Castellón de la Plana workshop on Intervention, Sovereignty and International Security

On 4-6 May 2001, Pugwash Meeting no. 263 was held in Castellón de la Plana, Spain.

3rd Pugwash Workshop on Intervention, Sovereignty and International Security

Report By Jeffrey Boutwell

The third meeting of the Pugwash Study Group on Intervention, Sovereignty and International Security was held 4-6 May 2001 in Castellón de la Plana, Spain. A total of 20 participants from 12 countries took part in the workshop, which was hosted by the Spanish Pugwash Group, with support from the Fundacion Caixa Castellón. Special thanks are due to Federico García Moliner of Spanish Pugwash and to Antonio Tirado Jiménez and Luis Barrachina of the Fundacion Caixa Castellón. General support for the Pugwash Study Group has also been provided by The Rockefeller Foundation. Participants took part in the workshop in their individual capacities, and this report reflects only the views of the rapporteur.
Whither Humanitarian Intervention?

The workshop began with an overview of where the international community currently stands regarding the necessity and modalities of humanitarian interventions. It was observed that the defining moments of the 1990s – where numerous peoples were the victims of pathological governments or groups unconstrained by those governments (Bosnia/Croatia, Rwanda, Somalia, Liberia) – remain with us today. Nonetheless, there also remain quite different views in the world on the relationship of the individual to the state. Similarly, the international community has seen an advance in the clarification of international legal perspectives, on modalities for protecting the rights of the individual, and on the options for intervention. Yet at the same time, there is decreasing likelihood that action will be taken, as the appetite for intervention is decreasing.

Equally significant in thinking about humanitarian intervention is the fact that the world could well be moving into a period of renewed strategic rivalry, marked by a renewal of individual state power, a reduced reliance on multilateral institutions, and the return of nuclear weapons in global politics (the latter stimulated by a growing US-China rivalry, nuclear proliferation concerns and US choices about dealing with those concerns, and nuclear weapons being a logical choice for countries wanting to forestall intervention against them).


Andy Mack, Gwyn Prins, and Bob Legvold

In this situation, where the legal imperatives supporting humanitarian intervention may be strengthening but global politics are mitigating against intervention, a number of themes were adduced. First is a growing recognition that states and governments have a responsibility to protect their citizens (a concept far broader than humanitarian intervention). This then argues for moving from a rights-based to a duty-based framework when it comes to protecting individual life and liberty. To do so, however, will entail forging broad mandates that can legitimize intervention as broadly as possible (e.g., the East Timor fact finding group). Also important is the need for full cycle interventions, from pre-conflict prevention to post-conflict reconstruction. Institutionally, there remain questions about the standing and capabilities of regional organizations to advance humanitarian concerns. Finally, looming over all these issues is Banquo’s ghost – the conspicuous absence of a specific American voice in the debate.

In response, it was pointed out that if coalitions of the willing are becoming less feasible, primarily because the major actor (the US) is opting out, then doesn’t it make sense to focus even more on pre-intervention strategies than on relying on military interventions once conflict has begun? In this regard, issues to be examined would include modalities of state building, conflict resolution, coercive inducement, and coercive prevention, and which organizations/actors are best suited to carry out such modalities. One view noted that, given the poor track record of conflict resolution, there is a need to look more closely at coercive prevention (as formulated by Bruce Jentleson and others) and other early conflict intervention strategies. At the other end of the spectrum is the need for multilateral involvement in constructing trusteeship governments that can restore stability in post-conflict societies.

In concluding this session, it was generally agreed that whatever international consensus on intervention did exist in the 1990s was largely due to the extant honeymoon between the US and Russia, and China’s general voluntary absence, neither of which applies today. Even a Kosovo-type operation will be hard to mount within NATO, and Russia/China won’t acquiesce the way they did earlier.
Legitimacy and International Law

In discussing the interplay of international law and humanitarian intervention, one participant argued against the notion that evolving customary law is legitimizing humanitarian intervention, but with an important caveat: though the UN Charter remains clear on the requirement for prior Security Council approval, the UN has given its approval post-facto by identifying certain crises as threats to the peace and to certain actions (Haiti, Iraqi no-fly zones) as humanitarian actions. Moreover, it was argued that, while Kosovo was not legitimate under international law, it remains the case that international law should not be the final arbiter of human actions.

Another participant observed that the UN Charter does not contain a complete prohibition on the use of force (e.g., rescue of nationals, fighting terrorism, self determination, gross violations of human rights) and that these can be seen as precedents in strengthening customary international law. Although one view held that perhaps the 1951 Uniting for Peace resolution could be a way to take action when the Security Council is deadlocked, others said no, only a unanimous Security Council is empowered to legitimize intervention and the use of force.

A different view emphasized that international law is based on nation, state, and sovereignty, and that notions of limited and relative sovereignty must cut both ways. Moreover, the international community is not doing enough in terms of aid and support to improve conditions in developing countries so that these don’t become the kind of failed state necessitating intervention.

In response, it was asked whether developing country opposition to intervention is philosophical or based on the way that interventions have been carried out. There was agreement that the humanitarian rationale for intervention must be broader than the protection of political and civil rights, encompassing as well freedom from need and freedom from fear. It was noted that the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) was seeking to develop a concept of a ‘responsibility to protect’ that could encompass these various components of human rights.

A different view brought up the need for developing a consensus on what exactly constitutes sovereignty and the role of the state in providing basic human needs, as in many parts of the world the state has never been the primary provider of these goods (compared to community, tribe, family, religion).

Finally, while recognizing the difficulty of obtaining legitimacy for intervention within the current political system (veto power), several participants returned to the proposition that actions can be based on considerations that are broader than strict legal norms. Thus the process of norm building, and of holding states accountable, is very important in helping to legitimize the concept of ‘protection of the individual’.
Intervention and Great Power Relations

The argument was made that if we are moving away from multilateralism to a state-based system, then modified balances of power and not global governance are the more appropriate reference points (similar to the 1920s) for thinking about safeguarding the human condition. The key issue here is the notion of responsibility and commitment to state-building even when this falls outside areas of national interest. Above all this means the desirability of promoting stable, democratic states (of moving pre-modern and modern states to post-modern status) and reducing inequalities in the international system.

In addition to issues of human welfare, however, it was argued that, although international security may have slipped on policy agendas and is no longer so important in determining responses to humanitarian crises, this view is myopic and short-sighted. Strategic rivalry among the world’s major powers is returning. State building and state collapse (especially in and around Asia) are crucially important factors that could affect international stability. China is now 4-5 separate regions proceeding independently. There is a need to ensure that such regional instabilities do not re-ignite strategic rivalry. The great powers especially need to work with each other and with regional powers to forge a division of labor on state building that can both protect individual rights and promote international stability.

Looking at the post-Soviet space, the administrative boundaries of the USSR do not correspond with what should have been the natural borders of the newly independent states. Externally, the breakup of the Soviet Union as well as Yugoslavia led to a renewal of historic ties (zones of interest) between indigenous regions and peoples with outside states that had previously been contained (Germans-Croats). More significantly, the UN was created on the basis of five great powers, not one hyper-power, a broken up former superpower, and a reshuffling of the three remaining great powers (with China ascendent). When you add the emergence of three new nuclear powers (Israel, India, Pakistan), it is obvious that new mechanisms, structures, and norms are needed to deal with a very different international situation.

The problem with both China and Russia, of course, is what types of outside engagement the two countries will find acceptable so that these regions don’t become major flash points during a time of renewed strategic rivalry. At a minimum, it was argued, what is needed is a consensus between ‘the West and the rest’ on issues of sovereignty and intervention before one can move to constructive engagement. In this regard, a commitment to liberal internationalism (Shevardnadze) is an important component which has disappeared in Russia.

In the US, current debate focuses on assessments of national interest (isolationists v. internationalists) in addition to value-based arguments about promoting human welfare (the US has a special responsibility as a hyperpower to act on values and strengthen norms). Several participants held, however, that the distinction between interests and values is artificial, as interests often support values and values can underlie interests. Citing Tony Blair’s Chicago speech on Kosovo, one participant stressed the importance of framing the intervention issue as one where values inform interests.

In terms of structural strategies for preventing conflict, it will be difficult to persuade the great powers of the cost-benefits of acting early, especially when this is needed in so many places. Also difficult will be establishing connections between ends and means, where the latter does matter, both in causing injury and in causing instability (and undermining long-term prospects for peace and stability). This is precisely why this issue is so important, no matter what strategy is employed, because in the end interests will predominate over values in determining action.
Intervention and Military Force

One participant argued in favor of maintaining a norm of non-intervention, but in a context where sovereignty entails responsibility for protecting individual rights – where states and governments need to ‘earn’ the protections of sovereignty.

Can human rights be defended through force; Can violence and threats to the right to life be justified in defense of human rights? The international community needs to focus on modalities of non-violent humanitarian intervention, while recognizing that these won’t solve emergencies of mass killing such as occurred in East Pakistan, Cambodia, and Rwanda.

Six principles were enumerated in defense of the use of force:

  1. Just cause (supreme humanitarian emergency – “shock to the conscience of mankind”);
  2. Last resort, exhausting peaceful solutions (but not in a drawn-out continuum), never forgetting that the use of force will always produce some harmful effects;
  3. Seek to end the catastrophe as quickly as possible;
  4. Non-combat immunity as the sine qua non of proportionality;
  5. Right intention (while recognizing that beneficial outcomes can be produced from non-humanitarian intentions, e.g., Vietnam’s intervention in Cambodia);
  6. Reasonable prospect of success (both saving the victims and putting in place structures to safeguard rights, though this will be very difficult to do).

Regarding procedural rules underlying the use of force, should one rely solely on Security Council authorization? Can there be cases of implied authorization, based on existing UNSC resolutions (recognizing that these could be politically manipulated; e.g., the use of an Arab force in defense of the Palestinians)? What about General Assembly authorization (again, acknowledging that this could be politically misused)? Finally, what new legal norms might arise outside of the UN (e.g., the International Criminal Court, the landmines convention) that could sanction military intervention?

In the end, international norms can enable intervention, but they won’t guarantee it. Thus it is all the more important to place the defense of human rights and values as being both in the national interest and a prime responsibility of states.

The point was made that there will often be tension between the principles of proportionality (non-combat immunity) and seeking to end a human rights catastrophe as quickly as possible. In the case of Yugoslavia, the targeting of power plants, bridges, and economic infrastructure had less to do with degrading Serb military capabilities in Kosovo than of putting maximum economic pressure on the Milosevic regime to desist, though of course this risked inflicting civilian casualties. How does one define non-combat immunity, and to what extent are non-military assets justifiable targets in using force for humanitarian aims?

It was acknowledged that many people see using military force in defense of humanitarian aims as an oxymoron. Nonetheless, the enumeration of principles that can guide the use of military force is important not just to shape policy but in the setting of benchmarks for outside evaluation of the use of force by publics, media, NGOs, etc., all of whom should hold the intervenor accountable. To be sure, there will be differing interpretations of military actions; for example, in relation to the 1977 Geneva Protocol, NATO and Human Rights Watch interpreted the bombing of bridges quite differently. The issue of non-combat immunity is also problematic, in that hitting civilian targets hard early in the Yugoslav campaign might have ended the war earlier, thus reducing overall civilian casualties and adhering to the principle of proportionality.

It was noted that a US military doctrine which focuses on just cause and speedy resolution, necessarily relegating proportionality and civilian immunity to second place, itself constitutes a moral argument for the best method of reaching the goal. But given this doctrine, US forces are not optimally organized and trained for humanitarian operations.

In the end, the above discussion points to the need for more work on the extent to which principles underlying military intervention can shape decisions to both initiate and carry out such campaigns.
NGOs and Humanitarian Intervention

Human rights NGOs especially have a maximalist goal of protecting every individual’s rights, which can be in tension with proportionality/net benefit calculations of forceful interventions on larger scale. In addition, human rights NGOs themselves sometimes have to make these trade-offs in seeking to protect victims (of compromising on questions of legitimacy with a regime, of supporting forceful interventions that might undermine long-term evolution of norms that can protect future victims).

Intervenors need to make provision and elucidate strategies for protecting civilians both during and after forceful interventions. Human rights NGOs will react differently to different types of military interventions (e.g., Dallaire protecting Rwandans, with suitable forces, and Short massively bombing Yugoslavia to get Milosevic back to the negotiating table). Both operations will entail civilian casualties, and both may be the right strategy for the circumstances, but NGOs will nonetheless react differently to them.

The point was also made that not enough has been learned from unarmed responses to defuse conflict.
Full Cycle Planning

Discussion began with the observation that the CNN effect and the messiness of democracies precludes full cycle planning and full cycle involvement. Also, a failure to meet the stated objectives for interventions builds up over time and weakens the prospect for future interventions. Better educated publics and improved communications in developing countries, among other factors, make it dubious that effective colonial type administrations are possible in today’s world.

Regarding UN capabilities for full cycle planning, remember that the organization is not one but many actors, with different constituencies, cultures, and funding levels. The problem is exacerbated by the way donor countries structure their funding (priorities follow the money, not the other way around). The UN has neither the time nor money for contingency planning on crises and coordination; Kosovo and Timor happened following several years of budget cuts, where UN departments were most concerned with preserving their existence.

Despite these obstacles, the UN is looking at full cycle planning, and is the body most well equipped to do so. It should be remembered that it is often the poorer developing country members of the UN who are the ones actually providing troops and critical support for humanitarian operations, and it is these same countries who make up the regional organizations which can provide on the ground knowledge and staying power.

Another challenge for full cycle planning is getting necessary involvement from those in the country/society being intervened against, especially in terms of post-conflict reconstruction. This was a problem in Somalia, where there was very little shared understanding with local Somali leaders.
Lessons Learned and the Way Forward

The UN has been heavily criticized for flawed outcomes that stem from flawed interventions (whether military or non-military). Yet the UN has to deal with inherently unstable regions, where conflict/post-conflict is not a continuum but a cycle. The organization is often called on to respond with insufficient notice (the post-conflict Kosovo situation was dumped on the UN with 3 weeks notice); insufficient funds; and inequality in funding (Kosovo v. Sierra Leone). There are also the difficulties of coordination within the UN and between UN agencies and NGOs (there were some 200 in Kosovo shortly after the end of conflict) and the manipulation of the international community by warring parties.

Looking at the case of Africa, there is now 40 years of intervention experience on the continent, but little in the way of lessons learned and strategizing on how to do it better. Issues of governance are critical to conflict prevention in Africa, of people focusing on what their governments can do for them, of holding governments accountable. Once conflict does break out, there will be no quick fixes, so be wary of rushing into a truce that will break down. While conflict prevention is necessarily a long-term strategy, this is where the focus should be: democratization, accountability, transparency, good governance. In support of these goals, some coercion (diplomatic, economic) on the part of the international community will be necessary.

In terms of the way forward, many emphasized the need to reconcile intervention principles and procedures, while recognizing that intervention issues are drivers of international relations and can either facilitate cooperation or sharpen tensions between the major powers and between and within different regions.

Regarding how to intervene, five components were thought essential: assess the objectives; assess the setting and actors involved; assess options; maintain solidarity among the coalition of the willing; and do no harm and stay the course.

Problems still remain, however, of how to turn substantive principles into procedures for action; of providing practical policy guidance on articulating principles and procedures for intervention. One participant thought that this task would be a natural one for the ICISS, of specifying principles of legitimacy and operational effectiveness.

Others recognized the difficulty of transforming principles into practical policy guidelines, but argued that such an exercise is important in promoting convergence on these issues between the great powers, differing regions, and different global constituencies (security, development, human rights communities). Also important is the effort to think about concepts of national interest that incorporate individual rights and the dangers posed by failed states that can help strengthen the case for intervention, where needed.

Some participants argued for setting such issues in a global governance framework, where intervention and human rights protection affect issues managing strategic rivalry, UN reform and effectiveness, maldistribution of resources, and trans-national civil society.

Of course, the major question remains: where is the US in all this? What happens when the US opts out of multilateral institutions and cooperative arrangements?

Participant List

Ambassador (ret.) Ochieng Adala, Africa Peace Forum (APFO), Nairobi, Kenya [formerly: Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Kenya to the United Nations, NY (1992-93); Deputy Secretary/Director for Political Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (1988-92); Ambassador of Kenya to the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Kingdom of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia (1984-88)]

Prof. Vladimir Baranovsky, Deputy Director, Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO), Moscow, Russia [formerly: Project Leader (1992-1997) at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri)]

Dr. Jeffrey Boutwell, Associate Executive Officer, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Cambridge, MA, USA [formerly: Staff Aide, National Security Council, Washington, DC]

Prof. Francesco Calogero, Professor of Theoretical Physics, University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Rome, Italy; Chairman, Pugwash Council [formerly: Secretary-General (1989-97), Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs; Member (1982-92), Governing Board, SIPRI]

Prof. Federico García-Moliner, Professor of Contemporary Science, University “Jaume I”, Castellón de la Plana, Spain; Member, Academic Board, European Peace University, Castellón Branch; Vice-President, IUPAP [formerly: Associate Professor, University of Illinois; Professor, Autonomous University of Madrid; Research Professor, Spanish Research Council]

Ms. Michele Griffin, Policy Advisor, United Nations, New York, NY; Adjunct Professor, Columbia University School of International Public Affairs [formerly: Prevention & Peacebuilding Specialist (UNDP); Programme Officer, International Peace Academy; Advisor, Irish Mission to the UN]

Dr. Chantal de Jonge Oudraat, Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC, USA

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

Ms. Laila Manji, Strategic Planning Unit, Executive Office of the Secretary-General, United Nations, New York, NY

Dr. Gwyn Prins, Principal Research Fellow, The European Institute, London School of Economics, 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 [formerly: Senior Research Fellow, Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA), Chatham House, London (Oct. 1997-June 2000); Lecturer in History and Politics, University of Cambridge; Fellow of Emmanuel College]

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

Air Cmde. Jasjit Singh, Director, Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi, India; Member, Pugwash Executive Committee [formerly: Director (Operations), Air Headquarters, New Delhi; Convener, Indian Pugwash Society]

Prof. László Valki, Professor of International Law, Budapest, Hungary

Dr. Nicholas Wheeler, Senior Lecturer, Department of International Politics, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, UK