Human Rights Review

, 10:327 | Cite as

Humanitarian Crises and the International Politics of Selectivity

  • Martin Binder


How has the international community responded to humanitarian crises after the end of the Cold War? While optimistic ideational perspectives on global governance stress the importance of humanitarian norms and argue that humanitarian crises have been increasingly addressed, more skeptical realist accounts point to material interests and maintain that these responses have remained highly selective. In empirical terms, however, we know very little about the actual extent of selectivity since, so far, the international community’s reaction to humanitarian crises has not been systematically examined. This article addresses this gap by empirically examining the extent and the nature of the selectivity of humanitarian crises. To do so, the most severe humanitarian crises in the post-Cold War era are identified and examined for whether and how the international community responded. This study considers different modes of crisis response (ranging from inaction to military intervention) and different actors (including states, international institutions, and nonstate actors), yielding a more precise picture of the alleged “selectivity gap” and a number of theoretical implications for contemporary global security governance.


Humanitarian crises Human rights Selectivity Humanitarian intervention 



For helpful comments and critiques, I would like to thank my colleagues at the Social Science Research Center Berlin, as well as the editors of this volume. Special thanks to Nadine Bernhard, Saskia Ellenbeck, Kristina Hartwig, and Mary Kelley-Bibra.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB)BerlinGermany

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