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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
Editor’s Introduction

, provided particularly American inspiration for the post-war development of liberal global governance. 1 But the principles of great-power trusteeship and balancing, reflected in the Dumbarton Oaks proposals in 1944, were decisive in the creation of the United Nations. 2 Despite the early proliferation of liberal institutions under the aegis of the UN, Cold War prerogatives undermined cosmopolitan aspirations for world government. Cancelling each other out in the Security Council, the US and the Soviet Union prioritised bilateral negotiations. UN

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs

declarations of NGOs imposed by the Sri Lankan government during and after its war against the Tamil Tigers. Medical NGOs will almost certainly have an easier time than, say, groups focusing on community development or psycho-social care, but taken in aggregate the humanitarian world will be less transformed by a post-North Atlantic world than the Northern human rights movement. 4 Humanitarian action has never been a zero-sum game, whereas that is precisely what human rights activism has to be to be morally coherent. So far, Western relief organisations have

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs

liberal humanitarian institutions, which have depended on the financial and political capital of the US. Far from promoting a final and permanent peace, the new security strategy situates the US in an inter-state system in which war is possible at any time, in any location, with any rival, enemy or former ally. How might we explain this apparent shift in American strategy? A growing number of analysts, particularly North Americans, consider that we are seeing the end of the post-war liberal order. And they attribute liberal crisis to two fundamental factors

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
An Interview with Celso Amorim, Former Brazilian Foreign Minister

: Well, it is a difficult moment for international cooperation. It is possible to argue that the liberalism of the old order was a veneer that permitted a form of capitalist domination. But, regardless, many people benefited from this veneer. There were opportunities for organisations like UNICEF and Save the Children. And for Brazil, too. When I was foreign minister, I was able to establish triangular cooperation programmes with the US in Africa and in the Caribbean. In my recent book [ Acting Globally ], there is a photo of me with Condoleezza Rice

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs