Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 16 Hours. (16 x 1 hour)
Seminars / Tutorials 8 Hours. (8 x 1 hour)


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay: 1 x 3,000 words  50%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   50%
Supplementary Exam Students may, subject to Faculty approval, have the opportunity to resit this module, normally during the supplementary examination period. For further clarification please contact the Teaching Programme Administrator in the Department of International Politics. 

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

On completion of the module, students will be able to:

- understand competing definitions of humanitarian intervention
- critically analyse conflicting views on the ethics of using force to end human rights emergencies
- knowledge of the legal context
- an ability to relate conceptual issues to specific empirical cases
- an understanding of the political context of contemporary debates over sovereignty and intervention.
- an ability to relate the conceptual ideas discussed on the module to specific case studies.

Brief description

This module provides an analytical foundation for the study of humanitarian intervention in world politics. It develops a theoretical framework which is then applied to specific case studies.


The last two decades have witnessed the international community responding with varying degrees of success to a succession of humanitarian crises, and in several of these, military intervention has been employed as a strategy to alleviate massive human suffering. The most notable example of this being NATO's intervention in Kosovo in March 1999. Humanitarian intervention is a subject which attracts considerable interest and controversy, and this module examines the following: the competing definitions of humanitarian intervention in the literature; the legal and moral justifications for humanitarian intervention; the development of a new norm of UN authorized intervention for humanitarian purposes since the end of the Cold War; the success of military intervention in addressing post-Cold war humanitarian crises; the development of the idea of the 'responsibility to protect'; the impact of the Iraq war on debates over a new norm of humanitarian intervention; and the implications for the future practice of humanitarian intervention of the agreement on the responsibility to protect at the 2005 UN World Summit.

1. Definitions of humanitarian intervention
2. Realist objections to humanitarian intervention (1)
3. Realist objections to humanitarian intervention (2)
4. Pluralism and humanitarian intervention
5. Solidarism and humanitarian intervention
6. International law and humanitarian intervention
7. Safe havens and 'no-fly' zones in northern and southern Iraq (1)
8. Safe havens and 'no-fly' zones in northern and southern Iraq (2)
9. UNITAF and famine relief in Somalia
10. UNOSOM II: From famine relief to humanitarian war in Somalia
11. The failure to prevent genocide in Rwanda
12. The failure to stop genocide in Rwanda
13. NATO's intervention in Kosovo and the jus ad bellum
14. 'Operation Allied Force' and the jus in bello
15. The International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty
16. The Responsibility to Protect after Iraq
17. The Contradictions of 'Humanitarian War'

Seminar 1: How persuasive are the principal realist objections to a doctrine of humanitarian intervention?
Seminar 2: How far does humanitarian intervention expose the conflict between order and justice at its starkest?
Seminar 3: Is Humanitarian Intervention a Just War?
Seminar 4: A Model Humanitarian Intervention? Assess this verdict on Western Intervention in Northern and Southern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War
Seminar 5: Was the Goal of Rebuilding the 'Failed State' of Somalia a Hopeless One?
Seminar 6: Could the Rwandan Genocide have been Prevented?
Seminar 7: Was NATO's intervention in Kosovo a legitimate humanitarian intervention?
Seminar 8: How far was the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 justifiable on humanitarian grounds


The aim of this module is to introduce students to the theory and practice of humanitarian intervention in world politics. The question of how the international community should respond when states commit gross and systematic human rights violation poses a fundamental challenge at the beginning of the 21st century. This module examines the political, legal, strategic and ethical issues involved in the use of force to stop such atrocities. Students explore how the political, legal, ethical and strategic considerations discussed in the earlier part of the module apply to specific cases of intervention.

Transferable skills

Students will have the opportunity to develop, practice and test a wide range of transferable skills that will help them to understand, conceptualise and evaluate the case study material. Throughout the course, students should practice and enhance their reading, comprehension and thinking skills, as well as basic numeric skills and self-management skills. In lectures students will develop listening and note taking skills, as well as analytical skills. In seminars students will enhance their analytical skills and will practice listening, explaining and debating skills, as well as team-work and problem solving. Essay writing will encourage students to practice their independent research, writing and IT skills, and the examination will test these skills under time constraint conditions.

10 ECTS credits

Reading List

Recommended Text
N J Wheeler Saving Strangers: Humanitarian Intervention in International Society 2002 Oxford University Press Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 6