The rehabilitation of international humanitarian law (IHL) has become a priority for those who think that the horrors of contemporary wars are largely due to the blurring of the distinction between civilians and combatants and for those who think that campaigning for the respect of IHL could result in more civilised wars. Similarly, respect for humanitarian principles is still seen by many as the best tool available to protect the safety of aid workers. In this text, I argue that both assumptions are misled. The distinction between civilians and combatants, a cornerstone of IHL, has been blurred in practice since the late nineteenth century. In addition, humanitarian agencies claiming to be ‘principled’ have been victims of attacks as much as others. History and current practice tell us that neither IHL nor humanitarian principles provide safety or can guide our decisions. Accepting their symbolic value, rather than their unrealised potential to protect and solve operational dilemmas, would free humanitarian agencies from endless speculations.
First Published December 1, 1999 - Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly (NVSQ) - Volume 28 Issue 1.
This article begins with a look at the role played by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) since its inception in 1971, and then looks at the challenges facing MSF today. It focuses on the confusion of humanitarian and political roles and on the goals MSF has laid out for itself to address this confusion. Humanitarian aid has become the favored response of governments to political crises, and governments have increasingly turned to NGOs to carry out their policies. In turn, NGOs have become increasingly dependent on governments for financial support. These changes have politicized aid delivery and made it difficult for NGOs to maintain their independence. In addition, as the number of NGOs increases and their activities become more specialized, there are pressures toward institutionalization and bureaucratization. To respond to these challenges, MSF has identified several goals, including maintaining organizational independence and flexibility and avoiding bureaucratization.
Rony Brauman focuses on the humanitarian environment and practices in war, in order to try to understand and analyze its political and ethical stakes. Starting with the creation of the Red Cross at the end of the XIXth century, he then focused on the contemporary postcolonial period, switching between various scales and reporting on contradictory points of view and issues.
On June 17, 2016,MSF announced that it will no longer accept funds from the European Union and Member States, as a sign of protest against the closure of European borders to migrants and asylum seekers.
This review of Larissa Fast's " 'Aid in Danger'. The Perils and Promise of Humanitarianism" was published in the International Review of the Red Cross (Volume 96 / Issue 894)
Is there anything fundamentally new in the security challenges faced by humanitarian organisations? When looking at the history of humanitarian assistance, as far back as the late 1800s, 'medical care' was operating under fire.
We often hear it said within MSF that the aid system is unable to provide effective relief, or that the aid system’s ability to provide aid is in decline. These statements, which suggest that MSF is itself outside the "system", are based on the very real number of people in relief operations who need help but do not receive it, or do not receive enough of it.
We often hear it said within MSF that the aid system is unable to provide effective relief, or that the aid system's ability to provide aid is in decline. Rony Brauman and Michaël Neuman aim at exploring MSF's relationship with the aid system, while showing how the ambitions of the aid system itself have evolved.
How do Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) differ, and how are they alike?
On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the ICRC (1863-2013) and in light of the recently launched issue of the Review on "The future of humanitarian action", the Harvard Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) and the International Review of the Red Cross are pleased to co-host a Live Web Seminar on the topic: "Perspectives on the Future of Humanitarian Action"...