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February 06 , 2009

Human Rights and Humanitarian Norms, Strategic Framing, and Intervention

Lessons for the Responsibility to Protect


The human rights and humanitarian landscape of the modern era has been littered with acts that have shocked the moral conscience of mankind, and there has been wide variation in whether, how, and to what degree states respond to mass atrocity crimes, even when they share similar characteristics. In many cases concerned states responded, either through moral suasion; gentle or coercive diplomacy; or other non-forcible measures, to prevent or halt the indiscriminate human rights violations that were occurring. In others, states simply turned away and left the vulnerable to their fate. And still yet in other cases, states responded robustly, using military force to stop the atrocities and save lives.

This book seeks to examine the effects of strategic framing in U.S. and UN policy arenas to draw conclusions regarding whether and how the human rights and humanitarian norms embedded within such frames resonated with decision-makers and, in turn, how they shaped variation in levels of political will concerning humanitarian intervention in three cases that today would qualify as Responsibility to Protect (R2P) cases: Somalia, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone. Labonte concludes that in order for humanitarian interventions to stand a higher likelihood of being effective, states advocating in support of such actions must find a way to persuade policymakers by appealing to both the logic of consequences (which rely on material and pragmatic considerations) and logic of appropriateness (which rely on normatively appropriate considerations) – and strategic framing may be one path to achieve this outcome.

Offering a detailed and examination of three key cases and providing some an original and important contribution to the field this work will be of great interest to students and scholars alike.

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