chapter  2
29 Pages

The responsibility to protect: Sovereignty and human rights

Annan’s much cited quotation encompasses the central dilemma of the humanitarian intervention debate, namely the challenge of reconciling two competing norms in international law: sovereignty and human rights. On the one hand, sovereignty inhibits intervention into the internal affairs of states, and on the other hand, there is a growing concern that the international community should react to massive and systematic violations of human rights by any state. The tension between these two sets of norms rests at the heart of the humanitarian intervention debate. In finding ways to resolve this contention, I discuss first sovereignty as a legal principle that predates the human rights regime, and second, the emergence of the human rights discourse. Both aspects are considered in relation to the movement toward a broader understanding of the term sovereignty and greater concern for human rights. I then discuss the extent to which R2P proposes a workable relationship between sovereignty and human rights.