The ethical dilemma of non-forcible Humanitarian Interventions

Utilitarian vs. Kantian Approach

Essay, 2010

12 Pages, Grade: 1,7




1 Definition: Humanitarian Intervention

2 Different Approaches for the ethical dilemma of non- forcible Humanitarian Interventions
2.1 Utilitarian Approach
2.1.1 Critics to the Utilitarian Approach
2.2 Kantian Approach
2.2.1 Critics to the Kantian Approach


List of Literature


Humanitarian Interventions (H.I.) have not only increased in the number, it has rather become a business during the past decades. Billions of Dollar are used yearly to help people all over the world. This topic deals with people, their lives and rights and is hence an extremely sensitive one. The resources must be used effective and efficient to achieve the set goals- every mistake in this way can cost lives and harm people in many ways. In my essay I will first introduce the whole field of H.I. to show the complexity and the first dilemma, which focuses on the definition of H.I., which is not consensual. Further I define and explain the topic of non- forcible H.I. The main part of this work is the analysis of the Utilitarian and the Kantian approach towards the topic of non-forcible H.I. and their critics. By the end I conclude more on a practical than on a theoretical basis- due to the fact, that the dilemmas stay as they are: dilemmas. There is no solution possible, but one can always try to find analogies in both viewpoints and start here a discussion.

1 Definition: Humanitarian Intervention

The first dilemma appears not in the actual practice of H.I., but much more already in the definition. There is no uniform definition about what H.I. is exactly about. This makes it difficult to analyze literature about this topic (Raich, 2002). Most authors define H.I. at the beginning of their essays- others don´t: Heinze (2003, p.83) e.g. sees H.I. as a “military force… for the purpose of haltering or averting human rights violations”. He also cross-references to Moore, who in contrast includes the HIV- crisis in the definition for H.I. Hence, definitions differ in the include of military or non-military intervention, in the involved groups (only states or NGOs or others) and in the requirement, whether the interventions are only coercive or also consensual (Raich, 2002). In this essay I use the definition of Raich, who defines H.I. as “actions by outside parties, primarily guided by the sentiment of compassion or fellow- feeling, whose principal purpose and outcome is the alleviation of the human suffering of a foreign population without the consent of the host state” (Raich, 2002, p.21). Also Wheeler (2004) agrees, that interventions are always non-consensual and coercive- but not in general forcible. This means, that also non-military H.I. are part of it, although those are not forcible. Further I chose to analyze the dilemmas for the non- forcible H.I., which can be seen in Figure 1 as Points 1,2 and 3.

Figure 1: Subgroups of Humanitarian Action

illustration not visible in this excerpt

(Raich, 2004 Ethical Evolution of the Humanitarian Idea. p. 20)

The topic of military interventions has been frequently analyzed by many authors. The field of the non-consent, but at the same time non-forcible measures has rarely been in focus so far. NGOs go frequently in the field, where states and other involved groups (e.g. rebels) would prefer them not to do so (Mills, 2005). Examples are here the intervention from the French government together with MSF[1] in Somalia, 1992 (“Rice for Somalia”) (1 in figure 1), the report from Amnesty International “China: Torture and Ill- treatment”, 1996 (2 in figure1) or the cross border interventions in Afghanistan, Laos and New Guinea, where doctors came e.g. disguised as musicians in the country, hiding their medical equipment in guitar cases (3 in figure1) (Raich, 2004).

2 Different Approaches for the ethical dilemma of non-forcible Humanitarian Interventions

To show the different viewpoint in the discussion I further highlight the two most contradictory approaches: The Utilitarian and the Kantian one.


[1] MSF: Medecins sans frontieres/ Doctors without borders

Excerpt out of 12 pages


The ethical dilemma of non-forcible Humanitarian Interventions
Utilitarian vs. Kantian Approach
University of Southern Denmark
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Humanitarian, Interventions, Utilitarian, Kantian, Approach
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Anja Hellmann (Author), 2010, The ethical dilemma of non-forcible Humanitarian Interventions , Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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