Conditions for Successful Governance in the Conflict Between Humanitarianism and Sovereignty

This project investigates the conditions that enable norms to successfully be established and implemented in the context of clashing justice and sovereignty claims made by states. The key question addresses how states’ convergent and/or differing morals and conceptions of justice affect the establishment and implementation of global norms through the United Nations. We assess whether differing ideas of justice give rise to conflict among interacting states. Do divergent conceptions of justice hinder normative agreement between the negotiation partners, or even the realization of global forms of governance?

Multilateral negotiations have shown that demands for the legal codification of global human rights norms – particularly in the policy area of security – is met with resistance from states which refuse such a conditioning of their national sovereignty. Negotiations for the international Arms Trade Treaty only granted marginal attention to calls for greater consideration of human rights issues in the area of evaluating weapons exports. In two rounds of bargaining, negotiations likewise failed on account of justice issues. Unresolved conflicts over justice often reemerge in the implementation and application phases for a given norm – as evidenced in the example of the international Responsibility to Protect (R2P).

This project analyzes debates present in the UN Security Council the UN General Assembly; it makes use of a content analysis and compares three policy areas:

  • Humanitarian intervention: The “Responsibility to Protect” represents a new norm aimed at defending human rights. It justifies actions spanning from conditioning sovereignty to the use of military force, even without prior consent of the affected state’s government. However, efforts to establish a doctrine for humanitarian intervention that would have made such intrusions possible without consent from the UN Security Council proved unsuccessful.
  • Humanitarian arms control: the areas of small arms control and the international Arms Trade Treaty are both host to divergent moral convictions and perceptions of justice that pursue the establishment and implementation of norms. At the same time, the protection of national sovereignty – such as the right to self-defense according to article 51 of the UN Charter – limits efforts to establish international regulations.
  • Violence towards women: gender-specific human rights permeate the security sector and appear in norms such as UNSC Resolution 1325 “Women, Peace and Security”. Conflicts related to perceptions of justice arise over issues such as the reach of the norms in question, selectivity in their implementation, and their encroachment into domestic jurisdiction.

The findings from this research area seek to make both theoretical and practical contributions. As such, the project aims to develop a theory of empirical universalism that identifies the scope and limits of perceptions of justice in respect to conditioning state sovereignty. The project likewise sets out to develop practical strategies that can be applied to negotiations that involve setting and implementing contested norms.

Gender Justice in Multilateral Negotiations | 2019

Wisotzki, Simone (2019): Gender Justice in Multilateral Negotiations. The Case of SGBV in the Rome Statute and the ICC, in: Fehl, Caroline/Peters, Dirk/Wisotzki, Simone/Wolff, Jonas (eds), Justice and Peace. The role of justice claims in international cooperation and conflict, Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 115-135.

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Gerechtigkeitskonflikte und Normentwicklung | 2019

Hofmann, Gregor P. (2019): Gerechtigkeitskonflikte und Normentwicklung. Die internationale Umstrittenheit der Responsibility to Protect, Studien des Leibniz-Instituts Hessische Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung, Wiesbaden: Springer VS.

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Idlib: Humanitäre Katastrophe aufgeschoben, nicht durchgestanden – Ein Debattenbeitrag | 2018

Hofmann, Gregor P. (2018): Idlib: Humanitäre Katastrophe aufgeschoben, nicht durchgestanden – Ein Debattenbeitrag,, 7.10.2018.

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R2P Ten Years on | 2015

Hofmann, Gregor P. (2015): R2P Ten Years on. Unresolved Justice Conflicts and Contestation, in: Global Responsibility to Protect, 7, 275-299.

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Ten Years R2P – What Doesn‘t Kill a Norm Only Makes It Stronger? | 2015

Hofmann, Gregor P. (2015): Ten Years R2P – What Doesn‘t Kill a Norm Only Makes It Stronger? Contestation, Application and Institutionalization of International Atrocity Prevention and Response, PRIF Report No. 133, Frankfurt/M.

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Im Streit gestärkt oder umstrittener als behauptet? | 2014

Hofmann, Gregor P. (2014): Im Streit gestärkt oder umstrittener als behauptet? Zehn Jahre diplomatische Kontroversen über die Schutzverantwortung, HSFK-Report Nr. 9/2014, Frankfurt/M.

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Global Governance Efforts in Tension between Humanitarian Concerns and Statist Sovereignty Rights | 2014

Hofmann, Gregor P./Wisotzki, Simone (2014): Global Governance Efforts in Tension between Humanitarian Concerns and Statist Sovereignty Rights, in: International Negotiation, 19:3, 487–517.

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Notfalls mit Gewalt? | 2013

Wisotzki, Simone (2013): Notfalls mit Gewalt? Globale Gerechtigkeit und die Rechtfertigung militärischer Intervention, in: Zeitschrift für Friedens- und Konfliktforschung, 2:1, 98-129,

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Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)