For the purposes of promoting the various human rights, military intervention appears to be extremely limited in what it can be expected to accomplish. The available literature shows that for women’s rights, only political rights can possibly be improved through the use of military intervention, though economic and social rights suffer as a result. Even this small benefit is shown to only be the result of IGO military intervention, which would be multilateral by nature. However, it is possible the increase of women’s political rights could eventually result in the increasing of economic and social rights for women, though that possibility was not addressed in the literature. From the same study showing the effect of military intervention on women’s rights, it was shown that any unilateral intervention by the US significantly reduces women’s political rights, and worsens women’s economic rights. Again, a possible result of the worsening of those rights might be a reduction of women’s social rights, over time, though this, like the above possible effects of increased political rights, was not addressed by the study in question (Peksen 2011).
In terms of how military intervention effects physical integrity rights (the right to not be tortured, killed extra-judiciously, disappeared, or imprisoned for political beliefs), it seems intervention, if it has any effect at all, is likely to worsen respect for human rights. However, the study in question here did provide the caveat that a major limitation was its “focus on a single country’s use of force (US) or a small subset (3rd party…in civil wars) of intervention cases”. In addition to this limitation, only a one-stage econometric model was used, and overlooked the issue of endogeneity. Furthermore, the countries selected had poor human rights conditions to begin with as a result of “ongoing complex humanitarian crises.” More research was claimed to be necessary to address these shortcomings (Peksen 2011).
There was one circumstance in which military intervention could be seen as a way of promoting human rights; genocides/politicides. One study by Matthew Krain finds that military interventions directed against perpetrators of genocide do have some good effects. He also finds that interventions where the interveners maintain a posture of impartiality do nothing. Krain qualifies his findings by allowing for the possibility that the effects he found might be short lived, and that over a longer term the harm could be greater than if there had been no intervention in the first place. Another possible weakness in his research deals with the number of combat personnel sent in by interveners, where higher numbers and greater power could have an even greater effect by sending a message to the rights abusers that to continue the abuses will be very costly. Lower troop levels could have the opposite effect and result in greater numbers or more egregious rights abuses during the genocides (Krain 2005). For all of the aforementioned reasons, military intervention likely serves as a response, with some attendant immediacy, to pacify the clamoring from the public to “do something, anything.” Especially considering military intervention generally has little real hope of bringing about the desired changes, and should only be used to quell genocides with the use of a substantial military force.
Economic sanctions seem to be about as effective as military interventions, which is to say they are not effective. Research shows that not only are economic sanctions failures in achieving stated policy objectives by the sanctioning nation(s), they risk greater human rights abuses as an unintended consequence. The same research shows that the abuses get even greater when the sanctions are applied multilaterally. The specific study this opinion is based on goes on to say, “it is evident that the use of ‘sticks’, at least in the form of economic coercion as a foreign policy tool, does not contribute to the advancement of human rights” (Peksen 2009).
Economic aid in the form of development assistance did not show a likelihood of decreasing respect for human rights. However, it also did not show that it increased respect for human rights (Richards, Gelleny, and Sacko 2001). Another study compared changes in the amount of aid given to the changes in human rights practices of the country receiving the aid. In terms of a causal relationship between economic aid from the US and the human rights practices of nations receiving the aid, there was found to be no effect, as “the aid itself had no discernible impact on changes in the human rights practices of the recipient countries.” However, the author of the article asserts that since the aid itself is not effective at changing human rights practices, if the aid were an indication of how the US viewed human rights abuses, then change might be possible (Regan 1995). However, aid in the form of International Monetary Fund programs was “associated with more frequent use of torture and extra judicial killing…and worsened human rights conditions” (Abouharb and Cingranelli 2008). The same can be said for Structural Adjustment Programs, which were shown to reduce respect for all four aspects of physical integrity rights (Abouharb and Cingranelli 2006).
Some types of foreign aid, however, have shown to be somewhat helpful. Foreign direct investment (FDI) and portfolio investment have shown some promise at increasing respect for human rights (Richards, Gelleny and Sacko 2001). More recent research on FDI shows there are some questions regarding how to properly measure FDI, though, as different measures have shown different effects on human rights (Hafner-Burton 2005). Preferential Trade Agreements, if seen as a type of aid, can also be said to tentatively provide the appearance of getting results when it comes to getting abuser states to show more respect for human rights, though the presence of “hard” requirements that condition preferential treatment on a state’s compliance with human rights standards, such as the Cotonou Agreement. This insight is supported by the effects such PTAs had in Togo, Fiji, Pakistan, the Comoros Islands, and Niger to name a few places where human rights reforms were implemented as a result of the hard standards (Hafner-Burton 2005).
Foreign aid (other than FDI, portfolio investment, and PTAs), economic sanctions, and military intervention all seem to be mostly ineffective in effecting greater respect for human rights in target states. Because of this it must be concluded that their utility is extremely low or even nonexistent. This is not true of the three other forms of foreign aid shown to possibly have some good affect on the respect of human rights, though only one of those (PTAs with hard standards) are the direct result of an agreement between states. The other two are more heavily directed by MNCs and investment agencies, though they are regulated to some degree by the states.
For all practical purposes the methods discussed to this point could all be considered coercive measures and not merely actions of diplomatic engagement. Even the IMF programs and Structural Adjustment Programs can be seen as coercive. Abouharb and Cingrinelli argue, “the relationship between countries on the periphery of the world economic system and the international financial institutions is far more coercive than the leaders of the Bank and the Fund are willing to acknowledge (116). This does not mean that engagement does not have its place at the table when it comes to increasing respect for human rights around the world. It does mean, however, that it is likely that there must be some measure of coercion to more ensure compliance with human rights norms. Hafner-Burton takes much the same position when she argues in her 2005 article in International Organization that, “coercion is much more likely than persuasion (alone) to be effective” (602).
Assuming the above is true, and assuming that increasing the respect for human rights globally should be pursued as a policy objective, then there are a few things the US and other major powers should do to improve the effectiveness of these policy tools. First, the major powers need to identify the strongest causal agents for human rights that do not necessitate regime change or a change in government type. This will have to be done to reduce the threat any human rights policy changes may have on an abusive regime, as a requirement of this magnitude is likely to result in some form of overt hostility. Second, identify the countries which are most likely to be most easily coerced toward these determinants. Third, through the use of PTAs with hard standards, tying aid directly to the implementation of the determinants, and by allying with related human rights organizations and transnational advocacy networks, apply pressure for target countries to accept the terms of the carrots being offered. Fourth, make it easy for these countries to succeed by providing assistance with any necessary infrastructure, management and administration training. Fifth, require mandatory auditing of progress on a regular basis.
One caveat needs to be mentioned at this point. This is a policy with teeth that will need to be used on occasion. Because of this, and because there will likely be some sort of trade barrier or refusal of necessary aid, the major powers will need to make sure that any loss of trade with the target country is only minimally disruptive to their own populations. China, Bangladesh, Columbia, and Mexico are a few countries that come to mind when this is considered. With the growing power of the internet and global communications, it would probably behoove the human rights advocates, states, and IGOs seeking to promote human rights to require the target states to grow its internet and communications infrastructure without limiting access to the online world. In closing, to make something like this even close to plausible, the United Nations Security Council should support it or a majority of the General Assembly should support the idea, on a country by country basis, of course. Barring that, alliances between regional IGOs could work, though would need to do what it could with fewer resources than the UN could probably allocate to the efforts. Lastly, I would do what I could to make sure that the research that shows what efforts generally fail to improve human rights, and those efforts that tend to increase abuses, is disseminated to the TANs, HROs, the press, legislators, executives, and the public as effectively as possible.
Yeah, it’s a utopian pipe dream, but it’s my dream.
Abouharb, M. Rodwan, and David L. Cingranelli. "IMF Programs and Human Rights, 1981--2003." The Review of International Organizations 4.1 (2009): 47+. Academic OneFile. Web. 8 Dec. 2012.
Abouharb, M. Rodwan, and David L. Cingranelli. "The Human Rights Effects Of World Bank Structural Adjustment, 1981-2000." International Studies Quarterly 50.2 (2006): 233-262. OmniFile Full Text Mega (H.W. Wilson). Web. 8 Dec. 2012.
Abouharb, M. Rodwan, and David L. Cingranelli. Human Rights and Structural Adjustment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Page 116. Print.
Hafner-Burton, Emilie M. "Right Or Robust? The Sensitive Nature of Repression to Globalization." Journal Of Peace Research 42.6 (2005): 679-698. OmniFile Full Text Mega (H.W. Wilson). Web. 8 Dec. 2012.
Hafner-Burton, Emilie M. "Trading Human Rights: How Preferential Trade Agreements Influence Government Repression." International Organization 59.3 (2005): 593-629. Business Source Premier. Web. 8 Dec. 2012.
Krain, Matthew. "International Intervention and The Severity Of Genocides And Politicides." International Studies Quarterly 49.3 (2005): 363-387. OmniFile Full Text Mega (H.W. Wilson). Web. 7 Dec. 2012.
Peksen, Dursun. "Better or Worse? The Effect of Economic Sanctions on Human Rights." Journal Of Peace Research 46.1 (2009): 59-77. OmniFile Full Text Mega (H.W. Wilson). Web. 7 Dec. 2012.
Peksen, Dursun. "Does Foreign Military Intervention Help Human Rights?." Political Research Quarterly 65.3 (2012): 558-571. OmniFile Full Text Mega (H.W. Wilson). Web. 7 Dec. 2012.
Peksen, Dursun. "Foreign Military Intervention and Women's Rights." Journal Of Peace Research 48.4 (2011): 455-468. OmniFile Full Text Mega (H.W. Wilson). Web. 7 Dec. 2012.
Regan, Patrick M. "U.S. Economic Aid and Political Repression: An Empirical Evaluation Of U.S. Foreign Policy." Political Research Quarterly 48.(1995): 613-628. OmniFile Full Text Mega (H.W. Wilson). Web. 8 Dec. 2012.
Richards, David L., Ronald D. Gelleny, and David H. Sacko. "Money With A Mean Streak? Foreign Economic Penetration and Government Respect For Human Rights In Developing Countries." International Studies Quarterly 45.2 (2001): 219-239. OmniFile Full Text Mega (H.W. Wilson). Web. 7 Dec. 2012.