Human Rights and Societies in Transition: Causes, Consequences, Responses

By Shale Horowitz; Albrecht Schnabel | Go to book overview

7
International efforts to protect
human rights in transition societies:
Right, duty, or politics?

Albrecht Schnabel

Faced with numerous human rights challenges, governments of transition societies are often neither able, nor willing, to end human rights violations or to address their economic, political, or cultural root causes.1 Peaceful and, if necessary, violent actions then become necessary tools in redressing injustice, bringing about state compliance with international humanitarian human rights norms and laws and laying the foundations for lasting peace. Such actions may take various forms, ranging from economic assistance and non-violent diplomacy to massive military intervention; these actions may be supported and conducted by individuals, NGOs, or states, or by regional and global organizations on behalf of broader communities of concerned societies and states. Involvement may follow the consensual agreement of affected governments or it may be forced upon a government. Intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign state to alleviate human rights violations, although potentially noble, is also risky and often self-serving.

Although all individuals should undoubtedly enjoy the same rights under international law, the defence of these rights is highly contextual. Political, economic, and (above all) geo-strategic contingencies determine the likelihood and extent of external intervention in defence of human rights standards. Intervention, whatever form it may take, is costly. Such costs are acceptable only if they yield a desirable return – whether ideological or practical. Thus, humanitarian intervention emerges as a highly contested activity grounded both in contemporary international law and morality and in power politics driven by national interest.

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