Document Type

Journal Article


The emergenece of a globalised discourse of human rights, especially in the past decade, has served to challenge the very notions of state sovereignty and non-intervention that permitted the establishment of the United Nations ('UN') 60 years ago. Its key roles of preventing war, brokering peace agreements, monitoring peace accords, enforcing peace, providing humanitarian assistance to the needy in post-conflict environments and engaging in state-building and reconstruction efforts have all implicitly recognised limits to respecting state sovereignty and the practice of non-intervention. In this setting, namely the diminution of absolute state sovereignty, the most compelling justifications for engagement have emerged from a global humanitarian culture formed by the actions and arguments of a host of national and international institutions and organisations. In his new book, The Dark Sides of Virtue: Reassessing International Humanitarianism, Harvard international law Professor David Kennedy reters to this movement as 'international humanitarianism'. Simon Chesterman's recent book, You, the People: The United Nations, Transitional Administration, and State-Building, focuses in some detail on one aspect of this humanitarianism: the involvement of the UN and nation-states in the activities of peacekeeping, peace enforcement and state-building in Bosnia, East Timor, Sierra Leone and, most recently, Iraq.