Open Access (free)
Simon Mabon
in Houses built on sand
Open Access (free)
Simon Mabon

Across a century of contestation, this chapter engages with processes of transformation, often – although not necessarily – violent, driven by actors both within and beyond territorial borders. In many cases, such transformations were revolutionary, violent dislocations between past and future that radically altered the cultural landscape of a particular area. Yet such transformations also possess an economic dimension as foreign powers sought to capitalise on opportunities provided by domestic upheaval, while political elites began processes of modernisation as they sought to forge contemporary states from the embers of uncertainty.

This chapter offers a genealogy of states in the region from the mandate period until the demise of Da’ish in the summer of 2018. It focuses upon five distinct eras, allowing for exploration of the interaction of regional trends with domestic factors in the creation of political projects.

in Houses built on sand
Simon Mabon

This chapter focusses on the events of the Arab Uprisings, the emergence of protest movements across the region demonstrating the seemingly widespread rejection of political, social and economic conditions. It argues that to understand the protest movements, we must place them in the context of protests within and across states in the region. The conditions prior to the uprisings should not be viewed solely as a by-product of political life, an accident or the unavoidable consequence of the interaction between nationalist and globalising forces. Instead, as previous chapters have argued, political, social and economic situations were carefully designed as mechanisms of control, resulting in the cultivation of a form of bare life. For Agamben, once in this position, there is no escape and one should accept the position of ‘being thus’. Yet looking across the region in the early months of 2011, it was difficult to view events as the acceptance of the status quo. Instead, what quickly became known as the Arab Uprisings was seen as the rejection of being thus and the demonstration of agency – seen to be possible even within bare life – and improve political life.

in Houses built on sand
Simon Mabon

Politics, for the Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldun, concerns ‘the administration of home or city in accordance with ethical and philosophical requirements, for the purpose of directing the mass toward a behaviour that will result in the preservation and permanence of the (human) species’. This quest for survival, which remains central to contemporary political projects, raises a number of fundamental questions about space, law, security and ultimately survival, which remain pertinent today.

This chapter sets out the theoretical material underpinning the book, introducing concepts of sovereignty, space and nomos and demonstrating the way in which they can facilitate analysis of the Middle East. It does this by introducing the reader to the work of Giorgio Agamben, Hannah Arendt, Peter Berger and Robert Cover to provide a theoretical framework. Drawing on concepts such as bare life and the state of exception, it argues that by looking at the relationship between rulers and ruled and the way in which this relationship plays out within – and across – space, we are better placed to understand political dynamics across the Middle East.

in Houses built on sand
Open Access (free)
Simon Mabon

The protest movements of early 2011 that eviscerated regime–society relations across the Middle East were a widespread rejection of the political, economic, social and legal status quo. Having had political meaning stripped from their lives and the regulation of this limited form of existence embedded within the fabric of the state, protests were an expression of agency. Contestation was met with a fierce response from the governance mechanisms of the state as regimes attempted to regain control, using a range of draconian and strategies in the process.

In response, regimes sought to reframe the nature of political life and the ban. One such way that this was achieved was through the use of language to frame particular issues as existential threats. Following the work done by Barry Buzan and Ole Waever of the Copenhagen School, securitisation seeks to broaden understandings of security by suggesting that meaning is derived from linguistic framing of issues as threats. Perhaps the most obvious example of securitisation processes concerns the cultivation of divisions within society and the securitisation of sectarian difference in the post-Arab Uprisings context.

in Houses built on sand
German Responses to the June 2019 Mission of the Sea-Watch 3
Klaus Neumann

The European responses to irregularised migrants in the second decade of the twenty-first century have been qualitatively new not so much because of the often-celebrated cultures of hospitality in countries such as Germany and Sweden, but because of acts of solidarity that have challenged the prerogative of nation-states to control access to their territory. I discuss elements of the public response in Germany to the criminalisation of one such act, the search and rescue (SAR) operation of the Sea-Watch 3 in the Central Mediterranean in June 2019, which led to the arrest of the ship’s captain, Carola Rackete, by Italian authorities. I argue that while the response to Rackete’s arrest was unprecedented, it built upon a year-long campaign in support of private SAR missions in the Mediterranean, which drew on the discourse of rights and was therefore not reliant on a short-term outpouring of compassion. Rackete’s supporters have also been energised by alternative visions of Europe, and by the vitriol reserved for her by followers of the populist far right.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
A Framework for Measuring Effectiveness in Humanitarian Response
Vincenzo Bollettino and Birthe Anders

In most of today’s crises, humanitarian organisations operate in the same environment as a range of military and non-state armed actors. The effective engagement between militaries and humanitarian aid agencies can be beneficial for the timely delivery of aid and is also often unavoidable when trying to gain access to areas controlled by military or non-state armed actors. However, such engagement also comes with risks. Previous literature on the subject has described some of the benefits and potential risks of different types of engagement between military and humanitarian actors. To date, however, quantifiable data on how civil–military engagement unfolds and which factors influence the effectiveness of coordination is lacking. This paper proposes an indicator framework for measuring the effectiveness of civil–military coordination in humanitarian response. It provides nineteen descriptive level and twenty perception and effectiveness indicators that may be used at any stage of a response to a humanitarian emergency, from mission planning and assessment through the various stages of a response and post-response assessment. The full set of questions, or a more targeted subset of these questions, may also be used as periodic polls to actively monitor developments in theatre.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
The Law and Politics of Responding to Attacks against Aid Workers
Julia Brooks and Rob Grace

Violence against aid workers seeking to bring assistance and protection to vulnerable people amid ongoing armed conflicts, disasters or other crises has fuelled growing concern over how to protect the humanitarian mission. Based on semi-structured interviews conducted with 118 practitioners involved in humanitarian operations and security management, this article considers three under-analysed prongs of grappling with humanitarian insecurity. The first three sections, in turn, examine the pursuit of accountability at both the domestic and international levels, public advocacy efforts and confidential negotiation. The fourth section links the article’s assessment of these three modes of responding to humanitarian insecurity to the broader discourse on security management in the humanitarian sector. Specifically, this section revisits and reimagines the security triangle, a framework that has played an influential role in shaping discourse on security management in humanitarian operations. The final section offers concluding remarks.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Why Building Back Better Means More than Structural Safety
Bill Flinn

This paper explores the importance of house and home for survivors of natural disaster: it protects from hazards and contributes to health, well-being and economic security. It examines the reconstruction of homes after a disaster as an opportunity to Build Back Better, re-defining ‘better’ as an holistic and people-centred improvement in housing. It questions the humanitarian shelter sector’s emphasis on structural safety while poor sanitation, inadequate vector control and smoke inhalation are responsible for many more deaths worldwide than earthquakes and storms. The paper extends this discussion by arguing that promoting ‘safer’ for a substantial number of families is better than insisting on ‘safe’ for fewer. The overall benefit in terms of lives saved, injuries avoided and reduced economic loss is greater when safer is prioritised over safe, and it frees resources for wider consideration of a ‘good home’ and the pursuance of ‘self-recovery’. The paper is informed by field research conducted in 2017 and 2018. Finally, implications for humanitarian shelter practice are outlined, with particular reference to self-recovery. It highlights a need for adaptive programming, knowledge exchange and close accompaniment so that families and communities can make informed choices with respect to their own recovery pathways.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Open Access (free)
Fernando Espada
Journal of Humanitarian Affairs