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Humanitarian action in situations of occupation

Date de publication
Xavier
Crombé

Xavier Crombé was Director of Studies at MSF-Crash from 2005 to 2008. He is currently working at the Research Unit on Humanitarian Stakes and Practices (UREPH) of MSF in Switzerland to publish a collective essay dealing with issues related to violence in healthcare facilities. He is also teaching humanitarian and migration issues at Sciences Po Paris.  

When we at MSF today look at the specific problems and restrictions posed by military occupation, we immediately think of recent situations in which our action has been curtailed, either because we were obliged to terminate a mission, or because the debate behind the choices we had to make in such or such a context led to deep disagreement which - for varying lengths of time - were felt to be paralysing. These examples include our withdrawal from Iraq under American occupation, once the field team concluded in the spring of 2003 that it was unable to work there; our withdrawal from Afghanistan in the summer of 2004 after the murder of 5 members of MSF-Holland, against a backdrop of military/humanitarian confusion and calls for the murder of our members made by a Taliban representative; the dissent of part of the field teams on the Palestine mission in 2001, denouncing the culpable silence of head office and questioning MSF's principle of neutrality, along with the converse and recurring question of the reality of our role in the system of oppression and crushing of the resistance set up by Israel in the occupied territories.

Common to these few examples is on the one hand the question of our neutrality, either in the way it is experienced by our teams, or in the way it is perceived by the forces present, thus raising the question of the safety of our personnel particularly acutely. They are also a part of the context of the "war on terror" - or, in the case of Palestine, have been partly reinterpreted in line with this new conceptual framework - and thus oppose a State or coalition of States against opposition groups designated as fundamentalist and terrorist. Are Western humanitarian organisations now faced with an unprecedented situation obliging them to rethink how they act, unless they resign themselves to no longer intervening in situations that are bound to become more commonplace, as those who promote the "war on terror" constantly remind us?

To cite this content :
Xavier Crombé, Humanitarian action in situations of occupation, 1 January 2007, URL : https://www.msf-crash.org/en/publications/war-and-humanitarianism/humanitarian-action-situations-occupation

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