The 1990’s have sadly come to host an increase in civil wars. The atrocities of these wars and their outrages on human life and dignity have shocked the world. Alleviation of human suffering should be an imperative priority in any civil war, especially to ease the hardships of the civilian population. But in many internal armed conflicts – Biafra, Somalia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to mention a few – the assistance offered by humanitarian organizations has been refused access to the civilian victims, leaving the human disasters inflicted by civil war severely aggravated.
Contrary to popular myth, humanitarian neutrality and impartiality are not absolute concepts. Their application depends on the type of international actor involved, the mandate according to which that actor operates, and the nature and extent of the international crisis or humanitarian emergency that is being addressed. For future UN mandated action, clarification of these concepts and their proposed concrete application in relation to the target groups of the humanitarian operation in advance is required, if the disastrous dissonance between mandates and their implementation that appeared in instances such as Somalia and Bosnia is to be avoided.
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