The Balkan Wars of the 1990s, the Rwandan genocide and the Darfur conflict served as catalysts for debates which significantly changed the character and institutional frameworks of international politics and international law after the end of the Cold War. Humanitarian emergencies and grave human rights violations came to range among the most powerful arguments to justify military interventions abroad. In the course of these debates international norms and principles as those of sovereignty and the prohibition of the use of force were renegotiated.
This volume situates the history of post-Cold War humanitarian intervention within the larger history of the twentieth century by looking at political and cultural shifts that preceded the end of the bipolar world order. At the same time, it seeks to elucidate the specificities of interventionism during the 1990s – a moment when, for the first time, military interventions were being justified on the basis of the protection of human rights. The authors examine the role of a wide range of actors like governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental actors like NGOs, the media, and public intellectuals.
In my own contribution “Protecting Universal Rights through Intervention. International Law Debates from the 1930s to the 1980s” I examine how the protection of human rights became linked with policies of military intervention and international law during the course of the twentieth century. Experts on international law from around the world played an important role in this development. As early as the 1930s and 1940s, prominent legal scholars such as André N. Mandelstam and Hersch Lauterpacht began to examine the idea of international intervention on behalf of human rights, arguing in favor of the development of a mechanism to protect these rights. In the mid-1960s, these debates were given fresh impetus by the adoption of two UN human rights covenants in 1966 and the first International Conference on Human Rights, held in Tehran as part of the 1968 International Year of Human Rights. Continue reading