The wait for international intervention can seem like an eternity for countries crippled by violence. Conflicts in places such as Kosovo, Libya, Rwanda and Syria claimed hundreds of thousands of lives while diplomats debated international action.
Heidi Hardt, a UT Arlington assistant political science professor, answers the question of why some international organizations take longer than others to answer calls for intervention in her new book, "Time to React: The Efficiency of International Organizations in Crisis Response." She also explores options for reform.
Although wealth and capabilities can strengthen a peace operation, Hardt argues that it is the unspoken rules and social networks in peace and security committees at international organizations that dictate the pace with which an operation is established.
"Humanitarian intervention is a consequence of the interdependent world in which we live. More civil wars lead to more demand for action," said Hardt, who joined UT Arlington in 2012.
She added: "Given that scholars have shown interventions to have a positive impact, the question remained why international actors consistently take months to engage. These delays cost lives."
Hardt builds on an original database of response rates concerning post Cold War interventions and on personal interviews with 50 ambassadors and numerous staff at four leading international organizations: the African Union, European Union, Organization of American States, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
One policy recommendation calls for organizations to reallocate resources to hold fewer formal meetings and to foster more opportunities for backdoor diplomacy. By encouraging positive interpersonal relations among representatives, the book argues that trust across traditional political divides can be built before crises occur.
Hardt's study revealed that 91 percent of the 50 ambassadors said their interpersonal relationships, for better or worse, influenced their decision-making.
"Previously, scholars modeled crisis decision-making as a collection of national interests of the countries around the table. In practice, personal networks play as much as a role as those politics," Hardt said.
Beth Wright, dean of the UT Arlington College of Liberal Arts, said Hardt's research will further understanding of key issues of conflict and peace around the world.
"Dr. Hardt has presented her research at the International Security Forum in Geneva to diplomats, government officials, and other practitioners as well as fellow scholars," Wright said. "It is impressive that her research is not only internationally respected but is having an international impact. We are fortunate to count her among our colleagues."
The book comes amid calls for international intervention in Syria, where a nearly three-year-old civil war has killed more than 135,000 people. More than 10,000 victims are children who were raped, tortured or maimed, according to a recent report posted on the United Nations website.
"The tragedy in Syria reflects a need for organizations such as the UN and NATO to reassess the rapid reaction capabilities they have long been developing, but a lack of trust among member countries further compounds the reluctance to act," Hardt said.
"Time to React: The Efficiency of International Organizations in Crisis Response" is published by Oxford University Press and is available online at Amazon.com and via other websites.