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Consent-Based Humanitarian Intervention: Giving Sovereign Responsibility Back to the Sovereign (with Julia Brower, Ryan Liss et al.), 46 Cornell International Law Journal 499 (2013)


The repeated failure of the United Nations Charter regime to respond

to humanitarian crises— and to prevent interventions outside the regime—

has laid bare a conflict that lies at the heart of modern international law.

This failure has revealed that the twin commitments on which the post-

World War II international legal system has been built— sovereign rights

and sovereign responsibilities— are often deeply at odds. The response of

scholars to this tension has often been to choose sides in the fight. Scholars

who place greater value on human rights than state sovereignty have

sought to craft exceptions to the prohibition on the use or threat of force.

Those who place greater value on sovereignty (and, they would argue, democratic

rule of law), have rejected any humanitarian intervention not

authorized by the Security Council as illegal and on occasion have portrayed

the human rights movement as “anti-sovereigntist” and even “antidemocratic.”

In this Article, we offer another way forward— one that aims

to respect sovereign rights while helping states meet their sovereign responsibilities

and thereby alleviate the tension between the twin commitments

of the modern international legal system. Rather than seek to craft an

exception to state sovereignty to meet humanitarian aims, we argue for

empowering states to meet their sovereign responsibility through what we

call “consent-based intervention.”

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