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.
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.
Over 500,000 Rwandan refugees are currently in Tanzania, most of whom arrived in 1994. Current policy is that they are in Tanzania temporarily awaiting improvement of conditions in Rwanda so that they are able to voluntarily repatriate. This has been the explicit policy of international UN organizations, regional governments, and donor governments. As a result, other solutions to the refugee crisis, especially regional resettlement, are not being explored.
Unfortunately, voluntary repatriation is unlikely to provide a solution for the millions of refugees living in Tanzania, or for that matter, Zaire. In part, this is because the Rwandan government cannot jeopardize its own political legitimacy by re-admitting opponents of the current RPF regime. More important, though, the post-war Rwandan populations are again growing due to natural increase. This will result in the doubling of the 1993 pre-genocide population as early as 2013. As in the past, this population, should it be in Rwanda, will likely be dependent on agricultural land for subsistence, leading to a resumption of the tensions. As a consequence, it is argued that broader regional solutions involving repatriation and resettlement may be a more appropriate response to the Rwandan refugee crisis.
ABSTRACT: With the end of the Cold War, both the concept and practice of humanitarian action have significantly changed. The emergence of the so-called ‘complex humanitarian crises’ made it clear that traditional humanitarian responses based on the classical principles of impartiality and neutrality were not sufficient nor the most appropriate to respond to such complex […]
In 2013, a climate of insecurity persists in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), despite the presence of the United Nations’ (UN) largest peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO.[i] DRC’s recent past saw armed groups mushrooming and successively challenging the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC). In vast, contested areas, […]
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.
The unprecedented acquisition of land by transnational companies in areas of chronic food insecurity requires a paradigm shift from food security to food sovereignty. Export-based commercial farming operations in these regions are negatively impacting both the well-being of people and the environment. An Ethiopian case study demonstrates how food insecurity has increased as smallholder farmers are displaced and uncompensated, not only affecting household food security but also livelihoods. Adopting food sovereignty as a thematic construct to reevaluate the system facilitates some unique approaches to food insecurity, such as a focus on land reform, local sustainability and local ownership, and highlights continued calls for reformation in governance, regulation of land grabbing and environmental protection.
Modern humanitarian action is conducted in a rapidly changing geopolitical environment. This brief theoretical piece is an analysis of how humanitarian action can be perceived from a neo-realist point of view. It suggests that apart from being a leading theory of international relations, neo-realism can throw a light on patterns and strategies of international humanitarian action from the Cold War to modern days. Behavior of states on international arena and international aid organizations can be explained from a neo-realist perspective. Regardless of its theoretical slant, the article suggests that neo-realism can be traced in modern politics of humanitarian assistance.
The JHA staff has worked to upload most of the archived articles from the previous JHA website. This included writing abstracts for articles that did not have them and turning PDF articles into searchable, linkable HTML files.
Articles that have not been converted are below:
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.
- Transgression of Human Rights in Humanitarian Emergencies: The Case of Somali Refugees in Kenya and Zimbabwean Asylum-Seekers in South Africa
- Mapping Population Mobility in a Remote Context: Health Service Planning in the Whantoa District, Western Ethiopia
- One step forward, two steps back? Humanitarian Challenges and Dilemmas in Crisis Settings