24 March 2000

Ahtisaari warns against doctrine of humanitarian intervention

In a post-analysis of the Kosovo crisis, Finland's ex-President and Kosovo mediator Martti Ahtisaari warns against a new 'doctrine' on humanitarian intervention. In a speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, Ahtisaari saw dangers in some people's enthusiasm for intervention.

"Establishing an unconditional 'right' to intervene may be dangerous, as it can lead to arbitrariness if it is the intervening power or powers that judge and qualify the reason for intervention."

Ahtisaari said that the international community does have to "think of how justice can be implemented more often in the future". He emphasised, however, the necessity of working "towards a commonly agreed set of ground rules". These, in his opinion, should be applied "in a consistent way".

"Our goal must be a system that is founded on tenable principles, balanced and consistent, and which also executes operations efficiently and gets results. That presupposes the development of international law, the creation of new methods of operation and probably also reconfiguring existing international institutions and their division of labour."

"Resolving the acute conflict through outside intervention is, of course, only the first step in a process. The real challenges relate to rebuilding the economy there, creating democratic administrative structures and institutions, and bringing a functioning civil society into being."

Ahtisaari touched on the problems between the United Nations and NATO.

"With the Kosovo crisis we witnessed UN inaction and NATO action. In order to avoida such a scenario in the future, it is critically important to tackle the questionn of reforming the UN and to discuss the establishment of a set of commonly agreed ground rules to confront future Kosovos."

"The United Nations Charter permits the use of force only in self-defence or under a mandate from the Security Council. In my view, there is no reason to change that arrangement, but its effectiveness needs to be improved. It lies in the interests of the entire international community that the Security Council regain and preserve its capability as a guarantor of international peace and security."

Ahtisaari repeated his opposition to the sanctions implemented against Serbia. He called "upon European and American leaders to listen to the demands of the Serbian opposition. They are unanimous that the sanctions are helping the regime and must be lifted."

"Western policy makers have so far missed this demand. I have in the past expressed my personal view that the sanctions in Yugoslavia are counterproductive. They are generally too blunt an instrument to be effective and simply heighten the suffering of the population."

See also:

EU preferred to NATO on crisis management

30 November 1999

Finland urged to support UN

19 October 1999

Defence plans alarm small EU countries

16 October 1999

Aftermath of Kosovo: Europe takes military route to security

October 1999

Can the Nordic region show the way to Kosovo?

October 1999

Ex-president criticises West's policies in Yugoslavia

31 August 1999

Non-aligned countries face problems with EU defence

13 July 1999

Non-aligned countries watch warily as NATO sidelines UN

May 1999

Finland agonises over Kosovo

May 1999

Intellectuals divided by events in Yugoslavia

27 April 1999

Debate about Finnish neutrality in New Europe intensifies

January 1999


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