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Conflict and human rights crises


In previous modules we examined a range of UN procedures and mechanisms that might be used to bring pressure to bear on a state to better respect and protect human rights. For the most part, however, these procedures – whether focused on dialogue, persuasion and/or criticism – rely to some degree on the co-operation of the State; their impact is usually only felt over the long term.

What to do, however, when human rights abuses are being committed on a massive scale, and the state is unable or unwilling to protect the population? In such situations – which we might refer to as human rights crises – an urgent and more intrusive response is needed. This will often involve the UN Security Council.

In this Module we will look at how the UN might respond to human rights crises. Options include deploying peacekeeping troops and/or civilian human rights monitors, or authorising a humanitarian intervention – that is, a military action undertaken by foreign troops to put a stop to ongoing human rights abuses.

Upon completion of this module, you will be able to:

  • identify the range of options available for protecting human rights in situations of war and crisis
  • describe the rules under the UN Charter for authorising the use of force
  • evaluate the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine and its usefulness as a framework to ensure a better international response to mass atrocity.