The present article takes a critical look at the new humanitarian ideal and attempts to outline some of the predicaments the ‘new humanitarianism’ rhetoric is facing today. The first part of this paper gives a brief overview of classic and new humanitarianism, humanitarian practice and theory. The second part of the article takes Rwanda as a case study and examines some possible reasons for non-intervention by the international community during the unfolding tragedy in Rwanda in the spring and early summer of 1994. More precisely, it will explore three main views: indifference to what was happening in Rwanda; the psychological phenomenon of diffusion of responsibility and the slippery slope argument. The aim of this paper is to illustrate the pitfalls of humanitarianism, in a changing world, as well as encourage a re-conceptualization of humanitarianism, and of some of those indeterminate rules and ‘slippery’ concepts it is working with.
This articles presents the current universalism vs cultural relativism debate of children’s rights applied to the issue of child soldiers’ disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programs. Following a brief description of both perspectives and of the most common DDR programs, we present what each perspective identifies in the literature as being the main problems and best practices of DDR programs and how these widely differing problems and best practices reflect the current impasse of the larger philosophical debate. In an effort to move away from this impasse in a pragmatic manner, we recommend the development of programming by a multidisciplinary team of experts who can come to paint a multifaceted and grounded understanding of the conflict and the environment into which the child soldier must reintegrate, thereby creating programming that is both respectful of fundamental human rights and adaptable to the complex reality of each individual child soldier.
Mediation of peace agreements bringing an end to armed conflict has become increasingly popular since the end of the Cold War. In the context of armed conflict, mediation has been undertaken by states, non-governmental organisations, regional and international organisations, and even individuals. Until recently, international peace mediation was undertaken on an ad hoc basis and in the absence of formal guidelines. Recently, however, various attempts have been made to formalise and professionalise international peace mediation to a certain extent. The UN and EU have set up offices dedicated to mediation, non-governmental organisations have been branded as ‘mediation experts’ and have led and supported mediation processes in conflict zones and numerous sets of guidelines, seeking to guide and regulate mediators have been created. This paper analyses the theory and practice of international peace mediation, with a special focus on the codes of conduct which seek to direct these mediators.
The study reveals that hunger is as much the result of poor or weak governance precipitating economic downturn as that of episodic natural or manmade events causing individual and community crises. Effective governance provides an enabling environment which facilitates effective institutional capacity, and the policies and legislative measures needed to pave the way so that individuals, households and communities acquire the sustained ability to reduce hunger. Action by a government to genuinely engage in anti-hunger action fuels the shared views and determination of its citizens to enhance the quality of their lives. This can be accomplished by leveraging physical, social and intellectual resources towards nation building. Humanitarian organisations must now build on their experience and expertise to forge a coalition with their national and international partners in order to strengthen the capacity of national systems for greater accountability to guarantee hunger solutions for their citizens.
This article analyses the case of the steering committees established by the Italian NGO INTERSOS in Lebanon following 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah. They are proposed here as an example of transformative humanitarianism which is able to fully respect the principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence, acting at the same time as a mean to strengthen state’s authority, and to reinforce the linkages between the central government and the local civil society. Obviously the experience which will be described in this article is deeply rooted in the context of Lebanon, however some relevant features could prove extremely useful in other areas of intervention.
The forced displacement of 2.2 million persons during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) was not a by-product of war but served the purpose of ethnic cleansing. An important aspect of redress for forced migration and displacement is the right of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to freely choose among three durable solutions: repatriation/return, integration, and resettlement. In the context of post-Dayton BiH, this right has been an artificial one as it has been exercised in a political environment that prioritises return. The goal of reversing ethnic cleansing through return has dominated what should be a neutral humanitarian process focused on the needs of individual refugees and IDPs. Weak conditions for sustainable return combined with the absence of alternatives to return have left many Bosnians without access to any durable solution. There is an urgent need to depoliticize the humanitarian space and to provide refugees, IDPs and returnees with genuine options.
The Violence Against Women Unit of the Attorney General’s Office is the first of its kind in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. It is also the first specialized system response to the issue of violence against women that was designed with the voices of the victims echoing throughout the process. This article, written by the Gender Justice Adviser who assisted in planning the VAW Unit, discusses the results of an in-depth focus group conducted with women victims of violence. The article shines light on the issues affecting the investigation and prosecution of crimes against women from the victim-perspective, provides narratives about women’s experiences of violence and the current and continuing formal and informal system responses to crimes against women and explores the recommendations for future reforms from women victims of violence themselves.
Based on interviews and field work in Rwanda over the course of two years, this article argues that genocide survivors have been excluded from the human rights guarantees and protections offered to refugees and asylum seekers experiencing persecution and threat to their lives and welfare. It illustrates how genocide survivors are subject to unique psychological and social vulnerabilities, including psycho-social trauma and high levels of chronic stress which impede their capacity to rehabilitate themselves and rebuild their lives. Many are forced to live in the same neighborhoods and villages as the genocidaires that raped and tortured them as well as their families and friends, and who murdered many of their closest kin. This is an intrinsically psychologically destabilizing position which burdens and overwhelms genocide survivors, subjecting them to continuous retraumatization. Consequently, it argues that genocide survivors should be granted special privileged immigration rights to resettlement outside of Rwanda.
This paper examines issues concerning forced displacement of people in Colombia and Liberia within the context of 20th-century internal armed conflicts. It explores how displacement is related to group identities such as gender and age, and it examines the displacement crisis in Colombia and Liberia. It argues that a commitment–implementation gap, or the failure of Colombia and Liberia to implement effective strategies to meet their commitment to global norms and principles as stipulated in the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, limits these countries’ ability to manage their displacement crisis effectively.
Advocacy is at the heart of conflict-related humanitarianism. Yet, nowadays when referred to this field, it seems to have lost its value-neutral denotation and its original and positive meaning. This paper claims that especially in its public form advocacy has become a ‘good word gone bad’. The discussion seeks to evidence that today advocacy has assumed a negative connotation due to its widespread political interpretation, denouncing strategy, aggressive approach and visibility goals. The analysis attempts to highlight the main reasons behind this deviation, to explain and interpret it through conceptual and theoretical frameworks and to outline the challenges, limits and dilemmas that it has engendered. The examination of two examples tries to shows the feasibility of advocacy initiatives framed within its original and positive meaning. Together with the study of other examples the paper concludes with few potential stimuli to the future reflections on the contours of this core humanitarian function.