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Notes

Introduction: human rights > sovereignty? If yes, does that justify intervention?
Does intervention help?
2nd para: meaning of sovereignty? Necessity of sovereignty? Westphalian system
(definition and explanation). The concept of a nation-state. Problems

The Westphalian system, adopted and modified from the Peace Treaty of Westphalia in
1648, can be considered as the corner-stone in the understanding of the modern sovereign state.
This system of sovereignty dictates that each nation-state is autonomous i.e. has sovereignty over
its territorial and domestic political affairs. Modern notions of political authority follow suit with
this system of organization of the international political order prescribing a principle of noninterference in another states domestic affairs. To understand the relevance of sovereignty and
the supremacy awarded to it by those who oppose military interventions, it would be relevant to
understand the significance of sovereignty in relation to nationalism and creation of nationstates. Social contractarians such as Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau designate the sovereign as the
protector of the security and property of its subjects, guardian of their rights and expression of
their collective will. The sovereign is the supreme power reigning over body politic and this
ideology formed the foundation of the inter-state order since the 17th century in Europe justifying
the protection of a societys individuals from external control. More so, the acceptance and
implementation of sovereignty as a basic feature of modern states ensures that the basic
characteristic of International relations an anarchic world order; remains intact. As a result, all
states are considered equal in the scope of international law. However, in the contemporary
political context, it would be short-sighted to ignore the affective value of factors such as
globalization, neo-liberalism, and transnational issue on the international order, limiting the
powers of the sovereign. Also, the erosion of human rights as a result of the restrictive capacity
of sovereignty, which will be spoken about at length later in the essay, cannot be overlooked.

Sovereignty:
1. without sovereignty there would be no nation-state and no international law.
2. Modern notion of political authority (plato Stanford)
3. External sovereignty ensures that the basic characteristics of IR remain intact
i.e. anarchy
4. All states are equal in the eyes of the international law.
3rd para: human rights? Necessity of human rights? How does state protect human
rights? How do states infringe upon human rights?
-

The need for solidifying human rights arose as a consequence of the


massacre that took place during the two World Wars. With the creation of
intergovernmental organization as the United Nations aiming to promote
peace and cooperation at the global level, it was only obvious that
demarcating a certain set of rights as universal to all humans was required.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the document that specifies the
natural and legal rights that should be inherently accessible to every human
being.
- Society came under the control of a sovereign as people decided to come
together and forego certain freedoms in exchange for entering a contract that
would ensure that their rights were granted and safeguarded at all costs. One
of the foremost duties of the sovereign, an understanding extended to the
modern state modelled on the interpretation of the Westphalian system,
includes the expectation of the State acting as the protector of rights and free
will. However, in practice many states that sought independence from their
colonial masters throughout the 20th century did not necessary follow this
order. Also, many states claiming to be democratic may not necessarily be
upholding and striving to provide free and equal access of rights to all. Many
of such states can be characterized as failed, troubled or murderous.

4th para: How does state intervention help? (Bangladesh example) How does state
intervention not help? (Iraq)
Bangladesh: After Pakistan was created and got Independence in 1947, it was split
along two geographical location East and West Pakistan, with India in the middle.
The two parts of the country were strife with violence and tensions due to diversity
along linguistic and cultural lines. Also, politically, West Pakistan had predominance
over the East, refusing to recognize a government that was elected through a
democratic procedure. This laid down foundation for the Civil War that was to follow
suit which impacted India as neighboring country as thousands of refugees from
East Pakistan started crossing the border to escape the violence. India intervened in
the domestic politics of Pakistan and went to a war which concluded with the
creation of a separate state of Bangladesh in 1971. This instance is considered one
of the most successful examples of a unilateral military intervention where a foreign
power was able to stop suppression of human rights and the occurrence of violence
(30). Indias unilateral intervention as a result of inaction on the part of the UN can
be justified theoretically as it fulfilled the two criterion for intervention : a domestic
situation that constituted a threat to international peace and security and to stop a
case of massive and systematic suffering (37).
Iraq: The structure of the state of Iraq prior to and during the 1990s can be
considered as an extreme form of the Westphalian model of sovereignty. It can be
considered as an example of an uncountable state apparatus exercising absolute
power over its citizens (249). Under the Baath regime of President Saddam
Hussein, Iraq witnessed violations to human rights of its population comprising of
extra-judicial killings, genocidal acts, breakdown of law and order (249). Foreign
intervention was dissuaded by using the argument of sovereignty but information
through NGOs and media houses became rampant in the international community.
In 1990, economic sanctions were declared against Iraq by the United Nations

following its invasion of Kuwait. However, such an attempt to intervene in domestic


affairs of Iraq to safeguard human rights had the contradictory effect.
Documentation made by UN agencies show how such sanctions had a detrimental
impact on the condition of human rights in Iraq. Restrictions led to grave instances
of human devastation which caused deterioration in the standard of life; medical
facilities deteriorated, mortality rate became high and there was a return of
illiteracy (252). Such an intervention impeded one of the basic human rights the
right to life as citizens had lack of access to medication, water and nutrition.
5th para: Conclusion
Maintaining a states sovereignty and access to human rights are two features that
are necessary in sustaining order and some semblance of equality in the
international order. However, through the various arguments presented above and
the analysis of the two examples, it is evident that prioritizing human rights over
sovereignty and supporting intervention doesnt necessarily solve the problem of
violence and abuse. The answer does not lie in inaction, settling down to a world
order that is willing to overlook instances of abuse and strife because they are
difficult to contain, isnt morally and ethically justifiable. Hence, it is of extreme
importance to arrive at an understanding of a middle ground where the gap
between what is considered ethical and the likely consequences of intervention
using force can be reduced. The answer does not lie in prioritizing one over the
other rather, in negotiating between the two and arriving at this middle ground.