International Relations

Toby Fricker

This chapter looks at the portrayal of Syrian children in media coverage of the Za’atari refugee camp. It analyses how reporting on children’s issues evolved over a three-year period and the role of aid agencies in the newsgathering process. Media coverage of the camp moved from a hard news approach, where children were framed in what could be perceived a negative manner, to a features-led approach with deeper context and nuance to articles, presenting children as more actively and positively involved in camp life. The chapter argues that the relationship between humanitarian organisations and journalists can be mutually beneficial and result in reporting with deeper context and nuance, whilst better protecting children along the way.

in Global humanitarianism and media culture
Journalism practice, risk and humanitarian communication
Jairo Lugo-Ocando and Gabriel Andrade

The news media creates regimes of pity in order to mobilise the public towards humanitarian causes. Such regimes of pity tend to obviate the power relations between those who suffer and the spectators. This chapter proposes a type of news coverage that creates a specific type of political solidarity and which does not reproduce the power relations that have been prevalent until now in most news narratives and humanitarian campaigns. It argues that journalism practice must adopt a view of ‘shared risk’ in which people embrace equally concerns about a common future. The notion of societal risk tends to create the type of collective uncertainty that brings about political action in ways that pity regimes do not.

in Global humanitarianism and media culture
Cinema, news media and perception management of the Gaza conflicts
Shohini Chaudhuri

This chapter examines media coverage of the Gaza conflicts and considers what occurs when humanitarian images of Palestinian casualties take centre stage. The chapter argues that a media outcome that appears to be favourable to the Palestinians, in that it focuses on their suffering, can actually have the opposite effect. Addressing UK, US and Israeli news media, as well as popular television and the documentary films Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman, 2008) and Where Should the Birds Fly (Fida Qishta, 2013), the chapter addresses the ways ‘perception management’ can serve to divorce the public from realities of state violence through a kind of cinematic derealisation that enables states to reduce perceptions of blame for their atrocities and act with impunity.

in Global humanitarianism and media culture
The United States Peace Corps in the early 1960s
Agnieszka Sobocinska

This chapter focuses on the United States Peace Corp and explores the nature and effects of the Peace Corps’ publicity, media and popular culture portrayals during the 1960s. It shows how the Peace Corps rendered international development into a topic for mainstream discussion and public engagement, and traces some of the political outcomes of this publicity. By focusing on volunteers’ altruistic intentions Peace Corps publicity portrayed international development as a humanitarian project. Presenting US intervention as a positive expression of American altruism, the Peace Corps helped popularise the view that America had a responsibility to modernise the ‘underdeveloped’ nations of the world. This chapter argues that, by privileging American viewpoints and eliding competing visions, Peace Corps publicity helped normalise the logic of intervention.

in Global humanitarianism and media culture
Juvenile actors and humanitarian sentiment in the 1940s
Michael Lawrence

This chapter examines specific ideological and aesthetic dimensions of the representation of children in American films produced during and directly after the Second World War in relation to the promotion and operations of the United Nations. It analyses how vulnerable children from the world’s war zones appeared and functioned in four Hollywood studio pictures. These films presented groups of children to harness humanitarian sentiment in support of the ideology and activities of the UN. While the figure of the child acquired new cultural and political significance in the era of the United Nations’ wartime and post-war endeavours in humanitarianism, the presentation and performances of Hollywood’s juvenile actors simultaneously became subject to new modes of moral apprehension and aesthetic evaluation.

in Global humanitarianism and media culture
Open Access (free)
Television and the politics of British humanitarianism
Andrew Jones

This chapter focuses on how television coverage of major disasters in the global South shaped the historical and political trajectory of humanitarian aid in Britain, through a case study of British television coverage of the deadly famine in Ethiopia in 1973. ITV’s The Unknown Famine shaped the trajectory of British humanitarianism in three important ways: it provided an empathic demonstration of the power of televised images of human suffering to mobilise the public; it was an important signpost for wider critiques of media representation and disaster fundraising imagery emerging within the aid community; and it contributed towards significant changes in the British government’s approach to disaster relief policy.

in Global humanitarianism and media culture
José Luís Fiori

This article explores the significance to the inter-state capitalist system of the new US national security strategy, as defined by the Donald Trump administration on 17 December 2017. By looking beyond the inconsistencies and idiosyncrasies of President Trump, we see that this strategy represents a break, not only with the strategies of recent US administrations but also with a longer tradition in US foreign policy. This article proposes that the supposed crisis of ‘liberal order’ is a direct and inevitable result of the expansion and success of the inter-state capitalist system. To explain the strategy of the US in this scenario, the article adopts an unorthodox approach, analysing the myth of the Tower of Babel.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
From the Global to the Local
Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh

This article explores the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees’ (UNRWA) responses to the US Government’s decision to dramatically cut its financial contributions to the Agency in 2018. Acknowledging the complexities of the fast-moving changes and dilemmas faced by UNRWA and Palestinian refugees, this article focuses specifically on the events that unfolded in the first six months of 2018. Through a multiscalar analysis, I start by situating UNRWA’s key responses as they have played out on the international stage through a high-profile fundraising campaign (#DignityIsPriceless). I then develop a close reading of three regional-level UNRWA circulars disseminated to UNRWA staff pertaining to the provision of maternal and neonatal health services, and to Palestinian UNRWA staff members’ employment and pension rights. Against the backdrop of the impact of UNRWA’s responses across the region, I subsequently examine how these operational changes have been experienced and conceptualised by Palestinians living in refugee camps in Lebanon, noting that those experiences must be analysed within the broader context of protracted displacement, enforced immobility and overlapping displacement.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Mel Bunce

When people look online for information about humanitarian crises, they increasingly encounter media content that blurs the line between reality and fiction. This includes everything from rumour and exaggeration to partisan journalism and completely invented stories designed to look like real news (so-called ‘fake news’). This article shows that disinformation is causing real and serious harm to those affected by humanitarian emergencies; it can undermine the ability of humanitarian workers to provide relief; and it has exacerbated conflict and violence. Disinformation is also making it harder for journalists to report on the humanitarian sector, and hold the powerful to account, because it undermines audience trust in information more generally. The article concludes by considering interventions that could address the challenges of disinformation. It argues for more support of quality journalism about humanitarian crises, as well as media literacy training. Finally, it is crucial that aid agencies and news outlets commit to accuracy and fact checking in their reporting and campaigning.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
David Rieff

The political landscape in which the humanitarian movement took current form has changed radically. If humanitarian certainties have been upended, it is not in Sri Lanka, or even Syria or Afghanistan, but in the NGO response to the migration crisis in Greece and in the Mediterranean. However overstated, the claim of neutrality has always played an important role in establishing the legitimacy humanitarian action has enjoyed in Europe. But it is no longer possible, if it ever was, for relief workers to separate their ethical commitment to helping people in need from their political convictions, including about what the EU should stand for.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs