nl en

Humanitarian Intervention



Aims and Objectives: The general aim of the course is to provide an analytical foundation for the exploration of one of the most controversial issues in International Relations since the end of the Cold War: humanitarian intervention. The War on Terror has made this debate even more topical.

Content: During this seminar students will gain an understanding of the political, moral and legal dilemmas in contemporary debates on sovereignty and intervention. We will critically analyse diverging views on the ethics of using force to end humanitarian emergencies. Next to a political science perspective, we will discuss the possible legal grounds for or against humanitarian intervention, as provided for instance by the UN Charter. These conceptual ideas and theoretical perspectives will subsequently be linked to specific case studies both during and after the Cold War. An examination of these interventions may tell us something about broader trends in international politics regarding the fundamental tension between state sovereignty and human rights.

Methods of Instruction

The course is based on active student participation. In the first part of the seminar the weekly meetings will take the form of a structured discussion. This entails an introduction by the instructor, supplemented by contributions of students on the basis of the readings assigned for each meeting. In the second part, students write a research paper and give oral presentations on selected case studies of (humanitarian) intervention, making use of the framework elaborated in the first part.


Articles and bookchapters (approx. 1000 pp).

Independent library and/or internet research for oral and written assignments.

A comprehensive course manual will be available a week before the beginning of the seminar.


Students will write a paper on a case study, which will be presented in class. This paper will be revised and resubmitted on the basis of the comments by both instructor and fellow-students during the discussion.
Final grades will be calculated on the basis of oral and written assignments, and participation in class discussions (including attendance).


Tuesday 7 February till 27 March, 13.00 – 15.00 hrs. in SA23 (except 21 Feb 5B04 and 28 Feb and 6 March 1A03) and
Friday 10 February till 30 March, 13.00-15.00 hrs., in SA29 (except 2 March SA05)