Use of Force in Humanitarian Crises: Addressing the Limitations of U.N. Security Council Authorization

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The original 2001 United Nations (UN) codification of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) granted the UN Security Council exclusive control over authorizing use of force in sovereign states. Unfortunately, as demonstrated over the past 20 years, the need for humanitarian intervention has not changed and the use of force in the name of humanitarian intervention has not always occurred even when the need for such intervention was dire. When the UN Security Council is deadlocked, and a humanitarian crisis is at hand, it is necessary to have a means of using low-intensity military force to prevent mass atrocity crimes. In this article, we discuss the need for a framework for non-UN authorized military force in the name of humanitarian intervention. Expanding on previous work, we set forth a seven-point framework for countries to follow if they wish to justifiably use military force in humanitarian crises without UN authorization.


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Dr. Paul R. Williams

Dr. Paul R. Williams holds the Rebecca I. Grazier Professorship in Law and International Relations at American University where he teaches in the School of International Service and at the Washington College of Law. Dr. Williams is also the co-founder of the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG), a pro bono law firm providing legal assistance to states and governments involved in peace negotiations, post-conflict constitution drafting, and the prosecution of war criminals. As a world renowned peace negotiation lawyer, Dr. Williams has assisted over two dozen parties in major international peace negotiations and has advised numerous parties on the drafting and implementation of post-conflict constitutions. Several of Dr. Williams' pro bono government clients throughout the world joined together to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Dr. Williams has served as a Senior Associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, as well as an Attorney-Adviser for European and Canadian affairs at the U.S. Department of State, Office of the Legal Adviser. He received his J.D. from Stanford Law School and his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. Dr. Williams is a sought-after international law and policy expert. He is frequently interviewed by major print and broadcast media and regularly contributes op-eds to major newspapers. Dr. Williams has authored six books on various topics concerning international law, and has published over three dozen scholarly articles on topics of international law and policy. Dr. Williams is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations, and has served as a Counsellor on the Executive Council of the American Society of International Law.

Sophie Pearlman

Sophie Pearlman is a Research Fellow on Justice, Peace, and Security at the Public International Law & Policy Group. Sophie graduated summa cum laude from Tufts University with a B.A. in Peace & Justice Studies and Sociology, where she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Honos Civicus, and Alpha Kappa Delta honors societies. She specializes in human rights advocacy, post-conflict transitions, and justice.

Currently, Sophie is in the process of publishing her senior honors thesis, which analyzes the experiences of Latin American immigrants living in America during the Trump administration and examines themes such as political engagement, policing, race, and segmented assimilation. Sophie has presented her research at conferences including the Harvard University Engaged Scholarship and Social Justice Conference, the Eastern Sociological Society Annual Conference, and the Building Bridges Research Symposium at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

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