history of humanitarianism https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/en en Humanitarianism in the Modern World. The moral economy of famine relief https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/fr/blog/acteurs-et-pratiques-humanitaires/humanitarianism-modern-world-moral-economy-famine-relief <div class="field field--name-field-publish-date field--type-datetime field--label-inline clearfix"> <div class="field__label">Date de publication</div> <div class="field__item"><time datetime="2021-07-01T12:00:00Z" class="datetime">07/01/2021</time> </div> </div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span lang="" about="/index.php/en/user/125" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">elba.msf</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Thu, 07/01/2021 - 17:46</span> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/history-humanitarianism" hreflang="en">history of humanitarianism</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/famine" hreflang="en">famine</a></div> </div> <details class="field--type-entity-person js-form-wrapper form-wrapper"> <summary role="button" aria-expanded="false" aria-pressed="false">Michaël Neuman</summary><div class="details-wrapper"> <div class="field--type-entity-person js-form-wrapper form-wrapper field field--name-field-authors field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"> <article data-history-node-id="3257" role="article" about="/en/michael-neuman" class="node node--type-person node--view-mode-embed"> <div class="node__content"> <div class="group-person-profil"> <div class="group-person-image-profil"> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/profile_image/public/2017-04/DSCF4167%20copie_0.jpg?itok=uJXHTXNJ" width="180" height="230" alt="Michaël Neuman" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-profile-image" /> </div> </div> <div class="group-person-content"> <div class="group-person-firstname-lastname"> <div class="field field--name-field-firstname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Michaël</div> <div class="field field--name-field-lastname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Neuman</div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Director of studies at Crash / Médecins sans Frontières, Michaël Neuman graduated in Contemporary History and International Relations (University Paris-I). He joined Médecins sans Frontières in 1999 and has worked both on the ground (Balkans, Sudan, Caucasus, West Africa) and in headquarters (New York, Paris as deputy director responsible for programmes). He has also carried out research on issues of immigration and geopolitics. He is co-editor of "Humanitarian negotiations Revealed, the MSF experience" (London: Hurst and Co, 2011). He is also the co-editor of "Saving lives and staying alive. Humanitarian Security in the Age of Risk Management" (London: Hurst and Co, 2016).</p> </div> <div class="same-author-link"><a href="/en/michael-neuman" class="button">By the same author</a> </div> </div> </div> </article> </div> </div> </div> </details> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>“Humanitarianism in the Modern World. The moral economy of famine relief”&nbsp;published by Cambridge University Press, is an open access book<span class="annotation"><a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/humanitarianism-in-the-modern-world/C6088FA7DCED5F628718D56AEB984AFA" target="_blank">https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/humanitarianism-in-the-modern-world/C6088FA7DCED5F628718D56AEB984AFA</a></span>&nbsp;written by a team of three people, whose aim is to provide a history of contemporary humanitarianism through the prism of famines. Norbert Götz, Georgina Brewis and Steffen Werther are treading on fertile ground, as the number of publications on the history of humanitarianism has multiplied in recent years. However, the contribution they present here is rich and original.</p> <p>By examining three famine situations through the lens of the concept of moral economy<span class="annotation">Moral economy is a concept by the British historian and Marxist E.P. Thompson, which is used in historiography, political and social sciences. It refers to a set of political, sub-political and cultural community practices and values that aim at defending the interests of the community, including economic interests. In the book, the authors approach the concept of moral economy in the context of an analysis aimed at observing the relief efforts of socio-economic actors in rich countries in the face of famine situations.</span>, the three historians study the black box of relief operations. They look at alert and appeal mechanisms, allocation policies and accountability policies based on three situations: the response to the famine in Ireland in the mid-19th century, the response to the consequences of the famine in Russia from 1921 to 1923, and the considerable relief operation in Ethiopia from 1984 to 1986. Here, the authors are interested in famine as an example of a humanitarian cause of action. The nature of the event itself is therefore not central to the analysis they offer.</p> <p>The first thing this book illustrates is that the anhistoricism of humanitarian practitioners, largely observed in the sector, and mentioned by the three historians in their conclusion, is particularly misplaced. Indeed, by looking at the three crises, the oldest of which is almost two centuries old, it is possible to measure the legacy that contemporary humanitarianism owes to them, both in terms of ideas and techniques. The authors describe practices for collecting and reporting on the performance of organizations and for selecting priority victims which date back to the world before Henry Dunant (1828-1910) and the major crises of the second half of the 20th century.</p> <p>The case studies allow the authors to give shape to a chronology of contemporary humanitarianism which is rooted in the evolution of the sector rather than in the evolution of the world and the crises which affect it. First, an era embodied here by the Irish episode of ad hoc humanitarianism, marked by brief interventions and organizations set up for the specific purpose of relief; followed by the beginnings of organized humanitarianism observed in the response to the Russian famine, relying on a nascent bureaucracy; and finally, the era that would still be ours today embodied by the Ethiopian case of expressive humanitarianism, established in particular by a massive recourse to mass media and a strong link with the neo-liberal triumph.</p> <p>The exhibition of the mechanisms for calling or alerting relief workers allows us to see how systems of interpellation are created through iconography and testimony. The authors note that children soon became ideal victims, allowing, in the Russian example, to overcome political, religious and ethnic apprehensions. Furthermore, organizations wanted to make disasters into primarily natural events in order to avoid the disruption that would be caused by highlighting their human origins.</p> <p>They also show us the intense discussions about the competition between remote and 'domestic' victims in the context of warnings. On what grounds should we act? Today, as in the past, people also act for themselves, for the salvation of their soul or the greatness of their country, their church, etc. International solidarity also takes the guise of internal security - this was the case in the face of the communist threat in 1921, as it is today in the articulation between development and security programs, or in the context of responses to the HIV or Ebola epidemics.</p> <p>Impartiality is thus called into question, and with it, attempts to objectivize needs<span class="annotation">On this subject, see Joël Glasman’s article on our website :&nbsp;<a href="https://www.msf-crash.org/en/publications/invention-impartiality-history-humanitarian-principle-legal-strategic-and-algorithmic" target="_blank">https://www.msf-crash.org/en/publications/invention-impartiality-history-humanitarian-principle-legal-strategic-and-algorithmic</a></span>: appeals built on an objective basis and statistics would be less successful than those built on the individual experiences of people in difficulty.</p> <p>In examining the question of allocation, the three authors continue their reflection on the prioritization of actions. Once again, we come across a number of questions which run through contemporary humanitarian work. How can resources be allocated when they are inevitably insufficient to cover needs? Who are the victims who deserve to be helped? How do relief actors navigate between short-term (emergency) and long-term (whether called rehabilitation or development) objectives? What debates are there about prioritizing particular populations, particularly on religious grounds? What is media attention’s weight in the decision to act? How does the issue of neutrality, or more concretely, the potential material contribution of aid to a party in conflict, arise? These questions and the answers given to them by the relief organizations involved in Ireland, Russia and Ethiopia give way to political reasoning and controversy.</p> <p>Finally, the authors analyze the issue of accountability in detail, both in terms of the media coverage of activities and the accounting of relief activities. The reader is thus invited to note the evolution of accountability operations from somewhat dry accounting reports to a more attractive mode of publication, aimed at increasing the visibility of relief efforts, so much so that sometimes the visibility of aid is considered more important than the results themselves. Perhaps unexpectedly, given the constant contemporary calls for accountability, the authors argue that the era of expressive humanitarianism is generally marked by less transparency than its more distant ancestors. The account also captures the debates about the use of humanitarian aid by political and military actors and places the question of aid diversion at its centre, particularly in the Russian and Ethiopian cases, again highly contemporary issues.</p> <p>"Humanitarianism in the Modern World. The moral economy of famine relief" is a valuable historical survey: not only does it add to the knowledge of situations that have been studied elsewhere, but the use of the "moral economy" grid allows the authors to effectively penetrate the elaboration of the organizations’ choices. Despite the complexity of some of the topics studied, I recommend it to all practitioners and the general public interested in humanitarian aid.</p> </div> <div class="height-computed field field--name-field-related-content field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Related publications</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item"> <article data-history-node-id="4163" role="article" about="/en/dossiers/famine-political-implications-and-operational-responses" class="node node--type-dossier node--view-mode-teaser"> <div class="node__content"> <div class="group-teaser-image"> <div class="field field--name-field-teaser-media field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__item"><article class="media media--type-image media--view-mode-teaser"> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/teaser/public/2017-06/MSF35999-famine-somalia_0.jpg?h=953083a2&amp;itok=e6n69_zi" width="450" height="300" alt="Deux femmes transportent des branches d&#039;arbre, camp de Dagahaley, Kenya, 2009" title="Famine" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-teaser" /> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-copyright field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Dominic Nahr</div> </article> </div> <a href="/en/dossiers/famine-political-implications-and-operational-responses" class="main-link"></a> </div> <div class="group-content"> <div class="bundle-container"><div class="field--name-field-bundle">Dossier</div></div><span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden"><h3><a href="/en/dossiers/famine-political-implications-and-operational-responses" hreflang="en">Famine: political implications and operational responses</a></h3> </span> <div class="field field--name-field-publish-date field--type-datetime field--label-hidden field__item"><time datetime="2017-06-12T12:00:00Z" class="datetime">06/12/2017</time> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-summary field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>The articles and essays in this publication discuss the specific context in which famines arise and the responses mobilised to address them. MSF has been involved in a number of famine responses (Uganda 1980, Ethiopia 1984-1985, Somalia 1991-1993) and has contributed to many chronic and acute malnutrition operations (Niger, Sudan and Ethiopia in particular in the 2000s). As theses famines were systematically related to armed conflict, the political implications are particularly significant and consequently, feature as a common theme in most of the analyses.</p> </div> <div class="node__links"> <ul class="links inline"><li class="node-readmore"><a href="/en/dossiers/famine-political-implications-and-operational-responses" rel="tag" title="Famine: political implications and operational responses" hreflang="en">Read more<span class="visually-hidden"> about Famine: political implications and operational responses</span></a></li></ul> </div> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="flag.link_builder:build" arguments="0=node&amp;1=4163&amp;2=reading_list" token="zSkVTIttlnDbl5B7zSEJm70oUO6wyvgKyoD-jAs-ZSY"></drupal-render-placeholder> </div> </div> </article> </div> <div class="field__item"> <article data-history-node-id="4341" role="article" lang="fr" about="/fr/publications/catastrophes-naturelles/qui-sadresse-laide-alimentaire-durgence-la-reponse" class="node node--type-notebook node--view-mode-teaser"> <div class="node__content"> <div class="group-teaser-image"> <div class="field field--name-field-teaser-media field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__item"><article class="media media--type-image media--view-mode-teaser"> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/teaser/public/2017-09/MSF23585-a-qui-sadresse-laide-alimentaire-durgence.jpg?h=f7c5ea93&amp;itok=sYvFbEgb" width="450" height="300" alt="Une femme marche sur une route près de la ville de Humera, en Ethiopie." title="A qui s&#039;adresse l&#039;aide alimentaire d&#039;urgence? la réponse internationale à la &quot;famine&quot; éthiopienne de l&#039;an 2000" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-teaser" /> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-copyright field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Pep Bonet/Noor</div> </article> </div> <a href="/en/node/4341" class="main-link"></a> </div> <div class="group-content"> <div class="bundle-container"><div class="field--name-field-bundle">Cahier</div></div><span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden"><h3><a href="/fr/publications/catastrophes-naturelles/qui-sadresse-laide-alimentaire-durgence-la-reponse" hreflang="fr">A qui s&#039;adresse l&#039;aide alimentaire d&#039;urgence? La réponse internationale à la &quot;famine&quot; éthiopienne de l&#039;an 2000</a></h3> </span> <div class="field field--name-field-publish-date field--type-datetime field--label-hidden field__item"><time datetime="2001-06-01T12:00:00Z" class="datetime">06/01/2001</time> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-authors field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/fr/fabrice-weissman" hreflang="fr">Fabrice Weissman</a></div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-summary field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Le pouvoir éthiopien aurait-il consciemment entravé la marche du système national de réponse aux crises pour produire une « urgence humanitaire » dans une zone périphérique et récupérer sous forme d’aide alimentaire le manque à gagner lié à la guerre et à la suspension des aides au développement ? Les bailleurs de fonds auraient-ils cautionné cette manipulation ? A vrai dire, le problème semble un peu plus complexe. La réalité se situe entre l’histoire sainte et la thèse de la machination scabreuse. C’est cette réalité compliquée que nous voudrions approcher, ce qui nous impose un détour préalable par l’économie alimentaire du pays et sa gestion politique.</p> </div> <div class="node__links"> <ul class="links inline"><li class="node-readmore"><a href="/fr/publications/catastrophes-naturelles/qui-sadresse-laide-alimentaire-durgence-la-reponse" rel="tag" title="A qui s&#039;adresse l&#039;aide alimentaire d&#039;urgence? La réponse internationale à la &quot;famine&quot; éthiopienne de l&#039;an 2000" hreflang="fr">Read more<span class="visually-hidden"> about A qui s&#039;adresse l&#039;aide alimentaire d&#039;urgence? La réponse internationale à la &quot;famine&quot; éthiopienne de l&#039;an 2000</span></a></li></ul> </div> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="flag.link_builder:build" arguments="0=node&amp;1=4341&amp;2=reading_list" token="R5RSWycHFP9HC8Tc_VOxQqNaavG9gfMvHYMeM37A-l8"></drupal-render-placeholder> </div> </div> </article> </div> </div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=10354&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="VYBQymhzj7Z_o1BteR4j0UBfQm8KuYXIYyVmPYTqUYk"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="flag.link_builder:build" arguments="0=node&amp;1=10354&amp;2=reading_list" token="R7dmkQCmba4cQ_IGUmFZI2lR787OLftdIf7Z5L9zhkk"></drupal-render-placeholder><div class="citation-container"> <div class="field--name-field-citation"> <p> <span>To cite this content :</span> <br> Michaël Neuman, Humanitarianism in the Modern World. The moral economy of famine relief, 1 July 2021, URL : <a href="https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/en/blog/humanitarian-actors-and-practices/humanitarianism-modern-world-moral-economy-famine-relief">https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/en/blog/humanitarian-actors-and-practices/humanitarianism-modern-world-moral-economy-famine-relief</a> </p> </div> </div> <div class="contribution-container"> <div class="field--name-field-contribution"> <p> <span>If you want to criticize or develop this content,</span> you can find us on twitter or directly on our site. </p> <a href="/index.php/en/contribute?to=10354" class="button">Contribute</a> </div> </div> <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-above">Humanitarianism in the Modern World. The moral economy of famine relief</span> Thu, 01 Jul 2021 15:28:59 +0000 elba.msf 10354 at https://www.msf-crash.org De l’inertie bureaucratique à la « fragilité politique » https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/fr/publications/acteurs-et-pratiques-humanitaires/de-linertie-bureaucratique-la-fragilite-politique <div class="field field--name-field-publish-date field--type-datetime field--label-inline clearfix"> <div class="field__label">Publication date</div> <div class="field__item"><time datetime="2020-09-08T12:00:00Z" class="datetime">09/08/2020</time> </div> </div> <span rel="schema:author" class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span lang="" about="/index.php/en/user/125" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">elba.msf</span></span> <span property="schema:dateCreated" content="2020-09-09T11:01:00+00:00" class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 09/09/2020 - 13:01</span> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/fight-against-inequalities" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">fight against inequalities</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/ngo" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">NGO</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/history-humanitarianism" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">history of humanitarianism</a></div> </div> <details class="field--type-entity-person js-form-wrapper form-wrapper"> <summary role="button" aria-expanded="false" aria-pressed="false">Jean-Hervé Bradol</summary><div class="details-wrapper"> <div class="field--type-entity-person js-form-wrapper form-wrapper field field--name-field-authors field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"> <article data-history-node-id="3222" role="article" about="/index.php/en/jean-herve-bradol" class="node node--type-person node--view-mode-embed"> <div class="node__content"> <div class="group-person-profil"> <div class="group-person-image-profil"> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/profile_image/public/2017-04/DSCF4265.jpg?itok=AmXSIDIp" width="180" height="230" alt="Jean-Hervé Bradol" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-profile-image" /> </div> </div> <div class="group-person-content"> <div class="group-person-firstname-lastname"> <div class="field field--name-field-firstname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Jean-Hervé</div> <div class="field field--name-field-lastname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Bradol</div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Medical doctor, specialized in tropical medicine, emergency medicine and epidemiology. In 1989 he went on mission with Médecins sans Frontières for the first time, and undertook long-term missions in Uganda, Somalia and Thailand. He returned to the Paris headquarters in 1994 as a programs director. Between 1996 and 1998, he served as the director of communications, and later as director of operations until May 2000 when he was elected president of the French section of Médecins sans Frontières. He was re-elected in May 2003 and in May 2006. From 2000 to 2008, he was a member of the International Council of MSF and a member of the Board of MSF USA. He is the co-editor of "Medical innovations in humanitarian situations" (MSF, 2009) and Humanitarian Aid, Genocide and Mass Killings: Médecins Sans Frontiéres, The Rwandan Experience, 1982–97 (Manchester University Press, 2017).</p> </div> <div class="same-author-link"><a href="/index.php/en/jean-herve-bradol" class="button">By the same author</a> </div> </div> </div> </article> </div> </div> </div> </details> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p><em>Interview by Helai Hosseini. A first version was published on the website of the MSF France association on 31 July 2020.</em></p> <p><br /> In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, voices have risen within MSF denouncing the racist and discriminatory nature of our organization. Equal opportunity, they say, is not offered to all our employees. Founded in France in the early 70s by a handful of doctors and journalists, the organization has grown and become international,&nbsp;now employing over 46,000 people around the world, nearly 39,000 of whom are recruited locally. How has MSF’s policy towards its personnel evolved down the years? What is currently being done to fight inequalities? Here is Jean Hervé Bradol’s take on the major phases that have marked MSF’s transformation and the ways in which discussions are engaged today.</p> <p><strong>What changes have you observed in the way different categories of personnel are treated in MSF?</strong></p> <p><br /> At first and for a long time, the relationship with the national staff came through the hiring of their services: cooks, housekeepers, translators, technical advisors in support of the expat logistics operator, drivers, gardeners, etc. The locally recruited&nbsp;workers were seen as simple employees and by no means as members of MSF. Having said that, we immediately have to stress the huge diversity of situations in the field relating to domestic tasks. Managing daily life in a big Asian city is a far cry from managing it in the sub-Saharan countryside, altering the relationships between people living in any given country.&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;<br /> For the first volunteers, MSF was initially a Parisian association. The first internal tensions arose around a dividing line of&nbsp;"Paris versus the province". Then, among the international staff<span class="annotation">Or expats, as international staff was referred to at the time.</span>, doctors held all the positions of power both in the field and at headquarters. It was the first socio-professional category of discrimination that we had to probe.&nbsp;Of course, in such a situation there is also the reproduction of inequalities in relation to gender and class. Within the medical profession, women were not in the minority, as they already held decision-making positions in programs and operations; but this does not mean that gender inequalities received the attention they deserved. The main issue occurred in the care implemented in the field. For example, no specific protocol for the victims of sexual violence was put in place prior to the early 2000s.&nbsp;</p> <p>Then, the non-French-speaking expats – who were growing in numbers because of the Europeanizing and internationalizing of the MSF movement – complained of being excluded by their French-speaking colleagues. Ironically, mastering the English language has today become in itself a vector of inequality.</p> <p>In the late 80s and early 90s European and American public funds enabled us to begin employing care-providers locally. These colleagues played a direct role in running our local missions, but we were still in the service-provider mode, and we did not feel responsible for the situation beyond the employer-employee relationship. In 1993-1994, we expatriated national staff colleagues for the first time by sending a Madagascan team to Rwanda, where we had to start up huge aid operations as the health situation in the country was calamitous for the displaced and refugee populations. One of the female doctors in this team became the country’s medical coordinator.&nbsp;</p> <p>But that dynamic didn’t last. It highlights to what degree an evolving institution tries to catch up with the reality of practices. By the early 1990s the conditions were there for expatriating members of the national staff, but it took another dozen or so years before it became a more common practice. At the same time another problem asserted itself, i.e. the need to&nbsp;improve the national staff’s security conditions, an important and very substantial topic in day-to-day Rwanda where the Tutsis were threatened with extermination.&nbsp;</p> <p>2002 was a watershed year. The issue of membership in the organization of national staff members was put on the table at an MSF-France Board of Directors meeting when I was president. A look at the statutes showed that there was nothing against it. So we confirmed that the association was open in general and in particular to national staff, which was an important starting point for what followed.&nbsp;</p> <p>In that same year we were faced with a scandal in the refugee and displaced-person camps in West Africa, where the leaders of local NGOs and United Nations workers demanded sexual favors in exchange for food and care. Such practices were far from peripheral, and we had to reflect on the abusive practices that some of our national staff members might exercise, certain “big men” in aid on a local level, to use the term from back then. It was also apparent that members of the international staff were turning a blind eye to these serious acts.&nbsp;</p> <p>2002 was also marked by a huge malaria outbreak in Burundi, where patients were given ineffective medicines without its posing many problems [of conscience] for MSF or the aid world generally. Yet several of us at MSF were shocked by a situation that would have been otherwise unthinkable anywhere else than in a poor, small sub-Saharan African country. It should be noted that this kind of phenomenon is not rare, particularly in Africa. I’m talking about accepting degraded medical practices in complete contradiction to both scientific and ethical recommendations. For example, in the context of the Ebola treatment centers in West Africa (2013–2016), patients who couldn’t be rehydrated orally were not, in most cases, rehydrated via bone marrow or intravenously. Despite protests by numerous field doctors and a small number of directors, the MSF institution justified such deterioration in care (a practice presented as futile and dangerous) and threatened those who opposed it with sanctions.</p> <p><br /> <strong>What’s your analysis of these abuses of power in West Africa and this discrimination leading to the poor treatment of patients in Burundi?&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>We must stop thinking that humanitarian actors are or should be a moral elite. Humanitarian practices reproduce inequalities and abuses that are found in our own societies. That is fostered by the fact that aid beneficiaries are by definition in a weak position, where it is hard for them to defend their rights. There is a link between the abuse suffered by staff and the abuse suffered by the recipients of aid. The quality of care provided depends on the quality of the staff providing it. People mistreated by their employer will mistreat their patients. The quality of a care service depends on the quality of the staff’s work, which in turn depends on the quality of the treatment received by the staff. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>What about the disparities in treatment of MSF’s national and international staff?&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Up until the 2000s, with very few exceptions, national staff members were not allowed to apply for jobs abroad, without us really knowing why, as there was nothing in the statutes or internal regulations to prevent them from doing so. It first occurred through bureaucratic inertia, i.e. force of habit inherited from a time when national staff members only carried out domestic or logistic duties but nothing medical.&nbsp;</p> <p>Moreover, prejudices helped justify the situation. National staff members were depicted as wanting to expatriate for venal reasons, even though the desire to enjoy decent living conditions through one’s salary is legitimate and not down to a staff category.&nbsp;</p> <p>The other very negative aspect of our internal organization for carrying out quality work was the fact that national staff members could not fill decision-making jobs in their countries of residence. They were excluded from meetings where important decisions were made. Other than their alleged venality, there was a wide-spread prejudice that they couldn’t behave impartially in their own country if it was torn by conflict.&nbsp;</p> <p>When the Board tried to remedy all these issues, it ran up against some heads of mission, operational officers and human resource officers. One of the first cases we decided to deal with pertained to daily workers. The pay given by MSF in some African countries enabled them to feed their families but not send their kids to school. This level of pay was already higher than that currently practiced in their societies. Should we have accepted such a situation?&nbsp;</p> <p>We worked along with the heads of human resources who understood what was at stake for the quality of aid offered by our organization, in order to widen a kind of common rights. This meant taking this principle as a starting point, so as to see if the differing treatments that were introduced afterwards could be justified by specific skills for carrying out the social mission – being a surgeon, for example – or by insurmountable outside constraints, e.g. holding an Israeli passport to enter Iran. To gauge our progress, we began trying to measure how many national staff colleagues expatriated each year. A crisis in recruiting skilled medical workers enabled many national staff members to access these positions. Likewise, in 2005 in Niger it was thanks to expatriate African staff members and national medical officers that we were able to tackle the food emergency. Precedents were set with these crises, which eventually became common practice with the help of proactive policies. We also turned our attention to the mix – national with international – of our coordination teams. In short we tried to clamber up the whole chain where unjustifiable inequalities occurred, at least in our eyes.&nbsp;</p> <p><br /> <strong>What according to you are the obstacles to national staff mobility?</strong></p> <p>When I joined MSF in the late 80s, field teams were almost exclusively composed of French nationals. Today in the Paris office, as in the international personnel, we have colleagues from many different origins, even if it is still problematic on the directors’ level and in the composition of the Board.&nbsp;</p> <p>In this discussion, it is helpful to remember that we began as an association under French law, which then began to Europeanize at first and now aspires to become global. All that in a few decades, and with no international legal associative framework. This helps to better understand why the organization is always lagging behind real practices and the wishes of its members.&nbsp;</p> <p>It is often material aspects that cause problems. It can be hard for a foreign colleague and even sometimes for a French colleague from the provinces to move to Paris for a short spell, with no clear view of the next steps in their professional careers. If the organization demands international mobility, it has to support its employees administratively and financially to enable them to settle in, as we do when we send a French colleague to New York or expats with their families to the other side of the world, even if it means incurring additional expense. In this sense, we have to create a common-rights policy.&nbsp;</p> <p>Otherwise, pertaining to expatriation, we still have a tendency to “sanctify” the expat’s impartiality in conflict situations and assume they will be able to carry out their mission by obeying humanitarian principles. It is true in some situations, but it is absurd to promulgate general rules that lead to the exclusion of national staff members from certain jobs and hinder their advancement within the organization.&nbsp;</p> <p>I think that today’s leaders, along with WACA – an MSF association and a West-African-based operational center – have a project that is a profound renewal of our ambitions.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>How, according to you, can inequalities be remedied in MSF?&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>In three verbs: democratize, professionalize and prioritize!</p> <p>It’s first of all a matter of furthering internal democracy. As much as it has progressed at the national level - we have had section presidencies held by former national staff, although much remains to be done - it has regressed at the international level where members of national associations do not have the right to vote. It’s fairly complicated on the legal plane, but we have to end &nbsp;this system of grand electors – as suggested by our General Director – &nbsp;as soon as possible; as it embeds an old-boys’ caste of notables in humanitarianism without borders.&nbsp;</p> <p>But greater democracy isn’t enough. We also have to “professionalize” the fight against inequalities and abuses of power. There should be a management position dedicated to this area. The starting point of inequality is often bureaucratic. No one wants, for example, the International Remuneration Project, version 2 (IRP-2), to harm African staff members. Yet in the end it is a major stain with racist undertones in how work is organized and the in the treatment of our staff. With the IRP-2, a French expatriate doctor and a Sudanese expatriate doctor both working in Kenya do not have the same salary even though they do the same work. As most of our national staff is from Africa, it is systematically these colleagues who are paid less when they are expatriated.<br /> This of course produces a detestable system, whatever the motives may have been in the first place. The French section of MSF abandoned this practice several years ago but it had already wreaked havoc.</p> <p>Note in passing – since it is one of themes of our internal debate – that this kind of discrimination is indeed systemic. It should also be noted that at the origin of this unequal system is an intention of equity: to pay international staff members according to the different standards of living in the societies from which they come. This contradicts an idea that is obvious to the vast majority of our colleagues: "equal pay for equal work".</p> <p>Whether they are enshrined in our rules or derived from custom, the exceptions have to be deconstructed in favor of common policies to eradicate an injustice. Most of the time, it is enough to eradicate an unjustifiable exception which requires close attention every day to weed out what is not justifiable. As soon as an organization reaches a certain size, it has to institutionalize and professionalize the fight against arbitrariness. It is one of the traits of human societies to constantly renew the forms of discrimination. It's an endless task. Thinking of eradicating all injustices is a dangerous illusion that leads to the development of authoritarian, ineffective and unjust practices.&nbsp;</p> <p>Priorities must be set in this endless struggle. We should be guided by two ideas in this exercise, i.e. identifying the staff members and patients who are the most exposed to unfair treatment and, secondly, identifying the injustices that have the greatest impact on the quality of work. From a historical and geographical standpoint, it is sub-Saharan Africa that immediately draws attention by the severity of the inequalities we detect. It is also telling that the descendants of Africans are, outside of the continent, also hit by deep-running injustices. It is no coincidence that our discussion has begun with the murder of George Floyd. The conditions of Afro-Americans remain appalling, especially those of the blue-collar working class.</p> <p><br /> <strong>The discussion of racism and inequality in MSF follows on the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States. Can the American situation be transposed to all of MSF?&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>I think is entirely fair that MSF-USA has thrown its weight behind the Black Lives Matter movement. I would add that as a former member of the MSF-USA Board (2000–2008), I am proud of it.&nbsp;</p> <p>But I don’t think it relevant for the directors of MSF, whether in America or elsewhere, to accept the concepts or the analytical table of certain currents of leftwing thinking that are intolerant to other people’s positions. I am thinking here of ideas such as: MSF - a racist institution; white fragility; white privilege; white supremacy; an organisation that is necessarily racist when its anti-racism is not defined by this fraction of the left, etc.&nbsp;<br /> The issue is not specifically American. These political currents are expressed on a worldwide scale. The most intolerant warn their various listeners to adopt their opinions or else be subjected to a public campaign of moral denunciation. Academics, journalists and art and philanthropic professionals have lost their jobs under the pressure of such smear campaigns. Under the guise of fighting genuine injustices (racism, sexism, infringement of human rights, police violence, inequalities in access to medical treatment, etc.) and of mobilizing against severe damage to the environment, democratic discussion is no longer tolerated. It’s the regime of “with us or against us”. What I am suggesting here is not to tolerate racism but to preserve the possibility of discussing the shapes it assumes in today’s world and within MSF itself. Even having to mention this point shows the extent to which the atmosphere of the discussions has been poisoned.&nbsp;</p> <p>To those who could think I could be exaggerating, I’d highly recommend you watch this short propaganda video : <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&amp;v=j353TOtaikU&amp;feature=emb_logo" target="_blank">Racism at Doctors without Borders&nbsp;</a></p> <p><br /> On this issue of discrimination as on those of access to medicines and managerial roles – themes addressed at the CRASH – we know that it is essential to understand the barriers. Implementing a policy that contributes to improving humanitarian action has to be preceded by serious analytical work and not propounding an ideology closed to discussion, as if this discussion could only be a debate expressed in the following terms: “Are you for or against racism?”!</p> <p><strong>At the end of June 2020, an open letter denouncing "empty declarations, the absence of a real acknowledgement of failure and the lack of evidence of a commitment to concrete action" to fight "the racism perpetuated within MSF" was sent to the leaders of MSF.<span class="annotation">The open letter first appeared internally and was then the subject of an article published in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/jul/10/medecins-sans-frontieres-institutionally-racist-medical-charity-colonialism-white-supremacy-msf" target="_blank">The Guardian</a>, with other newspapers and publications subsequently publishing the story.</span> What do you think of this internal petition?</strong></p> <p><br /> With over 1,000 signatures and 170 comments, this letter opens a needed discussion and inspires an important associative moment. The problem is that its authors are closing the discussion before even having it. If all institutions – including MSF – are racist, then none &nbsp;really are. To my mind, generalizing the accusation and its essentialist dimension – that “whites” are suspect by nature “since racism gives them advantages” – weakens an anti-racist mobilization that is nonetheless vital.&nbsp;</p> <p>From a political point of view, we are seeing a big return to the anti-democratic component of the left. Thirty years after its historic defeat at the end of the cold war, this return seems inevitable to me. In our ranks it takes the shape of a sort of “humanitarian Stalinism”. I think that the leaders of our international movement are letting themselves be intimidated a little too easily, thereby showing their “political fragility”, even a kind of “jumping on the bandwagon”.&nbsp;</p> <p>It is one of the fundamental characteristics of humanitarianism not to require ideological pre-requisites from its members for them to act together to care for and rescue people threatened by death. It is what happens every day in our operations where colleagues who, in another context, would never even speak to one another, work together to achieve our social mission. By their mind-set, they show us that tolerance is a condition of humanitarian action.<br /> &nbsp;</p> <div>&nbsp;</div> </div> <div class="citation-container"> <div class="field--name-field-citation"> <p> <span>To cite this content :</span> <br> Jean-Hervé Bradol, From bureaucratic inertia to “policy fragility”, 8 September 2020, URL : <a href="https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/en/publications/humanitarian-actors-and-practices/bureaucratic-inertia-policy-fragility">https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/en/publications/humanitarian-actors-and-practices/bureaucratic-inertia-policy-fragility</a> </p> </div> </div> <div class="height-computed field field--name-field-related-content field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Related publications</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item"> <article data-history-node-id="3505" role="article" lang="fr" about="/fr/rencontres-debats/le-colonialisme-un-projet-humanitaire" class="node node--type-debate node--view-mode-teaser"> <div class="node__content"> <div class="group-teaser-image"> <div class="field field--name-field-teaser-media field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__item"><article class="media media--type-image media--view-mode-teaser"> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/teaser/public/2017-06/MSF166390-colonization-a-humanitarian-project.jpg?h=b5384868&amp;itok=bOAJM8lc" width="450" height="300" alt="La ville de Hébron, en territoire palestinien occupé" title="le colonialisme, un projet humanitaire?" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-teaser" /> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-copyright field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Paul Maakad</div> </article> </div> <a href="/en/node/3505" class="main-link"></a> </div> <div class="group-content"> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="flag.link_builder:build" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3505&amp;2=reading_list" token="zSGpblbRpxNCPwMmdddGIzO6S7fU0MP-LE1oWdEMkRE"></drupal-render-placeholder><div class="bundle-container"><div class="field--name-field-bundle">Debate</div></div><span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden"><h3><a href="/fr/rencontres-debats/le-colonialisme-un-projet-humanitaire" hreflang="fr">Le colonialisme, un projet humanitaire ? </a></h3> </span> <div class="field field--name-field-debate-start-date field--type-datetime field--label-hidden field__item"><time datetime="2005-05-17T18:30:00Z" class="datetime">05/17/2005 - 8:30 pm</time> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-authors field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/fr/nicolas-bancel" hreflang="fr">Nicolas Bancel</a></div> </div> <div class="node__links"> <ul class="links inline"><li class="node-readmore"><a href="/fr/rencontres-debats/le-colonialisme-un-projet-humanitaire" rel="tag" title="Le colonialisme, un projet humanitaire ? " hreflang="fr">Read more<span class="visually-hidden"> about Le colonialisme, un projet humanitaire ? </span></a></li></ul> </div> </div> </div> </article> </div> <div class="field__item"> <article data-history-node-id="7037" role="article" about="/en/blog/humanitarian-actors-and-practices/borno-nigeria-critical-look-our-operations" class="node node--type-blog-post node--view-mode-teaser"> <div class="node__content"> <div class="group-teaser-image"> <div class="field field--name-field-teaser-media field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__item"><article class="media media--type-image media--view-mode-teaser"> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/teaser/public/2019-07/MSF175058%28High%29.jpg?h=6ef5bb3f&amp;itok=55kIVtPW" width="450" height="300" alt="Food distribution in Borno state" title="Food distribution in Borno state" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-teaser" /> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-copyright field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Shaista Aziz/MSF</div> </article> </div> <a href="/en/blog/humanitarian-actors-and-practices/borno-nigeria-critical-look-our-operations" class="main-link"></a> </div> <div class="group-content"> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="flag.link_builder:build" arguments="0=node&amp;1=7037&amp;2=reading_list" token="8steq6G3_2pLYSwpEMGMpEgYaflDTdPqFkQzkKOI4P8"></drupal-render-placeholder><div class="bundle-container"><div class="field--name-field-bundle">Blog post</div></div><span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden"><h3><a href="/en/blog/humanitarian-actors-and-practices/borno-nigeria-critical-look-our-operations" hreflang="en">Borno, Nigeria : a critical look at our operations</a></h3> </span> <div class="field field--name-field-publish-date field--type-datetime field--label-hidden field__item"><time datetime="2019-07-01T12:00:00Z" class="datetime">07/01/2019</time> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-authors field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/en/isabelle-defourny" hreflang="en">Isabelle Defourny</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/en/elba-rahmouni" hreflang="en">Elba Rahmouni</a></div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-summary field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>In 2016, the Operations Department commissioned a critical review of the operations carried out between 2015 and 2016 in Borno State by MSF France in the north east of Nigeria. In response, and with the help of Epicentre, Judith Soussan and Fabrice Weissman from CRASH produced a detailed historical account of the analyses made of the situation by the teams, capital and headquarters at the time, as well as the objectives they set themselves, the actions they undertook, the obstacles they encountered and the results they achieved.  As part of this project, some of the directors and operations managers who had been involved in these operations took a retrospective look at their own practices: were they late in responding to the catastrophic situation in the IDP camps in rural areas and on the outskirts of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, in 2016 and, if so, why?  What conclusions can be drawn <em>a posteriori</em> about the operational choices made and the effectiveness of MSF intervention strategies? And, to take things a step further, what does this experience teach us about how MSF functions and how our teams work? Interview with Isabelle Defourny, Operations Director at MSF-OCP. By Elba Rahmouni. </p> </div> <div class="node__links"> <ul class="links inline"><li class="node-readmore"><a href="/en/blog/humanitarian-actors-and-practices/borno-nigeria-critical-look-our-operations" rel="tag" title="Borno, Nigeria : a critical look at our operations" hreflang="en">Read more<span class="visually-hidden"> about Borno, Nigeria : a critical look at our operations</span></a></li></ul> </div> </div> </div> </article> </div> <div class="field__item"> <article data-history-node-id="3644" role="article" about="/index.php/en/blog/humanitarian-actors-and-practice/debate-end-humanitarianism-without-borders" class="node node--type-blog-post node--view-mode-teaser"> <div class="node__content"> <div class="group-teaser-image"> <div class="field field--name-field-teaser-media field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__item"><article class="media media--type-image media--view-mode-teaser"> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/teaser/public/2017-05/MSF162720-Idomeni%20after%20the%20closing%20of%20the%20border.jpg?itok=gmsHCMJD" width="450" height="300" alt="Une frontière fermée" title="La fin de l’humanitaire sans frontières " typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-teaser" /> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-copyright field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Alex Yallop</div> </article> </div> <a href="/index.php/en/blog/humanitarian-actors-and-practice/debate-end-humanitarianism-without-borders" class="main-link"></a> </div> <div class="group-content"> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="flag.link_builder:build" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3644&amp;2=reading_list" token="duKZmDxrBJhJLoYNlKjWAaZ_X56CQ5qX182BmppBC3M"></drupal-render-placeholder><div class="bundle-container"><div class="field--name-field-bundle">Blog post</div></div><span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden"><h3><a href="/index.php/en/blog/humanitarian-actors-and-practice/debate-end-humanitarianism-without-borders" hreflang="en">Debate : the end of humanitarianism without borders ?</a></h3> </span> <div class="field field--name-field-publish-date field--type-datetime field--label-hidden field__item"><time datetime="2009-10-06T12:00:00Z" class="datetime">10/06/2009</time> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-authors field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/rony-brauman" hreflang="en">Rony Brauman</a></div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-summary field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>The article written by Christian Troubé, "The end of humanitarianism without borders?", published by Grotius.fr, and based on a description of humanitarianism of ‘yesteryear', strikes a cord with many of today's humanitarian figures.</p> </div> <div class="node__links"> <ul class="links inline"><li class="node-readmore"><a href="/index.php/en/blog/humanitarian-actors-and-practice/debate-end-humanitarianism-without-borders" rel="tag" title="Debate : the end of humanitarianism without borders ?" hreflang="en">Read more<span class="visually-hidden"> about Debate : the end of humanitarianism without borders ?</span></a></li></ul> </div> </div> </div> </article> </div> </div> </div> <div class="contribution-container"> <div class="field--name-field-contribution"> <p> <span>If you want to criticize or develop this content,</span> you can find us on twitter or directly on our site. </p> <a href="/index.php/en/contribute?to=9019" class="button">Contribute</a> </div> </div> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="flag.link_builder:build" arguments="0=node&amp;1=9019&amp;2=reading_list" token="066lwLnln7Z0VnFZHl2iuV8k8p431EgJ4gx03S9Gq4Y"></drupal-render-placeholder><span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-above">From bureaucratic inertia to “policy fragility”</span> Tue, 08 Sep 2020 14:31:31 +0000 elba.msf 9019 at https://www.msf-crash.org The Challenges of Globalization of International Relief and Development https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/en/publications/humanitarian-actors-and-practices/challenges-globalization-international-relief-and <div class="field field--name-field-publish-date field--type-datetime field--label-inline clearfix"> <div class="field__label">Publication date</div> <div class="field__item"><time datetime="2019-11-27T12:00:00Z" class="datetime">11/27/2019</time> </div> </div> <span rel="schema:author" class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span lang="" about="/index.php/en/user/125" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">elba.msf</span></span> <span property="schema:dateCreated" content="2019-11-27T11:36:43+00:00" class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 11/27/2019 - 12:36</span> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/development" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">development</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/history-humanitarianism" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">history of humanitarianism</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/humanitarian-principles" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">humanitarian principles</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/humanitarian-intervention" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">humanitarian intervention</a></div> </div> <details class="field--type-entity-person js-form-wrapper form-wrapper"> <summary role="button" aria-expanded="false" aria-pressed="false">Philippe Biberson &amp; François Jean</summary><div class="details-wrapper"> <div class="field--type-entity-person js-form-wrapper form-wrapper field field--name-field-authors field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"> <article data-history-node-id="7709" role="article" lang="fr" about="/fr/philippe-biberson" class="node node--type-person node--view-mode-embed"> <div class="node__content"> <div class="group-person-profil"> <div class="group-person-image-profil"> </div> <div class="group-person-content"> <div class="group-person-firstname-lastname"> <div class="field field--name-field-firstname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Philippe</div> <div class="field field--name-field-lastname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Biberson</div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Doctor, President of MSF France from 1994 to 2000.</p> </div> <div class="same-author-link"><a href="/en/node/7709" class="button">By the same author</a> </div> </div> </div> </article> </div> <div class="field__item"> <article data-history-node-id="3252" role="article" about="/en/francois-jean" class="node node--type-person node--view-mode-embed"> <div class="node__content"> <div class="group-person-profil"> <div class="group-person-image-profil"> </div> <div class="group-person-content"> <div class="group-person-firstname-lastname"> <div class="field field--name-field-firstname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">François</div> <div class="field field--name-field-lastname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Jean</div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Researcher at MSF-Crash, François Jean died on December 25th 1999. He wrote numerous books and articles, some published in Revue Esprit. He worked particularly on Afghanistan, Caucasus, North Korea and analyzed the evolution of humanitarianism without compromise.</p> </div> <div class="same-author-link"><a href="/en/francois-jean" class="button">By the same author</a> </div> </div> </div> </article> </div> </div> </div> </details> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p><em>First Published December 1, 1999 -&nbsp;Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly (NVSQ) -&nbsp;Volume 28 Issue 1</em></p> <p><em>This article begins with a look at the role played by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) since its inception in 1971, and then looks at the challenges facing MSF today. It focuses on the confusion of humanitarian and political roles and on the goals MSF has laid out for itself to&nbsp;address this confusion. Humanitarian aid has become the favored response of governments to political crises, and governments have increasingly turned to NGOs to carry out their policies. In turn, NGOs have become increasingly dependent on governments for financial support. These changes have politicized aid delivery and made it difficult for NGOs to maintain their independence. In addition, as the number of NGOs increases and their activities become more specialized, there are pressures toward institutionalization and bureaucratization. To respond to these challenges, MSF has identified several goals, including maintaining organizational independence and flexibility and avoiding bureaucratization.</em></p> <p class="text-align-center"><strong>ORIGINS AND HISTORY OF MÉDECINS SANS FRONTIÈRES</strong></p> <p>The creation of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in 1971 not only reflects evolution in Western societies, it also shows a response to the shortcomings of international aid as it was then configured.</p> <p>The founding of MSF coincided with the democratization of both air transport and information. The Biafran war, which ended in 1970, was contemporary to the diffusion of television sets in European households. The instantaneous visibility of disasters and conflicts on television made it less and less acceptable to do nothing in the face of mass suffering or to offer only a confused effort at emergency assistance. In the meantime, the conflict over Biafra clearly revealed the constraints of the Red Cross (ICRC) in responding to emergencies. The ICRC was not entitled to intervene in a country without the approval of the country’s authorities, and its personnel had to adopt a&nbsp;reserved attitude toward the events that they witnessed during a mission. The group of doctors who created MSF on December 20, 1971 in Paris intended to change the way humanitarian aid was delivered by providing medical assistance more rapidly and by being less deterred by legal constraints at a time of crisis.</p> <p>MSF remained a small organization in the 1970s. Its growth was fueled by the multiplication of refugee camps at the end of the decade, which forced the organization to take on a more professional approach. At the beginning of the 1980s, MSF introduced logistics and medical departments, a salaried administrative system, and the organization of marketing and fundraising activities. To guarantee its independence, MSF set a clear policy that at least 60% of funds raised must come from private sources. To increase its technical expertise, MSF created several affiliated organizations that are committed to pursuing specific areas of research in the field of emergency medicine: in 1984, AEDES; in 1986, Epicentre; and in 1992, HealthNet.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the movement continued to gain momentum with the creation of Belgian and Swiss sections in 1981, a Dutch section in 1984, and Spanish and Luxemburg sections in 1985. These sections share the same charter and are able to carry out missions abroad. The whole movement represents an average of 1,200 volunteer positions (2,400 departure / year) in 60 to 70 countries, with an overall budget of U.S.$231 million in 1997.</p> <p>Between 1986 and 1995, this expansion continued further with the setting up of supporting sections in Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Norway, Sweden, the United States, and the United Kingdom. These delegate offices were meant to raise funds, recruit volunteers, and enlarge the capacity of MSF to mobilize public opinion. In 1997, all the delegate offices were invited to become sections. They joined the International Council of MSF composed of the heads of the 19 sections. An international liaison office staffed with four people is situated in Brussels; however, there is no umbrella organization topping the sections. The organization is trying to develop into a coordinated network of independent and accountable sections, rather than into a federation or a confederation.</p> <p>In the 1980s, wars and refugee camps were MSF’s main field of intervention. Three principles guided its action: the right of access to victims, the need for independent evaluation of the situation, and the monitoring of assistance. To enforce these principles, MSF was ready to speak out in the face of major human rights abuses and to conduct clandestine missions when its presence was not officially authorized. MSF’s conception of operational neutrality means that the organization never takes sides or supports a party in a conflict. However, in the event of massive human rights violations, we feel that it is our duty to speak out and, in the most serious cases, denounce the crimes against defenseless people, even at the cost of antagonizing the party responsible. Despite this departure from the strict conception of neutrality, our ability to gain access to victims is based on the strong respect of the principles of independence and impartiality.</p> <p>Although war related situations and refugees movements remain an important focus for MSF in the 1990s, the organization is increasingly facing the challenges of new health care crises: the reemergence of once controlled diseases, the emergence of new epidemics, the failing health system in the former Soviet Union, lack of access to heath care for excluded populations in Western countries, and so forth.</p> <p class="text-align-center"><strong>THE MOST IMPORTANT CHALLENGES</strong></p> <p>Over the past decade, the context in which humanitarian assistance is being provided has changed dramatically. However, we will not elaborate here on the changing nature—or perception—of conflicts since the end of the cold war. Our aim is to throw some light on the institutional changes in the international aid system and to look at their implications for humanitarian organizations.</p> <p>The past 10 years have witnessed a swift and far-reaching transformation of the international aid system. By the mid-1980s, a noticeable change in donor policy had occurred, from direct donor assistance to recognized governments to favor of international support for private, nongovernmental actors. In the past decade, government funding of humanitarian aid has grown considerably and NGOs are playing an increasingly important role in delivering that assistance. This restructuring of the humanitarian aid market has been accompanied by an enlarged distribution of aid from the periphery to the center of conflicts. NGO expansion is partly linked to the changing status of the refugee. Apart from its welfare function, the policy role of relief is to help prevent large-scale population movements crossing international boundaries and, through humanitarian assistance, to help keep conflict-affected populations within their home countries. Since the 1980s, the trend has been increasingly to internalize the effects of political crisis within unstable regions. Consequently, humanitarian aid has no longer just been distributed in refugee camps, but increasingly within war-torn countries in the very heart of combat zones. These evolutions have raised important questions for humanitarian organizations.</p> <p>Humanitarian aid has become the West’s favored response to political crises that are not of major strategic importance. As such, it has become a foreign policy tool and a factor of legitimization of international intervention. This has brought with it the risk of humanitarian organizations becoming mere instruments in the hands of government authorities. At the same time, increasing intervention by governments in the humanitarian space—including armed intervention—has blurred the distinctions between the political and humanitarian rationale. Such confusion throws doubt on the independence and impartiality of humanitarian actors.</p> <p>Humanitarian organizations also contribute to the confusion between the humanitarian and political fields by becoming more and more involved in the decision-making process. The humanitarian traffic that reaches the United Nations (UN) Security Council has greatly increased and NGOs have gained an unparalleled access to decision makers in the north. NGOs are not only providers of information but also shapers of policy.</p> <p>Donor countries and official agencies are channeling increasing amounts of money through NGOs. The growing part of state financing in the budgets of NGOs raises the issue of just how independent humanitarian organizations are from states and donor countries. The degree to which individual NGOs are dependent on donor funding can vary. Some organizations have remained independent and are able to define their own strategies, whereas others have become little more than subcontractors of donor countries. However, even established NGOs that regard themselves as having an independent capacity by virtue of public support generally find themselves relying on donor funding in large-scale emergencies. At the same time, the emergence of a supply-side aid economy may lead some organizations to define their assistance programs on the basis of availability of funds, rather than on an impartial evaluation of people’s actual needs. Hence the growth of mushroom agencies or opportunistic NGOs with no mission other than the winning of donor governments’ contracts.</p> <p>The development of donor / NGO subcontracting reflects the globalization process, the growth of nongovernmental service providers, and the liberal restructuring of the welfare state in Western countries. The increasing importance of subcontracting public functions to private or nongovernmental organizations has been particularly marked in countries characterized by internal war, disintegration of governance, and public sector decay. With the internationalization and privatization of public welfare, NGOs have taken over state functions (such as the provision of public services) at the risk of a further politicization of humanitarian action. Although the development of donor / NGO welfare safety nets raises the question of accountability—or dependence—to donors’ countries, NGO substitution for the state in the provision of public welfare raises the question of accountability—or rewriting of the social contract—between a government and its citizens.</p> <p>The expansion of the aid market in war zones, based on negotiated access and integrated relief programs, has been characterized by an expansion of UN / NGO subcontracting. Since the early 1990s, humanitarian aid has been provided through a complex system of delegation and subcontracting that involves an ever increasing number of governmental, intergovernmental, and nongovernmental actors. The growth in the number of actors involved has encouraged the emergence of new coordinating bodies or mechanisms, such as the Department of Humanitarian Affairs of the United Nations (DHA) created in 1992 and replaced in January 1998 by the Office for Coordination of&nbsp;Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), or the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO), the main public donor in the emergency field. To work within a mandated system, NGOs have to become affiliated bodies. This often involves accepting notions of neutrality and security guidelines agreed by the lead agency. The increasing complexity of the aid system is likely to have an effect on the way NGOs operate and make procedures more cumbersome—to the point of encouraging the bureaucratization of humanitarian organizations.</p> <p>To respond to those challenges, humanitarian organizations should take a distance from institutional logic. At a time when MSF is in the process of internationalization, it is all the more important to control growth, to avoid bureaucratization, and to resist becoming resource driven. Accordingly, we should maintain a high level of militantism and insist on the presence of volunteers in the field, we should keep a good balance between experience and innovation so as to adapt to new forms of human distress, we should increase our capacity to raise decision makers’ awareness while avoiding politicization and instrumentalization of humanitarian action, and we should strengthen our relationship with the society in general and our public in particular.</p> <p>The instrumentalization of humanitarian action, the growing dependency on donor countries, and the ever increasing complexity of the aid system is a real challenge for humanitarian organizations. The changing institutional context raises the question of the relationship between humanitarian organizations and political powers, the aid market and society. To maintain a distinct identity and a real connection with the most threatened populations, humanitarian organizations should emphasize the principles of independence and impartiality.</p> <p>Independence is a principle that is essential to humanitarian aid. It is not only a matter of moral standard or institutional positioning, it is a relationship—in essence conflictual—with political powers. This tension is all the more acute in crisis situations where humanitarian organizations should resist pressure and instrumentalization from political forces. In the meantime, humanitarian organizations should strengthen their relationship with society, both in their countries of origin and in countries of intervention.</p> </div> <div class="citation-container"> <div class="field--name-field-citation"> <p> <span>To cite this content :</span> <br> Philippe Biberson, François Jean, The Challenges of Globalization of International Relief and Development, 27 November 2019, URL : <a href="https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/en/publications/humanitarian-actors-and-practices/challenges-globalization-international-relief-and">https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/en/publications/humanitarian-actors-and-practices/challenges-globalization-international-relief-and</a> </p> </div> </div> <div class="height-computed field field--name-field-related-content field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Related publications</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item"> <article data-history-node-id="3847" 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hreflang="en">Rony Brauman</a></div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-summary field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>In January 2009, eight regional and national NGOs got together to create the "International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect." The photo on their website's homepage sets the tone.</p> </div> <div class="node__links"> <ul class="links inline"><li class="node-readmore"><a href="/en/blog/war-and-humanitarianism/humanitarian-ngos-and-big-stick-policy" rel="tag" title="Humanitarian NGOs and the big stick policy" hreflang="en">Read more<span class="visually-hidden"> about Humanitarian NGOs and the big stick policy</span></a></li></ul> </div> </div> </div> </article> </div> </div> </div> <div class="contribution-container"> <div class="field--name-field-contribution"> <p> <span>If you want to criticize or develop this content,</span> you can find us on twitter or directly on our site. </p> <a href="/index.php/en/contribute?to=7710" class="button">Contribute</a> </div> </div> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="flag.link_builder:build" arguments="0=node&amp;1=7710&amp;2=reading_list" token="TCTYBqFCxMsLE-jEBL-z-XNfma_NNVzMVD8mKQpaxqY"></drupal-render-placeholder><span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-above">The Challenges of Globalization of International Relief and Development</span> Wed, 27 Nov 2019 11:36:43 +0000 elba.msf 7710 at https://www.msf-crash.org Guerre et humanitaire https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/fr/publications/guerre-et-humanitaire/guerre-et-humanitaire <div class="field field--name-field-publish-date field--type-datetime field--label-inline clearfix"> <div class="field__label">Publication date</div> <div class="field__item"><time datetime="2016-07-25T12:00:00Z" class="datetime">07/25/2016</time> </div> </div> <span rel="schema:author" class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span lang="" about="/index.php/en/user/65" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Jason-04</span></span> <span property="schema:dateCreated" content="2017-04-16T17:40:45+00:00" class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Sun, 04/16/2017 - 19:40</span> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/history-humanitarianism" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">history of humanitarianism</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/icrc" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">ICRC</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/ihl" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">IHL</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/military-humanitarian-relations" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">military-humanitarian relations</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/perverse-effects-and-limits-aid" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">perverse effects and limits of aid</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/biafra" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">Biafra</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/indochina" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">Indochina</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/testimony" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">testimony</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/united-nations" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">United Nations</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/humanitarian-camp" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">humanitarian camp</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/humanitarian-principles" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">humanitarian principles</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/darfur" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">Darfur</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/international-justice" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">international justice</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/international-criminal-court" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">international criminal court</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/security-humanitarian-personnel" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">security of humanitarian personnel</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/former-yugoslavia" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">former Yugoslavia</a></div> </div> <details class="field--type-entity-person js-form-wrapper form-wrapper"> <summary role="button" aria-expanded="false" aria-pressed="false">Rony Brauman</summary><div class="details-wrapper"> <div class="field--type-entity-person js-form-wrapper form-wrapper field field--name-field-authors field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"> <article data-history-node-id="3221" role="article" about="/en/rony-brauman" class="node node--type-person node--view-mode-embed"> <div class="node__content"> <div class="group-person-profil"> <div class="group-person-image-profil"> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/profile_image/public/2017-04/DSCF4256.jpg?itok=nCrBsaSM" width="180" height="230" alt="Rony Brauman" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-profile-image" /> </div> </div> <div class="group-person-content"> <div class="group-person-firstname-lastname"> <div class="field field--name-field-firstname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Rony</div> <div class="field field--name-field-lastname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Brauman</div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Medical doctor, specialized in tropical medicine and epidemiology. Involved in humanitarian action since 1977, he has been on numerous missions, mainly in contexts of armed conflicts and IDP situations. President of Médecins sans Frontières from 1982 to1994, he also teaches at the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI) and is a regular contributor to Alternatives Economiques. He has published several books and articles, including&nbsp;"Guerre humanitaires ? Mensonges et Intox" (Textuel, 2018), "La Médecine Humanitaire" (PUF, 2010), "Penser dans l'urgence" (Editions du Seuil, 2006) and "Utopies Sanitaires" (Editions Le Pommier, 2000).</p> </div> <div class="same-author-link"><a href="/en/rony-brauman" class="button">By the same author</a> </div> </div> </div> </article> </div> </div> </div> </details> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Aid delivered on humanitarian grounds is defined as selfless assistance provided to people in serious difficulty, with our common humanity our only bond. In principle, it is distinguished from other forms of aid that are motivated by political support or ethnic solidarity. Although this definition is universally accepted, it does not take into account the various meanings that have held sway during its short history nor the confusion and contradictions in current uses of the term. In practice, humanitarian aid is described as assistance provided to civilian populations suffering from a severe crisis, with the implicit qualification that the players involved are considered legitimate by general opinion – and only under this condition. This latter point can be evaluated by determining the situations in which the word is – or is not – used. Few observers, for example, have described as “humanitarian” the aid provided to the victims of natural disasters in Pakistan (2005 earthquake and 2010 floods) by Taliban organisations or by Hezbollah to Lebanon following the 2006 war. The term is widely used, however, to characterise aid provided by the Western occupation forces in Afghanistan. The variations in meaning over time can be assessed by noting that it would have been and would still be incongruous to apply this term to the Marshall Plan (1947) or the Berlin airlift during the Soviet blockade (1948-1949), even though the same thing was done during the siege of Sarajevo (1992-1995). During the Vietnam war, no one worried about a “humanitarian crisis” or employed the term “humanitarian” to describe the assistance given to the civilian population by the American military. The civilian aid that “anti-imperialist” organisations sent to the country, such as medicine, bicycles and generators, came under the rubric of political solidarity and it would have seemed out of place and even offensive to call it humanitarian. The Red Army in Afghanistan in the 1980s also provided aid to civilians, but only those supporting the invasion deemed it humanitarian. Numerous examples illustrate that while the term “humanitarian” is sometimes fluctuating and vague and at other times normative and bold, it is always caught up in power relationships that are only magnified by war.</p> <p>In an attempt to grasp and analyse the political and ethical issues related to wartime humanitarian aid, it is essential to keep in mind the varying ways the term is used by experts and the public. As inconsistent as they may sometimes be, these various definitions nevertheless share a common rationale as long they are primarily dependent on general political views toward the supposedly “relevant” players and the various situations, as above-mentioned. Beginning with the creation of the Red Cross, we will therefore examine both the environment and practices of wartime humanitarian aid, without claiming to write its history. We will review its inception in the late 19th century then directly address the contemporary post-colonial period, examining the issue at various scales of analysis and presenting contrasting perspectives and objectives.</p> <h3><br /> Civilising war</h3> <p>Evacuating soldiers injured on the battlefield, removing them from hostilities as soon as they are away from the fighting and protecting workers providing them with aid summarises the contents of the first diplomatic humanitarian treaty signed in Geneva on 22 August 1864 by 12 States. Until that point in the 19th century, the term “humanitarian” referred to a kindly disposition and confidence in humanity’s ability to improve. Appearing for the first time in France in 1835 in the writings of Alphonse de Lamartine, a poet and member of Parliament, the word meant “for the good of humanity”. The fact that it was used ironically and even mockingly is evidenced by the 1884 edition of the French Academy dictionary, which defines it as follows: “designates certain opinions and doctrines claiming the good of humanity as their goal”. With the signing of the Geneva Convention and the creation of the Red Cross, humanitarianism was no longer the expression of optimistic anthropology or pacifist universalism, but also and primarily a set of norms and an apparatus for providing assistance. Relief societies had previously been created, and efforts widely publicised by the press had been carried out by philanthropists for the sick and wounded on various battlefields, but they had always been private initiatives. Here we should note the role of information during an era of daily news. At a time of rotary presses and telegraphs, far more people were exposed to the suffering of war; descriptions of carnage on distant battlefields could be read the following day in European homes. For example, the horrifying spectacle of thousands of British soldiers dying of dysentery had been covered in the daily newspaper, The Times, during the Crimean War (1853-1856), giving rise to a protest movement to which the authorities responded by improving the inadequate medical care system. Florence Nightingale, already well known in Great Britain for her commitment to social justice, reform of the Poor Laws and improvements to public health, played a key role with the support of the British authorities.</p> <p>Against this backdrop, an assembly of 16 States met in August 1864 on the banks of Lake Leman, adopted a convention "for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field". The Geneva Convention affirmed the permanent commitment of the signatories, soon joined by most of the other major powers, to provide care to sick and wounded soldiers “regardless of their nationality”. Recognisable by its emblem, a red Maltese cross on a white background adopted in tribute to the Swiss flag, the medical services were to henceforth be respected, protected by law and not left to the discretion of military leaders. The Red Cross can trace its true origins to this promise of inviolability for its medical facilities. The political order that demanded sacrifice and killing was accepted as an unstoppable reality, as evidenced by the existence of armed violence from time immemorial. Without any possibility of eliminating war, attempting to civilise it was the only option. “Inter Arma Caritas” (Amidst Arms, Charity): it was not war that was called into question, but the excessive suffering it engendered, leading to the first international law to be codified. An ardent Protestant and admirer of Napoleon III, Swiss philanthropist Henry Dunant founded the Red Cross, whose purpose he described in “Un Souvenir de Solférino” (A Memory of Solferino, 1859). He wrote the book after seeing dying soldiers abandoned on the Solférino battlefield (1859), where he had travelled in an attempt to meet with the French emperor. In this book, which became a best-seller in Europe, he proposed “[…]during a period of peace and calm, [of] forming relief Societies whose object would be to have the wounded cared for in time of war by enthusiastic devoted volunteers fully qualified for the task”. These societies, as well as evacuated soldiers, he wrote, would be protected under an “international principle sanctioned by a convention inviolate in character” and recognised by States. Together with the pacifist Frédéric Passy, Dunant received the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.</p> <p>Three subsequent conventions held in Geneva in 1906, 1929 and 1949 dealt with the “conduct of hostilities”, which were subject to growing obligations concerning prisoners and civilian populations, including those in occupied territories. Additional protocols in 1977 [Bouchet-Saulnier F., 2013] addressed combatants and casualties of internal armed conflicts. The scope of humanitarian law gradually expanded, limiting the right to destroy lives and property and requiring certain types of material assistance. The obvious tension between the permission to kill and the incitation by modern states to keep people alive immediately emerged as an insurmountable contradiction to pacifist figures of the 19th century, such as Nightingale and the future Nobel Peace Prize winner Alfred Fried, who saw nothing but an attempt to make war a palatable endeavour. While this conflict is no longer a major issue, it retains a certain relevance under a new form – the rhetoric about “humanitarian wars”. The line between those who should be protected and sacrificed changes over time; the “limits of the intolerable” [Fassin D., Rechtman R., 2004] that every society draws vary according to time and place. For example, Czar Alexander II prohibited certain munitions, such as explosive bullets. Yet while he banned them during wars between “civilised nations”, namely the signatory States, he authorized them for conflicts against “savages”, i.e. colonised populations. The Saint Petersburg Declaration (1868), which prohibited certain projectiles, confirmed the customary rule banning the use of arms causing “unnecessary suffering”. Incorporated into the Hague Regulations of 1899 and 1907, the Declaration is referred to in the preamble of subsequent conventions signed in The Hague on the “laws and customs of war”. Geneva law and Hague law are the two branches of international humanitarian law, adopted as a universal standard by States, most of whom unleashed violence against civilians during the wars of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This collaboration exemplifies a projection of power, as evidenced by the issuance of prohibitions – a position of dominance that the world’s “civilised nations” claim only for themselves.</p> <h3><br /> Political benefits</h3> <p>The normative framework of the Geneva conventions, guaranteed and promoted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the States themselves as signatories, justifies dating wartime humanitarian aid to the creation of the ICRC and the adoption of the convention in 1864. The power relationships and balances of power in which the Committee operated, however, explains why the care provided to the wounded under the humanitarian emblem during later wars did not respect the neutrality principle to which its founders ardently aspired. In practice, the Red Cross national societies created by the convention’s signatory States exclusively served their own countries'&nbsp;soldiers and took part in war propaganda beginning in 1870 [Hutchinson J., 1996]. A society belonging to a country not involved in a conflict was nevertheless permitted to care for victims of any nationality. The British Red Cross, for example, provided aid during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, reserving medical care for its own soldiers during conflicts involving Great Britain. [Gill R., 2013]. During the Boer war (1899-1902), private organisations independent of the Red Cross tried to provide aid to civilian casualties, in this case populations considered as enemies. These included the Society of Friends, a Quaker organisation, and the Boer War Committee, set up by pacifist feminists. Between medical care for sick and wounded soldiers, visits and assistance to military and civilian prisoners, and aid to civilian populations caught up in the war, the presence of civilian relief workers on and near battlefields gradually became commonplace. Pacifists’ objection to wartime humanitarianism was eventually overcome by the reality of saved lives, which an anti-war stance of non-intervention would have condemned to death. Another objection was raised by military personnel during negotiations on the conduct of hostilities. According to certain strategists, imposing restrictions would lead to a longer war and increased suffering; they believed that the intensive, unrestrained use of violence was the only way to achieve a rapid victory that would ultimately save more lives. Aid to displaced or occupied populations, an important aspect of wartime humanitarian relief, has continually revived this debate, which re-emerged in the 1990s with talk about the “war economy”. This term refers to belligerents’ diversion of aid resources and their use for war purposes, thus leading to the prolongation of conflicts to the detriment of the victims for whom the aid was intended [Jean F., Rufin J.-C., 1996]. It should be noted that the objection raised by military strategists is similar to that raised by pacifists concerning combatants, i.e. both take a more theoretical than empirical view of the world. The strategists see the war as a purely military balance of power while the pacifists privilege a concept of non-violent human and social relations.</p> <p>Relief provided to populations suffering from food scarcity and a series of ensuing epidemics in Belgium and northern France during World War I provides a general idea of the practical challenges and difficulties involved in addressing this issue. According to the British, who had placed Belgium under blockade, food aid was protecting the Germans from the riots that would likely have broken out otherwise, thus facilitating the occupation by alleviating its cruelty [Becker A., 1998]. Churchill, in particular, supported this position.</p> <p>For the Germans, who requisitioned most of the country’s food supplies to feed their troops, the aid legitimised the blockade and the presence of foreigners in the occupied zone. For the most part, provisions were collected and distributed by the Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB), an American organisation headed by the industrialist Herbert Hoover. The food, property of the United States, which was then neutral, was distributed by a Belgian committee under the supervision of CRB representatives. The operation, which lasted nearly three years, may have freed the occupiers from this obligation, but there is no evidence they would have provided aid themselves had relief not been forthcoming. In any case, the aid proved useful to the various belligerents, with each party noting the benefit its enemy would derive as the reason for opposing it. Paradoxically, this was undoubtedly the reason that it was allowed at all: its very existence was constantly conditioned on using it for political ends (“instrumentalisation”) during wartime before it came under attack for the same reason. In other words, it is reasonable to assume that because the political cost of rejecting aid was higher than the cost of accepting it, the warring parties authorised the provision of essential, sometimes vital, aid to hundreds of thousands of civilians in occupied territories. Both then and now, in addition to the theoretical rights and obligations of international humanitarian law, it is generally these changing and contradictory set of interests that enable relief organisations to operate in conflict zones.</p> <h3><br /> From Biafra to Indochina</h3> <p>The first generation of wartime humanitarian action emerged in imperial Europe during the era of telegraphs and railroads. The second generation arose in the middle of the Cold War during the period of decolonisation, air transport and television. There is general agreement that this second era originated with the Biafran war (1967-1970), which was provoked by the secession of Nigeria’s eastern province. A relief operation comprising various Red Cross societies, mainly French and Scandinavian, was set up under the direction of the ICRC in territory controlled by secessionist forces and surrounded by government soldiers. Aid organisations affiliated with the Protestant and Catholic churches also participated in the operation. An airlift out of Sao Tome Island, a Portuguese colony at the time, supplied the international teams with drugs and food and the combatants with weapons and munitions. The magnitude of aid provided to the Biafrans as well as the wide range of relief organisations, including the Red Cross, churches and NGOs, would suffice to make this operation the inaugural event of a new era of humanitarian aid. But an additional factor made this relief effort particularly significant: the condemnation of genocide as a key element in communications about the suffering in Biafra. There was a striking contrast in the messages used to mobilize public opinion regarding the war in Vietnam (1965-1975), characterised as a “heroic” combat against American imperialism, and the war in Biafra, described as a “massacre of innocent people”. 3,000 children were reportedly dying every day. Horrifying images of emaciated children epitomized the agony under western cameras of the civilians trapped in the Biafran enclave. African governments rejected Biafran independence, which would have required drawing a new border, because they viewed the post-colonial borders as inviolable. The suffering of innocent victims was highlighted to justify continuing the war, with children, symbols of the ongoing extermination, held up as the primary casualties. Financed by the French special services, this psychological warfare was developed by a political communications firm and relayed by churches, numerous media outlets and certain humanitarian organisations [Hentsch T., 1973]. The general amnesty declared by the Nigerian authorities upon the surrender of the separatist forces, in addition to the protection previously granted to the millions of Biafrans living outside the war zone, proved the genocide accusation to be unfounded. Despite its disturbing connections with psychological warfare, otherwise known as propaganda, humanitarian testimony would eventually become a key aspect of humanitarian action. The food and medical aid provided for more than two years under often dangerous conditions saved the lives of many Biafran civilians and fighters. But did it help prolong the conflict? This cannot be ruled out but, to be precise, it is necessary to put such criticism in perspective by comparing this life-saving relief to other forms of outside support. The diplomatic and military assistance that France provided in the autumn of 1968 while negotiations were getting underway played a major role in encouraging the secession movement’s most hard-line positions, which were opposed to any form of compromise. The resistance movement’s uncompromising stance must primarily be attributed to then French president General de Gaulle’s political support for the separatists. De Gaulle became involved in the conflict under pressure from Nigeria’s French-speaking neighbours, which were seeking to weaken the region’s English-speaking giant, against the backdrop of the rivalry between France and Great Britain in Africa, with London supporting the Nigerian government.</p> <p>The practice of sending humanitarian teams into rebel zones without any government authorization predates the Biafran war, but it became established as a model during this conflict due to its scope and visibility. Yet it would remain unrivalled for a number of years afterward although it might have seemed likely for the conflicts in Mozambique, Angola, Vietnam, Bolivia and Columbia, to mention just a few of the most intense clashes of the 1970s. Only the ICRC and occasionally religious NGOs operated in rebel areas. Several explanations are possible for this Biafran exception. The war’s religious aspect was a key element in European involvement: the future Biafra defined itself as a Christian country struggling against Muslim forces. The other conflicts were viewed in ideological terms, claiming objectives of anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist solidarity. On top of these political considerations, it should be added that a solidarity-based involvement in the Third World mainly borrowed from the “development” lexicon. Beginning in the second half of the 1970s, with the influx of Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees and the increasing number of conflict areas in the Third World, humanitarian aid enjoyed a growing reputation and public support, leading to rapid development that continues to this day.</p> <h3><br /> War relief</h3> <p>From the standpoint of organising relief, armed conflicts can be characterized by three main types of effects: large population movements within a country and its neighbours; the disorganization of the health care system; and the weakening or collapse of the economy. Humanitarian organisations strive to meet the critical needs caused by these situations. Curative and preventive medical care, food aid, water supplies and provision of shelter are the essential relief services provided by the Red Cross, UN agencies and NGOs, along with local teams, who play a vital role that is often unknown.</p> <p>Assistance to a country’s internally displaced persons and to refugees, i.e. those seeking asylum in a neighbouring country, make up a substantial portion of relief aid. Central to the growth of contemporary humanitarian aid, this issue mainly focused on Europe after the two world wars, when the major concern was caring for and resettling refugees and stateless populations in Europe. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which was established in 1951, has been tasked since the 1970s with granting refugees legal status and protection and providing material assistance. ****While the UNHCR was originally established to assist opponants fleeing Eastern European Communist regimes, its mandate was later expanded by international conventions to help refugees as a whole. During the 1970s, after a period of post-colonial conflicts, war and political violence led to more uprooting in Southern countries, transferring durably the refugee issue to what was still called the Third World.</p> <p>The end of the Indochina wars in 1975 was marked by the exodus of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing repression in Vietnam and Cambodia, followed by the Khmer-Vietnamese war (1979). The conflicts in the Horn of Africa during the same period led to the creation of huge refugee camps in Sudan and Somalia. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the resumption of conflicts in southern Africa (Mozambique, Angola) and Central America (Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala) had the same effect. All these wars took place in the polarised context of East-West rivalry, which endowed the refugees with political value. With most of them fleeing violence by pro- Soviet dictatorships or revolutionary wars, they benefited from the concern of the West, which viewed them as evidence of the Communist regimes’ failures. Material assistance, provided mainly by the West, was an example of “soft power” by which the liberal camp could demonstrate its superiority. Under these circumstances, the right to asylum was no longer understood as a form of legal status entitling the refugee to permanent resettlement in a host country but as a right to a temporary haven and collective material support in a refugee camp.</p> <h3><br /> Refugees</h3> <p>Refugee camps were the focal point of humanitarian action during this period. It was here that NGOs and UN aid agencies developed their new skills and practices, separate from those related to development aid, such as site planning, logistics, specific organisational and coordination methods, and relations with the political authorities. The decision about where to locate a camp must take into account hygiene issues, transport facilities, access to water and of course the space available based on the size of the refugee population. The host country is responsible for taking this decision, but it does so in coordination with the UNHCR. While it is essential to weigh the technical and practical aspects of this decision, political issues also play a role due to continuing ties between refugees and rebel movements. Opportunities granted to the rebels by host country authorities are often sources of tension with the home country government. For that reason, the distance separating border camps from war zones is a sensitive political topic for the host country, as clearly evidenced by, among many other examples, the controversy over Salvadoran camps in Honduras during the 1980s. The Honduran authorities wanted to move the refugees away from the border to demonstrate that they did not support the Salvadoran guerrillas. This relocation effort gave rise to a major international campaign against an initiative then described as “deportation” by activist organisations. The relocation never took place. The Honduran government presumably wanted to avoid appearing hostile to the peasants fleeing military repression. It is also likely that the access provided to Salvadoran guerrillas in the camps they controlled in Honduras, which were located right along the border, helped keep the Salvadoran army on its own territory. The ardent nationalism and strong territorial tensions characterizing relations between the two governments, both of which were pro-American and anti- Communist, made the camps a means by which the Honduran military could continue its low- intensity conflict with its Salvadoran counterparts. While refugee camps are sites intended for civilian aid and protection, they cannot avoid the power relationships at work in the respective societies or the balance of power between the States concerned. During these same years, the Cambodian, Afghan, Eritrean, Nicaraguan and Mozambican refugee camps, not to mention the most prominent conflicts of the 1980s, were the locus of similar political scenarios. Yet United Nations financial and legal assistance (funding for accomodation facilities, compensation for the host country’s social services, granting of refugee status, food aid) and NGO material aid (health care, water, nutrition, sanitation, sometimes schooling) still found its way to the refugees, providing them with extensive services.</p> <p>For humanitarian workers, awareness of political tensions and dynamics, often invisible to outside players, is not a simple academic exercise but potentially a major ethical challenge, as evidenced by the exodus following the war and genocide in Rwanda (April-July 1994) [Terry F., 2002]. More than one million Rwandans crossed the border into Zaire in June 1994 while nearly 500,000 made their way to Tanzania. It quickly became clear that these camps were sheltering thousands of combatants and that the Rwandan “interim government”, known to be the genocide’s political leaders, was rapidly reorganizing and using UN and NGO financial and material resources for their own ends. The management of food stocks, tents and various goods provided by the aid system, like the hiring of refugees to work for humanitarian groups, are significant levers of power and funding for those who control them. As a result, some NGOs began questioning their very presence in the camps during the first few weeks, when it appeared likely that plans were underway for the recapture of Rwanda and the final massacre of Rwandan Tutsis, with the organisations’ unwitting help. The extremely urgent situation, caused by a devastating cholera epidemic that killed more than 30,000 refugees in just a few weeks, relegated these serious issues to the background, only to return to the foreground two months later once the epidemic had ended. These NGOs, who were in a minority, decided to end their participation once the life-threatening emergency was over, as they had no power to stop the aid diversions and their criminal purposes. Others, however, felt that it was not their place to express an opinion on the political nature of camp management and that their only duty was to provide assistance to the camps’ population. It is difficult to come down definitively on one side or the other of these two notions of humanitarian responsibility, both of them based on an ethics of solidarity. It should be noted that in addition to assessing the two sides’ judgements in this specific case, humanitarian aid’s general principles of neutrality and impartiality do not enable us to decide between these conflicting positions, each of which can make legitimate arguments on its behalf. History, however, ended up backing those who decided to leave because the camps first became a base for attacking Rwanda then a target for reprisals and a counter-offensive by the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA). The war in Zaire, which has since become the Democratic Republic of Congo (1997), has experienced little respite since that time. From the beginning, it has been marked by large-scale massacres committed by the RPA and armed groups under its control. The eastern part of the country, particularly the two Kivu provinces, remains the site of an international peacemaking and peacekeeping operation employing 26,000 people, of whom 22,000 are soldiers.</p> <h3>Displaced persons</h3> <p>The term “IInternally Displaced Persons”, or “IDPs”&nbsp;in aid jargon, refers to people forced to flee their homes due to war but who have not crossed an international border. During the 1990s, the IDP phenomenon became a humanitarian aid issue for three major reasons that a look back will clarify. Firstly, during this period, a number of Cold War-related conflicts found a political settlement, leading to the repatriation of refugees in Mozambique, Angola, El Salvador and Cambodia, among other countries, in the early part of the decade. Secondly, certain countries previously closed to international relief organisations opened their doors to the massive deployment of aid during crisis situations. And lastly, the end of Security Council paralysis following the dismantling of the Soviet Empire, resulted in the deployment of peacekeeping contingents in countries facing serious unrest. While the camps did not disappear, their locations changed due to the United Nations’ proactive containment policy, as evidenced by the conflicts in Sudan (South Sudan, then Darfur), Bosnia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.</p> <p>There is little difference between the assistance provided to IDPs and refugees in the camps, both of whom are characterized by uprooting and mass gatherings in relatively small areas. Medical care, shelter, food, drinking water and sanitation are the essential services provided. Similar dilemmas can arise, as in Bosnia (1991-1995), when NGO officials and UN agencies accused European leaders of exploiting humanitarian aid to hide their impotence at ending the war, which was instigated by Serb nationalists. They also publicly questioned their role, concerned about being “complicit in ethnic cleansing”. The population displacements were not the unintentional effect but rather the key objective of this war, and Europe was content with providing “minimum service”, which was condemned as a “humanitarian alibi”. In fact, France advocated saving the Yugoslav Federation while Germany had decided to immediately recognize Croatia, precipitating the country’s dismantlement. While Europe failed to prevent the escalation of violence and forced displacements, it is clear in hindsight that Europe did manage to contain the conflict within its borders.</p> <h3><br /> Dunantists and Wilsonians.</h3> <p>The 1990s were marked by increased military deployments by the UN – a “wilsonisme botté” (“hard Wilsonianism”), an expression coined by French political scientist Pierre Hassner, referring to the growing trend of multilateral interventionism under American leadership. From 1990-1995, some 50,000 UN peacekeepers were deployed worldwide, equivalent to the total number during the UN’s entire 45 years in existence. The doctrine of this new interventionism, with its goal of stabilising conflict zones, was stated in the “Agenda for Peace, Preventive Diplomacy, Peacemaking and Peacekeeping”, a document presented in 1992 by UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. The plan to create an armed force that could be mobilised at any time to serve the UN never got off the ground, but a growing number of international contingents was sent to crisis areas while NGOs and UN agencies increased the scope and professionalism of their services, particularly the High Commissioner for Refugees and World Food Programme (WFP). The war in Somalia (1990- ) served as a laboratory for this new form of militarized interventionism, beginning with the spectacular landing of American troops in Mogadishu port on 8 December 1992 – an event that was filmed live. The failure of this operation, largely due to a lack of understanding of the political dynamics at play as well as the direct involvement of the American forces in the conflict, has generated extensive body of literature. The last US Rangers discreetly left Somalia in March 1994 and the American refusal to intervene in any way during the Rwandan genocide, which began the following month, was the first repercussion.</p> <p>So-called humanitarian military operations, however, were not condemned in principle and their existence created a new situation for humanitarian NGOs. The UN asked them to merge their efforts with its own and play a peacemaking role, which raised difficult questions. While peace itself is a humanitarian objective, the same does not hold true for the specific means of “imposing” it – in other words, the political order created to implement it, which can involve designating an enemy. To help populations under the control of armed groups refusing a peace agreement supported by the United Nations – populations that are often in the most difficult situation – the NGOs must not be confused with those who are fighting these groups.</p> <p>NGOs that conceive their work in a restrictive manner and view international contingents as one of the parties to the conflict are sometimes called “Dunantists”. In this regard, they stand in contrast to “Wilsonians”, who identify with the UN’s political goals and consider it a neutral player due to its multilateralism. The Dunantists, such as ICRC and MSF, openly identify as “principled organisations” that value independence, neutrality and impartiality, thus implying that the Wilsonians are turning their backs. In effect, during conflict situations, solely focusing on providing support to State social services, such as health, training and school renovation, can easily be confused with a counter-insurgency strategy. At this point, “winning hearts and minds” and humanitarian aid overlap. This strategy is rejected by Dunantist humanitarian groups, which hold all belligerents, regardless of affiliation, at the same arm’s length. Their primary concern is reaching populations isolated by war in line with the impartiality principle that requires a humanitarian organisation to focus its efforts on essential needs. It is possible to fully support this position, while believing that these essential needs, and thus priority responses, are based on subjective and changing preferences rather than an objective and fixed definition. Impartiality can be sometimes be defined as providing the greatest good to the largest number of people and sometimes as meeting the most urgent needs. These two concepts are mutually exclusive in some cases and neither one can legitimately lay claim to being more humanitarian than the other. It should also be noted that “winning hearts and minds” does not only apply to counter-insurgency strategies but just as much to insurgency strategies. Humanitarian organisations working in areas controlled by an opposition movement cannot avoid political instrumentalisation any more than those operating in government zones, with their acceptance by armed rebel groups dependent precisely on the NGOs’ political usefulness. Contrary to widespread belief, and as emphasized above, such instrumentalisation is not a perverse effect of humanitarian aid but a constant feature and a condition of its implementation.</p> <h3><br /> Darfur: a genocidal war?</h3> <p>Assistance to Darfur war (2003- ) victims illustrates this aspect of humanitarian action and highlights two of the major developments discussed above – operational growth and professionalisation. The effect, if not the goal, of the government’s violent response to the armed rebellion that broke out in 2003 in Sudan’s western province was the flight of hundreds of thousands of villagers, who gathered near Darfur’s cities. The war and terror operations conducted by pro-government militias raged in 2004 while the United Nations was preparing to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. Under international pressure, notably by NGOs and the UN humanitarian representative in Sudan, who were calling attention to the risk of another genocide, the regime opened Darfur to aid organisations. More than 10,000 humanitarian workers, including about 1,000 expatriates, set to work from 2005 to 2009 turning this region into the site of the largest humanitarian operation of the past 60 years. It is highly likely that the Khartoum regime counted on this gesture to improve its international image and probably intended to take advantage of this mobilisation to keep the displaced populations at their new locations and thus strengthen its political control [De Waal A., Flint J., 2008]. If that was indeed the case, its strategy proved only partially successful. In 2009, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was indicted for genocide by the International Criminal Court (ICC) while the camps, holding more than two million displaced persons, gradually passed under the partial control of the armed opposition movements. International aid saved tens of thousands of people, not only through the physical protection offered by the camps but also by preventing death caused by malnutrition and the related diseases that occur under such circumstances.</p> <p>Serving as a site where humanitarian organisations could demonstrate their operational capacities, Darfur also acted as a backdrop for an intense controversy over an international armed intervention designed to put a stop to the violence, which was characterized as genocidal by the intervention’s supporters. This operation, given impetus by neoconservatives, grew so extensive between 2004 and 2009 that it became an issue in the presidential campaigns of the United States in 2004 and France in 2007. Some NGOs, particularly human rights groups, campaigned in favour of the operation, while others, mainly humanitarian aid organisations, were publicly opposed or simply did not take part in the appeals. Like the controversy over the Biafran war, the debate primarily centred on whether to relabel a civil war genocide; in that case, the supposed plan to exterminate the Darfurians would reduce aid to a sham at best and complicity at worst. The aerial bombings of villages, the militias’ terrorist violence, and the massacres of civilians were only too real, especially during the first 15 months of the conflict. These facts laid the groundwork for the decision of the International Criminal Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber to issue an arrest warrant for the crime of genocide against President al-Bashir and several senior government officials, including the Sudanese commissioner for humanitarian aid. If these officials are ever handed over, it will be up to the ICC to distinguish between a counter-insurgency war and a genocidal war – in this case, the only distinction between the two being the intentions ascribed to their authors. According to the indictment, genocide was carried out in two stages: first by violent means and then by depriving the victims of sustenance; the displaced persons camps were described as concentration camps in which famine and epidemics finished the task begun by bombings and militia attacks. The effectiveness of the above-mentioned relief effort in the Darfur camps, however, was evidenced by morbidity, infant mortality and educational access indicators that were far better than those in the rest of the country – facts contradicting the indictment but that were ignored by the prosecutor. The announcement of the arrest warrant was followed by the expulsion of many NGOs, mostly international but also Sudanese. Attention then focused on the expected effects of a sudden reduction in aid as well as political reactions and condemnations, which obscured the ethical and political issues raised by the accusation of genocide by attrition. In other terms, if this indictment were to proceed, it would make the UN, its Member States and NGOs the “useful idiots” of a genocidal regime through incompetence or blindness.</p> <h3><br /> Ambiguous justice</h3> <p>In addition to this extreme case, relations between humanitarian organisations and the ICC have been marked by a double ambiguity. United in a “Coalition for the ICC”, numerous NGOs (including MSF) campaigned for the adoption of the Rome Statute (1998) to end impunity and promote the general interest, with justice being seen as a prerequisite for peace. For those particularly active in armed conflicts, such as ICRC and MSF, the issue of their possible testimony before the ICC was immediate. Being viewed as a potential witness for the prosecution would complicate the negotiations that are always necessary to gain access to war zones, where acts of violence take place. For that reason, the ICRC, the humanitarian organisation mandated by the Member States, was granted a special status exempting it from any obligation to cooperate with the ICC. Granted to the ICRC on a permanent basis, this privilege can be claimed by other humanitarian groups on a case-by-case basis consistent with the intent of the statute. While the ambiguity of a „support to the court without participation‟ may have been predictable and plausible, the same cannot be said for relations between politics and international justice. It is not, of course, utopian to expect criminal prosecution to have a dissuasive effect but it is futile to think there can be any war without war crimes. Inevitably, therefore, the question becomes who risks being indicted and who does not. To date, only Africans have been indicted, not because of racial bias as some have claimed but because only countries and political players without Security Council protection actually face the threat of prosecution, which is the case for most African nations. Can international justice be dispensed more fairly in a world dominated by power relationships? Is this conceivable when political crimes involve whole sections of society, diluting the concept of individual responsibility in complex processes and interactions – a concept that forms the very foundation of modern justice? Some people are sceptical while others see the possibility of new political opportunities for shaking up the balance of power for the benefit of oppressed populations [Hazan P., 2007]. Everyone must decide for themselves. In any case, the ambiguity here lies in the fallacy of humanitarian organisations’ initially positive response, while viewing political balances of power as secondary.</p> <p>The war in the former Yugoslavia and the Rwandan genocide led to the first international jurisdictions since the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials – the Hague (1993) and Arusha (1994) tribunals followed by the International Criminal Court (2002). The Rwandan genocide was the direct catalyst for the UN’s adoption of the “Responsibility to Protect” resolution, known as R2P, in 2005. Meeting the need “to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner », and seeking to “protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”, the R2P divided the humanitarian sector. Some, including the author of this report, viewed in R2P a dangerous rehabilitation of the “just war” concept, while others focused on its dissuasive effect, with the use of force a last resort and lesser evil. R2P, however, does not impose on the Security Council members to use force in response to mass violence but enables them to do so on the basis of Chapter VII of the UN Charter. The “responsibility to protect” was invoked for the first time during the Libyan crisis in March 2011, resulting in the assassination of Colonel Gaddafi. Resolution 1973, which only authorized setting up a no-fly zone above Benghazi, led to the overthrow of the regime, which makes a certain degree of sense given the regime’s threat to the upraised population. This very extensive interpretation supported by the nations that invoked humanitarian considerations during Security Council debates in order to hasten and legalise the preventive use of force. No one can say what would have happened had NATO’s “Unified Protector” operation not taken place, but its aftermath in Libya, characterized by a proliferation of armed groups of all kinds, seems to have made R2P something of a nuisance. For example, it was not invoked in Security Council Resolution 2127 authorizing France to protect civilians and disarm militias in the Central African Republic. There was clear evidence of mass violence, however. Whatever the reasons for sidelining R2P in this case, in practice it would not have provided the Security Council with any new tool. Since its creation, the council has had legal instruments enabling it to use force in the event of a “threat against international peace and security”, according to the provisions of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, subject to the agreement of its permanent members.</p> <h3><br /> Increased risks?</h3> <p>The rapid growth of humanitarian efforts since the 1970s has led to a proliferation of players, including new NGOs and institutional donors, an expanded mandate for certain UN agencies, such as UNHCR and Unicef, the creation of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and humanitarian military operations. Nearly absent from the media until the late 70’s, humanitarianism is now rife and plays sometimes a central role in the coverage of conflicts. Governments appoints ministers of humanitarian affairs; courses, seminars and university theses are devoted to the issue; and numerous personal accounts and articles are published by people involved in this field. At the same time its resources, recognition and budgets kept expanding - parallel to increasingly numerous and large-scale field projects-, the aid community began discussing growing threats and attacks against humanitarian staff.</p> <p>Both civilians and humanitarian teams were said to become the combatants’ objective and target. The end of the Cold War and its supposedly stabilizing qualities were said to be the initial cause, leading to a transformation of conflicts, which were nowadays intra-national battles between factions free of any outside control. Armed groups were described as no longer motivated by a political cause but by greed and sectarianism, a transformation which resulted in the blurring of the line between civilians and combatants, and the non-compliance with humanitarian principles. This discussion is based on actual “security incidents”, i.e. violence committed over the past 20 years, particularly the assassination of an ICRC representative during the attack of a humanitarian convoy in Sarajevo in 1992, the murder of six ICRC members in Chechnya in 1996, the deadly attack against the UN headquarters in Baghdad in 2003, the assassination of five Médecins Sans Frontières staff members in Afghanistan in 2004, and the killing of 17 employees of Action Contre la Faim in Sri Lanka in 2006.</p> <p>The worrying trends laid out in this discussion, like the overall analysis to which it belongs, are nevertheless debatable. It can be argued that this period was actually marked by a growing presence of humanitarian organisations very close to the conflict zones and a spectacular increase in the number of their workers in areas that had previously been largely inaccessible. In view of these developments, the risks run by humanitarian staff working in conflict situations have actually remained stable. While it may be true that most of the conflicts are now domestic in nature, even though all of them have a regional dimension, it is debatable whether civilians are targeted more than they were before the Cold War. Indiscriminate bombing, terror strategies, executions of hostages, militias, massacres of civilians and rapes have all been a common element of most conflicts in which modern humanitarian organisations have operated throughout the 20th century. Moreover, war-related deaths have continually declined since the end of the Cold War [Human Security Report, 2013]. Do atrocities trouble people’s consciences more today than in the past? Does this discussion indicate a change in sensibilities, i.e. less tolerance for mass violence? We do not have sufficient hindsight and research to confidently answer this question. It should be noted, however, that characterising the post-Cold War era as the period of civilian massacres unthinkingly relegates the innumerable victims and civilian targets of the “age of extremes” (Eric Hobsbawn) to oblivion.</p> <h3><br /> A question of principles</h3> <p>In reality, the greater danger facing humanitarian teams only concerns a small number of countries, in relation with international military operations. These dangers mainly involve hostage- taking that does not target humanitarian workers as such but as a category of people who are valuable for transaction and protection purposes; the intention is to trade them for cash or use them as human shields. In these situations, humanitarian organisations tend to delegate negotiations with hostage takers to specialized firms, as companies do in other circumstances. Former police or intelligence officers then conduct searches and negotiations with the utmost discretion. This secretive modus operandi is undoubtedly justified when the negotiations involve freeing a company employee. In the case of humanitarian hostages, the validity of secrecy and the effectiveness of simply relying on a financial approach remain to be seen, judging by experience. Political factions vying for control of territory are generally concerned about maintaining the population’s support and allowing humanitarian organisations to operate is one way to do so, as mentioned above. An admission of weakness for local political leaders and a source of grievance for the population, the kidnapping of humanitarian workers in armed conflict areas is not only a tragedy for the victims but also a challenge for political groups who need to restore their damaged political authority. Reducing these challenges to a commercial transaction means ignoring the reality of these balances of power and losing the opportunity to use them for freeing hostages. Humanitarian workers have a special trump card, which explains why a significant number of them have been liberated without a ransom payment after local and international campaigns, public condemnations and political pressure by local players.</p> <p>Whether the issue is staff safety or the management of the aid operations themselves, the discussion of basic humanitarian principles – neutrality, impartiality and independence – plays a limited role in our analysis of situations and organisational positions. These principles have significance in terms of signalling a commitment to having no other goal than helping victims and acting only out of concern for alleviating their situation. These principles are, in particular, spelled out in international humanitarian law as the rights and obligations of the various parties to a conflict and are important elements in negotiations between relief organisations and political authorities. They have little analytical value, however, because, each one can be interpreted differently, as we discussed above. While fully intended to be neutral and impartial, humanitarian aid for refugees does not appear as such to all local political players. The clandestine work practiced by the occasional NGO in rebel areas displays the same ambivalence. When determining priority needs, a humanitarian organisation is less likely to consider general principles than operational objectives, resource allocations and institutional interests. Needs are implemented through negotiations and acceptable compromises with political authorities, while keeping each party’s objectives and requirements in mind. Humanitarian ethics during times of both war and peace reside not in an illusory attempt to keep politics at arm’s length, but in knowing what types of politics to pursue and what limitations to impose.</p> <p>***</p> <p><em><strong>Translation by Karen Tucker</strong></em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>Bibliography</h3> <p>Becker A., Oubliés de la Grande guerre : humanitaire et culture de guerre, 1914-1918 : populations occupées, déportés civils, prisonniers de guerre, Noêsis, Paris, 1998.</p> <p>Bouchet-Saulnier F., Dictionnaire pratique du droit humanitaire, La Découverte, 2013.</p> <p>Fassin D., Rechtmann R., Les Constructions de l’intolérable, Etudes d’anthropologie et d’histoire sur les frontières de l’espace moral, La Découverte, Paris, 2004.</p> <p>Gill R., Calculating Compassion, Humanity and relief in war, Britain, 1870-1914, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2013.</p> <p>Hazan P., Juger la guerre, juger l’histoire, PUF, Paris, 2007.</p> <p>Hentsch T., Face au blocus. La Croix-Rouge internationale dans le Biafra en guerre (1967-1970), Institut des hautes études internationales, Genève, 1973.</p> <p>Hutchinson J., Champions of Charity, War and the Rise of the Red Cross, Westview Press, Oxford, 1996.</p> <p>Jean F., Rufin J.-C. (dir.), Economie des guerres civiles, Hachette Pluriel, Paris, 1996.</p> <p>Terry F., Condemned to Repeat? The paradox of humanitarian action, Cornell University Press, New York, 2002.</p> <p>De Waal A., Flint J., Darfur, A New History of a Long War, Zed Book, London, 2008.</p> </div> <div class="citation-container"> <div class="field--name-field-citation"> <p> <span>To cite this content :</span> <br> Rony Brauman, War and humanitarian aid, 25 July 2016, URL : <a href="https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/en/publications/war-and-humanitarianism/war-and-humanitarian-aid">https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/en/publications/war-and-humanitarianism/war-and-humanitarian-aid</a> </p> </div> </div> <div class="contribution-container"> <div class="field--name-field-contribution"> <p> <span>If you want to criticize or develop this content,</span> you can find us on twitter or directly on our site. </p> <a href="/index.php/en/contribute?to=3989" class="button">Contribute</a> </div> </div> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="flag.link_builder:build" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3989&amp;2=reading_list" token="RvVIIJlG9n8SagA7HW8yhrBl2itlF_ZqKqJtl3lidSA"></drupal-render-placeholder><span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-above">War and humanitarian aid</span> Mon, 25 Jul 2016 00:00:00 +0000 Jason-04 3989 at https://www.msf-crash.org MSF et le système de l’aide: Le choix du non-choix https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/fr/publications/acteurs-et-pratiques-humanitaires/msf-et-le-systeme-de-laide-le-choix-du-non-choix <div class="field field--name-field-publish-date field--type-datetime field--label-inline clearfix"> <div class="field__label">Publication date</div> <div class="field__item"><time datetime="2014-07-03T12:00:00Z" class="datetime">07/03/2014</time> </div> </div> <span rel="schema:author" class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span lang="" about="/index.php/en/user/63" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Kesaven-02</span></span> <span property="schema:dateCreated" content="2017-04-16T17:40:45+00:00" class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Sun, 04/16/2017 - 19:40</span> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/crisis-management" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">crisis management</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/history-humanitarianism" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">history of humanitarianism</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/icrc" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">ICRC</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/biafra" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">Biafra</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/united-nations" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">United Nations</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/humanitarian-principles" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">humanitarian principles</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/perverse-effects-and-limits-aid" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">perverse effects and limits of aid</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/sphere-standards" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">Sphere standards</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/tsunami" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">tsunami</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/aid-coordination" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">aid coordination</a></div> </div> <details class="field--type-entity-person js-form-wrapper form-wrapper"> <summary role="button" aria-expanded="false" aria-pressed="false">Rony Brauman &amp; Michaël Neuman</summary><div class="details-wrapper"> <div class="field--type-entity-person js-form-wrapper form-wrapper field field--name-field-authors field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"> <article data-history-node-id="3221" role="article" about="/en/rony-brauman" class="node node--type-person node--view-mode-embed"> <div class="node__content"> <div class="group-person-profil"> <div class="group-person-image-profil"> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/profile_image/public/2017-04/DSCF4256.jpg?itok=nCrBsaSM" width="180" height="230" alt="Rony Brauman" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-profile-image" /> </div> </div> <div class="group-person-content"> <div class="group-person-firstname-lastname"> <div class="field field--name-field-firstname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Rony</div> <div class="field field--name-field-lastname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Brauman</div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Medical doctor, specialized in tropical medicine and epidemiology. Involved in humanitarian action since 1977, he has been on numerous missions, mainly in contexts of armed conflicts and IDP situations. President of Médecins sans Frontières from 1982 to1994, he also teaches at the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI) and is a regular contributor to Alternatives Economiques. He has published several books and articles, including&nbsp;"Guerre humanitaires ? Mensonges et Intox" (Textuel, 2018), "La Médecine Humanitaire" (PUF, 2010), "Penser dans l'urgence" (Editions du Seuil, 2006) and "Utopies Sanitaires" (Editions Le Pommier, 2000).</p> </div> <div class="same-author-link"><a href="/en/rony-brauman" class="button">By the same author</a> </div> </div> </div> </article> </div> <div class="field__item"> <article data-history-node-id="3257" role="article" about="/en/michael-neuman" class="node node--type-person node--view-mode-embed"> <div class="node__content"> <div class="group-person-profil"> <div class="group-person-image-profil"> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/profile_image/public/2017-04/DSCF4167%20copie_0.jpg?itok=uJXHTXNJ" width="180" height="230" alt="Michaël Neuman" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-profile-image" /> </div> </div> <div class="group-person-content"> <div class="group-person-firstname-lastname"> <div class="field field--name-field-firstname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Michaël</div> <div class="field field--name-field-lastname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Neuman</div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Director of studies at Crash / Médecins sans Frontières, Michaël Neuman graduated in Contemporary History and International Relations (University Paris-I). He joined Médecins sans Frontières in 1999 and has worked both on the ground (Balkans, Sudan, Caucasus, West Africa) and in headquarters (New York, Paris as deputy director responsible for programmes). He has also carried out research on issues of immigration and geopolitics. He is co-editor of "Humanitarian negotiations Revealed, the MSF experience" (London: Hurst and Co, 2011). He is also the co-editor of "Saving lives and staying alive. Humanitarian Security in the Age of Risk Management" (London: Hurst and Co, 2016).</p> </div> <div class="same-author-link"><a href="/en/michael-neuman" class="button">By the same author</a> </div> </div> </div> </article> </div> </div> </div> </details> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>We often hear it said within MSF that the aid system – that is to say all the institutional actors involved in international humanitarian aid – is unable to provide effective relief, or that the aid system’s ability to provide aid is in decline. These statements, which suggest that MSF is itself outside the "system", are based on the very real number of people in relief operations who need help but do not receive it, or do not receive enough of it. But such a negative assessment could equally be applied to some of the operations of which MSF staff are most proud, and it ignores the transformations – both qualitative and quantitative –in aid techniques and policies. To have a practical application, any critique of the aid system needs to be located not in the ideal world, where disasters incur no victims, but in a historical and concrete reality. Our aim is to explore MSF’s relationship with the aid system, while showing how the ambitions of the aid system itself have evolved.</p> <h2><br /> I. MSF: outside the system?</h2> <p>It is worth noting that, far from being outside the system, MSF is one of the five largest aid organisations in the world which together account for 38% of spending by international NGOs.<span class="annotation">The State of the humanitarian system - 2012” , ALNAP</span> Within this group, MSF is the only organisation focused specifically on health</p> <p>MSF’s history is marked, from its earliest days, by its sometimes conflicted relationships with other aid actors (UN agencies, the military, the Red Cross, NGOs) and its desire not to be confused with them. MSF’s attitude has varied over time and according to context and national section. This is why it is important to understand MSF’s past ambivalent relationship with the aid system, being careful not to confuse it with the organisation’s institutional narrative. Our aim here is not to revisit MSF’s internal controversies, some of which have been the subject of detailed reviews,<span class="annotation">See MSF Speaking out case studies (www.speakingout.msf.org) </span>but to explore how MSF’s relationship with the aid system has changed over time.</p> <p>MSF’s views of its relationship with other aid actors is coloured by the myth of the organisation’s origins, specifically the breach between MSF’s founders and the Red Cross during the Biafran war (1967-1970) over MSF’s denunciation of the "genocide" perpetrated by the Nigerian army. Although this corresponds only distantly to the historical reality,<span class="annotation">Rony Brauman, « Les liaisons dangereuses du témoignage humanitaire et des propagandes politiques. Biafra, Cambodge, les mythes fondateurs de Médecins Sans Frontières », in M. Le Pape, C. Vidal, J. Siméant (dir.) Crises extrêmes, Face aux massacres, aux guerres civiles et aux génocides, Ed. La Découverte, 2006</span> this version of events has remained dominant, providing MSF the backdrop to its first public pronouncements and outlining it specific profile amongst other aid actors. In actual fact, the first divisions between MSF and other aid actors occurred in 1979- 1980, with the controversy over the diversion of assistance to Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge was ousted and the government of Vietnam established itself in Phnom Penh. MSF, which had close relations with the emergency aid fund of the European Commission (that resulted in the creation of ECHO)<span class="annotation">Emergency aid funded a large part of MSF’s operations on the Khmer-Thai border and at the Somali-Ethiopian border, both MSF’s major refugee camp operations at the time, believed that foreign assistance was falling into the hands of the Vietnamese army of occupation. Other NGOs chall</span>enged this, calling instead for assistance to Cambodia to be dramatically increased in the context of a presumed famine. The ‘March for Survival’, a symbolic protest at the Cambodian-Thai border in February 1980 that was organised jointly by MSF and the International Rescue Committee (IRC), provoked intense controversy within the aid community and in the press.<span>&nbsp;<span class="annotation">Rony Brauman op.cit.</span></span><br /> However, these political and ethical conflicts, reflecting Cold War dividing lines, did not affect MSF’s relations with aid actors in other areas, notably with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).<span class="annotation">At the time, UNHCR provided funding for specialised NGOs (of which MSF was one) working in the refugee camps. As well as a donor, UNHCR was also an operational partner</span>. MSF received funds from this UN agency, and worked alongside it in refugee camps, and continued to work with the European emergency assistance funds, participating in coordination meetings. MSF participated in the coordination mechanisms of the sectors in which it was working under the aegis of local authorities or the UN, believing these interactions to be action oriented. MSF did</p> <p>not deem it necessary, however, to join the platforms of NGOs in Europe, such as the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response (established in 1972) or Voice (1982)</p> <p>The 1980s saw the creation of four new MSF sections (MSF Belgium, Switzerland, Holland and Spain), strengthening the newly formed movement’s position with regard to the aid system. It was a relationship that involved both cooperation and criticism, reflecting the political divisions of the time. Divisions also multiplied within MSF while in its period of rapid expansion: the French section and later the Dutch section worked primarily, but not exclusively, in situations involving armed conflict, the displacement of populations and natural disasters, while the Belgian, Swiss and Spanish sections were oriented more towards medical cooperation to develop and strengthen local public health structures. There were frequent disagreements between the five sections, which were evidenced both in the use of its public voice as well as with operational decisions, each desiring to present itself as the "true" MSF.</p> <p>At times the MSF movement came close to breaking point, as evidenced by the exclusion of the Greek section in 2000 following the war in Kosovo. The leaders of the MSF movement felt that MSF-Greece was too closely aligned to the Serb nationalists during the war. This instance aside, the desire to maintain the relationship between MSF sections has always prevailed in the end. Nonetheless, tensions between them have complicated MSF’s ability to make shared appeals to bodies for help. On the ground, it is still the case that each MSF section has its own seat and its own representation in local coordination meetings, although there is strong internal pressure for sections to pool representatives.</p> <p>However, common positions between MSF and its colleagues within the international aid community were taken up. For instance, MSF adopted and promoted the essential drugs list of the World Health Organization (WHO); it helped to develop, whilst at the same time arguing against the role entrusted by the WHO to “Community Health Workers” in the strategy of primary healthcare. Similarly MSF actively supported the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) promoted by the WHO and UNICEF, while criticising the vaccination campaigns supported by UNICEF<span class="annotation">See Jean-Hervé Bradol, Caring for Health, in « Humanitarian negotiations revealed : the MSF experience »,</span></p> <p>The famine in Ethiopia in 1984 – and the international relief operation that followed – marked the first time in MSF’s history that it had broken ranks with the entire aid system, including both the UN and NGOs (the only one other time was in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004). The French section of MSF accused the Ethiopian government of using aid to implement its strategy of forced population transfer and confronted all the aid actors working on the ground in Ethiopia, with this issue, starting with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).</p> <p>Three criticisms were levelled at MSF by the aid community, and these are still used to this day: that speaking out is a breach of the principle of humanitarian neutrality, that emergency actors do not understand the challenges of development, and lastly that speaking out sabotages fundraising efforts. To varying degrees and applied to a widerange of circumstances, these same arguments would later be at the heart of other public controversies (especially following the 2004 tsunami).</p> <p>MSF’s breaking ranks in Ethiopia did not permanently damage cooperation with its usual partners, but it did illustrate the uniqueness of some of MSF’s positions within the NGO community. Humanitarian principles can lend themselves to very different interpretations, making disagreements perhaps inevitable.</p> <p>It was in order to regulate these disagreements that, in the late 1980s, MSF committed to establishing an international structure. The objective was threefold: to manage MSF’s brand and logo; to set up a platform to help resolve quarrels between sections – with the fresh memory of MSF-France suing MSF-Belgium in court in 1985; and to ensure unified representation to international organisations. In 1990, MSF’s International Council was created, composed of two leaders of each section. Additionally, an International Secretariat was set up in Brussels (moving to Geneva in 2004). This was confirmation of the desire for MSF’s national sections to be reconciled, and of the need for MSF to maintain relationships with the major players by demonstrating a shared commitment to its mission and by speaking with one voice.</p> <p>MSF’s reforms subsequently facilitated the work of the organisations with others. During the 1990s, MSF supported the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (as a member of the coalition) and actively participated in the NGO coalition campaigning for the International Criminal Court and also to the initial phases of the Sphere Project.<span class="annotation">See below</span></p> <h2><br /> II. Aid as a tool for crisis management</h2> <p>With the end of the Cold War, deploying aid in areas affected by conflict assumed an increasingly important place on the UN’s agenda. Large scale militarized emergency relief became a tool for crisis management, leading in the 1990s to a series of institutional decisions.</p> <p>In December 1991, in the aftermath of 'Operation Provide Comfort' (referring to the repatriation under Allied protection of the Kurdish population in northern Iraq, following the first Iraq War), General Assembly Resolution 46/182 reaffirmed the UN's role in the leadership and coordination of the humanitarian response. A Department of Humanitarian Affairs was established to replace the UN’s Disaster Relief Organization, a body that struggled to assert its utility. The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) was set up under the chairmanship of the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator. The European Union established ECHO, a branch of humanitarian aid from the European Commission, intended to oversee and fund relief operations. The ‘Agenda for Peace’ of UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, developed in July 1992, advocated an integrated approach, bringing together various UN bodies in the service of its primary mission and declaring: “maintaining international peace and security could not be dissociated from its task of solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian character.” <span class="annotation">Jeff Crisp, “ Humanitarian action and coordination” , in The Oxford Handbook on the United Nations, 2008.</span></p> <p>Somalia in 1992, without a government and plagued by war and famine, provided the UN Secretary-General with a testing ground for this new form of intervention, including emergency assistance, law enforcement and state building. A year later, protesting that,for the first time in its history, people were being killed in the name of humanitarianism, MSF France withdrew from Somalia, declaring with insistence that it dissociated itself from this policy<span class="annotation">Voir Rony Brauman, Le crime humanitaire - Somalie, 1993, Arléa. Available on line: http:/ / www.msfcrash.org/ drive/ 95d4-rb-1993-somalia-a-humanitarian-crime-_uk-p.10_.pdf) </span>yet all the while remaining part of the system and strengthening its links with other agencies.</p> <p>During the 1990s, MSF actually sought to generate debate within the humanitarian arena on the protection of populations in need and the quality of the assistance provided. An observer to International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) since 1991, MSF joined the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response (SCHR) in July 1997 at the request of the ICRC who was a member and felt isolated. It therefore became a signatory to the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non-Governmental Organizations in Disaster Relief, which had been established in 1994.</p> <p>MSF – along with many other aid agencies too – viewed the sharing of information and the creation of a common language within the aid system as a necessity in the context of the major relief operations of the 1990s, whose scope and ambitions (in term of protecting civilians, accountability, and the speed and extent of coverage) were completely different from those of the 1980s.</p> <p>Concerns that humanitarian aid was being reduced to a technical performance came to the fore in June 1994 as international aid efforts focused on the camps for Rwandan refugees around Goma. After the initial emergency phase responding to outbreaks of cholera and shigellosis, which killed more than 50,000 people in the space of a few weeks<span class="annotation">“Public health impact of Rwandan refugee crisis: what happened in Goma, Zaire, in July, 1994?” , Goma Epidemiology Group. Lancet. 1995 Feb 11;345(8946):339-44.</span>;, the aid effort became more organised. Technically correct, but blind to the political realities of the region, the resources provided for this effort became an instrument that could be used by the military and administrative leaders of the genocide that had taken control of the camps. For most in the aid community, the failure was in qualitative deficiencies, which were clearly evident in aid operations in this region. MSF stated, however, that, while the response to the cholera epidemic in its early stages had been very weak, the most important thing was to recognise the limits of humanitarian action and to reflect critically on the diversion of aid – of NGOs and International bodies – with criminal intent.<span class="annotation">Rony Brauman, La responsabilité humanitaire, article from the “ dossier des Etats généraux de l’action et de droit humanitaire” , Colloquium organised by the ICRC, Paris, 27 et 28 novembre 2001</span></p> <p>MSF saw its participation in the Sphere project set up in 1997 at the initiative of the SCHR to define "a set of minimum standards in the core areas of humanitarian assistance" and establish a “Humanitarian charter” as a mean to agree with other participants on basic principles of Humanitarian action and to share and disseminate techniques. It took part in the initiative while recognising that the standards established by Sphere were below those MSF had already defined as part of its policy. Eventually, MSF withdrew from the Sphere Project in 2003. The decision was in part justified by the argument that "humanitarian action [was] too complex to be reduced to technical performance" alone, and in part by the argument that Sphere’s norms had become too rigid. <span class="annotation">Letter sent to the missions by Rafa Villa Sanjuan, International Secretary of MSF, 25 March 2003.</span></p> <h2><br /> III. The illusion of crisis without victims</h2> <p>The crises of the early and mid-1990s accelerated the race to define norms and standards, a step considered essential to improve the overall quality of assistance. Flaws had become apparent after the “Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda” was conducted under the auspices of the OECD</p> <p><span class="annotation">http:/ / www.oecd.org/ derec/ 50189439.pdf.</span> Although it could be argued that Goma, because of the particular magnitude of the crisis and the difficulties of the terrain, was not the most appropriate location to conduct an evaluation, the evaluation exercise eventually led to a number of improvements in the aid response.</p> <p>Initiatives succeeded each other in rapid succession: People in Aid was set up in 1995 to “promote better management and support of staff and volunteers”; it was followed by the Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance (ALNAP) in 1997, dedicated to “improving the quality and accountability of humanitarian action”. The</p> <p>Humanitarian Ombudsman Project was set up in 1999, to be replaced in 2003 by the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership (HAP); the Good Humanitarian Donorship was established in 2003, “an attempt”, no less, ”to fix one share of the humanitarian system”. The Humanitarian Accountability and Quality Management Standard was established in 2007, followed in 2009 by Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance (ELRHA), which is currently considering ways of certifying and accrediting humanitarian staff, and by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Needs Assessment Task Force. The list continues.</p> <p>The State of the Humanitarian System Report<span class="annotation">The State of the humanitarian system - 2012” , ALNAP</span> estimated in 2012 that there were 4,400 NGOs "undertaking humanitarian action on an on-going basis", there were 274,000 aid workers, and that "between 1988 and 2008, the humanitarian aid budget increased tenfold to reach US$11.2 billion"<span class="annotation">Don Hubert, Cynthia Brassard Boudreau, “Shrinking humanitarian space? Trends and prospects on security and access” , the Journal of Humanitarian assistance, 24 Nov. 2010.</span> At the same time, the ambitions of the aid system are continuing to grow. ALNAP suggests that "another part of defining the ’humanitarian system' involves not what the system is, but what it is expected to do. The range of action considered 'humanitarian' varies and seems expanding".</p> <p><span class="annotation">The State of the humanitarian system - 2012” , op.cit.</span></p> <p>To determine the direct impact of the initiatives above on the practice of humanitarian actors would require a detailed investigation. But even without this, it is clear that, in many recent crises – such as Darfur/Chad in 2003 and post-earthquake Haiti in January 2010 – professional help and concern for quality have produced results, some of which are measurable.</p> <p>Take Darfur, for example. Food security and nutrition assessment of the conflict-affected population in Darfur (2007) reported a significant decrease in mortality amongst displaced people and residents in areas affected by the conflict, falling from 0.72 in 2004 to 0.46 in 2005, 0.35 in 2006 and 0.29 in 2007 – well below the emergency threshold of one death per 10,000 people per day. Malnutrition also declined, albeit by smaller proportions, falling from 21.8% in 2004 to 16.1% in 2007. Despite persistent problems reported by MSF in the camps, particularly amongst younger children, we have seen improvements in the overall health status of a population who has been affected by violent conflict and mass displacement and whose health status appears to be largely dependent on international humanitarian aid.</p> <p>Judging by the dominant discourse within the aid system, including within MSF, these positive aspects are rarely noted – and even fewer successes are mentioned in the field of natural disasters. The response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti conjures up the images of chaos, a failure of coordination on the part of the government and the UN, as well as the "international well-documented failings of the aid community".<span class="annotation">See the IASC Transformative Agenda Information note for NGOs April 2012 from SCHR, InterAction and ICVA</span> However, this chaos did not prevent the start of the relief effort, especially emergency medical care, in the early hours of the disaster, and over the next 15 days an increase in relief to unprecedented levels, despite extremely difficult access (a destroyed airport, congested access roads and a government left in tatters).<span class="annotation">Rony Brauman et Fabrice Weissman, Aide internationale : ce qui se passe en Haïti, 12 janvier 2011. http:/ / www.msf-crash.org/ sur-le-vif/ 2011/ 01/ 14/ 409/ aide-internationale-ce-qui-se-passe-en-haiti/</span>Drinking water was provided and food supplies were brought in and distributed, and all of this was conducted in an acceptable manner, given the magnitude and suddenness of the disaster.</p> <p>Note that the Haiti earthquake has few parallels in history: what other peacetime disaster has caused tens of thousands of deaths and huge numbers of injuries in the space of just a few minutes? A couple of recent and comparable natural disasters come to mind – the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami – but a quick look at the response to these events shows major differences.</p> <p>In Kashmir, the Pakistani army provided effective management of the aid effort, assisted by powerful local NGOs, including activists.<span class="annotation">Marion Pechayre, Humanitarian action in Pakistan 2005 – 2010, Feinstein International Centers, Tufts University, 2011.</span> International aid efforts by the Red Cross and MSF, amongst others, supplemented what was already being done on the ground. This is the opposite of what happened in Haiti, where some 15,000 wounded were cared for under the auspices of international aid, despite the shortcomings in coordination.</p> <p>Contrary to what is generally said, including claims by MSF, the emergency life-saving response was successful in Port-au-Prince<span class="annotation">Fabrice Weissman and Rony Brauman, ibid. </span></p> <p>By contrast, the 2004 tsunami, which killed many more people than it wounded, should never have been described as a life-threatening emergency. Unlike Haiti, the teams sent to medical facilities in Aceh were unnecessary, and much "emergency aid" was wasted.<span class="annotation">Rony Brauman, Do Something », in « Humanitarian negotiations revealed: the MSF experience », London: Hurst &amp; Co, 2011. (Available on line: http:/ / www.msf-crash.org/ livres/ en/ natural-disasters-do-something.)</span> Again unlike Haiti, the reconstruction of Aceh has been a success, thanks to the policies of the Jakarta government combined with good cooperation from donors. It is striking that this rare incidence of success has gone largely ignored when it deserves to be widely studied.</p> <p>In Haiti, the lack of emergency shelters and reconstruction, both in terms of quantity and quality, remains a legitimate criticism of post-earthquake assistance. The Haitian government and donors share the responsibility for this shortcoming. Did the initial announcements by the UN and NGOs claiming to tackle reconstruction ("Build Back Better") create unrealistically high expectations, relying as they did on the ability and willingness of political authorities? Some 200,000 Haitians still live in makeshift shelters three years after their homes were destroyed. How was the "aid system" to succeed, when for decades many more have lived in slums?<span class="annotation">http:/ / www.amnesty.org/ fr/ for-media/ press-releases/ haiti-three-years-earthquake-housing-situationcatastrophic-2013-01-11</span> It is the illusory discourse of an omnipotent aid system that should be held accountable here, and not the system’s supposed failure. False expectations that the humanitarian part of the aid system can address deep rooted political and development problems inevitably leads to the equally false conclusion that the aid system is flawed or broken.</p> <p>While it is important to note the overall improvements in the performance of aid, it is no less essential to note its sectorial or geographical limitations. The issue of shelter for displaced populations is one example, as well as the longstanding weakness or nonexistence of the international response to the proliferation of health and political crises in Central Africa, a conflict that continues to carry a heavy human cost.&nbsp;</p> <p>We can also recall the situation in Angola in 2002, when the United Nations maid aid contingent to a political ‘resolution’ of the conflict at the cost of a blockade causing a deadly famine in areas controlled by UNITA.<span class="annotation">Christine Messiant, “ Angola : Woe to the vanquished” , in Fabrice Weissman (ed.), In the shadow of just wars. Violence, politics and humanitarian action, London: Hurst and Co, 2004.</span></p> <p>For these reasons, MSF has remained suspicious of the attempts at coordination and standardisation that have continued to emerge in recent years from the UN and various NGOs. MSF’s suspicions were strengthened following the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, especially given the tendency of most aid actors to align themselves with the political objectives of the coalitions. Between 2003 and 2007, MSF left InterAction and the SCHR and distanced itself from the cluster system established by the humanitarian reform of the UN in 2005. On these occasions, MSF time and again cited the principles of neutrality and impartiality to distinguish itself from other actors and to justify its isolationist position. MSF considered that integration within the global aid coalition geared to state-building equated to political alignment with belligerent parties.</p> <p>We have emphasised the change of tenor in international aid after the end of the Cold War. By integrating humanitarian aid into the crisis management toolbox, there has been both an increase in the scale of aid operations, and its ambitions. Contented to confining assistance mainly to the peripheral areas of crises, aid alleviated some of the human consequences of crises. The new configuration of international aid aims to address problems at the root, sometimes to the extent of becoming an instrument of state-building. This ambition stems from a desire to contain conflict and displacement within national borders, and to manage international crises within the countries concerned, as in ‘Operation Restore Hope’ in Somalia.</p> <p>This change of emphasis, supported by a professional workforce and increased resources, has produced relief operations on a larger scale and of a higher quality than before.</p> <p>However, the aid system, of which MSF is a core component, is at risk of hubris. Analysing the genocide in Rwanda and the many victims of the Haiti earthquake as "humanitarian failures" implicitly assigns to aid a power not commensurate with its true capacity. Such unrealistic expectations threaten to condemn aid to permanent failure, and to lose sight of the fact that there are problems and deficiencies that aid can actually correct.</p> </div> <div class="citation-container"> <div class="field--name-field-citation"> <p> <span>To cite this content :</span> <br> Rony Brauman, Michaël Neuman, MSF and the aid system: choosing not to choose, 3 July 2014, URL : <a href="https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/en/publications/humanitarian-actors-and-practices/msf-and-aid-system-choosing-not-choose">https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/en/publications/humanitarian-actors-and-practices/msf-and-aid-system-choosing-not-choose</a> </p> </div> </div> <div class="contribution-container"> <div class="field--name-field-contribution"> <p> <span>If you want to criticize or develop this content,</span> you can find us on twitter or directly on our site. </p> <a href="/index.php/en/contribute?to=3983" class="button">Contribute</a> </div> </div> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="flag.link_builder:build" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3983&amp;2=reading_list" token="HX3Pj4KX6LZ1_eRWbUts_QEfSA3Dykn-P4HZ8VJeX08"></drupal-render-placeholder><span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-above">MSF and the aid system: choosing not to choose</span> Thu, 03 Jul 2014 00:00:00 +0000 Kesaven-02 3983 at https://www.msf-crash.org MSF et le système de l’aide: Le choix du non-choix https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/fr/blog/acteurs-et-pratiques-humanitaires/msf-et-le-systeme-de-laide-le-choix-du-non-choix <div class="field field--name-field-publish-date field--type-datetime field--label-inline clearfix"> <div class="field__label">Date de publication</div> <div class="field__item"><time datetime="2014-07-03T12:00:00Z" class="datetime">07/03/2014</time> </div> </div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span lang="" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Anonymous (not verified)</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Thu, 07/03/2014 - 18:14</span> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/crisis-management" hreflang="en">crisis management</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/history-humanitarianism" hreflang="en">history of humanitarianism</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/icrc" hreflang="en">ICRC</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/biafra" hreflang="en">Biafra</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/united-nations" hreflang="en">United Nations</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/humanitarian-principles" hreflang="en">humanitarian principles</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/perverse-effects-and-limits-aid" hreflang="en">perverse effects and limits of aid</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/sphere-standards" hreflang="en">Sphere standards</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/tsunami" hreflang="en">tsunami</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/aid-coordination" hreflang="en">aid coordination</a></div> </div> <details class="field--type-entity-person js-form-wrapper form-wrapper"> <summary role="button" aria-expanded="false" aria-pressed="false">Michaël Neuman &amp; Rony Brauman</summary><div class="details-wrapper"> <div class="field--type-entity-person js-form-wrapper form-wrapper field field--name-field-authors field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"> <article data-history-node-id="3257" role="article" about="/en/michael-neuman" class="node node--type-person node--view-mode-embed"> <div class="node__content"> <div class="group-person-profil"> <div class="group-person-image-profil"> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/profile_image/public/2017-04/DSCF4167%20copie_0.jpg?itok=uJXHTXNJ" width="180" height="230" alt="Michaël Neuman" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-profile-image" /> </div> </div> <div class="group-person-content"> <div class="group-person-firstname-lastname"> <div class="field field--name-field-firstname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Michaël</div> <div class="field field--name-field-lastname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Neuman</div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Director of studies at Crash / Médecins sans Frontières, Michaël Neuman graduated in Contemporary History and International Relations (University Paris-I). He joined Médecins sans Frontières in 1999 and has worked both on the ground (Balkans, Sudan, Caucasus, West Africa) and in headquarters (New York, Paris as deputy director responsible for programmes). He has also carried out research on issues of immigration and geopolitics. He is co-editor of "Humanitarian negotiations Revealed, the MSF experience" (London: Hurst and Co, 2011). He is also the co-editor of "Saving lives and staying alive. Humanitarian Security in the Age of Risk Management" (London: Hurst and Co, 2016).</p> </div> <div class="same-author-link"><a href="/en/michael-neuman" class="button">By the same author</a> </div> </div> </div> </article> </div> <div class="field__item"> <article data-history-node-id="3221" role="article" about="/en/rony-brauman" class="node node--type-person node--view-mode-embed"> <div class="node__content"> <div class="group-person-profil"> <div class="group-person-image-profil"> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/profile_image/public/2017-04/DSCF4256.jpg?itok=nCrBsaSM" width="180" height="230" alt="Rony Brauman" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-profile-image" /> </div> </div> <div class="group-person-content"> <div class="group-person-firstname-lastname"> <div class="field field--name-field-firstname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Rony</div> <div class="field field--name-field-lastname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Brauman</div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Medical doctor, specialized in tropical medicine and epidemiology. Involved in humanitarian action since 1977, he has been on numerous missions, mainly in contexts of armed conflicts and IDP situations. President of Médecins sans Frontières from 1982 to1994, he also teaches at the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI) and is a regular contributor to Alternatives Economiques. He has published several books and articles, including&nbsp;"Guerre humanitaires ? Mensonges et Intox" (Textuel, 2018), "La Médecine Humanitaire" (PUF, 2010), "Penser dans l'urgence" (Editions du Seuil, 2006) and "Utopies Sanitaires" (Editions Le Pommier, 2000).</p> </div> <div class="same-author-link"><a href="/en/rony-brauman" class="button">By the same author</a> </div> </div> </div> </article> </div> </div> </div> </details> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>We often hear it said within MSF that the aid system - that is to say all the institutional actors involved in international humanitarian aid - is unable to provide effective relief, or that the aid system's ability to provide aid is in decline. These statements, which suggest that MSF is itself outside the \"system\", are based on the very real number of people in relief operations who need help but do not receive it, or do not receive enough of it. But such a negative assessment could equally be applied to some of the operations of which MSF staff are most proud, and it ignores the transformations - both qualitative and quantitative -in aid techniques and policies. To have a practical application, any critique of the aid system needs to be located not in the ideal world, where disasters incur no victims, but in a historical and concrete reality. The aim of this paper is to explore MSF's relationship with the aid system, while showing how the ambitions of the aid system itself have evolved.<br /> <br /> <a>Download the document </a></p> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3728&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="52pTnLJhXVbwM1y-nJrhMfROCJEd2J9k2Uj4wOLIGno"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="flag.link_builder:build" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3728&amp;2=reading_list" token="b37XH_FtZiVG_zf1W96tBJVEP8mGMt42uTT-LJn966E"></drupal-render-placeholder><div class="citation-container"> <div class="field--name-field-citation"> <p> <span>To cite this content :</span> <br> Michaël Neuman, Rony Brauman, MSF and the aid system: choosing not to choose, 3 July 2014, URL : <a href="https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/en/blog/humanitarian-actors-and-practice/msf-and-aid-system-choosing-not-choose">https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/en/blog/humanitarian-actors-and-practice/msf-and-aid-system-choosing-not-choose</a> </p> </div> </div> <div class="contribution-container"> <div class="field--name-field-contribution"> <p> <span>If you want to criticize or develop this content,</span> you can find us on twitter or directly on our site. </p> <a href="/index.php/en/contribute?to=3728" class="button">Contribute</a> </div> </div> <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-above">MSF and the aid system: choosing not to choose</span> Thu, 03 Jul 2014 00:00:00 +0000 babayaga 3728 at https://www.msf-crash.org Débat : "La fin de l’humanitaire sans frontières ?" https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/fr/blog/acteurs-et-pratiques-humanitaires/debat-la-fin-de-lhumanitaire-sans-frontieres <div class="field field--name-field-publish-date field--type-datetime field--label-inline clearfix"> <div class="field__label">Date de publication</div> <div class="field__item"><time datetime="2009-10-06T12:00:00Z" class="datetime">10/06/2009</time> </div> </div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span lang="" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Anonymous (not verified)</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Tue, 10/06/2009 - 12:18</span> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/history-humanitarianism" hreflang="en">history of humanitarianism</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/media" hreflang="en">media</a></div> </div> <details class="field--type-entity-person js-form-wrapper form-wrapper"> <summary role="button" aria-expanded="false" aria-pressed="false">Rony Brauman</summary><div class="details-wrapper"> <div class="field--type-entity-person js-form-wrapper form-wrapper field field--name-field-authors field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"> <article data-history-node-id="3221" role="article" about="/en/rony-brauman" class="node node--type-person node--view-mode-embed"> <div class="node__content"> <div class="group-person-profil"> <div class="group-person-image-profil"> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/profile_image/public/2017-04/DSCF4256.jpg?itok=nCrBsaSM" width="180" height="230" alt="Rony Brauman" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-profile-image" /> </div> </div> <div class="group-person-content"> <div class="group-person-firstname-lastname"> <div class="field field--name-field-firstname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Rony</div> <div class="field field--name-field-lastname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Brauman</div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Medical doctor, specialized in tropical medicine and epidemiology. Involved in humanitarian action since 1977, he has been on numerous missions, mainly in contexts of armed conflicts and IDP situations. President of Médecins sans Frontières from 1982 to1994, he also teaches at the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI) and is a regular contributor to Alternatives Economiques. He has published several books and articles, including&nbsp;"Guerre humanitaires ? Mensonges et Intox" (Textuel, 2018), "La Médecine Humanitaire" (PUF, 2010), "Penser dans l'urgence" (Editions du Seuil, 2006) and "Utopies Sanitaires" (Editions Le Pommier, 2000).</p> </div> <div class="same-author-link"><a href="/en/rony-brauman" class="button">By the same author</a> </div> </div> </div> </article> </div> </div> </div> </details> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>The article written by my friend Christian Troubé, "<a>The end of humanitarianism without borders?</a>", published by <a>Grotius.fr</a> (June 2009 edition), and based on a description of humanitarianism of ‘yesteryear', strikes a cord with many of today's humanitarian figures. But acknowledged historical facts (the cold war, the democratisation of transport, the boom in television) appear alongside some highly debatable points of view. For example, if the instigators of "without borders" really thought that they were informing the world that "human suffering is universal" , then they were more idiots than idealists, more madmen than dreamers....<br /> <br /> The relationship with public opinion via the media played a major role. But credit for this is to be given to the founders of Amnesty, created 10 years before MSF, who saw the importance of press campaigns in helping prisoners of conscience. French priest L'abbé Pierre with his appeal of 1954 was no stranger to the media either, putting it to use to awaken the public's conscience.</p> <p>The most innovative - and the least visible - idea of the first "without borders" group was to lay the foundations of humanitarian medicine at a time when such a project was of absolutely no interest to anyone. The author however lends the founding "without borders" generation an outlook and intentions based on an interpretation produced after the event, but which are completely missing from any oral or written documents from that period.</p> <p>It is also worth remembering that the denunciation of "genocide" in Biafra was an act of psychological warfare orchestrated by the French Intelligence Services and the Biafran secessionists, with Auschwitz serving as a backcloth as the Eichmann trial of 1961-62 was still fresh in everyone's minds. I am not questioning the good faith of those involved, but the manipulative aspect of this episode is both clear and long-established.</p> <p>The debates and reflections on "humanitarian witnessing" and neutrality should take this element into account, namely the potential for propaganda-based manipulation of humanitarian views, rather than indulging in mutual back-slapping. The Red Cross' attitude during the Nazi era should also be noted as no one has been able to say what the ICRC should have or could have done about the death camps at the time.... But that's another story.</p> <p>Be that as it may, the founders of MSF never supposed that they would be tackling the creation of a new Humanitarian Law any more than they would be "imposing a universal right to humanitarian interference", a concept that only appeared some 15 years after the setting up of MSF (the founding conference took place in 1987). As for the idea that every speck of humanity" had become accessible due to the growth in communications, and that each and every victim deserves attention, this dates back to the creation of the Red Cross, not of the "French Doctors".</p> <p>From a more political perspective, during the 1980s the issue of totalitarianism played a key role in French humanitarianism. It allowed the humanitarian leaders of the time (and I count myself among them) to put communism in the same category as Nazism. The "without borders" movement was driven by an "anti-totalitarian" stance, in other words an anti-communist one, and was thus, contrary to what Christian claims, a cold-war humanitarianism with French organisations taking a leading role.<br /> Why did the boat people incite such a huge reaction, and not the Haitians, the Somalis and countless others who perished at sea in similar conditions? Because they were fleeing a regime that symbolised, more than any other at the time, communist violence in the third world.</p> <p><strong>The "fuzziness of action"</strong><br /> <br /> If we want to understand the changes in humanitarianism during its recent history - important in better understanding the present - we should start by shaking off this saintly past, with its prophetic acts that wipe out all traces of doubt, error and calculation, in short the fog of action in progress. A past that renders "yesteryear" - the last 25 years of the XXth century - an a-historical, homogenous entity, uniformly characterised by the transgression of all kinds of borders. Using terms such as these makes today's generation of humanitarian workers look like mere executors compared to the supposed strategists that preceded them. This is not only wrong, but discourteous to boot. Most importantly, it also forgets all the conflicts and countries that were completely or mainly closed to humanitarian workers during the 1980s, from Timor to Mozambique, Angola and Central Asia, among others, not to mention the 1970s Indochina war.</p> <p>It is true that the 1990s were years of multilateralism and "NGOism", but this relative decline in state sovereignty in parts of the third world did not last. "Today", writes Christian Troubé, "the dream is far harder to live, because all the borders are being recreated". Geographical borders are closing down. We are entering countries covertly less and less."</p> <p>This representation of a better past masks the adaptations and in-depth transformations that came about over that period. As it was, there was no lack of "existential" questions, given the manipulation of aid in Cambodia, Ethiopia and Sudan, to name but a few of the most striking examples I myself witnessed. The romantic dimension in transgressing certain borders in the 1980s is not in question (and I'm not the last one to have succumbed...). But a few medical teams scattered over Afghanistan should not conceal the political scene of the time. At best, we were kept to the margins of the conflicts and were often prohibited and powerless.</p> <p>This practice was abandoned in the 1990s, for the reasons given above and there were a few years when it was possible to go almost everywhere. All the signs are suggesting that this interlude is drawing to a close: on this point we agree. Yet we must not forget the questions, concerns and even despondency of humanitarian workers at the time, faced with "military-humanitarian" deployments and the thorny issues of political positioning.</p> <p><strong>The "Arche de Zoé" incident was not counterfeit humanitarianism</strong><br /> <br /> It is a fact that we used to hear unanimous praise of NGOs'. They counterbalanced inefficient and corrupt governments; they were the authentic voice of civil society, a manifestation of a new world conscience, and so on. These illusions of grandeur have largely crumbled in recent times: this we definitely agree on. But I would like to point out that in their short history, the "without borders" concept and its missions alike have undergone considerable and constant change; it is thus misleading to compare the methods and stakes of "yesteryear" with those of today.</p> <p>So we should ask ourselves: Compared to just when in the past is NGO independence receiving less and less recognition? Or since when has the idea of emergencies not clashed head on with the long-term? These issues, along with NGO legitimacy, their relations with political authorities and the freedom to act, were just as relevant back then as they are now. Yes, the contexts they relate to have changed, which is why we must continue to raise them. But there is no reason at all to see only the negative side of change.</p> <p>Thus in Sudan NGOs were expelled from Darfur as a retaliatory measure following the indictment of the Sudanese president. However, as I write six months later, the situation seems stable; other NGOs have come in, and most importantly of all, public health and social structures have been put into place, following on from the biggest relief operation in recent times. This last point seems of interest to nobody, as if it were an annoyance. Yet should this State commitment prove lasting, it is essential.</p> <p>If the Darfur people really are at the centre of our concern, we should be taking note of this reality, instead of victimising the expelled NGOs, unless their presence is considered a good thing in itself. On the contrary, it is important to question the consequences of this illusion of all-powerfulness that underpinned appeals for interventions, the "Responsibility to protect", and the repeated accusations of genocide coming from the humanitarian world in general.</p> <p>This is not about absolving the Sudanese regime of its responsibilities, but rather weighing up our own and considering their limitations.<br /> To this effect, the Arche de Zoé is not "counterfeit humanitarianism", but reflects a well represented trend in French-style humanitarianism that I mention at the beginning of this article. It is easy to see that the team acted illegally, but we should also try to see that it acted just as "professionally", with an equally "humanitarian" approach as many others. If we merely settle for excommunicating the perpetrators out of hand, then we are missing the point.</p> <p>NGOs speak out; it is understandable that they are willing to appear as "moral entrepreneurs". But it is debatable that their presence in the field can be considered to be a moral victory in itself. Christian Troubé is right to point out that "borders are being recreated", but he is wrong to urge us to see this as an obvious regression.</p> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3644&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="bISjlDYZw77q9s3vqsJgMQBVWuAQX_hBGsMJZevyxUM"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="flag.link_builder:build" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3644&amp;2=reading_list" token="duKZmDxrBJhJLoYNlKjWAaZ_X56CQ5qX182BmppBC3M"></drupal-render-placeholder><div class="citation-container"> <div class="field--name-field-citation"> <p> <span>To cite this content :</span> <br> Rony Brauman, Debate : the end of humanitarianism without borders ?, 6 October 2009, URL : <a href="https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/en/blog/humanitarian-actors-and-practice/debate-end-humanitarianism-without-borders">https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/en/blog/humanitarian-actors-and-practice/debate-end-humanitarianism-without-borders</a> </p> </div> </div> <div class="contribution-container"> <div class="field--name-field-contribution"> <p> <span>If you want to criticize or develop this content,</span> you can find us on twitter or directly on our site. </p> <a href="/index.php/en/contribute?to=3644" class="button">Contribute</a> </div> </div> <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-above">Debate : the end of humanitarianism without borders ?</span> Tue, 06 Oct 2009 00:00:00 +0000 babayaga 3644 at https://www.msf-crash.org Humanitarian Medicine https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/en/publications/medicine-and-public-health/humanitarian-medicine <div class="field field--name-field-publish-date field--type-datetime field--label-hidden field__item"><time datetime="2009-02-01T12:00:00Z" class="datetime">02/01/2009</time> </div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span lang="" about="/index.php/en/user/12" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">nicolas.l</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Sun, 02/01/2009 - 02:00</span> <div class="citation-container"> <div class="field--name-field-citation"> <p> <span>To cite this content :</span> <br> Rony Brauman, Humanitarian Medicine, 1 February 2009, URL : <a href="https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/en/publications/medicine-and-public-health/humanitarian-medicine">https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/en/publications/medicine-and-public-health/humanitarian-medicine</a> </p> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/humanitarian-medicine" hreflang="en">humanitarian medicine</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/colonial-medicine" hreflang="en">colonial medicine</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/epidemic" hreflang="en">epidemic</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/history-humanitarianism" hreflang="en">history of humanitarianism</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/population-displacements" hreflang="en">population displacements</a></div> </div> <div class="contribution-container"> <div class="field--name-field-contribution"> <p> <span>If you want to criticize or develop this content,</span> you can find us on twitter or directly on our site. </p> <a href="/index.php/en/contribute?to=4125" class="button">Contribute</a> </div> </div> <details class="field--type-entity-person js-form-wrapper form-wrapper"> <summary role="button" aria-expanded="false" aria-pressed="false">Rony Brauman</summary><div class="details-wrapper"> <div class="field--type-entity-person js-form-wrapper form-wrapper field field--name-field-authors field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"> <article data-history-node-id="3221" role="article" about="/en/rony-brauman" class="node node--type-person node--view-mode-embed"> <div class="node__content"> <div class="group-person-profil"> <div class="group-person-image-profil"> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/styles/profile_image/public/2017-04/DSCF4256.jpg?itok=nCrBsaSM" width="180" height="230" alt="Rony Brauman" typeof="foaf:Image" class="image-style-profile-image" /> </div> </div> <div class="group-person-content"> <div class="group-person-firstname-lastname"> <div class="field field--name-field-firstname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Rony</div> <div class="field field--name-field-lastname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Brauman</div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Medical doctor, specialized in tropical medicine and epidemiology. Involved in humanitarian action since 1977, he has been on numerous missions, mainly in contexts of armed conflicts and IDP situations. President of Médecins sans Frontières from 1982 to1994, he also teaches at the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI) and is a regular contributor to Alternatives Economiques. He has published several books and articles, including&nbsp;"Guerre humanitaires ? Mensonges et Intox" (Textuel, 2018), "La Médecine Humanitaire" (PUF, 2010), "Penser dans l'urgence" (Editions du Seuil, 2006) and "Utopies Sanitaires" (Editions Le Pommier, 2000).</p> </div> <div class="same-author-link"><a href="/en/rony-brauman" class="button">By the same author</a> </div> </div> </div> </article> </div> </div> </div> </details> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Humanitarian medicine is made up of a wide range of practices with few obvious connections between them. Battlefield medicine and surgery, rural dispensaries in remote areas, campaigns to raise awareness about health problems in poor countries, emergency teams in disaster situations, vaccination campaigns, health education, help for marginalised groups in affluent countries and public health advice are just some examples of actions that fall within the scope of “humanitarian medicine” when they are carried out by organisations and in circumstances that can be classified as “humanitarian”.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-chapters field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/publications/humanitarian-medicine/introduction" hreflang="en">Introduction</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/publications/humanitarian-medicine/chapter-i-beginning" hreflang="en">Chapter I In the beginning</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/publications/humanitarian-medicine/chapter-ii-exceptional-situations" hreflang="en">Chapter II Exceptional situations</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/publications/humanitarian-medicine/chapter-iii-ordinary-situations" hreflang="en">Chapter III Ordinary situations</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/publications/humanitarian-medicine/epilogue" hreflang="en">Epilogue</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/publications/humanitarian-medicine/bibliography" hreflang="en">Bibliography</a></div> </div> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="flag.link_builder:build" arguments="0=node&amp;1=4125&amp;2=reading_list" token="eU9uxub99eUio9rPrB3uj2HzT_z1cP5Ppvv_7iBHQeI"></drupal-render-placeholder><span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-above">Humanitarian Medicine</span> Sun, 01 Feb 2009 01:00:00 +0000 nicolas.l 4125 at https://www.msf-crash.org Humanitarian action victim of its own success https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/en/publications/humanitarian-actors-and-practices/humanitarian-action-victim-its-own-success <div class="field field--name-field-publish-date field--type-datetime field--label-inline clearfix"> <div class="field__label">Publication date</div> <div class="field__item"><time datetime="2003-01-01T12:00:00Z" class="datetime">01/01/2003</time> </div> </div> <span rel="schema:author" class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span lang="" about="/index.php/en/user/62" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Charlene-01</span></span> <span property="schema:dateCreated" content="2003-01-01T01:00:00+00:00" class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 01/01/2003 - 02:00</span> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/humanitarian-crisis" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">humanitarian crisis</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/history-humanitarianism" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">history of humanitarianism</a></div> </div> <details class="field--type-entity-person js-form-wrapper form-wrapper"> <summary role="button" aria-expanded="false" aria-pressed="false">Fiona Terry</summary><div class="details-wrapper"> <div class="field--type-entity-person js-form-wrapper form-wrapper field field--name-field-authors field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"> <article data-history-node-id="3244" role="article" about="/en/fiona-terry" class="node node--type-person node--view-mode-embed"> <div class="node__content"> <div class="group-person-profil"> <div class="group-person-image-profil"> </div> <div class="group-person-content"> <div class="group-person-firstname-lastname"> <div class="field field--name-field-firstname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Fiona</div> <div class="field field--name-field-lastname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Terry</div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>From 2000 to 2003, Fiona Terry worked as a research director with MSF-Crash, before spending three years in Myanmar with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). She holds a Ph.D. in international relations and political science from the Australian National University and is the author of Condemned to Repeat? The Paradox of Humanitarian Action (2002).</p> </div> <div class="same-author-link"><a href="/en/fiona-terry" class="button">By the same author</a> </div> </div> </div> </article> </div> </div> </div> </details> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>The international aid regime tends to exaggerate changes over the last decade in the nature of so- called humanitarian crises. Neither violence perpetrated against civilian populations nor the dilemmas posed to aid organisations attempting to assist them have worsened since the end of the Cold War. It is doubtful that victims of Salvadoran death squads or Vietnamese survivors of napalm believe that conflicts of the 1990s were more barbarous than those they lived through, and the dilemmas posed to aid organisations in the Khmer Rouge controlled refugee camps on the Thai-Cambodian border, and by the Mengistu regime’s use of humanitarian aid in its deportation policy in Ethiopia in the mid-1980s were equally, if not more, ethically challenging than those of the last ten years.</p> <p>It is not as much the crises as the international response to them that has changed with the end of the Cold War. Not only has there been a proliferation in the number of actors intervening in crises</p> <p>– with their differing mandates and priorities - but the main field of intervention has shifted from refugee camps on the periphery of conflicts to the very heart of contested territories. Aid organisations have more access to populations at risk than ever before and more exposure to the dangers of war, hence they directly witness more atrocities and have sometimes become casualties themselves. This, together with the emergence of terms like ‘complex emergency’, has given the erroneous impression that contemporary contexts are more fraught with horror and difficulty than those of the past. Emphasising this ‘new’ complexity has also become a convenient excuse for the shortcomings and perverse effects of humanitarian action, deflecting responsibility from aid organisations to the context in which they operate.</p> <p>In fact, the most significant evolution in the aid field over the past decade has been in the concept of humanitarian action itself: it has become a victim of its own success. Ironically, the greatest challenge to humanitarian action does not come from warlords misusing relief supplies but from the very sponsors and practitioners of so-called humanitarian assistance. The popularity and moral weight the term ‘humanitarian’ possesses, and the sense of omnipotence that has accompanied the expansion of an aid industry full of good intentions, has distorted and eroded the concept of humanitarian action to a point where it has lost sight of its original objectives.</p> <p>Western governments have been the most obvious usurper of the humanitarian concept, in a variety of clearly discernible ways. First and most commonly, governments have deployed a ‘humanitarian’ response to crises of the last decade as a way of avoiding becoming embroiled in the politics of a country deemed beyond their national interests. As a highly visible yet low-risk response, the deployment of humanitarian assistance commends itself to politicians, mollifying the intense yet short-lived impulse of the general public to ‘do something’ in response to images of suffering. The most obvious example of this was during the Rwandan genocide, when no government was willing to send in the personnel and resources necessary to stop the slaughter, but deployed troops and assistance to the Rwandan refugee camps to combat the cholera and dysentery epidemics. Preferring to only address the ‘humanitarian’ aspects of the crisis, the soldiers did nothing to prevent the army and genocidal regime ensconcing themselves in the refugee camps, with devastating consequences for the refugee population. Similarly, Western governments dealt with the Bosnian conflict in a ‘humanitarian’ manner, deploying blue helmets to protect aid personnel and supplies while doing nothing to stop the slaughter of civilians in enclaves such as Srebrenica. Bosnian Muslims recognised the limits of humanitarian action better than most aid organisations did, declaring that the food aid and medicines only allowed them to die in good health.</p> <p>Second, governments have on occasion invoked humanitarian concerns to do just the contrary: to provide moral justification to action which has clearly political intent. This is not new: in the 19<span>th</span><span> </span>century humanitarian rationales were invoked in several military conquests, and as recently as the mid-1980s Ronald Reagan labelled US aid to the Nicaraguan contras ‘humanitarian aid’ to help it pass through Congress. There has, however, been an increase in this trend. Operation Provide Comfort in Northern Iraq in 1991 was proclaimed to be a triumph of humanitarian concern but in reality served to prevent the influx of millions of Kurds into Turkey to avoid destabilising this important US ally. More recently, NATO’s intervention in Kosovo was presented as a ‘humanitarian war’ despite the oxymoron: it contradicts the fundamental rationale of humanitarian action to countenance killing in its name. Putting a stop to the Belgrade’s oppression of the Kosovars was a worthy act, but an intensely political one that was equally motivated by a desire to see an end to Milosovic and to test NATO’s new strategic framework. In order to be humanitarian, any action must be motivated first and foremost by concern for the welfare of victims, wherever and whoever they are. Most military interventions claiming humanitarian intent of the last decade, however, have been undertaken in countries of national interest to the intervening power: the Americans in Haiti, the French in Rwanda, the Russians in Georgia, the Australians in East Timor, and the Nigerians in Liberia. Moreover, a state is a political actor and as such can never claim the independent and impartial status so crucial to the concept of humanitarian action. Clearly state interventions, however commendable or regrettable in themselves, cannot be humanitarian.</p> <p>Western governments have also sought to commandeer humanitarian notions in support of political actions pursued abroad. French NGOs were strongly encouraged to work in areas covered by Operation Turquoise in Rwanda in order to give the actions of the French troops a humanitarian flavour, and the US Government has openly called for American NGOs and their humanitarian activities to be part of the overall ‘war on terrorism’. The US military food drops into Afghanistan last year were labelled ‘humanitarian’ despite being part of the military campaign to ‘win the hearts and minds’ of Afghan civilians, as if providing food alone was enough to qualify as a humanitarian gesture. The US, Japanese and South Korean governments similarly throw a humanitarian cloak around their donations of food aid to North Korea, evoking a moral obligation to help famine victims as a means to subdue domestic opposition to aiding an enemy state. In reality, however, the food aid has long been a tool of diplomatic persuasion with Pyongyang, aimed at securing political progress on a range of predominantly security-related issues. By definition, any aid given to induce political, religious or economic compliance is not humanitarian aid: the only compliance that should be sought with humanitarian aid is to conditions that will ensure that aid is given to those most in need. But refugees in China say that the food is not reaching those who need it and that people continue to suffer in spite of the largest UN food aid operation in history. Instead of assuming the political and diplomatic processes needed to deal with Pyongyang, donor governments use ‘humanitarian aid’ as a bargaining chip in a country beset by famine, and do nothing to ensure that the aid actually reaches the starving. This is surely the nadir of contemporary ‘humanitarianism’.</p> <p>But Western governments are not the only culprits in the distortion of the concept of humanitarian action: many aid agencies themselves are complicit in this masquerade. The principal problem from which many others stem is that the popularity of humanitarian action as a remedy for human suffering has created a veritable aid industry which increasingly responds to a market logic rather than a humanitarian logic. As the size of aid organisations have expanded so have their overhead costs, and decisions about where to intervene and who to assist are determined by the amount of government funds available: few aid agencies have sufficient private donors to be genuinely independent of government priorities. Hence massive disparities occur in the treatment of victims in, for example, Kosovo and Angola, despite the claims of universal concern espoused by aid agencies. The search for funding opportunities and overweening belief in the morality of their actions has also lead aid agencies to expand their activities beyond humanitarian concerns and into conflict resolution and peace-building activities, all the while professing to uphold humanitarian principles. But, as the aid operation in North Korea clearly shows, peace-building and humanitarian action do not share the same principles or objectives, and pursuing one invariably requires sacrificing the other. In North Korea it is humanitarian action that is being sacrificed in the name of peace as aid agencies continue to operate in the country in spite of the wanton disrespect of all the minimum conditions for operation the aid organisations set for themselves. They are unable to assure that their aid goes to those most in need and refugees in China say it is not. Yet aid agencies remain in the country as a ‘bridge to peace’ with the outside world, in the hope that peace will eventually improve the humanitarian situation in the country. But whether or not their efforts will contribute to peace, North Koreans have continued to suffer while aid agencies collaborate with the regime and pretend that the aid operation has been a success.</p> <p>The aid industry pretends that a great deal of progress has been made over the last decade in improving the technical efficiency, coordinated responses, and accountability of aid organisations to donors and to the people in whose name they intervene. But neither the technical provision of relief, nor perfect coordination or even signed adherence to humanitarian principles guarantees the humanitarian nature of assistance. This can only be done when aid organisations have the independence and lucidity to reflect upon the motivation, means and methods, and consequences of their actions to genuinely assure that their assistance is helping those most at risk of suffering and is not serving some other purpose. The aid industry needs to recognise that humanitarian action has limits and that there are other, equally worthy forms of action that are more appropriate to certain types of crisis. Military intervention was the only way to stop the Rwandan genocide so it was appropriate that humanitarians called for it rather than accept to be substitutes for the only action that could really help the victims. Humanitarian agencies could be a little more humble in what they believe they can achieve. Indeed, it is a sobering reminder that in spite of all the progress the aid industry thinks it has made over the last decade, Herbert Hoover managed to negotiate better humanitarian standards for food aid in negotiations with Vladimir Lenin during the 1921-22 Russian famine than the UN, Red Cross movement and NGOs are able to do in North Korea today. After difficult negotiations, the American Relief Association that Hoover headed managed to secure full freedom of movement for its aid workers and retained control of the food aid to ensure its impartial distribution. With such conditions assured, the ARA was able to establish 16,000 feeding stations which helped to feed ten million Russians for eleven months. Hoover recognised 80 years ago what aid organisations fail to see today: that unless aid organisations can act independently of political authorities and control, monitor and evaluate their aid, they risk seeing their aid benefiting the oppressors rather than the oppressed.</p> </div> <div class="citation-container"> <div class="field--name-field-citation"> <p> <span>To cite this content :</span> <br> Fiona Terry, Humanitarian action victim of its own success, 1 January 2003, URL : <a href="https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/en/publications/humanitarian-actors-and-practices/humanitarian-action-victim-its-own-success">https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/en/publications/humanitarian-actors-and-practices/humanitarian-action-victim-its-own-success</a> </p> </div> </div> <div class="contribution-container"> <div class="field--name-field-contribution"> <p> <span>If you want to criticize or develop this content,</span> you can find us on twitter or directly on our site. </p> <a href="/index.php/en/contribute?to=4000" class="button">Contribute</a> </div> </div> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="flag.link_builder:build" arguments="0=node&amp;1=4000&amp;2=reading_list" token="HiXd8uMd7y4dhdSAXkTcRyBY4tvmbdt5ECPDTtO7H-c"></drupal-render-placeholder><span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-above">Humanitarian action victim of its own success</span> Wed, 01 Jan 2003 01:00:00 +0000 Charlene-01 4000 at https://www.msf-crash.org Reconstituting whose Social Order, NGOS in disrupted States https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/en/publications/humanitarian-actors-and-practices/reconstituting-whose-social-order-ngos-disrupted <div class="field field--name-field-publish-date field--type-datetime field--label-inline clearfix"> <div class="field__label">Publication date</div> <div class="field__item"><time datetime="1999-07-06T12:00:00Z" class="datetime">07/06/1999</time> </div> </div> <span rel="schema:author" class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span lang="" about="/index.php/en/user/65" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Jason-04</span></span> <span property="schema:dateCreated" content="1999-07-06T00:00:00+00:00" class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Tue, 07/06/1999 - 02:00</span> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/military-humanitarian-relations" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">military-humanitarian relations</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/military-intervention" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">military intervention</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/humanitarian-principles" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">humanitarian principles</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/ethic" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">ethic</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/humanitarianism-and-politics" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">humanitarianism and politics</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/en/tags/history-humanitarianism" property="schema:about" hreflang="en">history of humanitarianism</a></div> </div> <details class="field--type-entity-person js-form-wrapper form-wrapper"> <summary role="button" aria-expanded="false" aria-pressed="false">Fiona Terry</summary><div class="details-wrapper"> <div class="field--type-entity-person js-form-wrapper form-wrapper field field--name-field-authors field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="field__item"> <article data-history-node-id="3244" role="article" about="/en/fiona-terry" class="node node--type-person node--view-mode-embed"> <div class="node__content"> <div class="group-person-profil"> <div class="group-person-image-profil"> </div> <div class="group-person-content"> <div class="group-person-firstname-lastname"> <div class="field field--name-field-firstname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Fiona</div> <div class="field field--name-field-lastname field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">Terry</div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>From 2000 to 2003, Fiona Terry worked as a research director with MSF-Crash, before spending three years in Myanmar with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). She holds a Ph.D. in international relations and political science from the Australian National University and is the author of Condemned to Repeat? The Paradox of Humanitarian Action (2002).</p> </div> <div class="same-author-link"><a href="/en/fiona-terry" class="button">By the same author</a> </div> </div> </div> </article> </div> </div> </div> </details> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Recent images of NATO troops establishing camps for Kosovar refugees in Albania and Macedonia raise several questions about civil-military cooperation in disrupted states.<span class="annotation"><span>The term ‘disrupted states’ refers to states which are disintegrating through the erosion of government authority and structures, and states which, through committing crimes against their own people, forfeit their right to legitimacy. This term is preferable to ‘collapsed’ or ‘weak’ states since they preclude crises provoked by the strength of the state, such as the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and the Kosovo crisis in 1999.</span></span>What does it mean for humanitarian principles when a belligerent party to the conflict assumes primary responsibility for the refugees? Has the military, by virtue of its logistical capacity and reaction speed, carved out a new niche for itself in the humanitarian milieu? Has refugee law, which bestows responsibility for the protection of refugees to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, become obsolete? Is this the end of humanitarianism, as some observers have suggested?<span class="annotation">David Reiff, ‘The Death of a Good Idea’, <em>Newsweek</em>, 10 May 1999, p. 65.</span></p> <p>The recent developments in the Balkans come in the wake of a period of unprecedented criticism of humanitarian action in general, and that of NGOs in particular. The limit of humanitarian action as a remedy for human suffering has been dramatically demonstrated in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa since 1994. Although the stated purpose of humanitarian aid is to alleviate the humanitarian symptoms of crises, not address the political causes, aid organisations have been inculpated in the failure of this endeavour and, in some cases, accused of exacerbating the problem. In response to perceived failures - and a tarnished image – NGOs, UN agencies and government donors have reappraised many facets of humanitarian aid operations, and the application of humanitarian principles. One of the recurring themes which has emerged is that a uniform set of standards should be applied to the provision of humanitarian relief, and that coordination and cooperation should be enhanced among the various actors to assuage some of the difficulties posed by ‘complex emergencies’ in the post-Cold War world.</p> <p>This paper argues that, although sound in intention, increased conformity and coordination in the response to crises is not a panacea for the problems inherent in providing humanitarian assistance in disrupted states. Much of the analysis that informs the current discourse of humanitarian assistance is premised on flawed assumptions about the role of NGOs and the context in which they operate. While there are several genuine changes in the nature of conflict in the post-Cold War period which impact upon the provision of aid, the dilemmas confronting aid today are essentially the same as in the past. It is the international response that is more ‘complex’; proliferation in the number and type of actors in the field has exacerbated inherent dilemmas in the provision of humanitarian assistance. The convoluted nature of the response warranted reanalysis of the roles and objectives of humanitarian aid, but the proposed solution of closer collaboration among NGOs, UN agencies, governments and military forces is likely to direct aid towards politically expedient outcomes and away from its initial purpose. There is, in fact, a need for greater independence in the actions of NGOs from government donors and military forces.</p> <p>The paper is divided into three sections. The first briefly discusses the purpose of humanitarian aid organisations, and explores the paradox at the heart of humanitarian action in war. The second examines some of the ways in which aid organisations reacted to the moral dilemmas of the Cold War period, when aid was used by donor governments and beneficiaries alike to pursue political agendas. Having shown that the moral dilemmas and complexity associated with the provision of humanitarian aid are not a 1990s phenomenon, the third identifies some of the additional complications that have arisen with the advent of military forces alongside aid organisations in the response to the human consequences of disrupted states.</p> <h3><br /> NGO Diversity in Purpose and Principles</h3> <p>The fact that no better term has appeared in the English or French languages to describe a ‘non- government organisation’ (NGO) other than by what it is not, says a great deal about the disparate nature of these associations. Differentiated from business by the absence of a motive to make and distribute profits among shareholders,<span class="annotation"><span>NGOs are often described as non-profit organisations although this label is not strictly accurate. NGOs often do make profits on investments, but these are reinvested in the organisation rather than distributed among shareholders. Hence not-for-profit is a more appropriate term.</span></span>and generally professing a single purpose as opposed to the multiple purposes of governments and the UN, NGOs are supposed to be anchored in and reflect the concerns of civil society. NGOs are generally established to fill a perceived void in government activity or responsibility; to lobby government and inform public opinion about an issue; or a combination of these pursuits. NGOs are typically viewed as having a ‘voluntary’ and non-bureaucratic nature, and freedom from the sovereignty constraints of states, albeit within the confines of domestic national legislation.</p> <p>The origins of Western humanitarian NGO activity<span class="annotation">Acts of charity and benevolence are identifiable in all cultures and societies, but this discussion is limited to the&nbsp;evolution of Western NGOs and humanitarian thought. For a discussion of the universality of such sentiments see Iphraim Isaac, ‘Humanitarianism Across Religion and Cultures’ in Thomas Weiss and Larry Minear (eds), <em>Humanitarianism Across Borders: Sustaining Civilians in Times of War </em>(Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1993), pp. 13-22.</span>are embedded in two main traditions, religion and 18<span>th </span><span> </span>Century European enlightenment philosophies. The distinction between these approaches is still evident today: some NGOs profess a charitable ‘duty’ to assist the less fortunate, while others base their action on the ‘rights’ of individuals to certain minimum standards by virtue of their membership of humanity. The earliest ancestors of modern NGOs were established in the 12<span>th</span><span> </span>Century, when Christian organisations such as the Order of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem (later the Order of Malta) formed to take care of the sick and wounded on an international basis.<span class="annotation">Yves Beigbeder, The Role and Status of International Humanitarian Volunteers and Organisations: The Right and&nbsp;<em>Duty to Humanitarian Assistance (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1991), p. 8.</em></span>The first human rights NGO was established in 1839 to fight the slave trade. In 1847 the first secular medical, voluntary organisation was established, the American Medical Association, but it was a few years later, in 1864 that the first universal secular organisation, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), was formed in Geneva. Although not an NGO since its mandate is conferred under international law, the ideals and principles underpinning the work of the ICRC became the foundation for the generations of NGOs which subsequently developed in the area of international humanitarian relief.</p> <p>Humanitarian NGOs profess a common objective to alleviate the suffering of victims of conflict, marginalisation, discrimination or oppression around the globe, and profess to put the concerns of humanity above other considerations. But beyond this objective, humanitarian NGOs exhibit as many differences as similarities in ideology and approaches to the provision of assistance to vulnerable populations. Beyond the ‘charity’ verses ‘rights’ distinction above, aid organisations also differ in the importance they place on proximity to government institutions; adherence to the principles of neutrality and impartiality of humanitarian action; and whether pragmatism should be favoured over a principled approach to the provision of aid. Contemporary approaches invariably reflect the basis on which each agency was formed. Oxfam, for example, was created in 1942 to lobby against the starvation caused by the British government blockade of Greece, and has continued to advocate for justice in its subsequent operations. Similarly, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was created by doctors frustrated by delays in Nigerian Government approval for access to starving civilians in Biafra, and has continued to put the right of all people to medical assistance above concerns of state sovereignty. Other NGOs like CARE were created with a more technical than political bent, providing CARE packages to Europe in the wake of the Second World War, and have continued to focus on the technical aspects of the provision of aid.</p> <p>NGO attitudes concerning relationships with government is one of the areas in which they differ most. European NGOs generally guard greater independence than those of the United States. It is interesting to note that while many important figures from NGOs in France have become senior figures in the French Government,<span class="annotation"><span>The most famous example in France is Bernard Kouchner, one of the founders of MSF and Médecins du Monde who became the first Secretary of State for Humanitarian Action. Claude Malhuret and Xavier Emmanuelli, both former presidents of MSF, also became senior French Government officials after leaving MSF, Malhuret as Secretary of State for Human Rights, and Emmanuelli as Secretary of State for Humanitarian Action.</span></span>in the US and to a lesser extent Australia, personnel have also moved the other way. Julia Taft, for example, was the director of the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance in the US Agency for International Development before becoming the head of InterAction, the NGO Coalition body in the United States in 1993. In 1997 she was reappointed to the US Government, as Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration Affairs. Similarly Andrew Natsios became the Vice-President of World Vision after serving in a senior position in the US Government, and the former Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Fraser, is currently the Chair of CARE Australia. His recent mission to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as the special envoy of the Australian Government raises interesting questions about the distinction between NGOs and governments, as does the level of funding that some NGOs receive from government coffers. If an NGO receives 90 percent, or even more than 50 percent of its funding from government sources, can it be legitimately called ‘non-governmental’? Most NGOs do not consider this to be of concern, rejecting the idea that government funding necessarily ties humanitarian action to the foreign policy interests of governments. After all, the US intervention in Somalia is widely cited as an example of US Government altruism in the face of massive human suffering.<span class="annotation">See, for example, Martha Finnemore, ‘Constructing Norms of Humanitarian Intervention’, in Peter Katzenstein&nbsp;(ed.), <em>The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics </em>(New York: Colombia University Press, 1996), pp. 153-185 at p. 156.</span>Furthermore, many NGOs claim that by lobbying for and spending government funding in humanitarian crises, NGOs are ensuring that governments uphold commitments to the broader international community and reflect the concerns of their tax-paying constituents.</p> <p>The diversity of NGO opinions and approaches is a reflection of the variety of concerns expressed by the civil society in which NGOs are anchored. But the diversity is also a reflection of the inherent paradox at the core of humanitarian action, and how individual aid organisations try to reconcile competing moral principles. The fundamental aim of humanitarian action is to save lives and alleviate suffering, but, from its inception, this humanitarian act has the potential to prolong conflict and hence the suffering of its victims. A common question unites humanitarian, political and military actors: is it better to have a brief, decisive war which ignores humanitarian principles, or a conflict prolonged by the respect of humanitarian demands? The noble idea of providing protection and assistance to wounded soldiers on the battlefield was at the heart of the birth of modern humanitarian activity, proposed by the founder of the Red Cross, Henri Dunant, after he witnessed the carnage of the Battle of Solferino in 1859. But in the subsequent intergovernmental agreement to implement Dunant’s dream, no provision was made to prevent the return of the wounded to combat. This paradox is illustrated vividly in Afghanistan every time a Mujahid wearing a prothesis appears at a health post with a fresh war wound. The potential role of aid in war is also recognised in the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Article 23 of the Fourth Convention permits a belligerent party to refuse passage of humanitarian aid if there are reasons for fearing that the consignment may be diverted, that control may not be effective, or that a definite advantage may accrue to the military efforts or economy of the enemy.</p> <p>This central dilemma of humanitarian action has become prominent in the last few years as the end of the Cold War thrust humanitarian issues to centre stage. The early optimism of a new world order with a humanitarian cornerstone was tempered by the US and UN failure in Somalia, but humanitarian issues remained on the agenda as the ‘lowest common denominator’<span class="annotation">Adam Roberts, <em>Humanitarian Action in War: Aid, Protection and Impartiality in a Policy Vacuum</em>. (Oxford: Adelphi Paper # 305, IISS/Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 15-16.</span>in deliberations by the UN and member states of the best way to respond to the increasing incidents of state disruption. This expanded role was accompanied by deeper scrutiny of humanitarian endeavours, as aid failed to achieve the ambition it was set and was even accused of being part of the problem. Influential observers began asserting that ‘a new reality has emerged which recognised that humanitarian action does not occur in a political vacuum’<span class="annotation">Thomas Weiss, ‘Military-Civilian Humanitarianism: The ‘Age of Innocence’ is Over’, <em>Peacekeeping </em>2 No. 2 (1995): 157-174 at p. 157.</span>in the post-Cold War environment, emphasising ‘how much more complex humanitarian work was now than it had been in the past’.<span class="annotation"><span>Emma Bonino, comments attributed in the Final Report from an ECHO-ICRC seminar, ‘Humanitarian Action: Perceptions and Security’, Lisbon, 27-28 March 1998, p. 6.</span></span>The most recent assertion is that this has led to ‘a collective identity crisis among aid workers in war zones as well as among those that analyse such efforts’.<span class="annotation">Thomas Weiss, ‘Principles, Politics and Humanitarian Action’, Ethics and International Affairs&nbsp;<span>13 (1999): 1-22 at p. 1.</span></span>This ‘identity crisis’, however, has been ongoing for the last 30 years as aid organisations have struggled to simultaneously reflect the volition of their members; adhere to the mandate of their organisation, whether self-imposed in the case of NGOs or conferred by law for ICRC; alleviate the suffering of victims, however defined; and negotiate a path between conflicting priorities and principles in the highly political and complex environment of the Cold War period.</p> <h3><br /> The Permanence of Moral Dilemmas in Humanitarian Action</h3> <p>Far from working within the ‘crisp and simple concepts of the Cold War era’,<span class="annotation">Antonio Donini, ‘Beyond Neutrality: On the Compatibility of Military Intervention and Humanitarian Assistance’,&nbsp;<em>The Fletcher Forum (1995): 31-45 at p. 31.</em></span>humanitarian aid organisations were confronted with profound dilemmas during the 1960s, 70s and 80s as images of human suffering and the provision of aid was used by donors and recipients alike to pursue political objectives. In the late 1960s, many NGOs came to the aid of Biafrans starved by the Nigerian blockade of the secessionist territory, only to find that their actions increased the intransigence of the secessionist leadership for whom famine was an important propaganda tool with which to gain international legitimacy. The Biafran leader, Colonel Ojukwu, chose to print new legal tender and stamps at the height of the famine which claimed the lives of 1 million people, and only when he fled the country did the fighting stop. In Ethiopia in 1985, famine and the aid that it attracted were also used as weapons of war, this time to facilitate the deportation of northerners accused of sympathising with rebel forces, to the south of the country, provoking the death of up to 100,000 of them.<span class="annotation">Alain Destexhe. <em>L’humanitaire impossible ou deux siècles d’ambiguïté </em>(Paris: Armand Colin, 1993), p. 119.</span>Aid was used as a lure; the Mengistu regime restricted the entry of children to many feeding centres until their parents agreed to be resettled. In refugee camps throughout the Third World, guerrilla movements received protection, sustenance, and a dependent population from which to draw legitimacy and new recruits. Refugee camps in Pakistan harboured Mujaheddin fighting the Soviet-backed regime in Kabul; the US sent ‘humanitarian aid’ to Honduras to assist the Contras in their war against the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua; and the US dominated the financial contributions to the Cambodian refugee camps in Thailand, preferring to support the revival of the Khmer Rouge than to allow the Vietnamese Government to remain unopposed in its support to Phnom Penh.</p> <p>Retaining the neutrality, impartiality and independence of humanitarian action in the highly political context was difficult, and the approach adopted by the aid organisations was far from uniform. ICRC applied strict neutrality to its operations which facilitated access to the heart of conflicts in some instances, and restricted access altogether in others, if consent from both sides was not forthcoming. In the Cambodian crisis, for example, ICRC’s insistence on a presence on both sides of the conflict successfully overcame the prohibition placed on other agencies, whereas strict adherence to the same principles in Afghanistan curtailed its access to war victims. In some circumstances, organisations like MSF and Oxfam prioritised principles of proportionality over concerns of neutrality, judging that the needs on one side were greater than on the other, or that the nature of a regime precluded the possibility of aid effectively reaching the people. Thus Oxfam’s abhorrence of the Khmer Rouge and concerns of justice for the Cambodian people directed its decision to work inside Cambodia and not with the refugees along the Thai-Cambodian border. MSF similarly chose not to work with the Khmer Rouge, but considered that the nature of the Vietnamese-backed regime in Phnom Penh obviated the possibility of aiding civilians inside Cambodia, so limited its assistance to the non-Khmer Rouge refugee camps. In the Afghan conflict, MSF worked inside Afghanistan with the Mujaheddin, judging that the indiscriminate and disproportionate force employed by Soviet troops warranted aiding the victims of these atrocities, regardless of the violation of state sovereignty and of strict neutrality. In Honduras, by contrast, MSF made a concerted effort to assist refugees fleeing the right-wing government of El Salvador and left-wing government of Nicaragua, recognising that there were victims of atrocities on both sides.</p> <p>Some NGOs operating at this time expressed overtly political agendas according to ideological belief. In Honduras, for example, a spate of American NGOs including the United States Council for World Freedom, Friends of the Americas, and the Nicaraguan Freedom Fund assisted the Contras in the Nicaraguan refugee camp, while at the other end of the country, left-wing European organisations worked in the camps containing Salvadoran refugees who had fled the right-wing dictatorship in San Salvador. Other NGOs chose to ignore the political context surrounding the aid operation, instead focusing on the technical provision of assistance. After the Biafran famine, NGOs began to professionalise their delivery capacities, developing pre-packaged kits, contingency stocks, and standardised guidelines to facilitate rapid responses to political and natural disasters. However, ignoring the dilemmas did not make them disappear: in the highly political contexts the choice was rarely ‘between a political position and a neutral position but between two political positions: one active and the other by default’.<span class="annotation">Rony Brauman, ‘Refugee Camps, Population Transfers, and NGOs’, in Jonathan Moore (ed.), <em>Hard Choices: Moral Dilemmas in Humanitarian Intervention </em>(Oxford: Rowan &amp; Littlefield, 1998), pp. 177-194 at p. 181.</span>Whether they openly acknowledged it or not, humanitarian aid was often an extension of the foreign policy of the donor governments or used by host governments for political ends.</p> <p>Obtaining access to vulnerable populations during this period involved protracted negotiations with governments, rebel authorities and local leaders. An ‘ideal’ environment in which to work was one characterised by respect for humanitarian principles, and their practical application in operational standards (otherwise known as humanitarian space). Such standards include the freedom to independently assess the needs of the population; retain unhindered access to the population; conduct, monitor and evaluate the distribution of aid commodities; and obtain security guarantees for expatriate and local personnel, and property. Obtaining all these guarantees was rare in conflict zones, and thus aid organisations were required to prioritise the importance of each, and fix a bottom line of acceptable compromise. In the early 1980s in Cambodia, Oxfam staff considered that opposing the international isolation of Cambodia was more important than monitoring and evaluating the impact of their aid, and Oxfam accepted the conditionality imposed by Phnom Penh.<span class="annotation">For a discussion of the inability of all aid organisations to monitor the distribution of relief in Cambodia in the early 1980s, see William Shawcross, <em>The Quality of Mercy: Cambodia, Holocaust and Modern Conscience </em>(New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984), pp. 365-370.</span>MSF’s bottom line, by contrast, was ensuring that aid reached the intended beneficiaries, and since this could not be verified, MSF chose not to intervene. Compromises were constantly made when weighing up the need for, and effectiveness of, humanitarian aid against the potential harm that the aid may do. Some negative consequences may be ‘acceptable’ if the overall objective of saving lives that would otherwise have been lost, could be achieved. MSF draws the line when aid is turned against the very people it is trying to assist. MSF denounced such practices in Ethiopia in 1985 and in the Rwandan refugee camps in Zaire and Tanzania in 1994. Other agencies decided otherwise.</p> <p>The preceding discussion illustrates that the divergence of opinions and approaches of humanitarian actors to the dilemmas posed by contemporary crises is not new. The collective amnesia of past difficulties reinforces the prevailing discourse of ‘complex emergencies’ which tends to depict contemporary crises as more dramatic. Claims, for example, that the scale of the Rwandan refugee flow had not been seen ‘since biblical times’ ignored precedents such as the exodus of up to 100,000 refugees per day from Pakistan to India in one 8 week period in 1971, eventually creating a refugee population of 9-10 million.<span class="annotation">Destexhe, <em>L’humanitaire impossible</em>, p. 73.</span>The 1990s environment is also supposedly characterised by a disregard for international humanitarian law by combatants, and the direct targeting of relief personnel: ‘shooting at the Red Cross used to be unthinkable’.<span class="annotation">Bonino, Final Report of ECHO-ICRC seminar, p. 6.</span></p> <p>Disregarding the deliberate targeting and destruction of ICRC ambulance units by Italian planes in Ethiopia in 1935-36,<span class="annotation">See Marcel Junod, <em>Warrior without Weapons </em>(trans. by Edward Fitzgerald) (Geneva: International Committee of the Red Cross, 1982), pp. 22-83.</span>it is true that aid workers have been increasingly targeted in the mid-1990s than in the past. But there are more lucid explanations for this, elaborated below, than increased barbarism.<span class="annotation">Robert Kaplan’s article ‘The Coming Anarchy: How scarcity, crime, overpopulation and disease are rapidly&nbsp;destroying the social fabric of our planet’ (<em>Atlantic Monthly </em>273, No. 2 (1994): 44-76) initiated a popular trend which suggests that barbarism was on the rise in many parts of the world, particularly Africa, leading a descent into anarchy. For more lucid explanations of the violence associated with contemporary conflict see Paul Richards,&nbsp;<em>Fighting for the Rainforest: War, Youth and Resources in Sierra Leone </em>(Oxford: James Currey, 1996); David Keen, ‘A Rational Kind of Madness’, <em>Oxford Development Studies </em>25, No. 1 (1997): 67-75; and Jean-François Bayart, Stephen Ellis &amp; Béatrice Hibou, <em>The Criminalization of the State in Africa </em>(trans. by Stephen Ellis) (Oxford: James Currey, 1999).</span>Moreover, international humanitarian law was not uppermost in the minds of combatants during the wars in Vietnam or Central America. Perhaps because they were ‘freedom fighters’ and not ‘barbarians’ it was different. Or perhaps since aid workers were not present beside CNN to witness the atrocities, they did not occur. Civilians have been the primary casualty of war long before the 1990s: guerrilla strategies, if they were to be successful, necessarily implicated the civilian population. An effective way to catch the fish was to drain the sea.</p> <p>Contrary to this dominant trend of identifying causal factors to explain increased complexity, it is predominantly the reaction which is complicated as competing agendas of the different actors come into contact. The most profound change to humanitarian action in the 1990s is the proliferation of actors from NGOs, the UN, donor governments and the military reacting to the humanitarian consequences of conflict, genocide or state disruption. Few NGOs ventured into the heart of conflicts prior to the advent of ‘negotiated access’ in Sudan in 1989, but the ‘new world order’ opened the door to the vast new array of ‘humanitarians’. The injection of aid into the heart of disintegrating states in which authority and the state’s monopoly of violence is contested, gives aid greater prominence as a potential source of exploitation. The end of superpower patronage to militant factions contributed to their fragmentation, and has lead to increased competition among them for control of resources. Some of the fiercest battles are no longer over the spoils of government but around gold and diamond mines in Sierre Leone, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). Aid is also a target of this wave of criminalisation of legal and illegal economic commodities, both directly and indirectly.<span class="annotation">François Jean, ‘Aide humanitaire et économie de guerre’, in François Jean and Jean Christophe Rufin (eds.),&nbsp;<em>Économie des guerres civiles (Paris: Hachette, 1996), pp. 543-589 at pp. 571-576.</em></span>The diversion of aid supplies has contributed to the revenue of numerous armed movements, most recently in south Sudan, and the indirect exploitation of aid through taxation and protection rackets was particularly prominent in Somalia and Liberia.</p> <p>The fragmentation of structures of authority has also left aid organisations with few reliable interlocutors in the field to ensure their safety. Acceptable conditions and security guarantees may be successfully negotiated with faction leaders, traditional elders and local government representatives, but their control may not extend to all armed elements. These changes legitimately cause new concerns for aid agencies in the field. But pursuing the discourse associated with ‘complex emergencies’ confuses the specificities of war, famine, epidemics, drought, population displacement, massacres, and genocide, and renders irrelevant the precedents from the ‘simple’ past. One observer recently remarked that the vogue for labelling crises ‘complex emergencies’ is a means with which to conceal ‘that one does not know what is going on’.<span class="annotation"><span>Gwyn Prins, ‘Modern Warfare and Humanitarian Action’, Final Report of ECHO-ICRC Seminar, p. 13.</span></span>But more insidious than this, the term actually distorts understanding, making no distinction between the causes of suffering, instead defining the crisis in terms of the required ‘multi-faceted response’. How often has the Rwandan crisis been described as a ‘complex emergency’? The causes of crises are political, some consequences may be humanitarian. But labelling them ‘complex emergencies’ and ‘humanitarian crises’ disconnects the consequences from the causes and permits the international response to be assigned to the humanitarian domain.</p> <p>The dilemmas confronting humanitarian agencies from the unintended consequences of aid have gained prominence in the 1990s because they are now genuinely unintended. The same ‘side- effects’ that sustained the ‘good’ anti-Vietnamese factions in the refugee camps in Thailand, or the anti-Soviet fighters in the Afghan refugee camps, also supported the genocidal former Rwandan regime in the refugee camps in Zaire in the 1990s. No longer in the name of a ‘just’ cause, the inherent paradoxes of aid have attracted unprecedented criticism, accused of being part of the problem. Government donors, particularly the United States, have capitalised on this as a reason to review the rationale for aid, suggesting that in future it should be tied more closely to foreign policy interests. Senior officials from the US Agency for International Development wrote in the <em>International Herald Tribune</em>:</p> <p>It now seems clear that in those camps more than a million people were controlled against their will by the perpetrators of genocide in Rwanda… Shocking but true, the provision of humanitarian assistance by the United States, the European Union and others helped those who committed genocide to control these people for more than two years…The future course seems clear: Humanitarian aid must be linked more closely to our foreign policy.<span class="annotation">J. Brian Atwood and Leonard Rogers, ‘Rethinking Humanitarian Aid in the New Era’, <em>International Herald Tribune</em>, 12 March, 1997, p. 10. The authors are the administrator of US Agency for International Development and the acting administrator of its Bureau for Humanitarian Response, respectively.</span></p> <p>Feigning prior ignorance of the militarised nature of the Rwandan refugee camps and blaming aid for the problem was a shameless attempt to shed responsibility for the failure of political leaders to address the causes of the problem. Fears of ‘another Somalia’ paralysed the political and military machinery of the UN and member states in January 1994, when allegations of plans to ‘exterminate the Tutsi’ were first transmitted to New York by General Dallaire, the Commander of the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda (UNAMIR).<span class="annotation">Interview with Iqbal Riza, former deputy head of DPKO under Kofi Annan and currently Chief of Staff to the UN&nbsp;Secretary General, Annan. Accessed 8 April, 1999.</span>According to Dallaire, only 5,000 troops with an appropriate mandate would have been sufficient to stop the genocide once it began in April,<span class="annotation">See Scott Feil, <em>Preventing Genocide: How the Early Use of Force Might have Succeeded in Rwanda </em>(New York: Report to the Carnegie Commission on Deadly Conflict, 1998).</span>but the bulk of the UN force was withdrawn. Having made a concerted effort to avoid American engagement to stop the genocide, even ordering US officials to avoid the use of the word ‘genocide’ because of the moral obligations it invokes, the US was at the helm of the military engagement to fight the war against cholera in the refugee camps in Goma. Boasting that ‘the US Government response so far has been massive, aggressive, and immediate as possible’,<span class="annotation">Prepared statement of Brian Atwood to the ‘Crisis in Central Africa’ hearing before the Subcommittee on African&nbsp;Affairs of the Committee of Foreign Relations, US Senate, 26 July 1994, p. 9.</span>the cholera vibrio was defeated while the Rwandan leaders and army who orchestrated the genocide and the population exodus to Zaire, regrouped and settled in the refugee camps, in full view of the US, Israeli, French, Japanese, Canadian and Dutch military contingents. Bestowed with a humanitarian mandate, the military forces could participate in the dramatic rescue without risking protracted and potentially dangerous engagement in the political arena, which might have generated adverse domestic repercussions.</p> <p>Humanitarian action has thus transformed from being a tool with which governments pursue foreign policy objectives to a tool with which to avoid foreign policy engagement. Furthermore, it has now also become a convenient scapegoat for failures in resolving crises which are misleadingly labelled ‘humanitarian’. The situations which create a need for humanitarian assistance, the context in which this aid is provided, and the resolution of the causes of human distress are all determined in the political sphere. Unless the political parameters of crises are addressed, humanitarian action is doomed to failure. The purpose of humanitarian action is to put the concerns of humanity first, and aid organisations prioritise the humanitarian imperative to alleviate suffering, particularly in the critical phase of a relief operation. International military contingents and humanitarian organisations suffer from the same fate if either are deployed in isolation of an overall diplomatic strategy to address the causes of the conflict.</p> <h3><br /> Military – NGO Cooperation in Disrupted States</h3> <p>The end of the Cold War, it was hoped, would usher in a new era of stability and justice. No longer would Western leaders need to support authoritarian regimes as bulwarks against the spread of communism, and humanitarian aid could be deployed in accordance with its original purpose. Appeals to the inviolability of state sovereignty were no longer going to protect brutal regimes from external scrutiny, and military forces were to be deployed in support of humanitarian ideals. The first test of the ‘new humanitarian world order’ came with Operation Provide Comfort in 1991 in defence of Iraqi Kurds who were oppressed by the forces of Saddam Hussein. Bernard Kouchner, the staunchest humanitarian advocate of the <em>droit d’ingérence </em>(the right to intervene) celebrated this ‘extraordinary development in our century of horrors and massacres [:] for the first time the international community prevented a genocide, for the first time it permitted a population which was expelled to return to their villages and their land’.<span class="annotation">Bernard Kouchner, ‘Sauver les corps’, Action Humanitaire Devoir d’Ingérence: Naissance d’un nouveau droit. <em>Les Cahiers de l’Express</em>, March 1993, p. 6.</span>Other successes followed in which the roles of the military complemented those of the aid agencies. From August 1992 to February 1993, for example, the US military conducted Operation Provide Relief, an airlift which delivered food from Mombasa to aid organisations on the ground in Somalia.</p> <p>Aid organisations have also publicly called for military intervention when confronted with massive human rights abuses, most vocally in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. But the absence of any response in Rwanda reversed the last vestiges of optimism held by aid organisations of the new humanitarian world order, already tarnished by setbacks in Somalia and Bosnia. Rather than alleviating the dilemmas confronting humanitarian aid organisations through creating a humanitarian space in which aid organisations could operate, the military have been increasingly deployed in duplicitous circumstances with ambiguous and restrictive mandates. Furthermore, the appearance of the military in the disaster zone has added another, invariably louder, voice to the array of actors responding to the crisis. Having a different fundamental purpose to that of the humanitarian organisations, inevitable clashes and misunderstandings have ensued. Two major sources of recent frustration have been the preference of UN Security Council members for limiting the mandates of military forces to a ‘humanitarian’ role; and the dominance of the military ‘end-state’ which accompanies military deployment. Naturally, military forces need a goal and direction, but the high financial and political investment by politicians in such ventures often leads to a politically expedient outcome, to the detriment of longer-term solutions.</p> <h3><br /> Mandates</h3> <p>As highlighted in the example from Goma above, limiting military engagement to humanitarian tasks imbues it with the same short-comings as humanitarian aid: the efforts are only addressing the symptoms, not the causes of the problem. The cholera epidemic in Goma was arrested, but the more profound problem of the presence of the former Rwandan government and army in the refugee camps, which only a military or police presence could have averted, was ignored, resulting in the prolongation of the Rwandan conflict to the present day. The failure of the UN member states to contribute military or police personnel to the refugee camps left humanitarian aid organisations with a terrible dilemma. Should they prioritise the humanitarian imperative to provide aid to the camps, thereby strengthening the power of the former Rwandan regime residing therein, or prioritise the consequences of the aid and withdraw from the camps, thereby abandoning the <em>bona fide </em>refugees to their fate? Unlike other contexts in which remaining neutral in the conflict is an important pre-condition for the legitimacy of peacekeeping forces, international law condemning genocide and providing for the exclusively civilian nature of refugee camps caused no such constraints. There was no clearer case for intervention than during the Rwandan genocide and in the refugee camps: the UN and member states cannot be neutral when confronted with preventing and punishing genocide.</p> <p>More muscular mandates were given to the military forces in Somalia and Bosnia than to those in Goma, with the military tasked with providing protection, not just material assistance. But the object of protection was humanitarian convoys and personnel, not the local people. The provision of humanitarian aid is a means to an end, the end being the preservation of life and dignity. While insecurity can prevent aid reaching vulnerable populations, the deployment of military forces to protect the means in isolation of the ends is a dangerous travesty. A full belly does not provide civilians with protection. What is the point of protecting the aid supplies when the civilians it is intended to assist are in greater danger of losing their lives to violence? The most appalling consequence of the limited mandate is the false sense of security it provides to civilian populations. In Kigali, Kibeho and Srebrenica troops have stood helplessly by and witnessed the slaughter of civilians because their mandate did not extend to such a role. And to compound the tragedy, the lessons learned by the UN system is not that the abandonment was, in the words of General Dallaire, ‘<em>inexcusable by any human criteria</em>’,<span class="annotation">Romeo Dallaire, ‘The End of Innocence: Rwanda 1994’, in Jonathan Moore (ed.), <em>Hard Choices: Moral Dilemmas in Humanitarian Intervention </em>(Oxford: Rowan &amp; Littlefield, 1998), pp. 71-86 at p. 79 (italics in original).</span>but that efforts should be made in future to reduce the expectations.</p> <p>Many Rwandese believed that the United Nations was there to stop the genocide and were bitterly disappointed when this was not the case… UNAMIR should have done more to inform the public about its limited role and mandate early on, particularly for the protection of civilians at risk, so as not to give the people a false sense of security. This might have also averted disasters such as the Kibeho massacre, where internally displaced people in the Kibeho camp believed that UNAMIR soldiers would protect them from the RPA.<span class="annotation">Comprehensive Report on Lessons Learned from United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR),&nbsp;<em>October 1993-April 1996 </em>(New York: Lessons Learned Unit, Department of Peacekeeping Operations, 1996), p. 42.</span></p> <p>This enormous travesty begs the question of the purpose of military intervention. In whose interests are the armed forces intervening?</p> <h3><br /> End States and Political Expediency</h3> <p>The fanfare that accompanies military forays to address the humanitarian consequences of state disruption contributes greatly to the mobilisation of funds for the entire program. One only needs to glance at the tins of chicken pate, foil-wrapped cheeses and fresh fruit and milk provided to the Kosovar refugees to realise that budget allocations are greater there than in forgotten tragedies away from the media spotlight. But just as politicians can gain domestic kudos from the public show of compassion – as George Bush did through sending troops to Somalia in his final days in office – so they can rapidly lose support when casualties appear, as changes in American attitudes to Somalia and Belgian attitudes to Rwanda, attest.</p> <p>One of the most important lessons to come from the mistakes of Somalia is that strict objectives must be set in advance of the military deployment and an ‘end-state’ identified that, when reached, signals the successful completion of the mission. Even as American troops landed in Somalia, no agreement had been reached between the UN and the US Administration regarding crucial details of the mission such as the disarmament of factions. Unclear objectives led to a swing from under- engagement to over-engagement<span class="annotation">John Sommer, <em>Hope Restored? Humanitarian Aid in Somalia 1990-1994 </em>(Washington: Refugee Policy Group, 1994), p. 117.</span>as the operation faced increasing opposition from the factions and the Somali people. Subsequent peace operations have been more firmly aligned to specific objectives, such as the facilitation of free and fair elections in Cambodia.</p> <p>The establishment of an end-state is not, in itself, problematic as all external interveners need to identify the point at which their assistance is no longer required. However, the huge investment of money and political reputation inherent in multi-faceted responses tends to sway donors and politicians towards the most politically expedient result, often to the detriment of longer-term&nbsp; solutions, particularly when the agenda of the interveners is not shared by the people in whose name they intervened. One of the first effects of the US intervention in Somalia, for example, was the recognition of General Aideed and Ali Mahdi as the legitimate representatives of the Somali people with whom to negotiate. In one move, the US Special Envoy, Robert Oakley, undid months of thoughtful negotiation by the former representative of the UN Secretary-General, Mohamed Sahnoun, who had gained the respect and trust of the traditional elders and grassroots associations which he was promoting as alternative sources of power to that of the warlords. Relations with Aideed fell apart, and UNOSOM tried to re-establish links with the traditional leadership in order to forge a civilian government. But again political expediency undermined efforts to reconstitute political and social order, as the UNOSOM political leadership imposed Western notions of democracy and rigid timetables on the Somali elders. The push for an outcome neglected the importance of the process and doomed the expensive efforts to failure.</p> <p>The push towards the end-state invariably prioritises the achievement of short-term stability over issues of reconciliation and justice, to the obvious detriment of longer-term issues of governance and legitimacy. Experiences from Rwanda are particularly pertinent. The solution to the Rwandan crisis was associated with the return of the refugees and the stability of the governing regime, thus when a report suggesting that the RPA had killed up to 40,000 civilians on its march to Kigali, Boutros-Ghali, at the request of the US Government, suppressed the report, claiming that ‘it does not exist’.<span class="annotation">For a discussion of the Gersony Report see Alison Des Forges, <em>Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda </em>(NY: Human Rights Watch, March 1999).</span>Naturally the UN was reluctant to criticise human rights abuses against the new government when it had done nothing to prevent genocide, and was protecting the perpetrators of the genocide in UN-sponsored refugee camps. But the lack of condemnation of these initial killings and subsequent ones such as occurred at the Kibeho camp for the displaced in April 1995, condoned such acts and assisted in the rise of Tutsi hardliners to power at the expense of the moderate members of government.<span class="annotation">In August 1995 two senior Hutu members of the government, the Prime Minister, Faustin Twagiramungu, and the&nbsp;Minister of the Interior, Seth Sendashonga, were sacked for being critical of the extremist measures employed by elements of the armed forces. The hardening of the regime was also associated with the rise of the ‘Ugandan Colonels’ to power within the RPA, and the reshuffling of government posts which sidelined the more moderate ministers and empowered people close to the regime leaders and those who were considered to be compliant. See Gérard Prunier, <em>Rwanda: The Social, Political and Economic Situation in June 1997 </em>(Writenet, July 1997).</span>This, in turn, reduced the possibilities for refugee repatriation. Although most observers emphasise the influence of the <em>genocideurs </em>in the camps in preventing the return of the refugees, the insecurity inside Rwanda was also to blame for the stalemate in the refugee crisis. As the Special Envoy of UNHCR, Carol Faubert, said in an interview with <em>Le Monde </em>in July 1995: ‘The violence has disappeared in the camps, but it could recur. For the moment, three months after the Kibeho massacre, the camp extremists have no need to discourage the refugees from returning.’<span class="annotation">Jean Hélène, ‘Des organisations humanitaire reprochent aux autorités rwandaise de ne pas favoriser le retour&nbsp;des exilés’, <em>Le Monde</em>, 30-31 July, 1995, p. 4 (my translation).</span></p> <p>The Kibeho massacre highlights another dimension of the clash between humanitarian objectives and political objectives which come to the fore in the push for an end-state. Members of UNAMIR and the Independent International Commission of Inquiry<span class="annotation">Marc Brissel-Foucault, et al, <em>Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Events at Kibeho, April 1995 </em>(Submitted to the Government of Rwanda, 18 May 1995).</span>into the massacre have apportioned some of the blame to the NGOs operating in Kibeho for not having cooperated more fully with attempts to close the camp and return the people to their communes of origin. The Rwandan government had legitimate reasons for wanting to close the camps, in particular, strong suspicions that the camps sheltered <em>genocideurs </em>who were responsible for continuing instability in the south.</p> <p>But the innocent inhabitants of the camp also had legitimate fears of returning to their homes including: widespread incidents of violence and insecurity throughout the country; the growing number of arrests of genocide suspects, many of whom even the government admitted were innocent;<span class="annotation">Howard Adelman and Astri Suhrke, ‘Early Warning and Conflict Management. Study 2 of <em>The International Response to Conflict and Genocide: Lessons from the Rwanda Experience </em>(Copenhagen: Steering Committee of the Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda, 1996), endnote 132, p. 94.</span>and the illegal occupation of houses by returnees from the Tutsi diaspora, complaints against whom could result in false accusations of guilt and hence imprisonment. Moreover, even the report of the Commission of Inquiry noted that in March 1995 only 60 percent of the 37,000 IDPs who had returned to their home communes had stayed there.<span class="annotation">Brissel-Foucault, <em>Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry, </em>p. 6.</span>When the IDPs resisted the camp closure between 300 persons (according to the Rwandan Government) and 4,000 persons (UN and MSF estimates)<span class="annotation"><em>Report Kibeho IDP camp, Gikongoro prefecture from 17 April to 24 April 1995 (Kigali: United Nations Human Rights Field Operations Rwanda, 1995), p. 16 and Rapport Kibeho (Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Geneva and Paris: Médecins Sans Frontières unpublished report, May 1995) as cited in Jean-Hervé Bradol and Anne Guibert, ‘Le temps des assassins et l’espace humanitaire, Rwanda, Kivu, 1994-1997’, Hérodote. No. 86/87, (1997), pp. 116- 149 at pp. 128-129.</em></span>were killed.</p> <p>Apportioning some blame to the NGOs for the slaughter illustrates the depth of misunderstanding of the purpose of humanitarian aid organisations and the priority they attach to the concerns of humanity. To forcibly repatriate a refugee to their country of origin is a violation of refugee law. Refugee asylum is premised on the principle that if the state cannot uphold its responsibility to provide protection to its nationals, then a country of asylum, with the assistance of UNHCR if requested, will provide such protection. The same law does not extend to people who have not crossed an international border, but the principle is the same. For a humanitarian aid organisation to have assisted in the return of people against their will and in fear of their lives would have been contrary to its commitment to put the concerns of this population before other considerations. The NGOs may have agreed to participate in the closure of the camps during the planning stages of the operation, but when it became clear that the camp inhabitants did not want to return home, the NGOs were right to object to their forced removal. To accuse NGOs of responsibility for the killing through their non-cooperation is absurd. The men who ordered and carried out the killings are to blame for the massacre. The refusal to participate in such a process is a legitimate ethical choice. As Rony Brauman has articulated in reference to other situations, ‘deciding to act means knowing, at least approximately, why action is preferable to abstention.’<span class="annotation"><span>Brauman, ‘Refugee Camps, Population Transfers, and NGOs’, p. 192.</span></span>Had international personnel been aware that the Rwandan Patriotic Army would open fire on the displaced population if they did not leave the camps, then they were obliged to pressure the Rwandan Government to prevent human rights abuses, rather than participate in the violation of one set of rights to achieve another. The donors’ preoccupation with stability at all cost undermined crucial considerations of justice and helped set the stage for the Rwandan army and Zairian rebel attacks on the Rwandan refugee camps in Zaire in late 1996, which resulted in further massive loss of human life.</p> <p>Thus some of the constraints to effective military-NGO cooperation in disrupted states derive from the limited mandate bestowed on military forces which, while useful logistically, does little to address the crux of the crisis. Further complications arise when a rigid end-state is imposed, with which all aid agency activities are expected to conform. Aid organisations which express concerns at the attachment of humanitarian aid to the political goals of the peace process are branded uncooperative and obstinate. But the use of aid as a tool of peace violates the humanitarian principle of impartiality which maintains that aid be given according to need as the only criterion. Similarly, accepting armed escort and permitting the military to negotiate on behalf of aid organisations jeopardises the future of aid activities if the peace operation turns sour. The intervention of the military in a disrupted state is bound to generate some winners and some losers: neutrality is only as valid as the local perception. Thus aid organisations are often better off establishing their own relationships with local authorities and building relationships of trust, independent of the political and military structures. The dilemmas which frequently confront humanitarian aid organisations have no obviously right and wrong response, and aid organisations must weigh up the pros and cons of their action irrespective of the ‘quick fix’ priorities associated with military intervention.</p> <h3><br /> Conclusion</h3> <p>This paper has attempted to shed some light on the diversity of ways in which NGOs have responded over the last 30 years to the difficulties and ethical dilemmas inherent in the provision of humanitarian assistance. The prevailing discourse of the 1990s emphasises changes in the global environment, but the dichotomy between the Cold War period and the post-Cold War period is overstated. Labels like ‘complex emergency’ blur rather than illuminate the causes of crises and the most appropriate response, and undervalue genuine changes in the nature of conflict which impact upon the provision of aid, such as the fragmentation of combatant groups and the criminalisation of economic activity. The proliferation of actors and the insertion of aid into the heart of conflicts has increased the stakes of humanitarian aid in disrupted states, but the fundamental ethical dilemmas and the choices they impose, remain the same. Were aid organisations right to provide food aid inside Bosnia, thereby encouraging people to stay and risk violence at the hands of the Bosnian Serbs, or was it better to transport them to safety, thereby contributing to the policy of ethnic expulsion? Are organisations right to protest the Taliban’s prohibition on the employment of women and withdraw their assistance from the country, or is it better to ignore this issue in favour of continued assistance to the Afghan population, thereby risking condoning the policy through acquiescence? Should NGOs have agreed to Charles Taylor’s demands for 15 percent of all aid entering his territory in 1995 in order to access the severely malnourished Liberian inhabitants, or should concerns about fuelling the war economy have taken precedence?</p> <p>The prominence of humanitarian issues in the 1990s is due to the appeal of humanitarian aid as a highly visible, yet low-risk remedy to human suffering. It serves to mollify the intense, but short- lived, concern of the general public to images of suffering conveyed to their lounge-rooms by CNN, without necessitating a potentially protracted engagement in the affairs of a distant land. In recent years, however, it has become increasingly apparent that aid is not a solution to political crises and may exacerbate the problem when deployed in isolation of diplomatic and political engagement. However, instead of committing to a more robust political policy, statements like that of Atwood and Rogers suggest that governments prefer to divert humanitarian aid away from its primary objective of alleviate suffering, to fulfil instead a similar role to that of the Cold War as a tool of foreign policy. But lacking the strong direction of the Cold War, foreign policy is today promoting minimalist goals of ‘stability’ and low-cost, quick fix solutions, rather than engagement in more profound issues of justice and human rights.</p> <p>Cooperation and coordination have become the panacea for difficulties in responding to ‘complex emergencies’ in the 1990s, and the activities of all aid organisations are expected to conform to the prevailing perspective, particularly when the high-cost military are deployed. Aid organisations, the UN and government donors have increasingly engaged in discussions about regulating the activities of NGOs. Many donors have made adherence to the codes of conducts and minimum standards in the provision of relief,<span class="annotation"><span>See The Sphere Project.</span></span>established by NGOs to improve accountability to donors and beneficiaries, conditional to funding, thus turning them from general guidelines to tools of regulation. These standards, however, do not reflect the ethical dimensions of the provision of assistance and, by enforcing conformity in operations, potentially denies the possibility of differing priorities. The technical standards were met in the Rwandan refugee camps, for example, but that did not protect the refugees from attack in late 1996. MSF withdrew from the refugee camps, prioritising considerations of the consequences of the camps over the ‘humanitarian imperative’ to remain, but this legitimate choice went against the prevailing view and the desire of the major donors. Organisations which espouse different views, based on past experience or differing priorities, are viewed as adversarial in the current climate of consensus. Will NGOs which engage in advocacy or decisions which conflict with the dominant view be excluded from certain fields of activity in the future?</p> <p>Coordination among the various actors in the field is obviously vital to assure that the needs of vulnerable populations are covered, that duplication of activities is avoided, and to minimise the extent to which the actions of some agencies compromise the actions of others, particularly when negotiating for access and security guarantees. Coordinating NGOs may be like herding cats, but this is preferable to having controls imposed over NGO activity. Who should set the rules and under whose authority should they be enforced? The largest donors are the United States and the European Union, but are their agendas and plans for the reconstitution of social order the same ones desired by the citizens on the ground? The divergence of views among humanitarian actors reflects the lack of clear solutions to ethical dilemmas, and active debate is crucial to a deeper understanding of the issues and choices. The increasing influence of government donors in humanitarian crises, facilitated largely by the acquiescence of quasi-NGOs, risks eroding humanitarian principles in favour of politically expedient objectives, to the detriment of populations in need of unconditional assistance.</p> </div> <div class="citation-container"> <div class="field--name-field-citation"> <p> <span>To cite this content :</span> <br> Fiona Terry, Reconstituting whose Social Order, NGOS in disrupted States, 6 July 1999, URL : <a href="https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/en/publications/humanitarian-actors-and-practices/reconstituting-whose-social-order-ngos-disrupted">https://www.msf-crash.org/index.php/en/publications/humanitarian-actors-and-practices/reconstituting-whose-social-order-ngos-disrupted</a> </p> </div> </div> <div class="contribution-container"> <div class="field--name-field-contribution"> <p> <span>If you want to criticize or develop this content,</span> you can find us on twitter or directly on our site. </p> <a href="/index.php/en/contribute?to=4003" class="button">Contribute</a> </div> </div> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="flag.link_builder:build" arguments="0=node&amp;1=4003&amp;2=reading_list" token="2lAUl3CtPlWEXUg0KSaaAJlMeix2fV8XQAtRnnKKHk4"></drupal-render-placeholder><span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-above">Reconstituting whose Social Order, NGOS in disrupted States</span> Tue, 06 Jul 1999 00:00:00 +0000 Jason-04 4003 at https://www.msf-crash.org