The Genocide Convention and Cold War Humanitarian Intervention

Oxford Handbook of the Responsibility to Protect

Author/s (editor/s):

Tim Dunne, Eglantine Staunton

Publication year:


Publication type:

Book chapter

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Oxford University Press

Tim Dunne and Eglantine Staunton, ‘The Genocide Convention and Cold War Humanitarian Intervention’, in Alex J. Bellamy and Tim Dunne, eds, The Oxford Handbook of the Responsibility to Protect, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016, pp. 38-55.

It is conventional in IR literature to observe a sharp break between the Cold War and post-Cold War phases in the evolution of human protection norms. The chapter revisits these arguments in conjunction with the cases of India in Pakistan, Vietnam in Cambodia, and Tanzania in Uganda, where unilateral interventions had humanitarian effects but neither humanitarian justifications nor external legitimation. The predominant view regarding these cases is correct; namely, no evidence can be found for the emergence of a norm of legitimate intervention for protection reasons (in the absence of host state consent). However, this perspective underestimates the extent to which there was a consolidation of norms regarding state responsibilities and how these influenced state practice during the post-1945 period. The end of the Cold War should be seen as less of a stark turning point in the history of responsible sovereignty than has previously been believed.

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