Humanitarian Exchange articles tagged:Politics

With over two million Syrians seeking safety in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, highly political issues of citizenship, the role of the state and the status and entitlements of non-nationals are pressing questions for a large and rapidly growing number of people. The refugee crisis – one element of a larger displacement crisis affecting nearly 80% of the estimated 8.7m Syrians deemed to be in a situation of humanitarian need[1] – is massive and affects the entire region. It is unlikely that the war in Syria will end soon, and when it does it is implausible that refugees will immediately…
Organisers of anti-government protests in Syria were rapidly forced underground by the state’s heavy security response. The networks and techniques that activists had honed to stage demonstrations, evading pervasive government surveillance, interference, detention and assault, were soon put to use in delivering a wide range of humanitarian and social support. This article focuses on the emergence, function and structure of these hybrid networks, particularly in Damascus, taking into consideration the repressive security conditions they operated in, the significance of such networks from the perspective of the regime and the implications for the social fabric of Syria overall. These networks changed…
Islamic Relief is one of the few humanitarian organisations working cross-border to deliver aid in response to the deepening crisis in Syria. The conflict in the country has killed tens of thousands of people, and has driven over 1.5 million across its borders. For those still inside the country, needs are increasingly acute as conditions continue to deteriorate. It is estimated that over six million people are in need inside Syria. Islamic Relief staff have seen for themselves the horrific situation inside Syria. Millions are thought to be in dire need of food, water and sanitation. In the countries that…
A political or military solution to stop the carnage in Syria seems as remote as ever. The war seems only to bring even worse depths of human suffering and diplomatic impotence. Syrian civilians are in a state, not just of terror, but of horror – hostages in a geopolitical, ideological and sectarian catastrophe. On the face of it, getting humanitarian assistance to the millions affected should be easier to deal with than the political and military mess. In the space of two years, a major relief operation within Syria has indeed come to life despite the extreme circumstances. But these…
Dialogue between military and civilian actors is problematic in Somalia, and no more so than in the southern port city of Kismayo, what was the Islamist group al-Shabaab’s last remaining garrison. Considered the most complex urban space in the country, Kismayo is an important trade centre less than 200km from the Kenyan border, and the ultimate prize for the warring sub-clans in the region. After the fall of Siad Barre in 1991, the city was dominated by a succession of some of Somalia’s most feared warlords, and most recently by al-Shabaab. The liberation of Kismayo, the fulcrum of al-Shabaab’s economic…
International police and Formed Police Units (FPUs) are deployed in a range of contexts and by a range of actors, including the UN, the European Union and the African Union (AU).[1] Their tasks include substituting for national law enforcement actors, empowering or building their capacity and monitoring their performance, as well as joint patrols and co-location with national police forces, crowd control and criminal investigations. These forces have also become increasingly involved in the protection of civilians under threat. This article assesses the experience of the police component of the UN/AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID), outlining the challenges it…
The latest DAC peer review of Austria (November 1999) once again highlights Austria’s poor position of overseas development aid (ODA). This is characterised on the one hand by the small amount of money involved, and on the other by the lack of an overall aid policy and strategy that links all components to a clear set of development objectives. Total ODA of Austria in 1998 was 0.22 per cent of GNP (410m Euros), compared to 0.26 per cent in 1997. About one-fifth of Austria’s ODA still consists of components not primarily targeted at the development of the receiving country (for example, aid for refugees in Austria, indirect study costs in Austria,…
This is a welcome report; it highlights successes, but also failings and weaknesses. It asks whether Kosovo refugees obtained appropriate protection and assistance, and whether UNHCR met its own standards. It looks at five areas in particular, namely context, including background, preparedness and initial responses; management; assistance and coordination; protection; and relations with the military. This short review touches only a few. Kosovo was not unique, even though no one disputes that the exodus was unusually large and swift – some 500,000 refugees fled within two weeks, rising to a high probably in the region of 850,000. No one disputes, either, that UNHCR was constrained by circumstance. But that aside, all the errors…
The events that have unfolded in southern Sudan in recent weeks represent some of the increasingly stark and difficult choices faced by humanitarian agencies. In January, all NGOs working in southern Sudan under the umbrella of Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) received a letter in which the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, or SPLM, required them to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with its humanitarian arm, the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association (SRRA). The deadline for doing so was the end of February 2000; if agencies didn’t sign they would have to leave the SPLM controlled areas in the south. This letter followed months of negotiations…
‘Principles of humanitarian aid have been turned on their head. Never before has politics had so much to say about humanitarian affairs’ Interview, diplomat, Belgrade, February 2000 The combined effects of three wars, economic transition and sanctions have caused massive political and economic upheaval in Serbia over the past decade, leaving an estimated two million people below the poverty line. Focussing on the energy sector, this article analyses how humanitarian responses to the country’s multiple crises have been shaped by international politics, and how the boundaries between humanitarian and political action have become increasingly blurred. Hot and Cold Wars: the problem of energy Maintaining energy supplies is a necessity in any country, particularly one which is urban and…
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