Who authorizes interventions?
The question of authorization for the use of force is another controversial component of the humanitarian intervention debate. The query has recently become more contentious than ever. Participants on both sides of the debate, namely those rejecting any exception to the requirement for UN Security Council authorization and the proponents of surpassing the Council in instances of exceptional humanitarian emergencies, do not seem to reach any consensus. One of the eight sections of the ICISS report deals with the issue of authority; overall, however, authority is one of the two key questions1 addressed in the 2001 report in regard to intervention. I discuss whether the ICISS recommendations on authorization are well founded and then I briefly look at what subsequent reformulations of R2P in the UN setting say about who should authorize interventions. To assess the problematic debates on authority within the humanitarian intervention framework, the major opposing arguments on this question and their legal interpretations are exposed first. I observe how both developed and developing countries approach the issue of authorization and the role played by the Security Council in this context. The theoretical assumptions are then tested against state practice, through a review of several major humanitarian interventions since the 1990s, and the authorization patterns they illustrate. The emphasis is placed on institutional questions, with the normative goal of identifying the most authoritative actors to undertake interventions when humanitarian emergencies arise.