Sovereignty, Self-Determination, and Human Rights from Walzer to the Responsibility to Protect
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This essay explores the intellectual context and conceptual foundations of R2P. Michael Walzer reinitiated debates about humanitarian intervention by grounding sovereignty and non-intervention in individual human rights and communal autonomy (self-determination). Liberal cosmopolitan critics of Walzer highlighted the tension between these two values, and proposed that sovereignty should rather be grounded in individual rights and democratic self-determination. In the post-Cold War era, international lawyers and international relations scholars came to endorse the idea that state sovereignty is qualified by the most basic human rights. High ranking UN officials further proposed that state sovereignty should be redefined as the sovereignty of the people, which, however, was seen as coextensive with the protection of the fundamental individual rights, and as such could be shared by the ‘international community’. R2P adopted a similar approach, glossing over the potential tensions between sovereignty, self-determination and human rights.