The last two decades have witnessed an increasing blurring of mandates and agendas between humanitarian actors, foreign troops and donor states. Many observers point out that this trend is spiking violence against aid workers and provoking loss of access to humanitarian agencies in several complex emergencies. This study is an effort to quantify its actual impact in humanitarian operations.
Although strongly agency-specific, available data suggests that the blurring of lines is indeed a key driver of both violent incidents and lack of access in Afghanistan. However, in other contexts such as Somalia and Sudan, its impact may not be so evident; in these two countries, the blur also seems determinant in hindering access, whereas it has less explanatory power interpreting trends on security incidents faced by aid workers. Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan account for half of the total number of violent cases hitting humanitarians worldwide.
This paper is an attempt to establish a legitimate basis for humanitarian intervention in a world of nominally sovereign states. I do this from two perspectives. First, I examine the legal discussions regarding such intervention, and I argue that a norm of justified intervention can be found in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and human rights covenants, as well as developing practice. Second, I examine the moral legitimacy of such actions. Specifically, I argue that beyond whatever basis may be present in international law for human rights and intervention to protect those rights, one can find a foundation for such rights in the very nature of the state system. Further, I argue that sovereignty cannot be a basis to prevent humanitarian intervention because the responsibilities which accrue to states mean that human rights must be seen as a part of the definition of sovereignty, rather than in opposition to it. In addition, within the concept of sovereignty, there is not only a right for the international community to violate international boundaries on behalf of human rights, but an obligation to do so.