Students will do a barometer activity to help them understand the notion of sovereignty in international law. Post two signs in the room. On one side of the room, the sign should read "national sovereignty" on the other side of the room, the sign should read "foreign intervention". Explain to students that you will give them a scenario and that they should stand closest to the side of the room that best represents their opinion about how the situation should be handled. To promote deeper critical thinking, you might encourage students not to stand in the center of the room, but to stand at least a bit toward one side or the other. Once students are in their spots, you can ask them to explain their placement decision. Some teachers allow students to move their position if they hear something that causes them to change their opinion.
For a practice round, you can start with the chicken/farmer metaphor used in the reading.
Situation: A farmer owns a flock of chickens. He kills them. If students believe the farmer has the right to kill his chickens, they should stand on the side of the room that says "sovereignty". If they believe that someone should intervene to protect the chickens, they should stand on the side that reads "intervention". You might make this more complicated by asking students: What if you knew the farmer was killing chickens in a particularly gruesome manner? Would that change where you are standing?
Below are situations you might use for subsequent rounds. All of these represent historical examples of situations when national sovereignty has been called into question. If you have limited time, just use the situation "crimes against humanity and civilization" because this is the one most relevant to the case study of Raphael Lemkin. When you ask students to explain where they are standing, ask them to explain how they defined "crimes against humanity and civilization." This will segue to the next activity.
Situations for Barometer Activity
- Slavery: Should the international community intervene if a nation is using people as slaves, or does a nation have the right to decide policies regarding slavery?
- Mistreatment of prisoners of war: Should the international community intervene if a nation is mistreating prisoners of war, or do nations have the right to treat prisoners as they see fit?
- Terrorism: Should the international community intervene if a nation is harboring terrorists or do nations have the right to decide how to handle terrorists?
- Crimes against humanity and civilization: Should the international community intervene if they think another nation is committing crimes against humanity and civilization?
To debrief this activity (or as an assessment task), you might ask students to reflect in their journals on the question: Under what circumstances should nations be able to intervene in the affairs of another nation? Under what circumstances should a nation lose its sovereignty?