Uses and Misuses of International Humanitarian Law and Humanitarian Principles
Rony Brauman

The rehabilitation of international humanitarian law (IHL) has become a priority for those who think that the horrors of contemporary wars are largely due to the blurring of the distinction between civilians and combatants and for those who think that campaigning for the respect of IHL could result in more civilised wars. Similarly, respect for humanitarian principles is still seen by many as the best tool available to protect the safety of aid workers. In this text, I argue that both assumptions are misled. The distinction between civilians and combatants, a cornerstone of IHL, has been blurred in practice since the late nineteenth century. In addition, humanitarian agencies claiming to be ‘principled’ have been victims of attacks as much as others. History and current practice tell us that neither IHL nor humanitarian principles provide safety or can guide our decisions. Accepting their symbolic value, rather than their unrealised potential to protect and solve operational dilemmas, would free humanitarian agencies from endless speculations.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
A Model for Historical Reflection in the Humanitarian Sector
Kevin O’Sullivan and Réiseal Ní Chéilleachair

This article describes the results of a pilot project on using historical reflection as a tool for policy-making in the humanitarian sector. It begins by establishing the rationale for integrating reflection into humanitarian practice. It then looks at the growing interest in humanitarian history among practitioners and academics over the past decade and sets out the arguments for why a more formalised discussion about humanitarianism’s past could result in a better understanding of the contemporary aid environment. The main body of the article focuses on our efforts to translate that potential into practice, through a reflective workshop on Somalia since the 1990s, held at National University of Ireland, Galway, in June 2017. Drawing on our experience of that event, the article puts forward four principles on which a workable model of reflective practice might be developed: the importance of the workshop setting, how to organise the reflective process, the value of pursuing a single case study and the careful management of expectations and outcomes. This article is not intended to be prescriptive, however. Rather, our aim is to put forward some practical suggestions and to open a conversation about how a model of historical reflection for aid practitioners might be developed.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
A Focus on Community Engagement
Frédéric Le Marcis, Luisa Enria, Sharon Abramowitz, Almudena-Mari Saez, and Sylvain Landry B. Faye

Community engagement is commonly regarded as a crucial entry point for gaining access and securing trust during humanitarian emergencies. In this article, we present three case studies of community engagement encounters during the West African Ebola outbreak. They represent strategies commonly implemented by the humanitarian response to the epidemic: communication through comités de veille villageois in Guinea, engagement with NGO-affiliated community leadership structures in Liberia and indirect mediation to chiefs in Sierra Leone. These case studies are based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out before, during and after the outbreak by five anthropologists involved in the response to Ebola in diverse capacities. Our goal is to represent and conceptualise the Ebola response as a dynamic interaction between a response apparatus, local populations and intermediaries, with uncertain outcomes that were negotiated over time and in response to changing conditions. Our findings show that community engagement tactics that are based on fixed notions of legitimacy are unable to respond to the fluidity of community response environments during emergencies.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Open Access (free)
Interpreting Violence on Healthcare in the Early Stage of the South Sudanese Civil War
Xavier Crombé and Joanna Kuper

This article seeks to document and analyse violence affecting the provision of healthcare by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and its intended beneficiaries in the early stage of the current civil war in South Sudan. Most NGO accounts and quantitative studies of violent attacks on healthcare tend to limit interpretation of their prime motives to the violation of international norms and deprivation of access to health services. Instead, we provide a detailed narrative, which contextualises violent incidents affecting healthcare, with regard for the dynamics of conflict in South Sudan as well as MSF’s operational decisions, and which combines and contrasts institutional and academic sources with direct testimonies from local MSF personnel and other residents. This approach offers greater insight not only into the circumstances and logics of violence but also into the concrete ways in which healthcare practices adapt in the face of attacks and how these may reveal and put to the test the reciprocal expectations binding international and local health practitioners in crisis situations.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Sarah Cormode

Aboriginal transitions research project was initiated by the University of Victoria, Office of Community-Based Research (OCBR), Office of Indigenous Affairs (INAF) and Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association (IAHLA). The three partners proposed to jointly conduct comprehensive community-based research to investigate the transition of Aboriginal students from Aboriginal-controlled post-secondary education institutes to public post-secondary education institutes. Aboriginal students face a number of barriers to attaining a post-secondary education in Canada. The aboriginal transitions research project has validated the role of Aboriginal-controlled learning institutes and has added to a growing body of theory that discusses Aboriginal student success. The project adopted a community-based participatory research framework and employed several methods, including a literature review, interviews and focus groups for data collection. It has also made an important contribution to the theory and practice of community-based research, generally.

in Knowledge, democracy and action
Open Access (free)
Budd L. Hall, Edward T. Jackson, Rajesh Tandon, Jean-Marc Fontan, and Nirmala Lall

Community-university research partnerships can be critically important locations of transformative energy in the larger effort to understand and use knowledge and its construction and co-construction in ways that are authentically linked to the struggles of people for a better world. The global neo-liberal economic agenda that has produced a kind of market utopia has been supported by a canon of western, largely male, elite knowledge systems and practices. The field of community-university research and engagement partnerships represents just one of the elements in an emerging knowledge democracy movement. The longer-term prospects of the world economy pose their own set of challenges to civil society and to knowledge partnerships. As the new economic powers of China, Brazil and other nations continue their ascendance, and as the West struggles to regain its economic equilibrium, universities and communities across the world will face new threats and opportunities in their work together.

in Knowledge, democracy and action
Effective support structures for community– university partnerships
Edward T. Jackson, Letlotlo M. Gariba, and Evren Tok

Good architectural design is fundamental to the successful construction, maintenance and liveability of a home. Likewise, the appropriate architecture is necessary in instituting policies and programmes that deepen, broaden, improve and sustain community-university research partnerships. The good news is that much is known about how to design effective support structures to foster and nurture these partnerships. This chapter reviews ten proven examples of such structures, all drawn from the Global North. These structures operate variously at the macro (national or multinational), meso and micro levels. The chapter discusses strategies and tools for evaluating partnerships that can be used by support structures. Finally, the chapter addresses the question of how the Global South can institute support structures to promote community-university research partnerships in poor emerging countries, building on the experience of the North.

in Knowledge, democracy and action
Health and social welfare of disadvantaged families in Brighton and Hastings
Kim Aumann and Angie Hart

The Bouncing Back Project leader, Angie Hart, has a longstanding interest in building resilience that spans her research and practice development career in community health issues with roots in personal history as a mother of three children with complex needs. Angie is also the former Academic Director of the Community-University Partnership Programme at the University of Brighton. The partnership which works through a 'communities of practice' (CoP) model focuses on improving health and well-being by building resilience with disadvantaged children, young people and their families, through resilience therapy (RT). The CoP included a subgroup involved in planning training and evaluation activities. Subsequent development has resulted in a second CoP in Hastings (eighteen members). The CoP model brings together people who are eager to improve the health and well-being of children, young people and families experiencing tough times.

in Knowledge, democracy and action
Lessons from case studies from the South and North
Rajesh Tandon and Edward T. Jackson

Community-university research partnerships can enable the co-production of valuable, actionable new knowledge, especially in the areas of livelihoods, environment and governance and their intersection. International cooperation can provide financial and methodological support for community-university partnerships. This chapter presents lessons from case studies from the South and North, which demonstrates the vitality, creativity and relevance of local community-university research partnerships. A main theme addressed by the Southern case studies is strengthening local governance. The Southern cases underscore the central role that participatory methods for inquiry and engagement play in the success of community-university research partnerships. Participatory methods are at the core of successful community-university research partnerships. The Southern cases show that community-university research partnerships can advance government policies to promote better livelihoods, environmental sustainability and indigenous culture.

in Knowledge, democracy and action
The PRIA experience
Mandakini Pant

This chapter provides an account of community education methods which Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) uses in its efforts to make development and democracy equitable and inclusive. It uses select and representative cases to provide an overview of PRIA's community education experiences. PRIA's community education and training programme is based on the principles of collaboration and partnership with local grass-roots organizations. In its cognitive role, PRIA has provided the participatory research framework for education and training. It has been the main source of information around which training programmes are built. The participatory research framework has a citizenship perspective, too. The education and training of marginalized communities in leadership, for instance, emphasizes nurturing independent, rights-bearing citizens who articulate their concerns and priorities, access resources and opportunities and, with increased capacities, make strategic life choices. Governance should be concerned with the restoration of citizenship rights equally and equitably.

in Knowledge, democracy and action