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Relevance of Humanitarian principles in Modern Day International Humanitarian Affairs

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Using case studies from different contexts and showing its adherence and relevancy to the four humanitarian principles humanity, neutrality, impartiality and operational independence, this paper will argue that there is medium relevancy to these
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  1 Relevance of Humanitarian principles in Modern Day International Humanitarian Affairs Ahmed Alameldeen Submitted for the Master of Science (MSc) in International Humanitarian Affairs University of York Department of Health Sciences August 2014  2 Abstract Using case studies from different contexts and showing its adherence and relevancy to the four humanitarian principles humanity, neutrality, impartiality and operational independence, this paper will argue that there is medium relevancy to these principles in modern day international humanitarian affairs due to pressure from the donors who fund the humanitarian assistance projects and obstacles by the internal armed actors participating in a conflict. Also, will argue how the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) are the two main organizations in the field that try to maintain the principles by humanitarian negotiations and building trust with local communities. Also, the paper will show Kurt Mills a humanitarian professional arguing that there is no relevancy at all to the principles with modern humanitarianism and considered as dead principles which is an unfair opinion from my point of view and that the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) struggle to implement the principles that became more relevant than before because of the increase in the intensification of the conflicts that require more adherence to the principles in the field . Finally, the initiatives that had been developed recently like Humanitarian Accountability Partnership (HAP) and Good Humanitarian Donorship (GHD) try to help NGOs to adhere to the humanitarian principles and overcome some of the challenges faced by them in the field. Introduction: This paper will argue about the medium relevancy and adherence of the four main humanitarian principles which are humanity, neutrality, impartiality and operational independence to the modern day international humanitarian affairs in the contexts of Kosovo, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Myanmar, Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, countries affected by the Asian Tsunami and Syria. In addition, an analysis of the humanitarian Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) especially the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) together with other humanitarian NGOs attempting to adhere to the humanitarian principles during their field work and making it relevant will be provided. It will be stressed that these humanitarian agencies are faced with challenges and obstacles whether external from their donor country or internal from armed state or non-state actors in the field that might hinder their application of the principles in their humanitarian missions and will show by case studies from different contexts and different types of disasters that there is a medium relevancy to the humanitarian principles in the modern day international humanitarian affairs. Humanitarian Principles definition and their relevancy extent:  Humanitarian principles in old day International Humanitarian Affairs before the Kosovo conflict like Rwanda genocide, Biafra war, Afghanistan civil war and others are the same like modern humanitarian affairs but the problem as Fiona Terry (2013) explained that in modern humanitarianism the governments pursue political agendas and the cruelty against people are more complex than before that puts pressure on the humanitarian organizations to follow the principles as it should because if an NGO sacrificed the principle of neutrality (out of its hands) it won’t be easy to work in the same setup  3 in an impartial way and vice versa. Additionally, Kristalina Georgieva (2012) argues that humanitarian principles are needed and should be adapted in modern day international humanitarian affairs much more than before because the need for it and its relevancy is directly proportional to the complicatedness of a disaster and/or conflict and since the complications had increased so the need for the humanitarian principles and its relevancy increased and more self-control is needed by the NGOs to maintain and protect these principles and this what I argue in this paper below after relating to different contexts. There are four elements, humanitarian principles, that guide the humanitarian NGOs during their work and are essential for providing relief and assistance to the suffering communities. These four humanitarian principles that should be present whether the emergency is man-made or not are: i) Humanity (alleviating the misery of any person with respect of his/her dignity); ii) Neutrality (humanitarians shouldn’t be involved in arguments and disagreements related to any of the conflict parties based on religion, politics or any other ideological nature); iii) Impartiality (without any discrimination and based on the needs assessment done before a relief operation, the humanitarians should operate accordingly on need alone); and iv) Operational independence (disregard to the aims and targets of the governments or the warring parties on the ground whether political, economical or military, humanitarian operations should be independent) (McAvoy, 2010). Humanity is considered as a theoretical principle acting as an umbrella for the other three principles that are practical in nature to achieve the principle of Humanity (Terry, 2013). Humanitarian principles are integrated in the ICRC code of conduct (1994) signed by around 515 Humanitarian NGOs until now (2014), in the MSF Charter and in the two United Nations (UN) General assembly resolutions A/RES/46/182 (1991) that contains humanity, neutrality and impartiality as principles for humanitarian relief and resolution A/RES/58/114 (2004) that covers operational humanitarian independence. It can be argued that there are many reasons that have affected and are still affecting the relevancy of the humanitarian principles in modern humanitarianism, one of these reasons was the reaction by the United States (US) government in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon that resulted in an estimated 3,000 deaths and the launch of counter-insurgency (COIN) operations to fight terrorism in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. The US  justified their war in Afghanistan and invasion of Iraq as a threat to US internal security disregarding the internal system breakdown and the negative consequences that occurred to the civilians lives and the country itself that had been affected from those two interventions (Runge, 2003). As a consequence, the humanitarian assistance during this period being funded from US donors affected the neutrality of the operations because receiving funds from the US or any of its supporters meant that the NGOs were and are currently taking sides of the conflict which is against the neutrality principle (ATHA). The same happened during the humanitarian intervention in Kosovo by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1999 where the armed forces worked closely and made huge participation in the humanitarian relief operations which affected the impartiality humanitarian principle of the NGOs and as explained by the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA, 2000); “ Being a warring party and trying to be an impartial humanitarian actor at the same time, are  4 diametrically opposed. This merger of roles has fundamental implications for the definition of humanitarian aid and its principles” . Although the UN guidelines on the use of military and defence assets to support humanitarian operations state that: Humanitarian work should be performed by humanitarian organisations. Insofar as military organisations have a role to play in supporting humanitarian work, it should, to the extent  possible, not encompass direct assistance in order to retain a clear distinction between the normal functions and roles of humanitarian and military stakeholders (UN, 1994) In addition to these reasons, most of the current conflicts are of non-international nature that involved the increase in number of armed insurgents and rebels fighting against the armed state actors resulting in more negotiations by the NGOs to gain humanitarian access to the civilians suffering and in need of assistance on their side. This causes intentional targeting of relief workers in the field because on the other side which is the armed state actor, the humanitarian assistance is used to “win the hearts and minds”  (ATHA, n.d.) for the civilians so the NGOs are often being accused by both sides of the conflict that they support their enemies (Boudreau and Hubert, 2010) which resulted in Ricardo Minguia from ICRC being killed in Afghanistan in 2003 that made the ICRC “... re-establish on both sides the ICRC’s credentials as an effective, purely humanitarian, organization. The ICRC has long recognized that words and promises are not enough to promote acceptance within a community; that the organization has to have something concrete to offer” (Terry, 2011). Moreover, the “Geopolitical Interests” played an important role in the donors’  strategies for their targeting of which country to provide humanitarian assistance to (Curtis, 2001) which was evidenced during the conflict occurring in Sudan and the Tsunami in Asia where more funds were allocated for the Tsunami more than the conflict in Darfur in Sudan because Sudan did not represent a strategic interest for most of the international community and the media played an important role to bring the attention to the Tsunami crisis which directly brought more funds to it (Udombana, 2005). Challenges for Humanitarian principles implementation: A-   In Conflict Settings:   The next section focuses on the challenges for implementing the humanitarian principles per country and showing some case studies and evidences to support the above-mentioned challenges and obstacles and how there is medium relevancy to humanitarian principles in modern day international humanitarian affairs. In Sudan, the government was trying to force the ICRC during the Darfur conflict in 2003 to shift its funds to the “Sudan Red Crescent” that was supporting the civilians suffering on the government side and nothing to be allocated for the civilians in need of assistance and living in the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) areas which of course was refused by the ICRC who are  5 the main garrison for the neutrality humanitarian principle; this resulted in the Sudanese government deactivating the ICRC operation in the field which increased the suffering of the affected civilians (Reeves, 2014). As a consequence, the civilians suffered from being raided by armed troops and no security was provided for them by the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) that was mandated to do so (Bekoe and Campbell, 2006). While in Afghanistan which is one of the cases where the military forces was trying to be homogenous with the humanitarian intervention and attempts for the “Instrumentalization” of aid for military purposes were the government troops disguised as locals and started to provide aid to them and spreading information to the civilians that if they want to continue acquiring relief they have to provide these locals (disguised soldiers) with information about the insurgents ’  whereabouts (Terry, 2011) . Also, the deployment of the “Provincial Reconstruction Teams” (PRTs) by the US in Afghanistan with the purpose of maintaining safety, control and development, they were experiencing poor collaboration in the field and their tasks were overlapped with the humanitarian NGOs and reconstruction tasks that made it difficult for local civilians to distinguish between the fighters and relief workers which affects the humanitarian principle of neutrality (USIP, 2005). Consequently, this made the insurgents attack the civilians living in these places as a punishment for them and these actions formed a disfiguration of the humanitarian organizations and humanitarian principles and the ICRC were struggling in the field to maintain the principles as much as it could although they had been told that they support the insurgents and that neutrality is hopeless in such a situation (Terry, 2011). Renzo Fricke from MSF (2013) says that the humanitarian principles inside Afghanistan collapsed due to the shift of funds coming from the donor countries who actually have armed forces on the ground from supporting humanitarian assistance to support settlement and expansion projects and “ this approach completely ignores the reality on the ground and the major ongoing humanitarian needs. ” Furthermore, Action Against Hunger (ACF) decided not to accept donations coming from the US since their armed forces are involved in the war and strive to work with the donations coming from France in the areas where French forces were not deployed but for the sake of the suffered civilians a compromise was made by receiving nutrition parcels from the World Food Programme (WFP) that is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) (Dyukova and Chetcuti, 2013). Afghanistan case study shows how the NGOs in the field were doing their work to maintain neutral intervention although the temptations from their donors and the interference of military groups in their work and mandate. Furthermore, in Iraq where the humanitarian NGOs were intervening to alleviate the suffering of the civilians in a neutral, impartial and independent manner they knew that they are being used by the US for political interests who were the main donors but these NGOs knew that if they left the country and didn’t intervene  because of this independency dilemma they would not fulfil the humanity principle of alleviating the suffering of the civilians (Ford, 2003; De Torrente, 2004). In addition to this challenge was the position taken by the political leaders towards the humanitarian NGOs trying to force their intervention to a certain party or saying that relief is used as a tool of “foreign policy” which puts the relief workers in the field in great danger which resulted in the killing of ICRC staff because
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