Sovereign Intervention

PRIO Report

McDermott, Anthony (1999) Sovereign Intervention, PRIO Report, 2. Oslo: PRIO.

Fifty years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the debate about the status of the state, its ruler and its citizens is livelier than ever. One persistent characteristic of contemporary wars is the suffering and abuse of civilians, as much at the hands of their rulers as from fighting forces. No continent has been spared this experience, and this volume looks in particular at case histories in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The authors focus on three main issues. All are interlinked and throw up others through a complex exploration of the nature of states 350 years after the seminal Treaty of Westphalia defined their conceptual frontiers. Should the protection of individual rights be pursued at the expense of sovereignty? If intervention should take place, does the UN have the prior claim to its execution, ahead of regional authorities? Should the agenda of intervention be broader than avenging abuses of human rights and look towards creating more durable and stable social circumstances to make these abuses less likely?
In this volume, authors from NUPI and PRIO examine these topical issues using theory, argument and contemporary examples to suggest that, while sovereignty may have lost some of its exclusiveness, intervention in all its forms should not be given its head recklessly without international restraints. It aims to provide informed input into the debate about the extent to which some accommodation can be found for the apparent contradictions between sovereignty and intervention.


Anthony McDermott

Anthony McDermott

Researcher, Editor Security Dialogue