Displaying items by tag: Principles

For months we’ve had a terribly worthy and earnest consensus about resilience. Differences of opinion, but all prefaced by saying ‘we all’ really agree about what we should be doing, we just have different frameworks for defining it. The ‘we all’ grew – resilience brought together humanitarians and development agencies, then climate change experts, then social protection advocates, and so on… But now we finally have a disagreement about principle, made much more fun because each side has used ‘principled’ as an insult, as if lacking them were a badge of honour in a pragmatic world.   Three MSF authors…
On 2 November, yet more violence broke out in Myanmar's Rakhine state. Two incidents between Muslim Rohingya and Kaman communities and Rakhine Buddhist communities resulted in two deaths and five people wounded, two with such severe injuries that they later died in hospital. There is long-standing tension between ethnic Rakhine people, who make up the majority of the state's population, and Muslims, many of whom are Rohingya and regarded by the authorities as illegal immigrants. After receiving a phonecall from the leaders of the camp for displaced people where the first incident took place, our medical teams transferred three injured…
The devastating armed conflict in Syria has once again raised the question of the ethics and legality of crossborder humanitarian operations. Many humanitarian agencies that have been excluded from working in Syria by the Syrian government have rightly explored other ways to protect and assist civilians in opposition-held parts of the country that are not easily or routinely reached by cross-line humanitarian operations authorised by the government. This article looks briefly at three main types of cross-border operations in humanitarian history, and then addresses two main questions: can cross-border operations be pursued legally?; and what constitutes ethical crossborder operations? Precedents…
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…
Young people subject to immigration control in Europe face a range of possible outcomes as they make the transition to ‘adulthood’ at the age of 18. The majority of those institutionalised as unaccompanied minors are denied refugee status or humanitarian protection but are afforded time-limited welfare support and care under provisions of discretionary leave - temporarily tolerated on the cusp of, but not admitted as members of, the national community. Others seek to avoid entering into any relationship with the state and live undocumented.  Irrespective of their points of entry, for most young people, turning 18 marks a significant repositioning…
Ten years of conflict in Darfur between the Sudanese government and an array of rebel groups and militias have caused a humanitarian emergency. In the early stages of the conflict, between 2004 and 2009, some two dozen agencies provided ‘cross-line’ humanitarian assistance in territory controlled by rebel movements. Although urgent humanitarian needs persist in these areas, by 2011 all cross-line aid had stopped. This article explores the issues around humanitarian access to rebel and contested areas in Darfur, and analyses the reasons why such assistance has come to an end, leaving hundreds of thousands of people in desperate need. The…
Humanitarian access negotiations with Hamas in the Gaza Strip highlight the many challenges humanitarians encounter when engaging with non-state actors. After winning the Palestinian Authority (PA) parliamentary elections in 2006, Hamas began transitioning from an Islamic charitable/militant organisation to a party responsible for state institutions and the provision of public services. Yet Hamas remains in many ways a nonstate actor; those running its ministries are guided by its senior leadership in Qatar and Egypt, have little control over its paramilitary branch, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, and are suspicious of Western aid organisations’ potential ‘collaboration’ with Israeli and other intelligence…
While the operating space for aid agencies in Afghanistan has diminished as the conflict has intensified and the insurgent presence has expanded, humanitarian engagement with the Taliban remains taboo. In practice, however, many aid agencies working in insecure areas engage with insurgents to gain access to those in need of assistance. Yet little substantive research has been conducted on Taliban attitudes towards aid agencies. In 2012, researchers conducted some 150 interviews with the Taliban, aid agency staff and ordinary Afghans, examining Taliban attitudes and policies towards aid agencies and humanitarian and development work. Field research focused on two provincial case…
Armed non-state actors (ANSAs) are active in most armed conflicts today and are responsible for many violations of international humanitarian law (IHL). Increasingly, humanitarian and human rights organisations have had to grapple with how to influence ANSA behaviour and enhance their compliance with international standards. This article reflects on some of the lessons emerging from the work of the Swiss-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) Geneva Call since 2000. The context According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), there were at least 48 internal armed conflicts around the world during 2011.[1] Civilians are the primary victims of these conflicts,…
Many organisations operating in or near conflict zones have chosen – for valid reasons – to focus on securing operational access to populations in need, but at the implicit or explicit cost of not addressing protection issues. In October 2011, with the support of the Human Security Division of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, the Geneva Academy published the results of a two-year study into ways to enhance compliance by armed non-state actors with international norms, especially those protecting civilians.[1] The study found that greater engagement is needed with armed non-state actors on the targets of their attacks;…
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