Saving humans through military force?

Saving humans through military force?


My name’s Nicholas Wheeler and I’m Director
of the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security at the University of Birmingham.
My colleague, Edward Newman, recently wrote a piece for the magazine, Original, on the
theme of saving humans by military force. Edward’s work on the responsibility to protect
is an important part of the research work taking place within ICCS in relation to this
broader theme of saving humans which the university under the banner of the Institute for Advanced
Studies is now taking forward. In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly
adopted a very important declaration called the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) which
fundamentally set limits to the legitimate right of sovereign states to commit mass atrocity
crimes within their borders and which put in place a framework for international action
to prevent those situations occurring in the future and the research that we’re trying
to do in the Institute is geared to trying to understand better how we can both prevent
humanitarian emergencies but also stop them when they begin so that we don’t keep finding
ourselves in situations such as we did during the 1990s with the Rwandan genocide, the situation
in Kosovo and now of course more latterly with Libya and Syria where the international
community finds itself drawn into armed intervention in varying different forms, but sometimes
of course recognising that force might be the right thing to do. The international community’s
been extremely bad at this in the past. For example, in April 1994 the world stood by
when a genocide took place in Rwanda when arguably Western states had the military capabilities
to, if not prevent that genocide, certainly to stop it significantly from leading to the
loss of life that it did lead to. Saving humans by military force is a very
important part of the work that we’re engaging in, we’ll continue to engage in, but we’re
also doing important work on nuclear proliferation and trying to save humans from the threat
of nuclear catastrophe and my own work in particular looks at the challenges of building
trust between nuclear adversaries. So it’s a broader agenda within the Institute, very
much committed to producing world leading academic research but which can also have
an impact on global practitioner communities because we certainly see our remit in terms
of public policy relevance as wider than the United Kingdom.

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