Contemporary humanitarians: Latin America and the ordering of responses to humanitarian crises

The paper looks at how Brazil, Chile, and Mexico approached debates on humanitarian intervention norms in the early 2000s. These countries attempted to simultaneously address humanitarian crises collectively and prevent abuses of humanitarian norms by great powers.
man in suit
Rod Searcey


Latin American foreign-policy elites defend the principle of non-intervention to shield their countries’ autonomy. By 2005, however, most Latin American foreign policy elites accepted the easing of limits on the use of force in international law. They supported the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), which regulates the use of force to protect populations from mass atrocities. The paper presents a comparison of the Brazilian, Chilean, and Mexican positions in the R2P debates to understand why they supported this norm. During the debates leading to the emergence of R2P, these elites questioned a central premise of liberal internationalism: the idea that great powers would restrain their use of military force as part of their commitment to a liberal international order (LIO). Using Republican international political theory, I argue that these Latin American foreign-policy elites viewed a restricted humanitarian-intervention norm as a new defence against great powers interfering in developing countries. Instead of trusting that great powers would restrain their actions, these elites advocated for a humanitarian-intervention norm that would prevent uncontrolled humanitarian interventions.

Read the rest at Cambridge Review of International Affairs