From March to October 2011, NATO and the UN added another chapter to their stormy history when the alliance conducted a UN-mandated air operation to protect civilians under threat of attack in Libya's civil war. NATO officials and human rights activists have celebrated the operation as the first successful implementation of the "Responsibility to Protect". This doctrine calls for military intervention if a state is failing to protect its citizens from mass atrocities. However, NATO's intervention caused Russia and other influential UN members to accuse the alliance of "hijacking" the Security Council mandate to promote regime change in Libya. Russia, China, India, Brazil and South Africa have made it clear that they will be much more cautious when considering future NATO requests for intervention. In response, NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen has argued that UN Security Council approval for humanitarian interventions is desirable but should not be imperative.

  • What are the Libya intervention's implications for the Responsibility to Protect and NATO-UN relations?
  • What can be acceptable terms for cooperation between these organizations in future interventions?
  • Specifically, should the international community intervene in Syria where security forces have reacted to anti-government protesters with indiscriminate violence?

Michael Harsch will discuss the political and moral dilemmas of humanitarian interventions and the potential for promoting a more effective NATO-UN partnership on these issues.

Discussants: Colonel Per Erik Solli (NUPI) and Research Professor Ola Tunander (PRIO).

The seminar will be chaired by PRIO Director Kristian Berg Harpviken.