Humanitarian Exchange articles tagged:Principles

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…
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;…
Humanitarian negotiation is a special form of engagement, for exclusively humanitarian purposes, with communities, parties to armed conflict, governments and other actors. In armed conflicts and other situations of crisis, humanitarian negotiations can often be a necessity. These negotiations are carried out according to humanitarian principles and have a unique and strong foundation in international law and policy that many other forms of engagement do not enjoy. For these and other reasons humanitarian negotiations occupy a distinctive ‘space’ among other forms of engagement. However, in the face of numerous pressures the unique space for humanitarian negotiations is being eroded. This…
This edition of Humanitarian Exchange, co-edited with Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) Research Fellow Ashley Jackson, features humanitarian negotiations. In many contexts, negotiations with a wide array of actors – both state and non-state – are essential to gaining access to populations in need of assistance. This issue looks at field experiences of undertaking humanitarian negotiations, the challenges and compromises involved and the resources and tools that have been developed to support more effective engagement. In their lead article, Gerard Mc Hugh and Simar Singh emphasise the need to preserve the integrity of humanitarian negotiations. Stuart Casey-Maslen highlights the need for…
South Sudan is host to one of the world’s largest humanitarian responses, bringing together national and international humanitarian actors in an operation worth more than $1.2 billion in 2013. While the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005 brought an end to the civil war and led to the creation of an independent country, the security situation in the new nation remains volatile. Out of a population of 12 million, more than 4.6m are food insecure, many of them recent returnees. Ongoing tensions between Sudan and South Sudan, as well as communal violence within the country, displace hundreds of thousands of…
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