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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
A Model for Historical Reflection in the Humanitarian Sector

humanitarian agencies, and the value of seeking knowledge from outside the traditional parameters of humanitarian studies. The main body of the article outlines the aims and implementation of the project and puts forward four principles on which a workable model of reflective practice might be developed. Our objective is not to establish a single transferable framework for historical reflection. Rather, we hope to open a conversation about the ways in which the humanitarian sector can develop formal (and fruitful) collaborations with academic historians and to integrate some

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Editor’s Introduction

enabling operations and facilitating access to populations to protecting the organisation from legal or reputational risks. All the contributions demonstrate that a reliance on international humanitarian law (IHL) and humanitarian principles to ensure the security of humanitarian teams and projects might well be unfounded. Rony Brauman offers his own historical perspective, challenging the idea of humanitarian exceptionalism and the protective function of IHL and principles. The last article exemplifies the

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

critical humanitarian scholarship that highlights the tensions inherent within a humanitarian project that is centrally defined both by the idea of equality and by the idea of charity for distant others ( Fassin, 2012 ; Harrell-Bond, 2002 ). The article focuses on the work of the larger Western-based and civilian humanitarian actors – including UN agencies and international non-governmental organisations that are guided by the principles of humanity and impartiality. Such actors are not homogenous, and staff-security and civilian-protection practices vary across

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
Open Access (free)
Humanitarianism in a Post-Liberal World Order

nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions. It endeavours to relieve the suffering of individuals, being guided solely by their needs, and to give priority to the most urgent cases of distress’ ( ICRC, 2016 ). Other humanitarian codes of conduct contain similar principles. Discrimination in humanitarianism is restricted to triage – where the most effective intervention can be made on the basis solely of need. Humanitarians might, of course, be less than assiduously moral in treating those whose lives they are supposed to be saving

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

citizen movements that have been at the forefront of the emergency response. Similarly inspired by cosmopolitan ideals, these groups tend to use more political language than conventional NGOs, presenting their relief activities as a form of direct resistance to nationalist politics and xenophobia. As liberal humanitarianism is challenged in its European heartland, they are developing – through practice – a new model of humanitarian engagement. SOS MEDITERRANEE is an ad hoc citizen initiative founded in 2015 to prevent the death of people crossing the

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs

principles: use business transactions to resolve abductions, pay for ransoms with insurance policies, rely on experts (generally provided by the insurance company), practise strict confidentiality concerning the case’s management and outcome and consistently deny any transaction in public. Designed for companies that wish to continue business as usual, this set of policies has become the default option for many humanitarian organisations regardless of the situation. ‘Making Waves’ MSF has learned, however, that ‘making waves’ is sometimes the best way to secure the safe

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs

, Rwanda and the entire Great Lakes region of Africa became particularly high-risk areas for aid workers. It was during the intervention in Somalia in 1992 that the interface between security, operational procedures and humanitarian principles became central for MdM. The political and security climate at the time confined NGOs to urban centres across Somalia, while the looting of humanitarian convoys by armed men on the main roads made regular aid delivery to the IDP (internally displaced person) camps difficult. Was armed protection necessary to ensure access to

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
From the Global to the Local

would create such abject living conditions (akin to Agamben’s ‘bare life’: Gordon, 2018 ) that Palestinians would be forced to accept what Trump and his administration have denominated the ‘deal of the century’ ( Gordon, 2018 ; Wong, 2018 ). Far from being motivated by an ‘ethics of care’ to protect displaced and dispossessed people, or a quest to secure a democratically grounded ‘liberal peace’, this ‘great deal’ can be identified as a quintessentially neoliberal project. Driven neither by ethics nor humanitarian principles, this is an

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs