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Humanitarianism in a Post-Liberal World Order

Introduction The modern global humanitarian system takes the form it does because it is underpinned by liberal world order, the post-1945 successor to the imperial world of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the global political and economic system the European empires created. Humanitarian space, as we have come to know it in the late twentieth century, is liberal space, even if many of those engaged in humanitarian action would rather not see themselves as liberals. To the extent that there is something constitutively liberal about

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs

starkly, be allowed to continue as currently constituted) than the other elements of that system. The reason for this should be self-evident: humanitarian action is an integral part of the system; indeed, it can be argued that for at least thirty years, the actions of relief agencies, above all the international private, voluntary ones, have served as the moral warrant for liberal globalisation. Only the human rights movement has been more central in this regard. 1 To be sure, the perceived need for relief NGOs to play this role has diminished over

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Staff Security and Civilian Protection in the Humanitarian Sector

Introduction In contemporary crises, a key aim of international humanitarian action is the protection of the civilian population. In the same contexts in which the protection needs of the local population are greatest, staff members of international humanitarian agencies may also come under threat themselves. Thus the organisations that seek to keep the local civilian population safe from physical violence are at the same time seeking to keep their own staff safe from physical violence. Despite the same broad objective, two distinct labels are used – ‘civilian

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Uses and Misuses of International Humanitarian Law and Humanitarian Principles

Introduction But of all our contemporary illusions, the most dangerous … is the idea that we live in a time without precedent . Tony Judt, Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century ( Judt, 2008 ) If some humanitarian-organisation spokespeople are to be believed, the norms and principles underpinning their action have been under attack since the end of the Cold War, which is endangering both humanitarian teams and the operations they conduct. References to ‘before’ have been heard since the mid-1990s, in the wake of the Bosnian War and the

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Open Access (free)
Governing Precarity through Adaptive Design

Introduction Drawing its energy from the wave of New Left and counter-cultural radicalism of the 1960s ( Boltanski and Chiapello, 2005 ), an NGO-led direct humanitarian action pushed onto the international stage during the 1970s. The radicalism of this new anti-establishment sans frontières humanitarianism lay in its political challenge to the conventions of Cold War sovereignty. By being there on the ground it sought to hold sovereign power to account, witnessing its excesses while professing a face-to-face humanitarian solidarity with its

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Editor’s Introduction

organisations’ victim discourses – on the alleged growing threats to their work – and pointed out the weaknesses of the security-related statistics on which they relied. In the context of the bureaucratisation of the sector, they emphasised the political dimension of security management while introducing humanitarian action as a ‘prudential occupation’. In so doing, they were calling for the restoration of the notion of ‘practical wisdom’ to risk management in humanitarian situations ( Champy, 2018 ). The

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
A Model for Historical Reflection in the Humanitarian Sector

aid. At a time of great uncertainty in the world, increased instrumentalisation of humanitarianism and heightened expectations of aid actors to ‘do no harm’ as they prevent, respond to and ease suffering in times of crisis, taking a moment to reflect on various aspects of that response and to consider the humanity within humanitarian action can only be a positive step. Put simply, there is great value in asking what happened? How can we translate the considerable knowledge that has been accumulated in the humanitarian sector (from institutional memory to

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs

famine in India in 1876–8, a British military official took a series of photographs depicting extremely emaciated men, women and children, and these had a profound impact on the way British elites and audiences mobilised and responded to the famine ( Twomey, 2015 ). Twomey argues that this crisis introduced the practice of displaying shocking images as ‘evidence’ of bodily suffering and deprivation that might prompt humanitarian action ( ibid .: 52). For a photo or video footage to ‘work’, however, the audience must trust its creator. As

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
An Interview with Caroline Abu Sa’Da, General Director of SOS MEDITERRANEE Suisse

War, a lot of people – hundreds of thousands – came to Switzerland seeking asylum. Many of them were later granted Swiss nationality. They were well integrated. Nothing like that has happened since in Switzerland. Those born after the mid 1990s – about half of the people working for SOS in Switzerland today – have never seen these supposedly ‘European principles’ in action. So for them, it’s more about defining the kind of society in which they actually want to live. Although Switzerland has always had an ambiguous and difficult relationship with

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs

, declarations and military and humanitarian interventions, in relation to human rights and democracy) between 1999 and 2007 towards the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. I did not find any patterns that could fully explain the EU’s action or inaction: not a country’s size, nor its former colonial masters, its natural resources, the Member State presiding over the EU, nor even the African target country’s human rights or humanitarian situation. After a stint at the European Commission’s Directorate General of External Affairs, I also came to reject

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs