Annals of the Fondazione Luigi Einaudi

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Economics, History and Political Science

The Annals is a forum for the free exchange of ideas
among scholars working in the field of social sciences
Volume LIII 1 - 2019

The Individualisation of War: Defining a Research Programme

Jennifer M. Welsh,
pp. 9-28
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Individual rights and responsibilities are at the centre of today’s international and civil conflicts in a way that they have never been before. This process of ‘individualisation’, which challenges the primacy of collective units such as sovereign states or ‘warring parties’, has two main drivers: powerful normative developments related to human rights, which have spawned new kinds of wars and peacekeeping missions and a new class of international crimes; and dramatic technological and strategic developments that both empower individuals as military actors and that enable either the targeting or protection of particular individuals. This presentation discusses how individualisation forces us to confront the status of individuals in war in three different capacities: 1) as subject to violence but deserving of protection; 2) as liable to attack because of their responsibility for attacks on or threats to others; and 3) as agents who can be held accountable for the perpetration of crimes committed in the course of armed conflict. It also argues that while the human rights norms underpinning individualisation are normatively desirable in themselves, efforts to operationalise individualised conceptions of protection, liability, and accountability are placing enormous strain on the actors and institutions most actively engaged in armed conflict: the governments and armed forces of states; international security organisations; and humanitarian agencies.