is the norm
in international relations
that one state
cannot interfere in the internal politics of another state, based upon the principles of state sovereignty
The concept of non-intervention can be seen to have emerged from the system of sovereign nation states
established by the Peace of Westphalia
of 1648. The concept of state sovereignty
states that within the territory of a political entity the state is the supreme power, and as such no state from without the territory can intervene, militarily or otherwise, with the internal politics of that state. The full theoretical underpinning of the norm of non-intervention is best discussed through analysing the principles of sovereignty
and the right
of political communities to self-determination
of non-intervention has dominated the majority of international relations
, and can be seen to have been one of the principal motivations for the U.S.
's initial non-intervention into World Wars I & II, and the non-intervention of the 'liberal' powers in the Spanish Civil War
(see Non-Intervention Committee
), despite the intervention of Germany
. The norm was then firmly established into international law
as one of central tenets of the UN Charter
, which established non-intervention as one of the key principles which would underpin the emergent post-WWII peace. This however was somewhat optimistic as the advent of the Cold War
led to massive interventions in the domestic politics of a vast number of developing countries among varying pretexts of 'containment
' and 'global socialist revolution'. Through the adoption of such pretexts and the establishment that such interventions were to prevent a threat to 'international peace and security' allowed intervention under Chapter VII of the UN Charter
(not to mention the impotence of the UN
during the Cold War
due to both the U.S.
holding veto power in the United Nations Security Council
Decline of non-intervention
In the post-cold war era it can however be seen that new emergent norms of humanitarian intervention
are superseding the norm of non-intervention. This is based upon the argument that while sovereignty gives rights to states, it also comes with a responsibility to protect
its citizens, an argument based upon social contract
theory. Under this ideal, states can be justified in intervening within other states if that state is failing to protect (or if it is actively involved in harming) its citizens. This has justified UN
sanctioned interventions in Northern Iraq
in 1991 to protect the Kurds
and in Somalia
in the absence of state power. This argument was also used (with strong opposition from Russia
) to justify NATO
intervention in Kosovo
This new norm of humanitarian intervention is far from fully formed, as in all of the UN sanctioned cases the arguments were further couched in Chapter VII threats to international peace and security. This new emergent norm appears to only justify the action of states if they want to act, and does not create a duty of states to intervene.
- Wheeler, N.J. (2003) "The Humanitarian Responsibilities of Sovereignty: Explaining the Development of a New Norm of Military Intervention for Humanitarian Purposes in International Society" in Welsh, J.M. Humanitarian Intervention and International Relations Oxford: Oxford Scholorhsip Online, pp. 29-50.
- Walzer, M.J. (2000) Just and Unjust Wars New York: Basic Books, pp. 86-108.