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The Road to Military Humanitarianism: How the Human Rights NGOs Shaped a New Humanitarian Agenda Author(s): David

Chandler Source: Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 23, No. 3 (Aug., 2001), pp. 678-700 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: Accessed: 08/02/2010 15:16
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The Roadto MilitaryHumanitarianism: How the HumanRightsNGOs Shaped A New Humanitarian Agenda
David Chandler*
I. INTRODUCTION to the centerof the fromthe margins of humanitarianism The transformation of has achieved been international throughthe redefinition policy agenda the within its and and humanitarian fast-growing practice integration policy discourse of human rights agenda of human rights.The new international activismno longerseparatesthe spheresof strategicstate and international the two underthe rubric to integrate butattempts aid fromhumanitarianism, NGOs have been humanitarian As the of "ethical" or "moral" foreignpolicy. have the into forums, increasingly policymakers policymaking integrated claimed to be guided by humanitarian principles. and internaThe humanrightsNGOs, in conjunctionwith governments tional institutions,have established a rights-based"new humanitarian" policy. The consensus, which has succeeded in redefininghumanitarian universalprinciples,which definedthe earlyhumanitarian internationalists, are now widely criticized by their NGO successors as the language of has been reworked to pursuehumanrightsends. universalhumanitarianism assertthat theirambitiousstrategicends inevitaThe "new humanitarians" bly clash with theirearlierprinciples,which developed in an age when it was necessaryto obtain the consent from states, in which they operated, for more long-terminvolvementwere limited.Today, and the opportunities not only is this more interventionist approachseen as a legitimateresponse

LeedsMetropolitan * David Chandleris a ResearchFellow at the Policy ResearchInstitute, University,United Kingdom.He has written widely on democracy, human rights, and relations.His work includes:Bosnia:FakingDemocracyAfterDayton(1999) international Intervention and International 2001). and HumanRights (forthcoming Press 23 (2001) 678-700 ? 2001 by The JohnsHopkinsUniversity HumanRightsQuarterly


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to humanitarian crises in non-Western understood to states,it is increasingly be nonpoliticaland ethicallydriven. This paperis concernedwith the processthroughwhich the core ethics of humanitarianism have been transformed, focusing on the shift in the as advocatedby nongovernmental interventionism politics of humanitarian organizationsduringand afterthe Cold War.It considers the nonpolitical humanitarian and the developmentof approachof traditional organizations more politicized human rights-basedhumanitarian NGOs, it furtheranaof the of this some lyzes change, the retreat from the consequences and of and universalism, the developmentof "military principles neutrality humanitarianism."


The organization that over the last centuryhas most epitomizedthe values of humanitarian has been the International universalism Committeeof the Red Cross(ICRC or Red Cross).'The Red Crossestablishedthat humanity, were the underlyingprinciplesof and universality neutrality, impartiality, The principleof humanity was based on the intervention. any humanitarian desireto assistthe wounded and suffering withoutdiscrimination, recognizand that "ourenemies are men."The principleof ing a common humanity, derivedfromthe desire to assist withoutdiscrimination impartiality except on the basisof needs, givingpriority to the most urgentcases of distress.The bound RedCrossworkersfromtakingsides in conflict principleof neutrality or engagingin politicalor social controversies. The principleof universality was the world over on the basis the same claimed that the ICRC approach that the humanitarian values were shareduniversally. These four principles were predicatedon separatingthe humanitarian sphere from the political the was to The of essential avoidance definitionof humanitaripolitics one.2 in his speech to the UN anism.CornelioSommaruga, President of the ICRC, General Assembly,in November 1992, made this clear: "'[h]umanitarian endeavourand politicalaction mustgo theirseparateways if the neutrality work are not to be jeopardized."'3 of humanitarian and impartiality Jean Pictet, one of the ICRC's leading thinkerswarned that "'RedCross institutions must beware of politics as they would of poison, for it threatens their

1. Forfurther see <httpV/>. information, RED 2. See DanielWarner,ThePoliticsof the Political/Humanitarian REV. Divide, 81 INT'L 109 (1999). CRoss 3. Id. at 109 (quotingCornelioSommaruga,Humanitarian Action and Peace-Keeping
17 (1995)). REV.RED CROSS Operations, 76 INT'L



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was the core of As Michael Ignatieffnotes, humanitarianism very lives.'"'4 the ICRC's nonpoliticaloutlook: "[i]t makes no distinctionbetween good wars and bad, between just and unjustcauses, or even between aggressors and innocents."5 foundedin 1961 with the aim of workingfor the AmnestyInternational, releaseof "prisoners of conscience,"similarly campaign pursueda universal for the rights of political prisoners, regardless of whether they were The politics of the prisoners persecutedby US or Soviet backed regimes.6 were irrelevant: what matteredwas that they were held for their religious, political,or otherconsciouslyheld beliefsor by reasonof theirethnicorigin, gender, color, or language.As well as workingfor the release of political and the use prisoners, Amnestyalso campaignedagainstcapitalpunishment of torture or inhumanpunishment in all cases, not justforpoliticalprisoners. Amnestywas not concernedwith the politicsor beliefs of the prisonersbut with all prisoners of treatment. receivinga minimumof universalstandards for the purpose The United Nationsalso establishedinstitutions solely of humanitarian Administraas the UN such Relief and Rehabilitation aid, tion (UNRRA) the UN International Fund Children's 1943-47, Emergency in the UN and Commissioner for (UNICEF) 1946, Refugees(UNHCR) High in 1950.7 The mandatesof these institutions were explicitly humanitarian, not political. Privatecharity organizationswere also involved in famine and SecondWorld relief,manyhavingbeen foundedin responseto the First Wars.Save the ChildrenFundwas establishedin the aftermath of the First WorldWar.8 Oxfamwas foundedin 1942, initiallyas the OxfordCommittee for Famine Relief, in order to provide relief for the famine victims in German-occupiedGreece.9These relief aid charities, like the ICRC,saw in the themselvesas fillingthe gaps of humanitarian need thattemporarily, aftermath of war,could not be met throughthe politicalsystem.By the end of the 1940s, the major relief charitiesestablishedthemselves in a more permanentrole, not merely addressingwartimedistressbut international sufferingin the developingworld. Duringthe ColdWar,the workof reliefcharitiesachieved a high profile precisely because of their universalistapproach and political neutrality. They played an importantrole in providingaid where the international

CRoss56 (1999)).

and Practice on the Tensions, of Neutrality: 81 Some Thoughts Minear,TheTheory Larry OF THE RED THE FUNDAMENTAL INT'LREV. RED CROSS 63, 66 (1999) (quoting JEAN PICTET, PRINcIPLES


6. 7. 8. 9.

Forfurther see <http information, J/>. Forfurther see <httpV/>. information, Forfurther see <http//>. information, Forfurther see <http//>. information,


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geopolitical divide meant leading Westernstates were not willing to assist those in need. The Biafracrisis in 1968 was one of the firstexamples of aid NGOs mobilizingin the face of Britishand international humanitarian disapproval.'0In the 1970s, NGO relief interventionwas repeated in Bangladesh, Ethiopia,the West African Sahel, and Cambodia after the defeat of the KhmerRouge government."In all these cases, the NGOs intervention. While the campaignedagainstthe lack of official institutional the the Cold of humanitarian NGOs War, majorpowers pursued realpolitik closed the gaps in humanitarian needs. The nongovernmentalnature of NGOs meant that they could operate despite political pressure.As Ben Whittakernotes, these cases demonstratedthat Oxfam and other NGOs could "operate where huge government and internationalbodies were stymied and politicallyhamstrung."" This position gave humanitarianNGOs a radical edge, putting the of people above the strategicconcernsof the East/West interests divide and providingaid againstthe wishes of Westerngovernments. Agenciessuch as Oxfam, Impact,Concern, and Save the ChildrenFund became popularly Worldcause, providingthese previouslystaid identifiedwith the pro-Third organizationswith a new, more youthfuland popularappeal." The high came with the LiveAid campaignto raise point of NGO humanitarianism funds for the Ethiopianfamine of 1984 to 1985. The aid agencies, in in defyingthe collaborationwith Bob Geldof's LiveAid, were instrumental of Westerngovernmentsand launcheda hugely popularrelief indifference relief aid was avowedly nonpolitical-there campaign.'4 Most importantly, were no stringsattached. Relief NGOs did not seek to link aid to specific Westernstatesor to dictate economic or social policy. Humanitarian relief was assumed to be given free of political conditions or association with foreignor defense policy, delivered purelyon the basis of need. As Bruce and political "thetwo principlesof nondiscrimination Nichollssummarizes: law the Geneva and of modern both face public neutrality pervade humanitarianism. be Withoutthem, humanitarian would indistinpractice from activism."" partisanpolitical guishable For most of the Cold War period the division between state-led development aid, open to political considerations,and politically neutral
IN AFRICA72-77 AND THE DISASTER RELIEF See ALEX DE WAAL, FAMINECRIMES:POLITICS INDUSTRY & INT'L (1997); Thomas G. Weiss, Principles, Politics and Humanitarian Action, 13 ETHICS AFF.


A PERSONAL A BRIDGE 12. BEN WHITAKER, VIEW OF OXFAM's FIRSTFORTYYEARS11 (1983). OF PEOPLE: 13. See Helen Searls,The NGO Revolution discussionpaper,on file (1995) (unpublished with the author). 14. See id. 1 ETHICS & INT'LAFF.191, 195 (1987). 15. BruceNichols, Rubberband Humanitarianism,

WAAL,supra note 10, at 77-79. See DE

Weiss, Principles]. 1, 3 (1999) [hereinafter



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in the 1960s and humanitarianism was clear and transparent. Particularly 1970s, the problemsof war and famine in the non-Westernworld were seen in the context of Westerndominationand Cold War predominantly clientelism.The existence of broad social and political movementsbased or critiquesof Westernmarket dominationmeant on ThirdWorldsolidarity that the problemswere seen in a broaderinternational context. It was this broaderfocus on the relationships of power and dependency that meant that the potentiallypatronizingaspects of charitableaid were contained, and, at leastpublicly,therewas littlesupportforblamingor condemningaid crisis. recipientsnor the non-Western governmentsfacing a humanitarian

Untilthe early 1990s, "theRedCrosshad a monopolyon the definitionand Since then there has been a elaboration of humanitarian principles."'6 of doctrinalchanges, led by pressure from"newhumanitarian" proliferation NGOs and institutionalfunders. Examplesof these changes include the 1994 Red Cross/NGOCode of Conduct, 1993 ProvidencePrinciples,and the 1993 MohonkCriteria.'7 Thereare two strandsto the "new humanitarThe firststrand, ian" approachthat predatethe post-Cold Warchanges.18 of involvein was to conflict the extension situations, developed response mentfromthe provisionof immediateassistanceto victimsof conflictto the greater commitment of solidarity and advocacy work for victims and concerns for the long-termprotectionof human rightsfor "at risk"groups. The second strand,which developed in responseto problemsof famineand aid to drought,was the move of reliefNGOs fromemergencyhumanitarian in the 1970s. long-termdevelopmentalism nonstraBoththese strandshave soughtto move beyond the traditional aims of human humanitarian and lives tegic reducing human saving The of to to achieve suffering. gradualbuildup pressure aspire longer-term policy ends has reflected the changing perceptionsof the NGO role in
Or How to Sup withthe Devil withoutGetting 16. NicholasLeader, Proliferating Principles; Eaten,22 DISASTERS 288, 295 (1998). 17. See World Conferenceon Religionand Peace World Conferenceon Religion and Peace-Task Force on Ethicaland Legal Issues in Humanitarian Assistance, The for Humanitarian MohonkCriteria Assistancein ComplexEmergencies (1994) (visited Code of Conduct 3 Apr. 2001) <httpV/>; Red Cross Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief, Steering for the International forHumanitarian Committee on the RedCrosscode of (1994)(forinformation Response

on the ProvidencePrinciples). 18. See Leader,supranote 16, at 296-98.


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internationalsituations and the increasingsupport for a more extensive fromthe Overseas Developinvolvement.Nicholas Leader, rights-oriented ment Institute, categorizesthese two challenges to the ICRC's principlesas the and of The humanitarianism.'9 conception broadening deepening NGOs that want a more committed solidarity form of interventionin conflict situationshave emphasized the need for protectionor securityas well as assistance.The developmentalNGOs have arguedthat humanitarian interventionshould also include long-termassistance such as peace building,capacity building,empowerment,and developmentas reflected, for example, in the MohonkCriteria.20 or long-term Once the "new humanitarian" NGOs focused on solidarity make it became to choices necessary development, strategic regarding which aims to prioritizeand with which groups to work. The desire to theirneutraland politicize involvementin aid provisionwithoutsacrificing to status led NGOs seek to justifytheir strategicchoices "non-political" throughthe languageof moralsand ethics ratherthan politics. It was this conflict between evolving policy practiceand the traditional humanitarian basis for involvementthat laid the basis for the human rightsdiscourseof NGOs were the first international today. The humanitarian organizations that sought to use the terminologyof human rightsin an attemptto justify political policy choices in the languageof ethics:
and just causes .... If politicaldecision as it impliesdecisions about rightness

ethicalbasisfor making choices ... is oftena farmorecomplexand IT]he

of impartiality is rejected, who is to judgewhichis which? theprinciple Thisis andassistance is a rights-based humanitarianism.2" protection

sometimestermeda shift from a needs-basedto a rights-based humanitarianthat includes both ism. In many ways the deeper notion of humanitarianism


The birthof the modernhumanrights-based solidaritymovementhas often been located in NGO responsesto the Biafran faminein 1968.22 Thefamine resultedfromthe independencewar fought by Igbo secessionistsof Biafra The secessionist statein southeastern Nigeriaagainstthe federalgovernment.
19. See id. 20. HumanRights WatchandAmnesty areexamplesof solidarity NGOswhile International the developmentalapproachbetterdescribesthe workof charitiessuch as Oxfamor Save the Children.There is no firm dividing line between these spheres and many are increasingly (DoctorsWithoutBorders), NGOs, such as M6dicinssans Frontibres involvedin both. 21. Leader, supranote 16, at 298. 22. See oEWAAL,supranote 10, at 72-77; Weiss, Principles, supranote 10, at 3.



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strugglereceived no diplomaticsupportfromthe West, the Soviet bloc, or otherAfricanstates,which were concernedover the destabilizing effects of of the state Within a few the borders. dominance months, questioning forces had the and the lack of outside aid doomed government struggleto failure.As Alex de Waal notes, it was only by accident that Biafrabecame a cause celebre for the human rights movement.23The international attentionstemmedfromthe faminebecomingnews throughthe publication of photographs of severely malnourished children.24 The media coverage of the first Africanfamine to become headline news led to accusationsthatthe British armsshipmentsto the governments' Nigerian leadershipand lack of support for the Biafranswas making it The lackof UN or outside government complicit in genocide by starvation. relief for the secessionists enabled the humanitarianaid effort to be first monopolized, for the firsttime, by the NGOs. Biafrawas the ICRC's relief and field The first Oxfam's second operation large-scale operation. real test for nongovernmental a humanitarian in resulted split organizations between the ICRC and majorNGOsover the natureof humanitarian action. Oxfam broke its commitmentnot to act unilaterallyand took an openly partisanapproachclaimingthat "'theprice for a united Nigeriais likely to be millions of lives.'"25 NGOs followed, arguingthat Severalinternational the from of was the only ethicalway of ICRC noncriticism breaking position the because if the Biafran assisting population people lost the strugglefor would face massacre secession, they systematic by Federalforces. The NGOs and the church-fundedcampaigns became the main and sourcesof international propagandists struggle. supportfor the Biafran The jointChurchAirlift air to establisha Biafran suppliedaid and attempted force againstNigeriangovernment a This led federal to action opposition.'2 ban on outside aid flights. The ICRCdid not engage in any publicity, ban on aid flights,and was condemned accepted the federalgovernment's and partisanaid NGOs. A leading critic was by the more interventionist Frenchdoctor BernardKouchner, who resignedfrom the ICRC, declaring that the ICRC's silence over Biaframade its workers"accomplicesin the In 1971 BernardKouchner estabsystematicmassacreof a population."27 lished M6decins sans Frontibres (MSF),which has since symbolized the cause.28 "new humanitarian" Two solidarityprincipleswere developed out
23. See DEWAAL, supranote 10, at 73-74. 24. See id.
25. A CAUSE FOROuR TIMES: Id. at 75 (a public statement by Oxfam as quoted in MAGGIE BLACK,

26. See id. at 72-77.

27. 28. Id. at 76 (Bernard Kouchner as quoted in JONATHON THE MEDIA AND RELIEF BENTHALL, DISASTERS,

125 (1993)).
For further information, see <httpV/>.


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of the Biafraexperience and have since become centralto the new rightsThe first principle is "freedomof criticism"or based humanitarianism.29 "denunciation." As JamesOrbinskistated upon accepting the 1999 Nobel Peace Prizeon behalf of MSF: withneutrality, andhasbeenpresented has longbeenconfused as a [S]ilence its humanitarian for action. MSF condition From was necessary beginning, to thisassumption. Wearenotsurethatwords inopposition canalways created kill.Overour28 yearswe save lives,butwe knowthatsilencecan certainly and irrevocably to thisethicof committed havebeen-and aretoday-firmly

The second principle is "subsidiarity of sovereignty"or the "right of of the MSFmovement.Manycommentathe "sansfrontieres" intervention," tors have cited MSFfounderand futureUN Governorof Kosovo, Bernard officialresponsiblefor popularizing the legal as the humanitarian Kouchner, Mario the of French who academic Bettati, developed theory concept of the of intervention."31 "right work Both these "new humanitarian" principleschallenged the ICRC thatdepended on the consent of the partiesin the area in which it worked. has received wide support,particuThis invasive approachof "solidarity" larly since the end of the Cold War.As George Foulkesstates:"[h]uman... demandsthatwe standfirmlyalongsidethose striving itarianism against oppression,and assist their strugglefor dignityand basic human rights."32 are of However,the NGOs thatchoose to engage in advocacyand solidarity by subornecessityerodingthe principlesof needs-basedhumanitarianism ends of humanrightsand the struggleagainst dinatingneeds to the strategic oppressiveThirdWorldgovernments.3

29. See Leader, supranote 16, at 300. 1999: 30. JamesOrbinski,The Nobel Lecturegiven by the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate M6decinssans Frontibres (10 Dec. 1999) (visited3 April2001) <httpv/ /engjlect_99m.html>.

THE SHOULD OFWAR: WHAT See David Rieff, Humanitarian Intervention, in CRIMES PUBLIC

181, 184 (Roy Gutman & David Rieff eds., 1999); Michael Pugh, Military and Issues,22 DISASTERS Action:Trends Intervention and Humanitarian 339, 341 (1998). 32. Leader,supra note 16, at 297 (quotingGeorge Foulkes,UK Policy on Conflictand Humanitarian Assistance: Speech at the OverseasDevelopmentCouncil, London(17 Mar.1998)). 33. See Pugh,supranote 31, at 340.



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The 1970s and 1980s saw the direct governmentfundingof NGOs like of international Oxfam,Christian Aid, and CAFODas well as the integration humanitarian institutions and their growth in numNGOs in international bers and influence.34 International NGOs were increasinglyrelied upon to administer and institutional relieffunds in disastersituationsin government the 1980s. Bythe mid-eighties, 70 percentof UKaid to Sudanand 5 percent was managedthroughNGOs.35 As they received of British reliefto Ethiopia towardsaiding the wider recognitionand took on greaterresponsibilities ThirdWorld,they beganto look at theirown workin a morecriticalfashion. Manyaid agencies became dissatisfiedwith the limitedimpactof reliefaid on the plightof people in the developing world. In orderto addressthe problemsof the ThirdWorld,the more radical NGOs turnedto developmentand arguedfor a long-terminvolvementin the South rather than short-term Most of the international emergencyaid.36 fromHungercampaignmaxim:"[g]ivea man agencies took up the Freedom a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime."37 By the end of the 1970s, Oxfam was spending less than 10 percent of its budget on emergency relief and over 50 percent on development issues."8However, by the late 1970s, it was becoming increasinglyclear that the state-led development strategiesof the South were havinglittlesuccess. While a few commentators locatedthe problems of developmentin the contextof inequalities promotedby the worldmarket Third most drew that World statescould not be trustedto the lesson system, pursuedevelopment.39 The humanitarian agencies campaignedagainst much of the international developmentalaid for Southernstates,arguingthat, in the Cold War context, Westernpowers were more interestedin shoringup corruptelites than tackling poverty.While US diplomats focused on people suffering underCommunistregimes,humanitarian NGOs criticizedUS development aid for authoritarian regimes in Africaand LatinAmerica.40 State-ledaid

34. See Searls,supranote 13. 35. See Mark An Uncertain AdministraTheOverseasDevelopment Robinson, Partnership: tion and the Voluntary Sectorin the 1980s, in BRITISH OVERSEAS 1979: BETWEEN AIDSINCE

& Peter Burnell eds., 1999).

37. 39. 40.

"South" with "Third is used interchangeably World" to indicatethe geopoliticaldivide between developedand developingcountries.
WHITAKER, supra note 12, at 21.

38. See Searls,supranote 13. Tom Hewitteds., 1992).

See generally DEVELOPMENT ANDPUBLIuc POLICY (Marc Wuyts, Maureen Mackintosh, & ACTION See DAVID P. FORSYTHE, HUMAN RIGHTS 27 (2d ed. 1989). ANDWORLD POLITICS


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programs were seen during the Cold War as tainted by superpower geopolitics, with no examples of purely humanitarian actions. As US President Nixon openly stated in 1968: "the main purpose of American aid is not to help other nations but to help ourselves."41 While the superpowers and state-staffed UN agencies may have shared the language of human rights and development aid with the NGO community, there was little in the way of shared assumptions, and different kinds of people staffed the government-sponsored agencies and the NGOs.42 In opposition to the development policies pursued by non-Western states, international NGOs focused on alternative grassroots models of development. This approach is explained by David Korten, a former worker for the US Agency for International Development (USAID): a taskof government has [Tlhewide spreadbelief thatdevelopmentis primarily and created major barriersto true development legitimisedauthoritarianism progressin the South and over the past four decades the people have been expected to put theirfaithand resourcesin the handsof government.In return have promisedto bestow on the people the gift of development. governments Thispromisehas proveda chimerabornof a false assessmentof the capacityof governmentand the natureof developmentitself.43 As Southern states were crippled by the debt crisis and later by the World Bank structuraladjustment programs, state provision of welfare collapsed in many societies. International relief NGOs funded by Western governments attempted to fill in the gaps. As two Oxfam workers explained: [Glallantlystepping into the breach come the NGOs very much in the neocolonial role. Whole districts,or once functioningsections of government ministries,are handed over to foreignersto run especially in health or social services.Thisprocessis enhanced as Structural bite even Adjustment Programs
deeper . . . 40 percent of Kenya's health requirements are now provided by NGOs. . . . The more the NGOs are prepared to move in the easier it is for

governmentto reduce support.44 In fostering "people-focused" approaches to development, focusing on projects that attempted to help the poorest sections of society, the international NGOs developed the concepts of "capacity-building," "empowerment," and "civil society" as they argued the need for a long-term involvement in society and a sphere of influence independent from the Third World state. As Edwards and Hulme note:

41. 42. 43.


supra note 12, at 51. See DE WAAL,supra note 10, at 65.


(1990). 44. Searls,supranote 13 (citingR. Palmer& J. Rossiter).



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NGOsandGROs[grassroots a keyrolein havebeenawarded organizations] thisprocessby donoragencies, of a and are seen as an integral component civil essential to state power, thriving society-an openingup counterweight of communication channels andparticipation, thetraining for ground providing andpromoting activists, pluralism.45 In the middleand late 1980s, NGOs were encouragedto establishnew receiveddirectfunding. indigenousNGOs in the South,which increasingly These Southernpartnersallowed Westerndonors to create parallelstructuresof aid and reliefdistribution which further acted to undermineand to delegitimize the already weak and under-resourcedstate structures.46 Nicholas Stockton makes the point that the central emphasis of the developmentalist,local "capacity-building" approachof many NGOs was the assumption that the root cause of the problems of conflict or of development could only be found and resolved by long-term, locally involvedNGO work.47 Thisassumptionignoredthe international contextof conflict and economic restrictions and tended to lay responsibility on the non-Western state and its citizens.48 Nicholas Leadersuggeststhat many NGOs now involved in providing reliefin conflictsituationsbrought to theirworka set of assumptions shaped their of by experience long-term developmentworkin the 1970s and 1980s. A tendency developed for field staffto look for frameworks, which would allow them to addressthe rootcauses of conflictnot justsymptoms.He also suggeststhat, at a more cynical level, in the context of donor withdrawal, this tendency enabled access to more funding by working on multiple aid to victims ends.49 Today,insteadof the short-term approachof providing of conflict, many NGOs assertthat:"'[T]here to re-focus is a need policies so that they enhance the capacity of humanitarian agencies to prevent, mitigateand resolve the effects of violent conflict."'50


Michael Edwards & David Hulme, NGOs and Development:Performance and Accountabilityin the New WorldOrder(1994) (unpublished background paper for an international in and Accountability Performance workshop-NGOs and Development: the New World,University of Manchester, see 27-29 June1994, on file with author); also MichaelEdwards and Account& DavidHulme, Introduction: NGO Performance

46. 47.

See SusanD. Burgerman, TheRole of Transnational Activistsin MobilizingPrinciples: HumanRights 20 HUM. RTS.Q. 905 (1998). Principles, Promoting See NicholasStockton,In Defense of Humanitarianism, 22 DISASTERS 352, 355 (1998).

(1998); M. Duffield, The Symphony of the Damned: Racial Discourse, Complex and Humanitarian 173 (1996). Aid, 20 DISASTERS Emergencies 49. See Leader,supranote 16, at 297. 50. Id. at 297 (quoting). Goodhand& D. Hulme, NGOs and Peace-building in Complex PoliticalEmergencies; An Introduction 5 (1998)).


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strikesat the heartof the JoannaMacraearguesthat "humanitarianism The anti-stateapproachand professionalculture of developmentalists."5' basis of "sustainableapproaches"is hostile to short-termrelief. Developmentalistsarguethat reliefcreatesdependency and reducesthe capacity of local communities, while long-term developmental support builds the conflict resolutionand civil capacity.Macraesees the "neo-peaceniks," aid as society-buildingNGOs, as posing a similarcritiqueof humanitarian She makes the point that these critiques a barrierto "capacity-building." reliefwas neverexpected to play a role in miss the point that humanitarian conflict resolution or sustainable development.52 The engagement with and aim social to address the causes of "political engineering" may but this of direct and level interference has little to do long-term suffering, with the emergencyreliefof needs-basedhumanitarian aid.s3 By the end of the 1990s, those activists who still argued for the of emergency relief were forced onto the defensive by the prioritization dominationof the developmentalist approach.As Max Boot arguedin the that "[i]nterventions influential Affairs such as these [SomajournalForeign lia and Haiti] that addresssymptoms(famineor repression,for example) are doomed to disappoint. insteadof theircauses (such as bad government) This is a lesson the Clintonadministration learnedbelatedlyin Kosovoand Bosnia,and perhapseven in Iraq."54

The sphere of NGO goal-oriented rights-basedhumanitarianism set up for more direct and invasive government-led, crucial practicalprecursors of the late 1990s. Italso establishedan humanrights-based interventionism between Westerninstitutions of the relationship and ideological framework the ThirdWorld, which became crucial to the legitimizationof "ethical" foreign policy. This frameworkenabled the Cold War system of international regulationto be reshapedon the basis of "capacity-building" and In tended to be this non-Western framework, governments rightsprotection. seen as a potentialthreatto their own economic and social development, incapable of rationalpolicy development, and prone to corruptionand

22 DISASTERS AnAnatomy of the Attack, 51. Joanna Macrae,TheDeathof Humanitarianism?: 309, 312 (1998). 52. See id. at 314. 53. Pugh,supranote 31, at 340. of UN Peacekeeping, AFF. 54. MaxBoot, Pavingthe Roadto Hell: TheFailure 79 FOR. 143,



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states were seen as easily manipunepotism.The citizens of non-Western lated by their corruptand inefficientelites and ill-versed in the skills of political decision making and economic exchange. Both the "solidarity" involvementin conflict NGOs, with a deeper commitmentto international NGOs tended to portraythe nonresolution, and the "developmental" and in need of Westernsubjectas needy and incapableof self-government external assistance. long-term This approach led relief agency guides to take visitors to the worst places, stressingthe dependence of the people on outside support,and and direpredictions of the future.Journalists and media makingexaggerated editors knew in advance what a "humanitarian story" looked like. The overall plot has been characterized by JonathonBenthallas a moral "fairy This "fairy story" had three components, which are familiar story."55 because they are the essence of the human rightsintervention "stories" of the present.s6 The firstcomponent is the hapless victim in distress.In the famine "fairystory,"this victim was always portrayed throughfilm of the worst cases of child malnutrition in the worst feeding centers. In cases of civil conflict,the victimsare often war refugeeswho have been "ethnicallycleansed."The second componentwas the villain,the non-Western governthat caused famine and povertythroughpersonal ment or state authorities corruptionor wrong spendingpolicies or that consciously embarkedon a policy of genocide or mass repression. The third component in the humanitarian"fairytale" was the savior-the external aid agency, the international institution,or even the journalistscovering the story whose interestswere seen to be inseparablefromthose of the deservingvictim. The searchfor victims has dominatedmedia coverageof humanitarian crises. The Kosovocrisis, for example, saw journalists to find a "impatient a mass Western diswere 'good' story-i.e. journalists Many atrocity."s7 to Macedonia and the a with sole of Albania patched purpose finding rape victim. BenedicteGiaeverof the Organization for Securityand Cooperation in Europe(OSCE) was angeredthat "almostevery journalist who came to see her askedone thing:could she give them a rape victimto interview?"58 Thisapproach,which takesthe humanitarian crisisout of a politicalcontext to tell a "fairytale" or moral story, has been termed the "journalism of This style of journalismhas been forcefullycritiqued: attachment."


56. See id. 57. AudreyGillan, The Propaganda War,GUARDIAN, 21 Aug. 2000, at 20, available on <httpV/,4273,4053656,00.html>. 58. Id.

See DEWAAL,supra note 10, at 82-83.


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fromraising of the horrors of war,theirreports publicunderstanding [F]ar whatconflicts arereally about.Byabstracting actsof violencefrom mystify any wider overpolitical conflict of peopleseeing aims,theyremove anypossibility what caused the war.The resultof imposing a ready-made Good v Evil framework on everysituation is thatconflicts can only be understood as the of man's bestialurges.Instead of "humanising" a war, consequence atavistic, thisapproach all thoseinvolved.59 dehumanises ultimately Alex de Waal terms the outlook of the internationalhumanitarian agencies, and media promotion of their cause, "disastertourism";in humanitarian crises they selectivelysaw the worstand assumedthe worst.60 The lack of knowledge of the severity of the famine, drought, or civil conflict led to exaggeratedpredictionsof the death toll, and, of course, the need for supportfor the agency'sdeclared rights-based aims. humanitarian The predominant of humanitarian interventionists to conflicts the approach in formerYugoslavia and Rwandademonstrates the dangersinherentin this NGOs have explained the civil conflictsas perspective.The humanitarian events in and of themselves,fromwhich it can only be concluded that the people of these regionsare uncivilized,prone to violent and savage ethnic passions,or at the very leasteasily manipulated by government propaganda because they lack independentcriticalfaculties.61 The campaigninghumanrights-based NGOs did much to denigratethe non-Western state and legitimizeWesternactivismthroughthe creationof the incapable human rightsvictim. As PierreKrihenbuhlnotes: of the humanitarian is intimately withthe connected gesture [T]helegitimacy in need,as a human to consider the"other", theperson ability being, something whichtherepeated useof theexpression "victim" tendsto makemoredifficult. Itstrips of all human the man,womanor childwhomit is supposed to dignity

While Cold Warpower politicstarnishedthe idea of "human-centered" state-ledhumanrightsactivism,the campaigning and aid NGOs revivedthe of "ethical" in Western involvement humanitarian issues. As the concept late JohnVincentnoted:"It]here is one sense, however,in which the arrival of the issue of human rightsin international society may be regardedas It in which the is sense idea of humanrightsis borne the wholly progressive.



62. PierreKrahenbahl, Conflictin the Balkans:Human Tragedies and the Challengeto

REV.RED CROSS Independent Humanitarian Action, 837 INT'L 11, 26 (2000).

WAR WHOSE 15 (1997). MICK HUME, Is ITANYWAY See DE WAAL,supra note 10, at 82. See Florence Hartmann, Bosnia, in CRIMES OFWAR, supra note 31, at 50, 54; for a critique, see BARRIE IN RWANDA:A CRITICAL COLLINS,OBEDIENCE QUESTION(1997).



Vol. 23

by non-governmental organizationswho act in defense of no sectional interest."63 was removed Withthe end of the Cold Warthe geopoliticalstraitjacket and humanitarian and human agencies rightsadvocacy groups seized the The agencies thatwere to influencethe international opportunity agenda.64 able to do this most successfully were those that clearly pursued rightsaid and rejectedthe post-1i 945 humanitarian based "new humanitarianism" and needs-basedemergencyrelief,which was framework of ICRC neutrality thanhumanrightsprotection.The tied to respectfor statesovereigntyrather NGOs made the runningin the New Orderbecause they were less bound by either official mandates or Cold War orientationsthan international institutions.The lack of legal mandate and organizationalflexibilityhas made it easy for NGOs to adapt their perspectiveto be in tune with the times. The major exception to this shift has been the ICRC,the only for international relieforganization apartfromthe UN HighCommissioner law Geneva tied a mandate under international to (the Refugees(UNHCR) Conventionregulations). which insteadof operatingseparately Thisnew sortof humanitarianism, from political mechanisms, saw itself as an alternativeguide to policy of both Soviet making.Farfrom being neutralin relationto the aspirations Communismand US-led marketeconomies, both these perspectiveswere seen to be flawed because they put politics above people. The languageof human rightswas the perfect foil for advocating an NGO-led approach. Rejecting the political Cold War frameworkand the narrow strategic the immediatesituationof the victimswas concernsof geopoliticalstrategy, held to be all that mattered.Michael Ignatieff quotes the disillusionof Don war photographer: McCullin,a British I certainly takethe side of the underprivileged. I [Blutwhatare my politics? I'mof the Right or the Butwhether neutral. couldneversay I was politically
Left-I can'tsay.... I feel, in my guts,at one with the victims.And I findthere's

in thatstance.65 integrity

astutelynotes thatthis approachis a "wearyworld away from Ignatieff the internationalism of the 1960s"when therewas a politicalcause at stake and conflict and interventionism could be supportedor opposed on the basis of Leftand Right.66 Today,he states "thereare no good causes leftstates Once politicalchange in non-Western only victimsof bad causes."67

Vincented., 1986). (R.J. 64. See DEWAAL, supranote 10, at 133.


66. 67.

WARRIOR'S HONOR, IGNATIEFF, supra note 5, at 22-23.

Id. at 23. Id.


TheRoad to Military Humanitarianism


is seen to be a flawed and pointless exercise, the only sympathy is for victims: "the twentieth-century inflectionof moral universalismhas taken the form of an anti-ideologicaland antipoliticalethic of siding with the Thisapproach victim;the moralriskentailedby this ethic is misanthropy."68 risks"misanthropy" because humanrightsactivistsfind littlethat is positive in the societies in which they work. Instead,the activistssee only passive victims and evil or dangerousabusers. On the basisof the incapacityof the humanrightsvictim,the deepening and broadeningof humanitarianism is often proclaimedto be a radicaland fromneeds-basedto progressive approach.Yet,in manycases, the transition is a strikingexample of this ethical misanrights-basedhumanitarianism thropy. The extension of humanitarianaction is driven by the liberal conviction that the non-Western state lacks an adequatecapacity for selfdeterminationor self-government.From short-termemergency aid, the humanitarian into a framework of long-term impulse has been transformed This new approach is involvement, assistance, and capacity-building.69 reflectedin the expanded UN agendason peace and developmentand the MillenniumReport,all of which advocate long-term Secretary-General's social and political engineeringratherthan traditional grantsof aid or the placementof UN "blue helmets"to keep armiesapartand to monitorthe

There are three interrelatedreasons for this transformation in the approach to humanitarianassistance. First, the demise of social and political movements,which supportedthe cause of ThirdWorldindependence and highlightedthe inequalities of power inherent in the world market,has led to an increasinglylocalized focus on conflict and social problemsin isolationfromthe international politicaland economic context. crisis were interpretedpreSecond, once the questions of humanitarian dominantlyfrom a local as opposed to an internationalstandpoint,the

68. Id. at 25. 69. See JohnMackinlay& RandolphKent,A New Approachto ComplexEmergencies, 4

Considerations forPolicymakers, 26 MILLENNIUM 819-44 Military Responsesto EndWars: and the Limits of Liberal 22 INT't (1997); RolandParis,Peacebuilding Internationalism, 70. See Reportof the Secretary-General: An Agenda for Peace: PreventiveDiplomacy, and Peace-keeping, U.N. Doc. A/47/277-S/24111(17 June1992); Report Peacemaking of the Secretary-General: EconomicCooperation, U.N. Developmentand International Doc. A/48/935 (6 May 1994); Reportof the Secretary-General: Supplementto an on the Occasion of the Agenda for Peace: Position Paperof the Secretary-General Fiftieth of the UnitedNations,U.N. Doc. A/50/60-S/1995/1(3 Jan.1995); Anniversary Millennium of the Secretary-General: "Wethe Peoples":TheRoleof the United Report Millennium Nationsin the 21st Century, of the Secretary-General, U.N. Doc. A/ Report 54/2000 (2000), availableon <http//>.

(1997); Bradd C. Hayes & Jeffrey I. Sands, Non-Traditional



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failureof Southern was seen as rootedin problems developmentalstrategies of the culture or mentalityof non-Westernpolitical leaders and peoples. Third,this diminished view of the non-Westernsubject then meant that humanitarian actors increasinglysaw the involvementof themselves, and their Western governmentbackers, as necessary for long-termpolitical, economic, and culturalchange. Forsome commentators, the transition to rights-based humanitarianism is seen as an extension of the needs-based approach." This change is clearly indicated in the terminology of "deepening"and "broadening" humanitarian action. The misanthropic side to this development is drawn out furtherin the followingsection, which highlightsthe dangerthat rather than supplementingtraditionalhumanitarianism, intervention rights-based can lead to the "ethical" for subordinating universalhumanitarjustification ian needs to selective politicalends. VII. FROMHUMANITARIAN NEEDS TO HUMANRIGHTS The deepening and broadeningof humanitarianism broughtinto question the central principles informingthe work of the ICRC.Nicholas Leader notes that with the principleof impartiality the ethical basis for humanitarian action was clear-it was based on need and given in proportion to the need.72Once the range of humanitarian assistance was expanded, the ethical basis of NGO intervention became humanrightsnot humanneeds. The transformation of humanitarianwork through the displacement of needs by rightshas been crucialto the "new humanitarian" discourse. A. Neutrality Human rightsadvocates, like GeoffreyRobertsonQC (Queens' Counsel), have led the calls for the reformof international humanitarian mechanisms by railingagainstthe "obsessiveneutralityingrainedin UN personneland As Michael Ignatieffnotes, "the doctrine of neutralityhas procedures."73 become steadilymorecontroversial as the new politicsof humanrightshas enteredthe field."74 He criticizesthe fact that the ICRC continuesto go by the book with its narrowadherenceto the Geneva Convention,and sides

71. See Leader, supranote 16, at 296.



TheRoad to Military Humanitarianism


with its criticsin MSFwho highlight the ICRC's conservative"legalisticbias" and "cautious,lawyerlyneutrality.""' The modern human rightsapproach sees conflict in non-Westernstates not as a consequence of economic, political,and social tensionsto be ameliorated by aid, but as a relationship of abuse. For every act of abuse, there are victims to be supportedand abusers who must be punished: "humanitarian interventioncannot be the Serb militiaman the between and Muslim civilian, or the impartial the The Hutu and Tutsi victim. ICRC'sdoctrine of machete-wielding
discretion and silence ... has shaded into complicity with war crimes."''76

As Jean Pictet noted: "[olne cannot be at one and the same time the One mustchoose, and the ICRC has long championof justiceand of charity. since chosen to be a defenderof charity."77 The prioritization of neutralaid over political and social engineering has been condemned by the Red Cross'radicalcompetitors.As merely a "championof charity," the ICRC is seen to be highly conservative and out of touch.78Today, surveys of relieforganizations show thattheirofficersagreewith the shift humanitarian As Hugo Slim has noted afterconsultingall away from political neutrality. the UK'smain agencies in the field, "neutrality has almost become a dirty EmmaBonino, European Commissioner for Humanitarian word."79 Affairs, noted in a September1998 panel discussionthat:"Ihave my doubts... that In a forceful being neutralis still at all possible, or indeed ethically just.""8 it she is whether that feasible humanitarian critique, questions agencies should "be unable to distinguishrightfromwrong, the aggressorfrom the victim,the killersfromthe dead bodies?Whatabsurdwisdom could call for this organized ethical confusion.""'A recent Caritas Europadiscussion paper notes: "Todayneutralityis seen as undesirable.Eitherbecause it's consideredamoral-remaining silent in the face of human rightsabusesor, simplybecause the centralrole of NGOs in highlypoliticalemergencies makes it impossibleto achieve.""82 NGOs have a very differentapproach to the The new humanitarian their role as an engaged and radicalone, and see of principle neutrality
75. Michael Ignatieff, Committeeof the Red Cross(ICRC), in CRIMESOFWAR, International supranote 31, at 202, 204. 76. IGNATIEFF, WARRIOR'S HONOR, supra note 5, at 124.
77. 78.

60 (1979)). 79.



Hugo Slim & Isobel McConnan,A Swiss Prince,A Glass Slipperand the Feet of 15 BritishAid Agencies:A Studyof DECAgency Positionson Humanitarian Principles, Committee Oxford:DisastersEmergency (1998). 80. Minear,supranote 4, at 66. 81. Id. of Humanitarian 82. Fiona Fox, The Politicisation Aid (1999) (draftdiscussion paperfor Caritas Europa).



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aiming to fundamentallytransformnon-Westernsocieties to tackle the conduct underlyingcauses of violence. The 1990s codes for humanitarian tended to avoid the commitmentsto strict neutralityof the ICRC.In the is replacedby "'non-partisanship' while ProvidencePrinciples,"neutrality" a the Code of Conductsimplystates that '[a]id will not be used to further like While or Oxfam, political religiousstandpoint.'"83 particular agencies Save the Children,and UNICEF have all adopted a "new humanitarian" approachin recent years, the leading advocate of the new human rightsis MWdecins based humanitarianism Sans Frontibres. AlainDestexhe,former MSF General-Secretary is noble when action argues: "[h]umanitarian with action and justice. Withoutthem, it is doomed to coupled political The awardof the Nobel Peace Prizeto MSFin 1999 was a highly failure.""8 humanitarto rights-based significantstatementin supportof the transition ian aid. The agency'sfounderBernard Kouchner acknowledgedthe importance of the award:"MSF's workwas politicalfromthe start.I hope the prize marksthe recognitionof a type of humanitarian workwhich fightsinjustice and persecution,in contrastto traditional organizations."8s B. Universalism aid organizationshave come underfire if Duringthe 1990s, humanitarian have followed a universalist they approach of providingemergency aid the on basis of need rather than solely policy ends. It is now commonplace to read of humanitarian aid prolongingwars, feeding killers, legitimizing corrupt regimes, creating war economies, and perpetuatinggenocidal have gone frombeing angels of mercywho can do policies. Humanitarians no wrongto being seen as partof the problem.The British of State Secretary for International concerns that has Development,Claire Short, expressed aid agencies have prolongedthe conflict in Sudanand has said that she is the European "haunted conflict.""86 by the riskof reliefmaintaining Similarly, Office (ECHO)has decided to shift to a new Community'sHumanitarian human rights-based aid, as a resultof sustained approachto humanitarian aid criticism: "[blusinessas usual for the Commission as humanitarian donorwould mean courtingthe riskof growingcriticismand isolationfrom the donor community,and a loss of credibilitygenerally.""87 The trendwas highlighted over the deliveryof aid to by the controversy
83. Leader, supranote 16, at 299. 84. Weiss, Principles, supranote 10, at 14-15. 85. Fox, supranote 82. 86. Id. 87. Id.


The Roadto MilitaryHumanitarianism


the nearly two million Rwandanrefugees in camps in Ngara, Districtof Tanzania; Goma, Zaire; and Bukava, Zaire in 1996. From the very beginning,agencies were condemnedby humanrights groupsforsavingthe lives of "genocidaires" who would survive to reorganize and reinvade Rwandato finish off the genocide.8" As JamesOrbinskistatedon receiving the Nobel Peace Prizefor MSF: moral intention of thehumanitarian actmust be confronted withitsactual It]he Andit is herewhereany formof moralneutrality aboutwhatis good result. mustbe rejected. The result in 1985 to can be the use of the humanitarian in use in forced or the the 1996 to of humanitarian migration Ethiopia, support a genocidalregimein the refugeecampsof Goma.Abstention is support sometimes so thatthe humanitarian is notusedagainst a population necessary in crisis.89 This perspectiveis often termedthe "Do No Harm" approachin which not providingaid to those in need is ethicallydefensiblethroughthe human Short-term assistance is criticizedfor the potentiallongrightsdiscourse.90 term harm, either in fueling conflict or legitimizing and strengthening This approachresultedin the deaths of up to 200,000 political factions.91 in people Zaire, includingfleeing troops clearly intenton revenge for the at OxfamBritain, genocide of 1994.92 ActingPolicy Director PhilipBloomer, has attemptedto challenge the "trendto start blaming the humanitarian assistance for the conflicts."93He has warned that: "lw]e've seen a concerted political attackon the fundamental humanitarian principlesand assistancefor perpetuating wars."94 By no means were all refugeesguiltyof genocide. As Nicholas Stockton notes, "some 750,000 of those forcibly or 'lost in Zaire'were childrenunderfive. Over 1.5 millionwere repatriated under 16 years of age."9" He concludes that: "[t]heapplicationof 'do no harm'policies is tantamount to playingGod-a deadly,perhapstotalitarian to in without the benefitof 20:20 futurevision."96 business indulge This perspective of subjecting humanitarianaid to human rights conditions has, since the Rwandancrisis, become the official UK government position.TessKingham of Parliament), MP(Member a memberof the International Development Committee,argues:"[slurelytaking a view of the wider good-for the long term interestsof people-to actuallyachieve
88. 89. 90. 91. 92. 93. 94. 95. 96. See oEWAAL,supranote 10, at 195; Stockton,supranote 47, at 353. Orbinski, supranote 30. See Macrae,supranote 51, at 312. See Leader,supranote 16, at 304-05. See Stockton,supranote 47, at 353. UN CHRONICLE, 2:1999, at 18, 20. PhilipBloomer,TheChronicleInterview, Id. Stockton,supranote 47, at 354. Id. at 356.



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real stabilityand development,that it may be betterto withdrawaid nowto ensure that in the long term, it is in the best interestsof the people."97 relief on the basis of human rights Attachingconditions to humanitarian objectives has brought into question the universal right enshrined in internationallaw of every man, woman, and child to relief at times of disaster.The "new humanitarian" approachof blaming the "undeserving victims"has led to support for sanctionsand the refusalof aid. Forexample, Geoffrey Robertsonargues that sanctions on postwarSerbia are justified because "[m]ostof Serbia's eight millioncitizens were guiltyof indifference towardsatrocitiesin Kosovo."98 The redefinition of humanitarianism and the shiftaway fromuniversalism and neutralityhas thrown into question the internationally accepted frameworkof internationalhumanitarianassistance. The mitigation of human sufferingis no longer the priorityfor international human rightsbased humanitarianism. While withholdingdevelopmentaid until certain conditions are met is common practice,the applicationof this principleto aid is a dramatic humanitarian fromtraditional policy.The notion departure of withholdingemergencyaid frompeople in direneed is an unprecedented attackon humanitarian values and practices.

Once humanitarianinterventionis conflated with rights-basedstrategic ends, these political ends are redefinedas ethical and used to justifythe denial of humanitarian principles. Over the last decade, the universal humanistcore of humanitarian action has been underminedand humanihas become an ambiguousconcept capable of justifying tarianism the most barbaricof military actions. Today, leading commentatorssuggest that "there is no general definition of humanitarianism"99 or ask "'[w]haton earthdoes the word "humanitarian" mean?'"'"00 As PeterFuchs,the Director Generalof the ICRC has stated:"therespectiverolesof politicians,generals and humanitarian actors are not clear anymore."101 Humanitarian militarism, widely advocatedduringthe 1999 Kosovowar,would have been an oxymoronbeforethe 1990s; today it has become a tautology.
97. 98. 99. Fox, supranote 82. ROBERTSON, supranote 73, at 417.

A RECONCEPTUAUZATION 9 (1996). 100. Id.(quoting A. Roberts, "TheRoadto Hell":A Critique 16 of Humanitarian Intervention,

101. P. Fuchs,HandlingInformation in Humanitarian OperationsWithinArmedConflicts, 1999, availableon <>.

HARV. REV. 10, 13 (1993)). INT'L


The Roadto MilitaryHumanitarianism


The traditional assistance,of sendingfood parcels imageof humanitarian and blanketsor grantingasylum to refugees is today seen as a problem because it does not concern itselfwith preciselybecause it is humanitarian: a humanrightssolutionbeyond meeting immediateneed. Gil Loescher, for its condemns the for UNHCR narrow humanitarianism: example, precisely obstacle to taking a more activeroleinrefugee incountries protection [a]major of origin derives from the international TheUNHCR itself. was refugee regime to appear andstrictly ... UNHCR, to be non-political humanitarian as designed it is presently is not mandated to intervene structured, politically against or opposition groups.102 governments The UNHCR,along with other humanitarian agencies, is being pressured into redefining its role in crisis situations. Reflecting the "new humanitarian" role consensus,the UNHCRis downplayingits humanitarian of aidingrefugeesand takingon a new, more invasiverole as a humanrights actorassumingthe rightsand responsibilities of dealingwith the rootcauses of refugeeproblems.'03 the strongestcritiqueof needs-basedhumanitarian action is Ironically, from the human rightsmovement itself, which argues that respondingto relief is merely an excuse to avoid more crises by sending humanitarian Humanitarian relief is increasinglyseen as giving vigorous responses.'4 Westerngovernments the appearanceof "doingsomething"in the face of a tragedy while providing an alibi to avoid making a riskierpolitical or The military commitment that could address the "roots of a crisis."105 are in the advocates of human rights-based forefront of the foreign policy that humanitarian Under "huthe approaches. campaign against slogan should not be used as a substitutefor political action"they manitarianism are in fact arguing for a rights-basedhumanitarianism that is entirely to subordinate policy ends.'06 Today,insteadof feeding famine victims, aid may well be cut back, as Human rights the UK governmenthas done over Sudan and Ethiopia.'07 advocates would seem to be happier with militaryinterventionand the establishmentof "safeareas"ratherthan grantingasylum,which is seen as

102. 103.


14 (2000). TheRoleof Humanitarian 105. See generallyAdamRoberts, Politicsin Issuesin International

the 1990s, 81 19 INT'L REV.REDCROSS (1999).

GLOBAL 233, 241 (TimDunne & NicholasJ. Wheelereds., 1999). POLITIcs IN INTERNATIONAL P. FORSYTHE, 74 (2000). HUMAN RIGHTS See DAVID RELATIONS See ThomasG. Weiss, ThePoliticsof Humanitarian DIALOGUE Ideas,31 SECURITY 11,

Gil Loescher,Refugees: a Global HumanRightsand Security Crisis,in HUMAN


106. Stockton,supranote 47, at 356. Britain 107. See AndyMcSmith &JasonBurke, 9 Apr.2000, SlashesAid to Ethiopia, OBSERVER, ForOurSake, Don't Cut Third WorldAid, OBSERVER, at 1; Editorial, 9 Apr.2000, at 28.



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As journalistDavid Rieffnotes: "[humanilegitimizingethnic cleansing.108 have become some of the most ferventinterventarianrelieforganizations] tionists."'09 ThomasWeiss observesthat the humanrightscommunityhave as its opposite:"Theseactionsare, by definition, redefinedhumanitarianism coercive and partial. are They politicaland humanitarian; they certainlyare not neutral,impartial, or consensual."110 aid and universalcharitymean that The restrictions on humanitarian on aid for autonomy those personsdependent have even less opportunity than previously.In Bosnia,human rightsNGOs like the International Crisis Group (ICG)have lobbied stronglyfor economic aid to be conditionalon the implementationof the Dayton Accords and have argued that aid commuconditionalityis the main source of leveragefor the international Union humanitarian aid programs operatedon nity."' In Serbia,European the highlyselective basisof providingfuel and provisionsto opposition-run while applyingstrictsanctionsto the restof the country.The municipalities in Belgrade and the UN Office forthe Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs InternationalFederationof the Red Cross challenged this approach by of arguingthat aid should be given on the basis of need and irrespective has led to aid The of humanitarian affiliation.112 politicalparty politicization even greaterleverage over non-Westernsocieties as NGOs and international institutions assume the rightto make judgementsabout increasingly what is rightand just, about whose capacities are built, and which local aid startedout as an expressionof groupsare favored.Where humanitarian with common it has been transformed humanity, empathy through the discourseof humanrightsinto a leverfor strategic aims drawnup and acted upon by externalagencies. Frombeing basedon the universalnatureof humanity, which inevitably caused conflictwith the pro-Western agendaof the Cold War,today's"new humanitarians" have challengedevery principlethat demarcatedthe traditional frameworkof humanitarian action. No longer do they advocate a nor defend the most basic level of humanitarian relief principledneutrality, as a universalrightif this threatensto underminebroaderstrategichuman aims.Through action the humanrightsdiscourse,humanitarian rights-based has become transformed fromrelyingon empathywith suffering victimsand and legitimizingthe providingemergency aid to mobilizing misanthropy of international and condemnation,sanctions, politics bombings.
108. See Roberts, supranote 105, at 31. 109. Rieff,supranote 31, at 184. 110. Weiss, Principles, supranote 10, at 21.

(1999). 112. See Laura 30 July2000, at F2; Laura Aid, BOSTON GLOBE, Rozen, Rozen, Humanitarian 7 Aug.2000 (visited Bread 3 April instead of Soldiers, 2001)<http// SALON, /news/feature/2000/08/07/aid/print.html>.