Humanitarian Force

PRIO Report

McDermott, Anthony (1997) Humanitarian Force. PRIO Report: 4. Oslo: PRIO.

Read this publication at the Norwegian National Library

Wars between states in the formal sense have become outdated. In the 1980s and early 1990s, the pattern of civil, internal and trans-border wars has become commonplace, and this trend is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Conflicts involving, in particular, the states of former Yugoslavia, the Caucasus and Central Asia in the aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the ex-colonies of central Africa, have a horrific vividness which has made urgent the debate about and examination of ways of dealing with them. There are no clear-cut rules for humanitarian intervention that can comfortably fit the character of future conflicts. The predominant, but by no means uniform, structural causes are economic and political injustice, often articulated through the mobilization and manipulation of ethnic minorities and resulting in violence. The humanitarian forces, whether of civilian, military, nongovernmental, national or international origin, have drawn on vastly differing geographical and institutional backgrounds and experience. The differing evolutions of intervention in Bosnia, Chechnya and Rwanda bear witness to this.

In this report, authors from NUPI and PRIO examine the topical issue of international intervention in the internal affairs of sovereign countries from ethical, practical, operational, institutional and regional perspectives. The justification for intervention involves not just peace-keeping forces and agencies of the UN and individual states, but also nongovermental organizations (NGOs). All need to reform their political, ethical, practical and executional approaches. The reasons for these interventions and the methods used have become increasingly complex and sometimes immoral. At the same time, the once identifiable and traditional concepts of state sovereignty have become eroded. This report presents practical and theoretical examples, analyses, concepts and questions for others to draw on and apply to future situations which will demand humanitarian intervention.


Anthony McDermott, "Introduction", pp. 5–12
Dan Smith, "Interventionist Dilemmas and Justice", pp. 13–39
Espen Barth Eide, "'Conflict Entrepreneurship': On the Art of Waging Civil War", pp. 41–69
Anthony McDermott, "The UN and NGOs: Humanitarian Interventions in Future Conflicts", pp. 71–98
Pavel Baev, "The Caucasus and Central Asia: Russian Interventions and International Responses", pp. 99–122
Jeremy Ginifer, "Emergent African Peace-keeping: Self-help and External Assistance", pp. 123–141

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