Norms, interests and humanitarian intervention
A number of constructivist and English school scholars have investigated the extent to which humanitarian intervention is allowed and legitimized by international society. In other words, they have examined the nature and strength of a norm permitting humanitarian intervention. It is the contention of this article that another norm of humanitarian intervention-parallel but discrete-has been neglected. It is argued that ideas and beliefs shared by some members of international society not only permit intervention but prescribe it in certain circumstances and this has been largely ignored in the literature. By focusing on questions of when, where and why humanitarian action is permitted, scholars have neglected to develop theoretical explanations for the significant inconsistencies in humanitarian action that can be observed in the world. States do not intervene to prevent human rights violations simply because they are allowed to. By considering when and where humanitarian action is prescribed, and the interplay of this prescription with the self-interests of states, we can begin to understand why states respond to some grave violations of human rights and not others. The article concludes with an analysis of the power of the prescriptive norm to explain the increased instances of humanitarian intervention since the end of the Cold War and an assessment of the present state of the norm.
Global Change, Peace & Security