From Sarajevo to Benghazi: The Use of Force in Defence of Human Rights in the Post-Cold War Era

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  • DATE / TIME:
    2013•11•01    18:30 - 20:00

    A Conversation featuring Prof. Mats Berdal (King’s College London) and Dr. David Malone (UNU Rector)

    Since the end of the cold war, the use of military force within the international system has increasingly come to be justified, whether wholly or in part, on humanitarian grounds. Uses of force for humanitarian purposes — from Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s to Libya in 2011 — are widely seen as linked to a larger normative shift in international relations in favour of human rights and the justice-related provisions of the UN Charter, over more traditional and narrowly state-centric conceptions of sovereignty.

    This view is seemingly confirmed by the UN General Assembly’s acceptance, in 2005, of the principle that should individual states fail, the “international community, through the UN” has a “responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity”.

    Even so, the practice of using or threatening to use force to support humanitarian objectives remains highly contested. A number of influential “emerging powers” are challenging what they view as a distinctive Western agenda — one driven by narrow national interests as much as by altruistic motives.

    In this event, Prof. Mats Berdal and Dr. David Malone will explore the normative and geo-political factors behind the increased use of military force for humanitarian purposes. The conversation will cover such questions as whether the trend is likely to endure, why the practice of intervention in support of human rights remains so contested, and what factors (normative, power-political and institutional) are likely to shape its future trajectory.

    The UNU conversation series aims to foster participation by members of the audience: all are warmly invited to join the conversation and engage with the speakers during the event itself, as well as on the occasion of the buffet that follows the event. All members of the audience are cordially invited to enjoy the food and drinks that will be served with the aim to provide more opportunity for exchanging ideas, views and contacts.

    Please kindly note that this event will be in English only; no Japanese interpretation provided.

    About the speakers

    Mats Berdal is Professor of Security and Development in the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. He previously (2000–2003) was Director of Studies at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London, as well as Consulting Senior Fellow (2009–2011) responsible for the IISS Economics and Conflict Resolution programme. Educated at the London School of Economics and Oxford University, Prof. Berdal is a Member of The European Academy, author of Building Peace After War (Routledge, 2009) and co-editor (with David Malone) of Greed and Grievance: Economic Agendas in Civil Wars (Lynne Rienner, 2000).

    David M. Malone is Rector of the United Nations University. He previously served as President of Canada’s International Development Research Centre (2008–2013), as Canada’s High Commissioner to India and non-resident Ambassador to Bhutan and Nepal (2006–2008), as President of the New York-based International Peace Academy (now International Peace Institute; 1998–2004), and in various roles within Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (1994–1998 and 2004–2006).


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