Academic journal article Global Governance

Mitigating the Moral Hazard of Humanitarian Intervention:Lessons from Economics

Academic journal article Global Governance

Mitigating the Moral Hazard of Humanitarian Intervention:Lessons from Economics

Article excerpt

The emerging norm of humanitarian intervention, or the Responsibility to Protect, resembles a social insurance policy to protect ethnic groups against genocide and ethnic cleansing. If a state perpetrates such genocidal violence, the norm calls for a payout--up to and including military intervention--to protect the group and ensure its security, often by enhancing its autonomy from the state. Unfortunately, this leads to a common pathology of insurance--moral hazard--whereby the expected payout for a loss unintentionally encourages excessively risky or fraudulent behavior. Thus, some militants may rebel despite the risk of provoking state retaliation, because they expect any resulting atrocities to attract intervention that facilitates their rebellion. This article summarizes recently published evidence for this dynamic, explores the feasibility of adapting insurance strategies that mitigate moral hazard, and then proposes a reform of humanitarian intervention based on the most feasible of these adapted strategies. KEYWORDS: humanitarian intervention, moral hazard, genocide, ethnic conflict, Responsibility to Protect, norms.

The emerging norm of humanitarian intervention, or Responsibility to Protect, resembles an imperfect insurance policy to protect ethnic groups against genocide and ethnic cleansing. If a state threatens to perpetrate such genocidal violence, the norm calls for a payout--up to and including military intervention--to protect the group and ensure its security, often by enhancing the group's autonomy from the state. Unfortunately, this leads to a common pathology of insurance--moral hazard--whereby the expected payout for a loss unintentionally encourages excessively risky or fraudulent behavior. Accordingly, some militants may rebel despite the risk of provoking state retaliation, because they expect any resulting atrocities to attract intervention that facilitates their rebellion. Ultimately intervention may help their rebellion succeed, but it often is too feeble or too late to avert state retaliation, just as insurance does not always restore the status quo ante even if it provides compensation. Underscoring the danger, the literature documents that rebellion is the most common trigger for genocidal violence by states. (1) Thus, contrary to its intent, the emerging norm of humanitarian intervention may actually cause some genocidal violence that otherwise would not occur (Figure 1). Although moral hazard has only recently been identified as a problem of humanitarian intervention, (2) it has been examined extensively in economics. Accordingly, this study assesses the feasibility of adapting prescriptions from the literature on insurance to mitigate the moral hazard of humanitarian intervention.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Clear definitions are vital for such a sensitive topic. Humanitarian intervention, in this context, encompasses the full spectrum of potential international action motivated primarily by the humanitarian desire to protect civilian targets of state violence, as envisioned by the 2001 report The Responsibility to Protect and subsequent UN documents. (3) This ranges from pacific measures that respect traditional state sovereignty to forceful ones that impinge on it, including but not limited to the following: rhetorical condemnation; threats or imposition of economic sanctions; recognition of the independence of secessionist entities; air strikes on military or economic assets; military assistance to or coordination with rebels perceived as defending at-risk civilians; consensual deployment of peacekeepers; and nonconsensual deployment of troops for peace enforcement. Genocide is defined by UN convention. (4) Ethnic cleansing means the expulsion of members of an identity group from a territory by force or threat thereof. (5) Genocidal violence encompasses both of the preceding concepts. Genocidal retaliation is such violence employed by a state in response to an armed challenge to its authority. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.