The Case of Humanitarian Intervention: A Neoliberal Institutionalist Approach

Table of Content


With the development of institutions and different organizations plus the rapidly expanding control of globalization among different states have created and emancipated the rise of humanitarian intervention on issues such as violence, ethnic cleansing and genocide. Using a Neoliberal Institutionalist approach, it can be argued that the contrasting issue of the application of humanitarian intervention is dependent on the capability of a states membership and the overall interests of a particular organization in a certain issue. As such incidence occurs; it is the role of international institutions to uphold a collective action that is prescribed by its relative rules and mandates.

This essay could be plagiarized. Get your custom essay
“Dirty Pretty Things” Acts of Desperation: The State of Being Desperate
128 writers

ready to help you now

Get original paper

Without paying upfront

With the efforts that have been in place to resolve issues, different organizations and states have developed measures and alternatives in creating a more sensible approach in creating overall awareness and control. This paved the way for the creation and development of the humanitarian intervention concept. Such creation not only created power for institutions and states to intervene on dire issues but at the same time revitalized the way international politics and diplomacy is practiced.

One way to understand the development of humanitarian intervention and its relative impact on different states is by asserting its definition. However, there is a dilemma in the process of determining such idea. Due to this, there created a debate on as to how such interventions apply on either creating its own overall objective – the protection of human rights, or the intrusion and breach on a states sovereignty. (Center for Strategic Studies, 2000)

Another way to ascertain the creation of humanitarian intervention is by means of differentiating its forms and concentration on a particular issue. “They are: non-forcible interventions such as the threat or use of economic, diplomatic or other sanctions; and forcible interventions aimed at protecting or rescuing the intervening states own nationals” (Holzgrefe, 2003, p.18)

It is therefore important to carefully define the concept of humanitarian intervention for there is a thin line upon which it can be treated as a direct violation of a states’ control over its territory and an intrusion of its sovereignty. “A humanitarian intervention is an armed intervention in another state, without the agreement of that state, to address (the threat of) a humanitarian disaster, in particular caused by grave and large-scale violations of fundamental human rights” (Center for Strategic Studies, 2000). On such note, the concept of the creation of such definition must be rooted on the issue of the protection of innocent civilians who are victims of abuse and violence.

Intervened Case: Kosovo

            This case showcases the case of military intervention in Kosovo in 1999. The issue here not only created avenues for institutions and states to practice its efforts to intervene but it also revitalized the scope and power of institutions and states particularly NATO in the realm of addressing the crisis and at the same time redefining its role and objectives in the region.

            The issue begins when the Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic, began exercising the use of force in Kosovo particularly among Kosovar extremists. Seeing this, different states (Russia & United States), United Nations and NATO expressed concern over the growing issue and clamored for the need of diplomatic talks. However, as peace talks began to fail, the need for military action was advised among NATO and its allies over the growing issue. (NATO Handbook, 2002)

            With the failure of the current objectives in the diplomatic level, NATO pressed for military action to stop the violence among Kosovars. The organization used military force by means of air strikes to actively force Serbian forces out of Kosovo territory. “This move was designed to support diplomatic efforts to make the Milosevic regime withdraw forces from Kosovo, cooperate in bringing an end to the violence and facilitate the return of refugees to their homes” (NATO, 1999)

            On the other hand, the United Nations particularly the UN Security Council also contributed to the creation of important resolutions and initiatives that will forego and enhance the restoration of order in times of violence in Kosovo. These measures include (1) establishing peacekeeping operations, (2) creating international security presence and (3) pointing out of responsibilities necessary in the situation.

Non-intervened Case: Congo

            Contrary to the case of Kosovo, the use of humanitarian intervention by use of force was not eminent in the state of Congo. Though there have been efforts of the United Nations to alleviate the plight of these people, these are minimal in nature and focused in the monitoring and development of aid and resources to address the needs of these people.

            Looking at the issue, the conflict mainly escalates as a form of rivalries and clashes due to different ethnic and background considerations. These in turn have been an important component in the escalation of violence and the continued brutality and murder against different parties. These atrocities have been placed under the attention of the United Nations, but little development can be seen as violence continues that further spreads even in the giving out of humanitarian aid.

            The primary conflict revolves around three particular groups who differ in ideologies and often clash. The victims in such violence are those people who are stuck in the middle of the battlefield. Looking at recent figures, there had been an increase in the number of deaths among civilians who were victims to such atrocities. “During the past year, over 500,000 Congolese were displaced due to violence, bringing the total number of refugees to more than 1.6 million people” (Genocide Intervention Network, 2008)

            Efforts for military intervention to put an end to such conflict remain to be minimal. There had been instances that other states began to intervene in the issue but were subjected to restraints by different international institutions due to its relevant violations of sovereignty and the lack of commitment to actually promote the protection of human rights. Rather the move was more of an action to pursue national and state interests.

Using a Neoliberal Institutionalist Approach

            It has been argued that international institutions and organizations have been a vital part in the process of humanitarian intervention especially in the Post Cold War period. As states began to take part in international organizations and institutions, each also sought to promote their overall interests in the effort of leveling the playing field. This prompted the creation of different rules and regulations that actively encompasses every member and fosters an adequate form of compliance on the part of the members.

            Addressing the question concerning the variations of humanitarian intervention among different cases, neoliberal institutionalist theory emphasizes the degree and type of organization that are involved. Like for example, with the issue of military force in Kosovo was by and partial made by NATO. NATO can be argued as a security/military institution seeking to protect its interests and the welfare of its members. That is why; there is an apparent use of military force in the resolution of the conflict.

            On the other hand, for the part of Congo, there are no international security/military institutions that cater to the need of the region. However, there are organizations such as the United Nations that foster a different kind of humanitarian intervention. This is by means of peacekeeping and other forms of humanitarian aid fit for the current situation. Such may not be a good solution to the problem, however it is the only thru these processes and activities that these institutions exists and operates.

            It is through this interpretation and the variation of institutions and organizations objectives that there are issues that are left unaddressed and others have been. With the majority of the conflict revolving around the issues of ethnic clashes and cultural differences, the formation of institutions can help solidify and enhance the level of participation not only in the domestic level but also internationally. (Wieters, 2006, p.273)


            The article highlighted and sought to address why there had been variations in the way humanitarian intervention has been facilitated among different conflicts in the international arena. By using a neoliberal institutionalist framework, it has been explained that the overall differences in the actual facilitation of humanitarian intervention are also dependent on the type of institution that have been in place. The differences in scope, objectives, rules and regulations of organizations have been an important catalyst in the variety of actions that are made.

            Though each one may be different in certain degrees, these institutions/organizations centrally focus on several important themes that can be argued to be the focal point of each one – the facilitation and protection of its members’ individual rights. It is through this notion and belief that organizations and institutions are all related. The only difference among them is the manner in which such promotion can be accomplished (either by military intervention or economic/peacekeeping mechanisms/aid).

            Due to this, another important challenge for institutions is creating active means of cooperation among member states. The complexity of issues and interests remain to be the main hindrance to such process of collective action. Institutions must have the necessary foundation for monitoring, facilitating change and sanctioning. This in turn can make issues easier to resolve and better facilitate cooperation.


Center for Strategic Studies. (2000) Humanitarian Intervention: Definitions and Criteria. 3 pt. 1

Retrieved June 6, 2008. pp. 1-2

Genocide Intervention Network. (2008) Democratic Republic of Congo. Retrieved June 6, 2008


Holzgrefe, J.L. (2003) The Humanitarian Intervention Debate in Humanitarian Intervention:

Ethical, Legal, and Political Dilemmas. ed. J.L. Holzgrefe and R. Keohane. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. pp.15 -52

NATO (1999) NATO’s Role in relation to the conflict in Kosovo. Retrieved June 6, 2008 from

NATO Handbook (2002) Cooperation Between NATO and Russia: The Kosovo Conflict.

Retrieved June 6, 2008 from

Weiters, R. (2006) Ethnic Conflict and Humanitarian Intervention in Chrestomathy. 5 Retrieved

June 6, 2008. pp.269-290


Cite this page

The Case of Humanitarian Intervention: A Neoliberal Institutionalist Approach. (2016, Oct 13). Retrieved from

Remember! This essay was written by a student

You can get a custom paper by one of our expert writers

Order custom paper Without paying upfront