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The politicization of humanitarian aid and its effect on the principles of humanity, impartiality and neutrality
The politicization of humanitarian aid and its effect on the principles of humanity, impartiality and neutrality
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The politicization of humanitarian aid and its effect on the principles of humanity, impartiality and neutrality
The politicization of humanitarian aid and its effect on the principles of humanity, impartiality and neutrality

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Inhaltsangabe:Abstract:The past two decades have seen a significant increase in frequency and intensity of complex emergencies and natural disasters, leading to a rapid transformation in the policy and the institutional context of humanitarianism. Humanitarian assistance, which once covered a very narrow set of basic relief activities carried out by a small group of relatively independent actors, has expanded significantly to an ever-widening and much more complex range of rehabilitation work.…
  • Autorius: Thorsten Volberg
  • Leidėjas:
  • Metai: 20070222
  • Puslapiai: 87
  • ISBN-10: 395636192X
  • ISBN-13: 9783956361920
  • Kalba: Anglų

The politicization of humanitarian aid and its effect on the principles of humanity, impartiality and neutrality - 20070222

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Inhaltsangabe:Abstract:
The past two decades have seen a significant increase in frequency and intensity of complex emergencies and natural disasters, leading to a rapid transformation in the policy and the institutional context of humanitarianism. Humanitarian assistance, which once covered a very narrow set of basic relief activities carried out by a small group of relatively independent actors, has expanded significantly to an ever-widening and much more complex range of rehabilitation work. This includes the definition of aid as being a starting-point for addressing poverty or being a tool for peace-building in internal conflicts. A growing diversity of ¿non-humanitarian¿ actors in the field, such as various profit agencies, governmental and non-governmental armed forces, also changed the picture of humanitarian aid and the perception of its character. This transformation has created a broad variety of standards for performance in the field, and led to increasing uncertainties on the quality of humanitarian responses and its accountability.
Humanitarian catastrophes, like the Rwandan genocide, finally forced humanitarian agencies to think beyond traditional relief assistance based on the delivery of food, shelter or basic health care, and take a deeper reflection on how they actually perceive their own role and accountability in the humanitarian sphere. In 1997, the ¿Sphere¿ project was launched to develop inter alia a so-called ¿Humanitarian Charter¿, which tries to put relief aid on a legal basis provided by international law. It emphasizes humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality and expresses agencies¿ commitment to act in accordance with them. These principles provide an ethical framework, which defines and delineates the humanitarian space within which NGOs are supposed to operate. ¿Sphere¿ and its commitment to these traditional principles have both supporters and critics within the humanitarian system, especially when it comes to its usefulness in addressing the complexity of political factors surrounding an emergency situation.
Humanitarian assistance has always been a highly political activity, as it involves engaging authorities in conflict-affected countries or relying on financial support that can be driven by a donor¿s political considerations. Nowadays, relief organizations seem to remain even less in control of their working environment due to expanding peacekeeping and ¿military-led¿ missions of the United Nations, regional organizations or major Western powers in armed conflicts. Furthermore, they are confronted with a growing scale of human rights abuses and the targeting of civilians, including humanitarian workers. However, the necessity to interact with armed groups started to blur the line between military policies and relief missions, making humanitarian action appear to be increasingly tied to the overall political response of donor countries to complex emergencies. This working environment is making it difficult for relief organization to maintain their neutrality and to avoid political manipulation.
For humanitarian workers, it is a moral obligation to provide aid wherever it may be needed, and the alleviation of suffering in humanitarian crises is supposed to be the basic motivation in this context. Despite the pronouncements and practices of relief actors to ensure that their actions confer no military advantage and that they are driven solely on the basis of need, the humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality are under constant assault. Several developments, most importantly the fact that in many current wars belligerents reject the very notion that war has limits and attacks on civilians and other abuses of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is part of a deliberate strategy, have led to the question whether this ethical framework is still achievable in practice.
This paper examines the difficult realities in a heterogenic humanitarian environment, by addressing all the complex legal and political issues surrounding an emergency, including the impact of external actors like donors, host governments, and armed forces. It therefore provides a realistic understanding of the possibilities and limits of traditional principles, rethinks their value in current crisis responses, and delineates the attempt to create and clarify new ones. In this regard, the paper further analyzes the ¿Sphere¿ process, which commits participating agencies to act in accordance to these principles, on how far it is taking political influences on humanitarian aid into consideration, and can thus actually be seen as a reasonable guideline for relief organizations in the 21st century.
The research for this master¿s paper delves into contemporary literature regarding the topic of how traditional humanitarian principles cope with current political influences on humanitarian aid. During the course of this study, a broad variety of literature resources have been analyzed, including publications from multilateral institutions like the UN, editorials from humanitarian experts in different academic institutions or NGOs, to field reports from local practitioners. A wide spectrum of opinions is covered in this paper, with the call for extreme political dominance over humanitarian issues at one end, to pure humanitarianism, with its emphasis on neutrality and independence, at the other. Publications and research papers published by the ¿Humanitarian Practice Network¿ (HPN), an independent policy research group, have served as a very competent source throughout my work on this topic. HPN is part of the ¿Overseas Development Institute¿ (ODI), Britain¿s leading independent think-tank on international development and humanitarian issues.
The ¿Sphere¿ process has been integrated into this paper by analyzing how it actually has been aware of the phenomenon of humanitarian aid becoming increasingly politicized. In preparation for this paper, I appreciated the opportunity of interviewing Alison Joyner, Sphere project manager; and Veronica Foubert, Sphere Materials and Training Support Officer, at the ¿International Committee of the Red Cross¿ (ICRC) headquarters in Geneva. Both have been very helpful in clarifying the actual meaning of the ¿Sphere¿ process, which supported the aim of giving a comprehensive analysis on this project through robust literature reviews and various sources of information.
After this introduction, Chapter 2 provides a brief overview of the working field in which humanitarian action is taking place, especially the impact of natural disasters and man-made complex emergencies on societies. It further focuses on the attempt to find international humanitarian standards to consolidate and regulate humanitarian action, taking the ¿Sphere¿ process as the recently most prominent example. The main focus here resides less on the agreement of certain minimum standards, which aim to put a theoretical foundation into practice, but more on ¿Sphere¿s ¿Humanitarian Charter¿ and the leading humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality and neutrality. Chapter 3 gives an overview on the context and scenario of the political environment, which both influences humanitarian work and sometimes even dominates the perception of relief aid in recipient states. This section also points out the geopolitical trends in aid policy and the extremely complex realities that put humanitarian actors in danger of being misused to assert political, military or strategic objectives. Chapter 4 focuses on the limits of traditional humanitarian principles in terms of recent political developments and strategic choices that occurred. It also gives new perspectives on how NGOs can reinterpret these principles without limiting their ethical value. Finally, Chapter 5 provides overall conclusions and recommendations.


Table of Contents:
I.List of acronyms4
II.Abstract5
1.Introduction6
1.1Introduction to the topic6
1.2Methodology8
1.3Setup of paper8
2.The humanitarian sphere10
2.1Humanitarian threats10
2.1.1Natural disasters12
2.1.2Complex emergencies14
2.2Environment of humanitarian response15
2.3Principles and standards18
2.3.1The 'Red Cross Code of Conduct'18
2.3.2The 'Sphere' project19
2.3.2.1'Sphere' minimum standards21
2.3.2.2'Humanitarian Charter' and humanitarian principles23
3.The political environment of humanitarian aid26
3.1Western humanitarian aid27
3.1.1Influence of Western foreign policy27
3.1.2Perception of Western NGOs29
3.1.3Faith based NGOs31
3.2External involvement33
3.2.1Donor influence on humanitarian aid33
3.2.1.1Donor activities and 'Sphere'35
3.2.1.2Bilaterization of humanitarian aid37
3.2.2Responsibilities of host governments40
3.2.2.1Host governments and 'Sphere'41
3.2.2.2Difficulties of governmental interaction43
3.2.3Conflict regions44
3.2.3.1Humanitarian agencies in conflict regions46
3.2.3.2Local armed forces47
3.2.4Military involvement48
4.Humanitarian principles in a political environment51
4.1Humanity51
4.2Impartiality52
4.3Neutrality54
4.3.1Controversies surrounding neutrality55
4.3.2Neutrality and local politics56
4.4Ambiguous approach of principles57
4.4.1Afghanistan58
4.4.2Serbia58
4.4.3Iraq59
4.5Solidarity60
5.Conclusion63
6.Annex69
7.Bibliography76 Inhaltsverzeichnis:Table of Contents:
I.List of acronyms4
II.Abstract5
1.Introduction6
1.1Introduction to the topic6
1.2Methodology8
1.3Setup of paper8
2.The humanitarian sphere10
2.1Humanitarian threats10
2.1.1Natural disasters12
2.1.2Complex emergencies14
2.2Environment of humanitarian response15
2.3Principles and standards18
2.3.1The 'Red Cross Code of Conduct'18
2.3.2The 'Sphere' project19
2.3.2.1'Sphere' minimum standards21
2.3.2.2'Humanitarian Charter' and humanitarian principles23
3.The political environment of humanitarian aid26
3.1Western humanitarian aid27
3.1.1Influence of Western foreign policy27
3.1.2Perception of Western NGOs29
3.1.3Faith based NGOs31
3.2External involvement33
3.2.1Donor influence on humanitarian aid33
3.2.1.1Donor activities and 'Sphere'35
3.2.1.2Bilaterization of humanitarian aid37
3.2.2Responsibilities of host governments40
3.2.2.1Host governments and 'Sphere'41
3.2.2.2Difficulties of governmental interaction43
3.2.3Conflict regions44
3.2.3.1Humanitarian agencies in conflict regions46
3.2.3.2Local armed forces47
3.2.4Military involvement48
4.Humanitarian principles in a political environment51
4.1Humanity51
4.2Impartiality52
4.3Neutrality54
4.3.1Controversies surrounding neutrality55
4.3.2Neutrality and local politics56
4.4Ambiguous approach of principles57
4.4.1Afghanistan58
4.4.2Serbia58
4.4.3Iraq59
4.5Solidarity60
5.Conclusion63
6.Annex69
7.Bibliography76 Textprobe:Text Sample:
Chapter 3: Humanitarianism has always been affected by political trends and therefore cannot be understood or evaluated without analyzing the politics surrounding an intervention. On a global level, donor states might channel huge financial sums into aid because of national security reasons, or to strengthen domestic economies by reinforcing trade and export ties. On a local level, on the other hand, importing significant resources into poor and politically charged environments creates a concentration of power, which makes humanitarian aid a preferred target for non-humanitarian misuse in recipient states.
Furthermore, traditional relief organizations are no longer seen as the only actors in the humanitarian sphere that engage in reducing human suffering, especially in prominent crises. Potential partners, like military forces and private providers, have increasingly emerged in the humanitarian enterprise and are active in policy areas of humanitarian interest. This leads to a wide range of activities that are now carried out under the banner of humanitarian action or relief, some of which run counter to traditional ideas about humanitarianism, including the basic principles of independence, impartiality and humanity.
In southern Sudan, for instance, observers have noted a wide range of nongovernmental actors with different religious, political and economic motivations, including profit-making corporations, all describing their work as humanitarian. Francoise Bouchet-Saulnier, legal counsel of ¿Medecins Sans Frontieres¿ describes this development as: ¿Today, the word humanitarian is a label that tends to be used for a wide variety of activities undertaken by actors who do not meet the humanitarian law concept of an 'impartial humanitarian organization'¿ operating under very different forms and legal conditions¿.
Moreover, humanitarian aid is seen by governments as part of a coherent strategy of conflict reduction, which mitigates the effects of political and military action undertaken by donor governments themselves. While policymakers, therefore, incorporate humanitarian assistance into a political strategy to prove humanitarian credentials to their own domestic audience, and for those in conflict-affected countries to legitimize international military and political interventions, humanitarian actors fear losing humanitarian space and being reduced to a component of foreign policy.
The political framework within which humanitarian workers are active has become more dominant at the present time as a result of the current geopolitical and security impact on the humanitarian enterprise underlying the ¿global war on terrorism¿. This war, which for many is actually seen ¿as an international vehicle for prosecuting US defense and foreign policy¿, not only reinterpreted the international legal framework regarding the use of force, but in understanding the IHL system in general, in which humanitarian aid policy will be defined and implemented. Francoise Bouchet-Saulnier even describes this war as ¿a non-existing body of law, that creates an empty space, rather than creating a framework for this action¿.
Since the 2001 terror attacks, the lines between political, military and humanitarian actors have been blurred as never before, representing a whole new level of exploitation of relief. After the humanitarian community was reaching consensus on the failure of political cooperation in aid response and the importance of reinforcing the principle of neutrality, discussions on how humanitarian workers should interact with states have since been revitalized. This is particularly due to situations of political transition, like in Afghanistan, where the provision of relief and reconstruction support was of vital political importance. Two years later, aid was already part of the coalition¿s political project and has been strongly demanded by the US government and the State Department. Thereon the ¿United States Agency for International Development¿ (USAID) depended upon NGOs to such an unprecedented degree that some agencies have been more or less degraded to contractors, who provide services to the Iraqi population and have added to the already existing difficulties for local people to distinguish between neutral aid workers and personnel attached to the occupying powers.

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  • Autorius: Thorsten Volberg
  • Leidėjas: Diplom.de
  • Metai: 20070222
  • Puslapiai: 87
  • ISBN-10: 395636192X
  • ISBN-13: 9783956361920
  • Kalba: Anglų

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