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 paper critically examines attempts to conceptualise the use of military intervention on humanitarian grounds, with a focus on the ‘responsibility to protect’ framework, and offers discussion of the way forward in light of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and the US-led ‘war on terror’. It traces the history of the concept from its post-Cold War origins through to the UN World Summit of September 2005. The paper concludes with a brief review of the challenges that face the international community in moving forward, and the specific contributions that might be made by the UK government.
This paper is concerned with the tension between what it describes as “pure” humanitarianism and the increasing pressures on relief workers to become politically engaged by adopting developmental approaches and by seeking to actively resolve disaster-producing conflicts. Combining theory with case studies concerning the delivery of health and food aid in war zones, it argues that while seductive, attempts to use relief aid as a tool for political engagement are fraught with practical and ethical difficulties. Not only are developmental goals elusive in conflict environments, but abandoning principles of neutrality and impartiality to determine the allocation of scarce resources increases the risk of aid being manipulated by warring parties and by donor governments. While not unproblematic, the paper concludes that neutrality and impartiality remain the best principles currently available to organise humanitarian action.
In late May 1997 Laurent-Désiré Kabila, leader of the Alliance des Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Congo-Kinshasa (AFDL), completed an astonishing march on Kinshasa to assume the presidency of the newly renamed Democratic Republic of Congo. Yet the air of euphoria unleashed by the ousting of the corrupt dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko was infected by persistent rumours that the AFDL’s initial drive in Kivu province in the former eastern Zaire had been marked by large-scale massacres. The veracity of these claims remains unproven. Four months after Kabila’s offer ‘to work with the agencies of the United Nations’, the specialist investigative team were still ‘left hanging around the Inter-Continental Hotel [in Kinshasa] wishing they had brought more novels’. This article will limit itself to the period of conflict in eastern Zaire between the eruption of ethnic violence in late October 1996 and the dispersal of the refugee camps in north Kivu in mid-November (given this temporal restriction the name ‘Zaire’ will be retained). It was during this period that the possibility of an external peacekeeping intervention in the conflict gained greatest currency.
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.
This paper will look at the current wave of interventionism in the Third World and at some of its implications for North-South relations. It will identify and discuss three related and somewhat contradictory trends – militarization, privatization and diversion – which seem to be increasingly important features of the new world disorder. The point of view is that of the humanitarian practitioner who observes with considerable disquiet the sea changes that are taking place in what used to be, at least conceptually, a simpler and more predictable universe. Gone are the crisp concepts of the Cold War era. Everything seemed to make sense then, and what did not could not be questioned: it was relatively easy to make stubborn facts conform to grand theory. In the space of half a decade the world has become a much more complicated place, and theory is sorely lacking.
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