered an internal Chinese affair. Taiwan remains the most important and sensitive issue to be resolved, and the one that could most easily spark conflict in East Asia. And, China’s stand on Taiwan influences its positions on other matters, as when China blocked Macedonia’s request for the stationing of UN troops during the Kosovo crisis (to which one participant wondered whether the Chinese veto itself wasn’t a denial of Macedonia’s sovereign right to self-defense).

Despite China’s sensitivities on Tibet, Taiwan and other issues, it was thought that processes of globalization and of China becoming integrated into the international economy are leading to changes in Chinese policy and attitudes regarding modalities of intervention. Others noted that the international community has a vested interest in facilitating Chinese integration into the world community, and of demonstrating that the security interests of the Middle Kingdom are best served by enhancing human security in the rest of the world. China is evaluating different types of conflicts on their own merits and making decisions as to the legitimacy of its involvement in international actions.

While China has legitimate concerns about intervention, stemming from its historical experience and humiliation, these concerns are less valid regarding anxieties that other countries will interfere in its internal affairs. There is a need to think of intervention in the context of enhancing individual and human security more broadly, not in legalistic terms of humanitarian intervention. Yet Kofi Annan’s emphasis on human security (as opposed to borders, territorial integrity, etc.) was not well received by the G-77. While there is a need for a UN human security report (similar to its human development report), G-77 sensitivities are too great. In this vein, several participants took issue with the premise that the West can somehow ‘help’ China move toward a greater acceptance of humanitarian intervention. It was noted that the concept of human security will be slow to take root in China, given less emphasis on the individual in Chinese society.

In terms of regional dynamics, opinions were expressed that ASEAN/ARF is a particularly ineffective institution on security issues (cases cited were Indonesia, the South China Sea, the Koreas).

South Asia

The commissioned paper by Radha Kumar, “Sovereignty and Intervention: Opinions in South Asia,” noted that, while attitudes regarding intervention and sovereignty in South Asia are changing, such notions are still largely defined within the context of de-colonization. Positions taken on international issues have been rather formal and not deeply felt, unlike sentiments regarding regional South Asia issues that are of interest to the international community. Two prime examples are Bangladesh (East Pakistan) and Sri Lanka (and lessons learned in the latter are seen as applicable to Bosnia and Kosovo). When peacekeeping turns to kingmaking, however, disaster happens. Following its experience in Sri Lanka, India has gradually withdrawn from the international peacekeeping arena, the latest example being the removal of Indian troops from Sierra Leone.

In Pakistan, a previous emphasis given to alliances over unilateralism and sovereignty is changing due to the experience over Afghanistan. This is also seen in a Pakistani shift over Kashmir from advocating international involvement to stressing that Kashmir is more a bilateral issue with India. Within South Asia, Sri Lanka is the most open to international mediation.

The notion of exceptionalism is fading, that conflicts in South Asia are unique, though the consequences of this are more for notions of sovereignty (i.e., greater acceptance for devolution of political power to defuse internal conflicts) than support for intervention.

Comments included the point that South Asia has no regional forum or architecture in which to try and resolve regional problems. Pakistan and India have both engaged in unilateral acts which have exacerbated problems between them (Bangladesh, Jammu/Kashmir). India’s fear that Sri Lanka might gravitate to the west led to interventions in that country, which worsened the situation and helped contribute to the defeat of the Indian peacekeeping measure.

A new element is the nuclear factor and the introduction of delivery vehicles and advanced conventional weapons. India’s acquisition from Russia of conventional weapons that Pakistan sees as excessive and which Pakistan can’t match, increases its reliance on nuclear deterrence. For this reason, one participant hoped that Pakistan and India might be more willing to accept international initiatives on Kashmir, and possibly on nuclear stability as well. Yet how does the nuclear factor affect Indian and Pakistani perceptions of intervention and sovereignty? Would India joining the Security Council make it more, or less, willing to support peace enforcement? Given resentment over western intervention to prevent Pakistan and India from acquiring nuclear weapons, and the feeling of many in the subcontinent that the acquisition of nuclear weapons is the supreme expression of the sovereign right to self-defense, the nuclear factor only complicates the picture.

Participants thought it difficult to imagine any kind of regional security arrangement for South Asia. This is an important point regarding Afghanistan, where Pakistani dependence on the Taliban is becoming increasingly worrisome, given terrorism in Pakistan, possible mischief against China, and the Taliban exporting its ideology to central Asia. Pakistan is conferring with Russia on Afghanistan, while some in Russia are calling for intervention to deal with the Taliban. The point was made here that support for terrorist groups can often come back to bite the hand of the supporter (Iraq-Iran; Israeli support to Hamas).

It was noted that Indian policy is one of strong support for sovereignty as a cornerstone of the UN, while also actively involved in UN peacekeeping missions, as well as unilateral peacekeeping with the concurrence of the target state (Nepal –1950; Sri Lanka-1971 and 1987; Maldives-1988). While mistakes were made in Sri Lanka, the intervention was requested by the Sri Lanka government, and India’s aim was to maintain Sri Lanka as unitary state. Mention was also made of cases of Indian intervention without consent; Junagadh (1947), Hyderabad (1948), Goa (1968), East Pakistan (1971), which some saw as illegitimate.

Recently, India has become very uneasy with mission creep in UN operations that verge more on peace enforcement than consensual peace-keeping. Yet if the UN can only undertake peacekeeping with the consent of the target country, how can it respond to a situation like Rwanda?


The commissioned paper by Adekeye Adebajo and Chris Landsberg, “The Heirs of Nkrumah: Africa’s New Interventionists,” noted how, with Africa just emerging from its colonial past, the founders of the Organization of African Unity in 1963 put a premium on consolidating sovereignty, even at the expense of freezing colonial borders. Strongly emphasizing the principles of sovereignty and non-intervention, the OAU Charter permitted exceptions only for support of national liberation movements. Interventions even partially related to the defense of human rights, such as that by Tanzania to topple Idi Amin, were rare indeed.

Today, the situation is very different. First came the end of the Cold War, with its legacy of superpower and post-colonial interventions, There has also been the break-down of two post-colonial taboos: the inviolability of borders and secessions through the use of force (Eritrea, 1993). While the continent is still grappling with the legacy of artificial borders, a combination of moral imperatives (decolonisation, apartheid, genocide) and strategic aims (economic, political) is propelling the case for interventions, by Africans, in Africa.

Accordingly, in recent years the OAU has been reviewing the need for military capabilities, reviving the 1960s dream of Kwame Nkrumah that the OAU set up an African high command. OAU conflict management and early warning capabilities are being developed, along with the increased use of electoral observer missions, and even small military observer missions (though with mixed results), in Rwanda, Burundi, and the Comoro Islands. At the subregional level, ECOWAS and SADC are likewise seeking to develop conflict mediation and prevention mechanisms.

Yet the current situation in Africa is that small states are more willing to intervene, but lack the necessary resources. Among the larger states, South Africa for most of the 1990s was unwilling to support and/or participate in interventions because of its apartheid past (e.g., Mandela resisted US pressure to commit South African forces in the Great Lakes). Only recently has South Africa, aided by the emergence of a legitimate Nigeria, become more pro-active in the role it plays throughout the continent. Some participants cautioned, though, about overstating South Africa’s ability, resources, leverage, and influence. President Mbeki’s diplomacy is grounded in the fact that other African states aren’t going to automatically respond to South Africa’s wishes or lead.

For its part, Nigeria’s main aim in West Africa has been to limit regional instability from Liberian conflict (750,000 refugees spilling outside borders), though its role did fuel regional concerns over Nigerian hegemony, especially during the period when Gen. Sani Abachi was essentially blackmailing the international community in return for Nigeria’s role in West Africa.

Elsewhere, Lesotho was cited as an example of a benign intervention (legitimate, but not effectively carried out), where Zaire/DRC is a malignant intervention, essentially becoming Africa’s first ‘world war.’

Discussion focused on how Africa has attempted to deal with problems requiring intervention, most often on its own, with limited resources and without the help of international community. In addition to ECOWAS and SADC, there is a third sub-regional organization, IGAD, comprised of seven East African countries. Though the IGAD emphasis was originally on drought and desertification, the organization has developed conflict resolution mechanisms and sought to apply them to Somalia and Sudan.

Several participants noted that the UN Security Council has not interpreted African conflicts in same way that Kosovo was defined, as threats to international peace and security requiring UN action. For others, the sad reality is that the P-5 doesn’t see a need for African involvement, as no national interests are at stake. For the US, a Somalia syndrome has replaced the Vietnam syndrome. Impartial peacekeepers may be preferred, but in the case of Africa, many UN Security Council members are so impartial that they have no vested interest in providing needed capabilities.

For most participants, then, the solution for effective intervention would appear to be a mixed model of direct involvement by regional organizations, supported by international resources. While interventions under a UN mandate are to be preferred, subregional capacity will have to be strengthened as the UN and international community can not always be counted on.

A final point was that human rights is hardly a Eurocentric concept, especially with Africa’s experience of colonialism. In the end, however, the definition of terms is not as important as having a clearer understanding of what we want the concepts to convey and how to act on them. One participant cited the four criteria for intervention listed in the study group’s Venice workshop report as a useful starting point for seeking greater international consensus. The question remains, however, what happens after the intervention in terms of political reconstruction?

General Discussion

Intervention is often necessary, but not often successful. Yet how should the international community respond when criminals hijack the state? Participants cited the duty of the entire international community to become involved; through international organizations, legal channels, the media, NGOs, trans-national companies, and the scientific community.

The toughest issue will remain that of intervention, with military force, carried out against the will of the target. One participant listed three main criteria for such interventions: (1) clear threats to international peace and security; (2) gross violations of human rights; while it will be difficult to develop hard and fast criteria (and these can be manipulated for political reasons), general principles can be adumbrated; and (3) legitimacy (to what extent does international humanitarian law transcend the UN Charter?).

Customary law recognizes that the world evolves, and differing perspectives need to be aired if consensus is to be reached. The political objectives necessary for peace-building need to be clarified, as the military’s main role is but to create the conditions for successful peace-building. This is a critical period in which to show support for the UN and implement the Brahimi report. While the veto will continue to be a factor in Security Council deliberations, the question is how to minimize its use and maximize consensus.

When it comes to intrastate conflict, intervention is a case of the international community putting itself between the problem and the solution. In terms of the work of the study group, there is a need to focus on the three Ps: principles, publics, and process. One participant cautioned about moving too quickly to process issues (e.g., modalities of intervention), without having fully explored principles and publics. Regarding the latter, there is a vital need for developing arguments that can persuade politicians and public opinion as to why interventions serve both national and international security interests.

Also useful could be further analysis of the distinction between constructive intervention (conflict mediation) and coercive intervention (whether military or economic), and the differing stages of a crisis/conflict in which these can be applied. The work of Bruce Jentleson was cited regarding how an early resort to coercive preventive diplomacy might have been highly effective in preventing widespread misery in Rwanda, Kosovo, and East Timor.

Participants also noted that it is important to broaden our notions of what constitutes the ‘international community’ and of how different actors (the private sector, civil society, the media) can help contribute to long-term success.

The problem should not be seen as one of intervention per se, but of continued tension between sovereignty and intervention and the fact that intervention only takes place in countries where state structures are eroding: i.e., in developing countries, in precisely those countries that need sovereignty the most. What is needed are steps to support the state-building process. Intervention should be seen as a rare contingency; the less it’s used, the more successful and stable the international community. Stable states are important as well because the very decision to intervene is a sovereign decision (in terms of contributing troops and funds to peacekeeping missions).

A more pointed criticism of sovereignty, however, is the “Westfailure” descriptor of Susan Strange, where the social contract inherent in state sovereignty has (1) failed to prevent governments from killing its own citizens (democide); (2) failed to equitably manage the international economy; and (3) failed to care for the global commons. There is an inherent conditionality of sovereignty that must be recognized.

In reviewing the workshop discussion and thinking of the future work of the Pugwash study group, four levels can be discerned:

    1. The descriptive, of explicating differing national/regional views of intervention and sovereignty, which this workshop focused on;
    2. The conceptual, of more sharply defining concepts of sovereignty, intervention,

international security, and the international community;

    1. The operational, of setting principles and criteria for when intervention is called for; devising mechanisms for increasing the legitimacy of intervention (changes to the Security Council); proposing ways for intervention to be more timely and effective (UN volunteer force, standby forces, regional forces); non-military means of intervention (pre-conflict engagement, targeted economic sanctions, etc.);
    2. Larger issues of international peace and security, of recognizing that intervention is an admission of failure, of a breakdown in security that was not solved by diplomatic and political means between the disputants themselves. Thus there is a need to go beyond intervention to think of structures and mechanisms that promote peacebuilding, collective security, and global governance (especially given our current window of opportunity to do something about this during an absence of strategic rivalry). In this regard there is a link between this intervention and sovereignty study group and Pugwash efforts to analyze the political and security requirements (security guarantees, conflict resolution mechanisms, and modalities of collective security) that would facilitate the transition to a non-nuclear world.

Thus caution is warranted about moving too quickly to issues of process and policy (#3), when more work is needed on conceptual issues and for ways of thinking less in terms of intervention per se than in thinking of strategies for peace and state building. It is these types of issues that many thought should form the agenda for the next meeting of the study group, in Castellón de la Plana, Spain, in May 2001.

List of Participants:

Ambassador (ret.) Ochieng Adala, 
Africa Peace Forum (APFO), Nairobi

Dr. Adekeye Adebajo (Nigeria), 
Senior Associate, International Peace Academy, New York, NY, USA;
Co-editor, International

Dr. Tanvir Ahmad Khan, 
Chairman, Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad, Pakistan

Prof. Gabriel Baramki, 
Consultant to the Palestinian Ministry of Higher Education, Jerusalem;
President, Palestinian Council for Justice and Peace;
Member, Pugwash

Prof. Vladimir Baranovski, 
Deputy Director, Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO), Moscow

Dr. Jeffrey Boutwell, 
Associate Executive Officer, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Cambridge, MA,

Prof. Francesco Calogero, 
Professor of Theoretical Physics, University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Rome, Italy;
Chairman, Pugwash Council

Dr. Chu Shulong, 
Senior Research Fellow, China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), Beijing, China;
Professor, Beijing University of International Relations

Dr. Kevin Clements,
Secretary General, International Alert, London, UK;
Professor, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, USA

Mrs. Nana Devdariani, 
Public Defender, Office of the Public Defender of Georgia, Tbilisi

Dr. Radha Kumar (India), 
Fellow, Peace and Conflict Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, New York, NY, USA

Mr. Christopher Landsberg, 
Lecturer, Department of International Relations, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

Prof. Robert Legvold, 
Professor of Political Science, The Harriman Institute, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA

Prof. Andrew Mack (UK/Australia), 
Director, Strategic Planning, Executive Office of the Secretary-General, United Nations, New York, NY, USA

Prof. Maurizio Martellini, 
Secretary General, Landau Network-Centro Volta (LNCV), Como, Italy;
Professor of Physics, University of Insubria, Como, Italy

Prof. Alain Pellet, 
Professor at the University of Paris X-Nanterre, France;
Member and former Chairman, International Law Commission of the United Nations

Dr. Gwyn Prins, 
Senior Research Fellow, European Institute, London, UK;
Visiting Senior Fellow, Defence Evaluation & Research Agency (MoD);
Senior Fellow, Office of the Special Adviser on Central & Eastern European Affairs, Office of the Secretary-General, NATO

Prof. George Rathjens, 
Secretary-General, Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs;
Professor Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA, USA

Dr. Jorge Rodriguez-Grillo, 
Political Officer, Cuban Peace Movement, Habana, Cuba;
Professor, Methods of Investigation and Chancellor of the International Association of Educators for World Peace

Dr. Gervorg Ter-Gabrielyan, 
Eurasia Programme Manager, International Alert, London, UK

Prof. Sergei Shamba, 
Professor at Abkhaz State University, Sukhum, Abkhazia

Air Cmde. Jasjit Singh, 
Director, Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi, India;
Member, Pugwash Executive Committee

Prof. Ivo Slaus, 
Member of the Croatian Parliament, Zagreb

Colonel Fiona Walthall,
Assistant Director Peace Support Operations, Joint Doctrine and Concepts Centre, Ministry of Defence, Shrivenham, Swindon, UK


Vladimir Baranovsky (Russia): Humanitarian Intervention: Russia’s Approaches

Chu Shulong (China): China, Asia and Issues of Sovereignty and Intervention

Radha Kumar (India): Sovereignty and Intervention: Opinions in South Asia

Adekeye Adebajo (Nigeria) and Chris Landsberg (South Africa): The Heirs of Nkrumah: Africa’s New Interventionists