The past two decades have witnessed an increasing number of armed conflicts, both inter- and intra-nationally, and an even more increasing number of multilateral military interventions without UN Security Council authorization. Central to the discussion of these interventions are the themes of humanitarianism and state sovereignty. The aim of this thesis is to investigate the relationship between humanitarian imperatives and principles of sovereignty within the context of armed conflict to better understand the tensions that have led to the current global outcomes. In so doing, it identifies how humanitarian principles, imperatives, and actions have affected the contemporary conception of state sovereignty and, subsequently, facilitated for the circumvention of the long-standing principles of sovereign equality and freedom from intervention. Equally as important, this thesis provides an accessible tracing of contextualized historical events that have led to the current state of affairs. Through a critical study of primary sources, discussions, and critiques from within the humanitarian field, legal scholarship, and political science, the research reveals how actors driven by moral principles of humanity have perpetuated mechanisms and systems and facilitated the creation of doctrines and legal regimes that undermine the notion of sovereignty. This thesis surveys the histories of specific humanitarian organizations and regimes and places them within their relevant geopolitical contexts. Subsequently, it pinpoints the four most pivotal moments of interaction between humanitarianism and sovereignty, and outlines how they facilitated for the militarization of humanitarianism, the legitimation of intervention, and the erosion of state sovereignty.


School of Global Affairs and Public Policy


Law Department

Degree Name

LLM in International and Comparative Law

Graduation Date

Summer 6-15-2022

Submission Date


First Advisor

Thomas Skouteris

Committee Member 1

Hani Sayed

Committee Member 2

Jason Beckett


38 p.

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Not necessary for this item