Politics in humanitarian aid

Politics and Humanitarian Aid: Debates, Dilemmas and Dissension 1 February Conference Description Humanitarian assistance has always been a highly political activity. It has always influenced the political economy of recipient countries, and has always been influenced by the political considerations of donor governments.

Politics in humanitarian aid

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All major multilateral humanitarian interventions of this decade — Somalia, Bosnia, and, with qualifications, Rwanda — have proven more than problematic; only the operation to provide a safe zone for the persecuted Politics in humanitarian aid Kurds in the wake of the Second Gulf War has, under very particular conditions, been a relative success.

In this article I will argue that many of the problems typically associated with this new type of humanitarian assistance are in fact present in all kinds of humanitarian action.

This claim has relevance only insofar as its bearing on all sorts of humanitarian action is recognised; there are no apolitical decisions in the field of humanitarian assistance. In other words, relief operations have been supplemented or taken over by multilateral action.

This has inevitably led to a stronger awareness for the rules and norms of international law, since international law provides the Politics in humanitarian aid available body of regulation concerning multilateral action.

Politics in humanitarian aid

It is here that the discussion concerning the broader issues of humanitarian intervention has made most progress. This means specifically that interpretations of humanitarian emergencies such as refugee flows typically generated by war or systematic human rights abuses as threats to international peace and security and thus grounds for action under chapter vii of the UN charter enjoy wider acceptance than under cold war conditions.

The reasons for intervening are typically grounded in national interest rather than genuine altruism, which is not a problem in itself. What has to be prevented by all means, however, is the hijacking of UN operations by regional security organisations or individual governments.

Governments feel more at ease when their internationally relevant actions are sanctioned by the UN; but this should not lead one to assume increased adherence to the norms of international law.

International Law as a Basis for Humanitarian Intervention There is no state right to humanitarian intervention. No government has under any circumstances the right to violate the territorial integrity and political independence of another state in order to assist, for instance, the starving population of that state.

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A discussion of such a state right to intervention thus appears largely irrelevant. The first is based on the right to self-defence and concerns unilateral action, the second invokes chapter vii of the UN charter and applies to multilateral action or action authorised by the UN security council.

In other words, not even those who did intervene in humanitarian emergencies based their actions on a universal right to unilateral intervention. Transnational refugee flows or other destabilising events caused by humanitarian emergencies can be construed as a threat to the national security of the receiving country, and their prevention through humanitarian intervention would thus fall under article If the flow of refugees from country A to country B poses a threat to international peace and security, it clearly poses also a threat to country B.

The crucial difference between self-defence and multilateral action lies in the validation of such a claim by the security council in the latter case. Multilateral action enjoys wider acceptance in virtue of its undisputed legitimacy. Furthermore, the deployment of military forces not directly involved in the initial conflict ensures or is intended to ensure that the troops acting on behalf of the UN do not transgress their mandate to pursue narrow national policies.

The interpretation of humanitarian crises as threats to international peace and security reveals the intricate link between the two. Flows of refugees are a strong indication of domestic conditions which have the potential to disrupt regional stability. In other words, the fact that a particular government cannot provide for, or indeed infringes on the security of its subjects is a clear symptom of dangerous political instability.

Moreover, the pure magnitude of refugee flows can severely undermine the stability of receiving countries, particularly where the refugee crisis takes place in an unstable or poor region, which it usually does.

In such cases, the invocation of chapter vii to legitimise intervention does not appear excessive, although for various reasons the security council has authorised chapter vii actions frequently after and only twice [8] before. The unique element of such interventions lies in the fact that they often concern states that do not pose a military threat to their neighbours as did Iraq ; a direct military threat, however, was what the drafters of chapter vii had in mind.

To regard humanitarian crises as threats to regional stability means to acknowledge that there are no purely humanitarian problems: To stress the political element even in traditional humanitarian assistance highlights how problematic the distinction between peacekeeping as an answer to political troubles and relief action as an answer to humanitarian crises really is.

Even emergencies falling under the criteria for traditional humanitarian relief have a political character. The decision, for instance, whether to respond to a particular crisis is highly political. An important conceptual and practical consequence of this realisation is the establishment of humanitarian measures as instruments of security policy.

This would further collapse the distinction between the motives underlying self-defence and multilateral action. Finally, the price we would have to pay for grounding humanitarian intervention on considerations of strategy alone consists in the very real danger that some, perhaps many crises simply fall through the net of regional self-interest.

The conflicts in Rwanda or Afghanistan or Sudan may be serious, but as long as no regional power feels threatened by them, the prospects of outside intervention are weak.

This is morally indefensible and potentially subversive of the idea of general human standards enforced by individual states under multilateral authorisation, and it clearly contravenes the legal obligation of governments in dealing with genocide.

That these provisions are not taken seriously anyway is no reason to discard them altogether. Jim Whitman has argued in this context for a formal procedure to preserve the independence of UN bodies without paralysing action: In other words, not expediency and pragmatism, but law enforcement.

As Brian Urquhart has recently remarked: Doubts about its political feasibility aside, the proposal does not address the most fundamental element of law enforcement: The Politicisation of Humanitarian Assistance The assumptions, values and considerations informing traditional humanitarian relief are crystallisations of a particular morality.

Their translation into action or inaction has always been governed by political mechanisms. Common sense morality has it that we cannot simply watch and stand by as people starve to death; whom we choose to help in particular and, by implication, whom we choose not to helpby contrast, is a political question.

Although the provisions of international law supposedly orienting international organisations are universal, their application is not.

This inconsistency in applying the supposedly universal norms of international law amounts in fact to a double standard:This report highlights the key themes discussed and debated at a one-day conference examining new dimensions in the relationship between humanitarian aid and politics, held in London on 1 February The conference was organised jointly by ODI, CAFOD and POLIS at the University of Leeds.

i Politics and the Effectiveness of Humanitarian Aid. by. Daniel C. Tirone.

Politics in humanitarian aid

Bachelor of Fine Arts, New York University, Master of Arts, State University of . Humanitarian intervention is an essential safety net for the most vulnerable.

Whether assistance is provided by international agencies, governments, civil society organizations, or communities themselves, it needs to be nurtured and protected.

However, politics and power always define the context in. The politics of humanitarian aid effects not only international politics, but also how humanitarian aid does or does not assist the beneficiaries of that aid.

We must understand the politics of humanitarian aid if we are to make sure that international humanitarian aid reaches the beneficiaries as promised. That is, whether aid is used for the.

Humanitarian Aid, Conflict and Politics Words Feb 20th, 13 Pages However, with civilians working as both strategic targets and “militarized” actors targets in the modern-day conflicts, the issue of humanitarian organizations providing relief services in war-torn areas has increasingly been politicized.

Humanitarian Aid, Conflict and Politics Words Feb 20th, 13 Pages However, with civilians working as both strategic targets and “militarized” actors targets in the modern-day conflicts, the issue of humanitarian organizations providing relief services in war-torn areas has increasingly been politicized.

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