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Discussion 1 :

Consider the humanitarian principle of neutrality. How can humanitarian organizations remain neutral while also gaining the acceptance of local populations, armed groups and/or host states? Should they?

Topic: 1. Humanitarian Principles / Topic 1

————-

Discussion 2

IHL limits the scope of hostilities and unnecessary suffering in armed conflict, however, it also allows for considerable collateral damage to civilians in accordance with military necessity. Is this still consistent with the principle of humanity and the preservation of life and dignity? Why or why not?

Topic: 1. Humanitarian Principles / Topic 2

Reading List

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Required Reading List

Recommended Additional Resources

Online Learning Modules

Advanced Training Program on Humanitarian Action, International Humanitarian Law Distance Learning Series

Building a Better Response

ICRC, The basic rules and principles of IHL

Articles

Websites

ICRC, How does law protect in war?

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, Rule of Law in Armed Conflict (RULAC) Project

IHL Full Text Databases

ICRC, IHL Treaties

ICRC, Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Additional Protocols, and their Commentaries

ICRC, Customary IHL database

ICRC, National Implementation of IHL

…………………………………………………………………………………………….

Discussion 3:

Why is the crisis in Goma considered a failure of humanitarian action?

Topic: 2. Goma – Set 1 / Topic 1

 Discussion 4:

What measures could humanitarians have taken to increase the safety and security within Goma’s refugee camps?

Topic: 2. Goma – Set 1 / Topic 2

Discussion 5:

In what ways did the Sphere project advance humanitarian response? In what ways has Sphere fallen short?

Topic: 2. Goma – Set 1 / Topic 3

Reading List

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Required Reading List

John Eriksson, “Study III. Humanitarian Aid and Effects,” The International Response to Conflict and Genocide: Lessons from the Rwanda Experience – Synthesis Report (1996). 

Margie Buchanan-Smith, “How the Sphere Project Came into Being: A Case Study of Policy-Making in the Humanitarian Aid Sector and the Relative Influence of Research,” Overseas Development Institute (2015). 

Ray Wilkinson, “Heart of Darkness,” Refugees Magazine (1997). 

Recommended Additional Resources

Médecins Sans Frontières, “Rwandan Refugee Camps in Zaire and Tanzania 1994-1995,” Case Studies: Médecins Sans Frontières Speaks Out (2016).

Peter Walker and Catherine Russ, “Fit for purpose: the role of modern professionalism in evolving the humanitarian endeavour,” International Review of the Red Cross 93 (2011).

Peter Walker and Catherine Russ, “Professionalizing the Humanitarian Sector – A Scoping Study,” Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance (2010).

Sphere Project, “Sphere Handbook: Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response, 2011” (2011).

Introductory Text

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Case 1: Goma

Introduction

In 1994, the Rwandan genocide triggered one of the largest and most rapid population displacements in the modern era. In addition to the internal displacement of over one million people within Rwanda, in a matter of two months, over two million people fled to Tanzania, Burundi and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo).

The Great Lakes Refugee Crisis, as it came to be known, hit its peak in mid-July 1994, when a rapid refugee influx into major camps north of Goma (Zaire) was followed by a devastating cholera and dysentery outbreak. The humanitarian community, overtaken by the sudden influx of over one million refugees from Rwanda, was unable to meet the escalating needs of the refugee population, calling into question the professionalism of various actors, the limits of an international response, the ability of humanitarians to protect vulnerable groups, and the potential for humanitarian response to intensify suffering.

Learning Objectives

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Learning Objectives for this case:

  • Scope of humanitarian work: Weigh the value of humanitarian action in conflict, particularly when aid results in unintended consequences that harm the affected population.
  • Implementation of humanitarian work: Understand the events that gave critical momentum to humanitarian professionalization efforts, such as the Sphere project.
  • Humanitarian principles: Identify the dilemmas that arise in maintaining neutrality and impartiality when aid may serve to fuel conflict or harm the affected population.

Themes: Professionalism, local capacity, aid and developmentvulnerable populations

Case: Background

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Background

Known as “the land of a thousand hills,” Rwanda’s unique geography has played a major role in its development. Bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (which was known as Zaire until 1997), Rwanda is separated from its neighbors by the Rift Valley to the west, taken up by  large Lake Kivu; the Virunga volcano chain to the north; and the large marshes and savannah along its eastern border.

Rwanda is considered densely populated by African standards. Most of the population is concentrated in the fertile central zone of the country. Before European exploration and colonization of Rwanda, the Hutu and Tutsi groups lived largely peacefully side by side. Hutus were mainly Bantu farmers comprising roughly 85% of the population. Tutsis were mainly pastoralist migrants from Ethiopia, comprising roughly 15% of the population. Hutus and Tutsis spoke the same Kinyarwanda language, intermarried, and had no distinguishable cultural customs or attributes.

In the late 19th century, Tutsi kings began centralizing power and enacting anti-Hutu policies. From 1899-1916, Germany controlled Rwanda, and from 1916-1961, Rwanda was under Belgian trusteeship. Both European nations perpetuated anti-Hutu, pro-Tutsi policies. In 1959, the Hutu population revolted. Thousands of Tutsis were massacred, and thousands more fled into Burundi and Uganda. From these neighboring countries, Tutsi armed groups would make incursions into Rwanda over the coming decades.

In the following 40 years of Rwandan independence, Hutus consolidated their political power under an authoritarian central government. Tutsi refugees living abroad became increasingly frustrated by the Rwandan government’s refusal to allow for their return, in addition to inhospitable policies displayed by their host countries. In 1990, the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) launched a cross-border insurgency from Uganda. The Arusha peace accords, signed in 1993 by representatives of the Rwandan government and the RPF, signaled a resolution to the conflict. However, the terms of the accord were never implemented. Violence against the minority Tutsi population and Hutu critics of the government escalated, fed by state support and a media campaign of “Hutu power” in which “feudal” Tutsis were presented as a “foreign” threat to Hutu existence. Hutu civilians began organizing into militias, many of them armed with machetes.

On April 6, 1994, a surface to air missile struck a plane carrying the Hutu President of Rwanda, Juvenal Habyarimana, and the Hutu president of Burundi, killing both men shortly before the plane was slated to land in Kigali. This incident caused the simmering ethnic hostilities between Tutsis and Hutus to erupt. Mass violence and slaughter began across Rwanda. Over the course of 100 days, Hutu extremist militias killed over 800,000 Tutsis and their Hutu sympathizers—causing the third largest genocide of the 20th century. The genocide was brought to an end in July when the RPF reinvaded Rwanda, gaining control of Kigali and most of the countryside.

A mass exodus of Rwandan, as well as Burundian and Zairian refugees followed in the genocide’s aftermath. Fearing retribution, two million Hutus fled Rwanda, while 750,000 Tutsis living abroad returned to the country. An estimated 500,000 Rwandans fled east into Tanzania in the month of April. By May, a further 200,000 people had fled south into Burundi. By the end of August, the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that 2.1 million refugees had fled to neighboring countries, spread across 35 camps, in what became known as the Great Lakes Refugee crisis.

The largest and most precarious refugee settlements centered around north of the small lakeside border town of Goma, the capital of North Kivu in Zaire. Under Belgian rule, Goma and neighboring towns like Bukavu and Gisenyi had been idyllic colonial retreats, with lakeside mansions and expensive European restaurants surrounded by majestic volcanos. However, Goma was poorly suited to host refugees, with limited habitable space along Lake Kivu, and surrounding areas to the north composed of hard volcanic rock.

Case: Part 1

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Case: Part 1

On July 14 and 15, 10-12,000 refugees crossed the border per hour, most through the sole Rwanda-Zaire border crossing of Gisenyi-Goma on the north shore of Lake Kivu. By the end of that short week (July 14-19), approximately 1.2 million Hutu refugees flowed into the North Kivu region of Zaire, with 850,000 refugees crossing into Goma town and traveling further north. The unprecedented size and scale of the refugee presence dwarfed Goma’s own population of 15,000 people, and with nowhere to go, refugees squatted near the lake and were turned north to form a vast camp on the volcanic flats of Mount Nyaragongo. The lava terrain at the foothills was so hard that boreholes, wells, or latrines proved nearly impossible to dig. As refugees turned to scant water supplies trucked in from Lake Kivu as their repository for drinking, washing clothes, bathing, and sewage, the conditions were set for rapid and large-scale outbreaks of waterborne diarrheal disease, exacerbated by dehydration, malnutrition, and exhaustion.

By the end of July, an epidemic of cholera and dysentery was affecting all camps in the area, and the strained humanitarian community struggled to meet demands for clean water, proper sanitation and hygiene. Over 48,000 Rwandan refugees would die during the first month after their arrival in Zaire, a death rate two to three times the highest previously recorded in any refugee population. On the worst day in late July, at least 7,000 people died in one 24-hour period. Ninety percent of these deaths were due to diarrheal disease; the rest from dehydration, malnutrition, and exhaustion.

Those who witnessed the suffering in Goma described it as “hell on earth.” Extensive media coverage, a nearby airport facilitating access, and a weakened government authority soon prompted an outpouring of international support. Many organizations arrived and established themselves as “humanitarian NGOs” to contribute to the relief efforts. In the first two weeks of the Goma operation, the international community spent an estimated $2 billion on the response, and nearly 200 organizations – including UN agencies, NGOs, civil defense and disaster response agencies, and several military contingents from donor countries – played a role. This proliferation of responders resulted not only in duplication and wasted resources but – in a few egregious cases – unnecessary loss of life. Independent evaluations conducted after the epidemic revealed that some organizations had sent inadequately trained and equipped personnel, others had pledged to cover a particular sector and failed, and some were unwilling or unable to coordinate their activities with other organizations. One NGO left people unattended on drips during the cholera outbreak, likely contributing to the death of some of those affected.

During the cases we are going to ask you to put yourself in the situation as described and make a decision. There is not a correct answer. 

After you submit your choice, you can see how your classmates responded.

What defines a “humanitarian organization”? Who should have direct access to IDPs, refugees and vulnerable populations in emergency situations?

  •                            
a. Any group with good intentions, including informal organizations and individuals


  •                            
b. Any group that adheres to the humanitarian principles


  •                            
c. Any group that is providing aid, including non-governmental organizations, militaries, and national agencies


  •                            
d. Any group that has local experience and local capacities to provide aid


  •                            
e. Any group that is officially registered with the host government


  •                            
f. Official governmental and accredited non-governmental agencies with a demonstrated record of providing aid

  •  

Case: Part 2

The struggle to provide assistance was further complicated by a volatile environment of conflict and insecurity. The level of violence within the camps was extremely high, with one retrospective survey of a single camp suggesting that 4,000 refugees died as a result of violence at the hands of Hutu militia members, undisciplined Zairian soldiers, and other refugees. Due to these dangerous conditions, most foreign personnel did not venture deep into the vast refugee settlement and were unable to remain at medical facilities in the camps overnight, severely hampering the ability of medical personnel to maintain continuous care of patients. A proposed peacekeeping force – intended to secure and demilitarize the camps, separate and placate groups of refugees, and move the camps further back from the border with Rwanda – never materialized due to inadequate troop commitments. By the time the epidemic was contained in August, camps in Goma were under the tight control of Hutu “refugee leaders” who were using the camps as bases from which to re-conquer Rwanda and resupply Hutu militia with massive diversions of aid. Many refugees were subjected to propaganda, intimidation, violence, and threats against repatriating.

During the cases we are going to ask you to put yourself in the situation as described and make a decision. There is no correct answer. 

After you submit your choice, you can see how your classmates responded.

Imagine you are the manager of a camp where refugees are being subjected to harassment, recruitment and extortion of aid goods by members of armed groups operating nearby. To what lengths would you go to control the situation and to limit violence?

  •                            
a. I would continue providing aid and not even consider withholding assistance, as it would violate humanitarian principles


  •                            
b. I would divert aid resources to increase security in the camps and attempt to limit the disruption


  •                            
c. I would withhold aid from certain populations in the camps who are associating with the armed groups


  •                            
d. I would pull out entirely rather than see aid be manipulated



The refugee crisis in Goma, and the Rwandan genocide more broadly, constituted a traumatic turning point for the humanitarian sector. It brought into sharp focus the drive for accountability and performance management that had been gaining momentum as agencies were entering increasingly difficult conflict environments in the 1990s. The unprecedented number of agencies and organizations, their lack of regulation, different agencies’ range of standards, combined with poor performance and lack of professionalism, fueled concerns that the humanitarian system was in serious need of an overhaul.

Seven months after the genocide began, a multinational, multi-donor evaluation was launched by a consortium of donors, UN agencies, and NGOs. The landmark Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda (JEEAR) consisted of four separate studies, with Study III of the JEEAR widely regarded as catalyzing nascent efforts to strengthen accountability, improve performance, and institute standards and regulation across the humanitarian sector. Its first set of recommendations aimed to improve NGO performance, such as through a set of principles that would lay the groundwork for future humanitarian work. The second set of recommendations focused on the development of standards and recommended a system of NGO accreditation. One of the key humanitarian quality and accountability initiatives that came out of Rwanda and the drive for wider sectoral reform was the Sphere project, which involved many stakeholders involved in JEEAR.

While JEEAR identified specific weaknesses and suggested reforms for the humanitarian sector, it also pointed to the critical failings outside the humanitarian domain. The Rwanda crisis has been called the ultimate failure: the failure to intervene to prevent or halt the genocide, the subsequent failure to manage the epidemic in Goma, and the failure of the international community to coordinate a political strategy to resolve the crisis. Lacking a political, diplomatic, and military resolution, can we blame the humanitarian community for what happened in Goma? Can humanitarian action ever become a substitute for political will?

  •  

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Discussion 6:

Was the costly international endeavor in Somalia worth the estimated 100,000 lives that it saved? Discuss both sides of the issue to arrive at your conclusion.

Topic: 3. Somalia – Set 1 / Topic 1

Discussion 7:

How did humanitarian relief influence the duration and level of violence in Somalia? Based on your response, discuss the implications of continuing humanitarian work under the conditions laid out in this case.

Topic: 3. Somalia – Set 1 / Topic 2

Reading List

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Reading List

Prunier, Gérard. “Somalia: Civil War, Intervention and Withdrawal 1990 – 1995.” Refworld – WRITENET (1995).

“Somalia, No mercy in Mogadishu: the human cost of the conflict & the struggle for relief.” Africa Watch and Physicians for Human Rights (1992).

Somalia – UNOSOM 1. United Nations News Center.

Additional Resources

Clarke, Walter, and Jeffrey Herbst. “Somalia and the future of humanitarian intervention.” Foreign Affairs 75 (1996).

“Countering Terror in Humanitarian Crises: The Challenge of Delivering Aid to Somalia.” Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research, Harvard University.

Golebiewski, Daniel. “The Humanitarian Interventions of the UN.” The Politic (2013).

Western, Jon, and Joshua S. Goldstein. “Humanitarian intervention comes of age: Lessons from Somalia to Libya.” Foreign Affairs 90 (2011).

Lofland, Valerie J. “Somalia: US intervention and operation restore hope.” Case Studies in Policy-making and Implementation 6 (1992).

Introductory Text

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Case 2: Somalia

Introduction

Somalia in the early 1990s hosted some of the most ambitious and costly humanitarian activities to date. Billions of dollars worth of international interventions arrived in the form of large-scale humanitarian relief, robust state-building programs, and even military operations aimed at stabilizing the country. Yet these humanitarian measures are widely remembered as failed endeavors. The debate remains as to what specifically went wrong, and why such large efforts to stabilize a country yielded so few tangible results.

Learning Objectives

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Learning objectives for this case:

  • Scope of humanitarian work: Understand the debate on whether or not humanitarian actors should be tasked with more than providing immediate relief and aid (e.g. development, nation-building).
  • Implementation of humanitarian work: Analyze the implications of civilian and military response during the complex humanitarian emergency in Somalia.
  • Humanitarian principles: Identify the challenges of adhering to the principles, and the dilemmas that arise from compromising principles in order to gain operational access.

Themes: Media, burnout, civil-military relations

Case: Background

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Background

Located in the Horn of Africa, Somalia is home to infamous warlords and militia and remains one of the poorest economies in the world. Bordered by Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya and 3,000 km of coast along the Indian Ocean, Somalia historically served as the commercial hub of sailors and merchants. It is for its strategic location that the Somalis were colonized by various foreign powers, including Egypt, Britain, France, Italy, and Ethiopia, during the late nineteenth century. Following World War II, Britain retained control of both British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland as protectorates. British Somaliland became independent on June 26, 1960, and Italian Somaliland five days later; the two territories united to form the Somali Republic (otherwise known as Somalia) on July 1, 1960.

In late 1969, President Abdirashid Ali Shermarke was assassinated by his own bodyguard, and a military government assumed power in a coup d’état led by General Mohamed Siad Barre. Barre established himself as the new president and tried to rule in the form of a highly centralized and brutal Marxist dictatorship. He insisted upon the supremacy of party and nation, cutting across local clan loyalties, which had been a strong feature of traditional Somali culture. In July 1977, Barre attempted to expand Greater Somalia to incorporate the Ogaden region, a formerly Somali territory that the British ceded to the Ethiopian Emperor in 1897. Somali troops controlled up to 90% of the Ogaden region at one point, but were ultimately pushed out by a massive Soviet intervention coming to the aid of Ethiopia’s communist regime. In true Cold War fashion, Somalia turned to the U.S. for help.

Between 1977-1978, the Ogaden War caused a massive influx of Somalis living in eastern Ethiopia to enter Somalia. The Somali government appealed for help to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the UNHCR and other humanitarian actors provided basic foodstuffs and services for the next decade. The Barre regime took advantage of international goodwill and deliberately inflated the numbers of refugees in order to increase the amount of aid entering the country. In early 1982, Mogadishu estimated that there were more than 1.3 million refugees in the camps and an additional 700,000 to 800,000 refugees at large. Alternatively, the UN estimated that 450,000 to 620,000 refugees were in the camps. When aid arrived, Somali officials put themselves in between the aid agencies and the refugees to divert much of the relief. The Barre regime went so far as recruiting many of the refugees into its military and using international aid to support these military units. While many of the humanitarian actors on the ground were well aware of these transgressions, aid continued to flow. Barre had given the U.S. access to naval bases in both the North and South, and in return, he received economic and military aid, as well as diplomatic support to sustain his regime.

Throughout the 1980s, the Barre regime intensified repressive tactics to suppress dissidents from all clans. As jailings, torture, and executions mounted, opposition groups organized. Clan-based insurgent movements united in force with a mission to topple Barre’s oppressive regime. A full-scale civil war erupted in 1988 and eventually insurgents stormed the presidential palace in Mogadishu and took control over the capital. However, unity among the opposition groups did not last. In November 1991, eleven months after the overthrow of President Siad Barre, major fighting erupted again. Somalia remained in a perpetual state of violence as different clans and rebel groups competed to fill the power vacuum. Two main armed rival factions emerged, one supporting interim president Ali Mahdi Mohamed, and the other behind General Mohamed Farah Aideed. As fighting intensified in Mogadishu, the international actors on the ground were forced to decide whether or not to remain in Somalia in the midst of the chaos.

Case: Part 1

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Case: Part 1

In this period, beginning in 1990, the flight of farmers due to the conflict began a country-wide collapse of agricultural production and destruction of village water systems. By early 1991, deaths from disease and malnutrition began to rise to alarming proportions. A drought from 1991-1992 further exacerbated the emergency situation. As the food shortage became more extreme, local food and food delivered by humanitarian aid became so valuable that theft and assault on those with food supplies became widespread. Throughout 1991 and into the early 1992 the famine intensified.

In response to the mounting danger on the ground, the U.S. foreign embassy in Somalia evacuated its staff in January 1991 and the United Nations (UN) followed suit; the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also withdrew to their regional offices in Nairobi. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and a handful of other international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – including World Vision, International Medical Corps (IMC), CARE, Save the Children-UK, and Doctors without Borders (MSF) – continued working in country, constituting the only foreign humanitarian presence to stay throughout the fighting. Fraught with fighting among competing militias and lacking central authority, Somalia effectively became a collapsed/failed state and remained one of the world’s poorest and least developed countries. In the absence of law and order and with the proliferation of guns and heavy artillery, travel became dangerous, requiring extraordinary measures on the part of humanitarian organizations. For example, upon failure to reach agreement with the warlords in its area of operations, the ICRC, for the first time, hired armed guards to protect relief supplies and convoys. Countless death threats and physical assaults continued to be directed at humanitarian workers, and several lost their lives while serving in Somalia during this time.

Imagine you are a decision-maker for the ICRC in Somalia in the early 1990s. Your staff are facing increasing threats and violent attacks, how do you respond?

  •                            
a. Continue working and accept the risks


  •                            
b. Work with the local community to inform them of your role, to build your relationship, and to determine the source of the threats


  •                            
c. Divert some aid resources to appease those actors which are threatening your staff


  •                            
d. Hire armed guards to protect the humanitarian workers


  •                            
e. Withdraw your team and end operations.



Case: Part 2

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Case: Part 2

Without a legitimate government, commerce and trade ground to a halt, the banking system was in shambles, electric power and water supply for Mogadishu was unavailable, sanitation and waste collection service was non-existent, and transportation was unreliable at best and dangerous at worst. In 1992, an estimated 1.5 million civilians were displaced from their homes as a result of the shelling and machine gun fire; many camped out in the streets – fearful and starving. Among the Somali population, those most at risk of dying were displaced children who were vulnerable to malnutrition. As local food resources became increasingly scarce and prices rocketed, the armed factions seized relief supplies and controlled its distribution, deeply exacerbating the food security problems faced by the civilian population. In response to the clans hijacking emergency food aid, the international community doubled down on its commitment and expanded its presence on the ground. Following extensive international media coverage of Somalis dying of disease, starvation, and civil war, a large number of humanitarian agencies entered southern Somalia, creating a crowded field of NGOs. Divisions between NGOs and the international agencies deepened when the UN returned to the country in 1992, bringing only a handful of staff. This renewal of UN authority fostered criticism among the NGO community who felt that they were being told what to do by an organization that had abandoned Somalia the year before.

From the rebel groups and warlords who were fighting for control of the government, to international NGOs and the UN who had different ideas on how to best help the people, Somalia had become a quagmire of competing interests and conflicting agendas. What started out as a humanitarian mission to quell an emergency and feed the starving quickly evolved into something more. Humanitarian workers were giving out food to a starving population, but armed security was necessary to protect aid workers and Somali citizens alike. Recognizing that this pattern would not be sustainable for the long-run, the international community put more effort into sponsoring negotiations with different Somali factions and contributing towards nation-building efforts. The mandates of UN missions also started to conflate humanitarian initiatives with state stabilization. As the UN Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM I) fell short of securing humanitarian relief and monitoring a UN-brokered ceasefire of the civil war, a more robust operation took its place. In December 1992, the United Task Force (UNITAF), also known as Operation Restore Hope, was created under the leadership of the United States. This operation was the first time that the UN authorized a military intervention under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to secure an environment for humanitarian relief operations. President Bush ordered 28,000 troops into Somalia to end the looting and attacks on the delivery of food and other supplies, and to “save thousands of innocents.” Not only were US troops better prepared for the deployment to the Somali desert, but UNITAF also had greater tactical mobility and airborne firepower than the earlier UNOSOM force. Some aid agencies also now relied on armed escorts by UNITAF for access and security. The transitional body of UNITAF restored partial security in Mogadishu and the surrounding region, and the UN Secretary-General convened a meeting in early 1993 in which 14 Somalia political and rebel factions agreed to hand over their weapons to international peacekeepers. In May 1993, UNOSOM II formally took over UNITAF operations with a revived mission to continue relief efforts and to restore peace and rebuild the Somali state and economy. Unfortunately, as UNITAF forces withdrew, local militias resumed their prior violent activities and the civil war quickly escalated to pre-UNITAF levels. Military and civilian agencies struggled to coordinate in this early iteration of civilian-military relations, with the military expecting NGOs to support its objective of enforcing order and civilian agencies wanting the military to support their objective of delivering aid.

To what or whom are humanitarian responders ultimately most accountable?

  •                            
a. The aid operation, objectives or mission


  •                            
b. Their organization


  •                            
c. The people they seek to serve


  •                            
d. The humanitarian principles


  •                            
e. Themselves



Further complicating the situation was General Aideed, who came to view UNOSOM II as a threat to his political ambitions. His men increasingly engaged with UN forces and Aideed began broadcasting anti-UN propaganda on Radio Mogadishu. On June 5, 1993, when UN forces were inspecting an arms weapons storage site located near the radio station, Aideed’s militia ambushed and killed 24 Pakistani soldiers assigned to UNOSOM II. The next day, the UN Security Council issued an emergency resolution calling for the arrest of “those responsible” for the massacre. The peacekeepers, far from maintaining their mandate of neutrality, become entangled in a war with Aideed, and UNOSOM II ultimately failed to keep peace in Somalia. Shortly after the tragic Battle of Mogadishu in October 1993, where 18 US soldiers were killed and 84 wounded in a manhunt for Aideed, the US announced the withdrawal of its troops. Other nations, such as Belgium, France, and Sweden follow suit.

Overall, these joint endeavors cost $3 billion, with the US government financing $2.28 billion. The total spent on humanitarian aid was less than 10 percent of that spent on military intervention, since humanitarian aid was only possible with military security. During these three missions, 8, 18, and 143 military personnel were killed, in UNOSOM I, UNITAF, and UNOSOM II, respectively; and it is estimated that 10,000 Somalis were either injured or killed during the combined interventions. Despite the costs, however, most analysts would agree that the operations did help alleviate the humanitarian crisis: the number of displaced persons dropped from 1.5 million in 1992 to 465,000 refugees and 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) by December 2004. The Refugee Policy Group estimated the total number of lives saved in the interventions to be 110,000.

Yet the peak deaths from famine had occurred by the fall of 1992 – before the UN and US-led peacekeeping interventions took place. Though the late operations did help lessen the humanitarian crisis, what were some of the intended and unintended consequences of military support of humanitarian assistance on Somalia’s economic and political situation? Is this type of humanitarian action justified at any cost?

…………………………………………………………………………………………….

Discussion 8:

How should humanitarians reconcile the tension between filling material needs, playing a direct role in ensuring physical security or protection for vulnerable populations, and taking a direct stance in the face of human rights violations?

Topic: 4. The Balkans – Set 1 / Topic 1

Discussion 9:

What were the implications of differing interpretations of neutrality in this context? Consider specific groups or organizations, how they approached their neutrality, and the results.

Topic: 4. The Balkans – Set 1 / Topic 2

Reading List

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Required Reading List

Cutts, Mark. “The humanitarian operation in Bosnia, 1992-95: dilemmas of negotiating humanitarian access.” Centre for Documentation and Research, UNHCR Working Paper no. 8 (1999).

Daalder, Ivo H. “Decision to intervene: How the war in Bosnia ended.” Foreign Service Journal 75 (1998).

Recommended Additional Resources

Kuperman, Alan J. “The moral hazard of humanitarian intervention: Lessons from the Balkans.” International Studies Quarterly 52  (2008).

Young, Kirsten. “UNHCR and ICRC in the former Yugoslavia: Bosnia-Herzegovina.” Revue Internationale de la Croix-Rouge/International Review of the Red Cross 83 (2001).

Introduction

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Case 3: The Balkans

Introduction

The Yugoslav Wars from 1991-2001 resulted in the deaths of an estimated 140,000 people and the displacement of more than 2.2 million individuals. Often depicted as Europe’s deadliest conflict since World War II, the hostilities amidst the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia have become infamous for war crimes and crimes against humanity including genocide, ethnic cleansing, and widespread rape. Emergency relief operations took place in all the republics of the former Yugoslavia, and the UNHCR’s Balkans operation cost over one billion US dollars between 1991 and 1995. However, with armed forces seeking to manipulate aid efforts for political and military objectives, the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina (1992-1995) presented a unique challenge to humanitarians in effectively serving the vulnerable. UN peacekeepers were brought in to secure the humanitarian corridor for aid to reach the intended beneficiaries, but ultimately, the international community failed to safeguard the areas it resolved to keep safe and facilitated the capture and execution of thousands of civilians. In the case of the Balkans, consider how the humanitarians’ understanding of neutrality and impartiality might have limited their ability to protect the vulnerable population they were there to serve.

Learning Objectives

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Learning objectives for this case:

  • Scope of humanitarian work: Understand the responsibility of the humanitarian community, particularly in the absence of political will to address the underlying causes of conflict
  • Implementation of humanitarian work: Understand how aid can fall under the control of belligerents, and how humanitarian workers might mitigate attempts by outsiders to manipulate aid efforts for political or military objectives
  • Humanitarian principles: Understand the limits to the principles and recognize situations in which adhering too strictly to the principles can do more harm than good

Themes: perception and acceptance, neutrality and independence, human rights and crimes against humanity during a humanitarian response.

Case: Background

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Background

The Balkan peninsula is an area of southeast Europe that is surrounded by water on three sides: the Adriatic Sea to the west, the Mediterranean Sea and the Marmara Sea to the south, and the Black Sea to the east. Historically, the Balkans was known as a crossroad of cultures; it was the juncture between Latin and Greek influence, Orthodox and Catholic Christianity, Bulgars and Slavs, as well as a meeting point between Islam and Christianity. The First Balkan War occurred in 1912-1913, when the nation-states of Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, and Montenegro united against the Ottoman Empire. By the end of the war, almost all remaining European territories of the Ottoman Empire were partitioned among the allies. Bulgaria was dissatisfied over the division of spoils in Macedonia and attacked Serbia and Greece, thus starting the Second Balkan War.

The First World War was also sparked in the Balkans in 1914 when a revolutionary organization assassinated the Austro-Hungarian heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. In the aftermath of World War I, the nation of Yugoslavia was created as a union of the South Slavic peoples in a merger between the provisional State of Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, and the Kingdom of Serbia. Six socialist republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia, and Serbia made up Yugoslavia – Serbia also contained two Socialist Autonomous Provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo. When the Second World War began, German, Italian, and Hungarian forces invaded Yugoslavia. The Nazis created an independent state of Croatia as a satellite state and German troops occupied Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as parts of Serbia and Slovenia. By 1945, the Soviets entered Romania and Bulgaria and forced the Germans out of the Balkans. Yugoslavia was renamed the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia in 1946, and again renamed the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1963, both under the socialist leadership of Josip Broz Tito. Under Tito’s rule, Yugoslavia began to prosper economically, but toward the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, certain government voices among Yugoslavia’s constituent areas became increasingly nationalistic. After Tito’s death in 1980, the Yugoslavian government became increasingly divided across nationalistic lines.

During the Cold War, most countries in the Balkans were governed by communist governments; by the early 1990s, the region’s former Soviet bloc countries began transitioning towards democratic free-market societies. During this process, wars between the former Yugoslav republics broke out after Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia declared independence, and Serbia declared the dissolution of the union as unconstitutional. The Yugoslav Wars were ethnic conflicts at the root, and the dominance of the Serbian nationalist movement in the Yugoslav federation eventually led to the “Republika Srpska’s” campaign of land reacquisition and ethnic cleansing of eastern Bosnia. What followed was a decade of armed confrontation, where gradually all other Republics declared independence. Bosnia-Herzegovina was the most affected by the fighting, and it was to ameliorate these scenes of bloodshed that the United Nations, NATO, and international humanitarian actors intervened.

Case: Part 1

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Case: Part 1

In 1991, the population of the multi-ethnic Socialist Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina was diverse and geographically intermingled, with approximately 43% Bosniaks (mainly Muslim), 31% Bosnian Serbs (mainly Orthodox), and 17% Bosnian Croats (mainly Catholic). Following Slovenia and Croatia’s secessions from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Bosnia-Herzegovina overwhelmingly passed a referendum for independence in February 1992. However, the political representatives of the Bosnian Serbs boycotted the referendum and moved to establish their own Serbian republic within Bosnia, the Republika Srpska (RS). They received support from neighboring Serbia under the leadership of Slobodan Milošević and the Serb-dominated Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA). In the fight for territory, Milošević and his Bosnian Serb allies pursued a policy of redrawing borders to unify ethnic Serbs into a “Greater Serbia.” Uncertain of whether and how to intervene, outside powers remained ambivalent and humanitarian action became the only form of political action.

As the dissolution of Yugoslavia began to turn violent in 1991, the United Nations imposed an arms embargo on all of former Yugoslavia. However, when Bosnia declared independence in 1992, this restriction on weapons inadvertently perpetuated the imbalance of power and helped the militarily superior Bosnian Serb troops, backed materially and politically by Belgrade, to dominate in Bosnia. While ethnic Serb, Croat, and Bosniak forces all committed crimes amidst the conflict, the brutality of the Bosnian Serb forces or the “VRS” was the most severe. Belligerents separated healthy men from their families and put them in camps under a brutal regimen of abuse, murder, and group executions. They terrorized women, children, and the elderly in unsanitary detention centers, depriving them of food and water, and subjecting them to rape and beatings. In 1992, British journalists captured and publicized footage of Omarska and Trnopolje concentration camps in Bosnia; this was only a small glimpse into a much larger pattern of ethnic cleansing in the region. Bosnian Serb forces strategically located dozens of concentration camps with the intention of clearing all traces of Muslim and Croat “enemies” from “their” land. The aggressors were unconcerned with outside scrutiny or sanctions, and blatantly used civilians and international relief activities as pawns in the conflict.

The town of Srebrenica has perhaps become most synonymous with the crimes of the Bosnian War. As the Bosnian Serb army expelled non-Serbs from the Serb-controlled areas of Bosnia, many displaced Bosnian Muslims fled to, or became trapped in, the city of Srebrenica. Over the course of the war, the town’s population had swelled to an estimated 60,000 – about six times its peacetime population. Along with other towns located in the predominantly Serbian-majority eastern Bosnia, Srebrenica’s Bosniak majority posed an obstacle to plans of a “Greater Serbia.” In an attempt to force their surrender, Bosnian Serb forces surrounded and besieged the town – cutting off vital supply lines of food, medicine, electricity, and running water – and exposed the population to indiscriminate shelling, sniping, and landmines, exacerbating already severe humanitarian needs among the growing population. The most vulnerable were displaced Bosniak children and elderly, many of whom lacked adequate shelter in freezing temperatures. Communicable diseases and risk of starvation quickly became a major problem, with deaths and malnutrition peaking in the winter of 1992/1993. Doctors without Borders (MSF) surgeons, anesthetics, medical doctors, and nurses entered the enclave in March 1993 and provided the main source of care in Srebrenica – although their access to supplies was not significantly better than that of others trapped in the enclave.

In the same month, the UN peacekeeping commander in Bosnia, General Philippe Morillon, led a UN medical and reconnaissance team to Srebrenica to assess the dire situation. When the desperate Bosniaks physically prevented General Morillon’s departure, he responded by announcing that Srebrenica was now under the protection of the UN forces. While this announcement quelled the fears of the listening Bosniaks, it created panic at UN headquarters. General Morillon had made a moral commitment on behalf of the international community without clearance or debate. The UN Security Council continued to discuss how best to end the Bosnian crisis and in April 1993, in part trapped by Morillon’s declaration, the UN Security Council passed a resolution to create safe areas – first for Srebrenica then for Sarajevo, Tuzla, Zepa, Gorazde and Bihac. These protected zones designated certain areas as off-limits for military targeting and authorized the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) to deter attacks against the safe areas. However, the lack of clarity in military mandate and implementation coupled with the disregard of the Bosnian Serb authorities for international norms and conventions, would soon result in a direct test of the UN’s resolve in Bosnia.

The UNPROFOR commander, the commander of the Bosnian Muslim forces, and the Commander of the Bosnian Serb forces signed a trilateral agreement to demilitarize Srebrenica on April 17, 1993. Bosniak forces in Srebrenica started handing over their weapons in return for UNPROFOR protection, but the Bosnian Serb forces never laid down their arms. When Mladic’s forces continued their offensive, UNPROFOR denied the Bosniaks’ request to have their weapons returned. Bosnian Serb forces surrounded the city of Srebrenica in January 1993, and increasingly controlled both humanitarian and civilian access, leading up to the massacre in 1995. Humanitarian actors including the ICRC and UNHCR who attempted to strictly adhere to the principles of neutrality and impartiality, found it exceedingly difficult to provide assistance or protection to Srebrenician civilians because of aggressive actions by the Bosnian Serbs who controlled access to the enclave. Bosnian Serb forces ignored international condemnation for their deadbolt control of the region and continued to kidnap and intimidate Bosniaks and peacekeepers alike. Safe areas had become some of the most dangerous places for Bosnian Muslims to be.

Imagine you are a humanitarian actor who recently arrived in the field, and you are receiving conflicting information regarding security conditions in your area of operations. On which of the following would you rely the most?

  •                            
a. The international community (i.e. the United Nations, or Peacekeeping forces)


  •                            
b. Your organization’s headquarters (i.e. information or directives from leadership)


  •                            
c. Your own assessment of the situation on the ground


  •                            
d. Local partners and community sources

Case: Part 2

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Case: Part 2

For two years the Bosnian Serb army under General Ratko Mladić continued to test the resolve of the international community to protect the safe areas. In July 1995, they attacked and captured five UNPROFOR observation posts in the southern part of the enclave, forcing Bosniak residents to flee north into the town of Srebrenica. When some UN forces withdrew after taking fire from the Serbs, a group of Bosniaks demanded their protection and made makeshift brigades to prevent the UNPROFOR from retreating. The President of the Republic of Srbska, Radovan Karadžić, taking advantage of the demilitarized Bosniaks and UNPROFOR’s lack of resolve, ordered the capture of Srebrenica. Serb forces quickly overran the safe area. By July 11, 1995, 40,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and residents from Srebrenica had gathered seeking protection at the UN base in Potočari just a few miles away from Srebrenica town center. When Bosnian Serb forces advanced to Poticari, they detained all men of fighting age, and deported the women and children on buses under the watch of UNPROFOR Dutch battalion officers. In the ensuing days, Bosnian Serb troops systematically murdered more than 8,000 detained Bosniak Muslim men and boys, and dumped their bodies into pits in the surrounding forests and fields. UNPROFOR Dutch forces surrendered their posts and retreated to their armored personnel carriers, while the UN’s 30,000 liters of petrol was used to fuel the transport of men and boys to the killing fields, and power the bulldozers to plough thousands of corpses into mass graves. In Srebrenica, where the massacre of 8,000 men and boys has been deemed genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), some analysts have faulted the Dutch peacekeepers for not only mishandling the crisis, but for being complicit in it – by disarming the Bosniaks, then abandoning them and even facilitating their deportation and murder. Others maintain that the UNPROFOR lacked the mandate and resources to prevent hostilities and protect civilians, or even themselves.

The international community was heavily criticized for failing to stop ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia. There was no consensus then, nor is there now, on what UN, or UNPROFOR should have done in the absence of international political resolve to settle the conflict. The peacekeepers’ primary mission was to supervise a ceasefire that did not exist, and the mandate was enlarged to secure the conditions for the effective delivery of humanitarian aid without the means to enforce it. As the belligerents, especially the Bosnian Serb forces, tried to control the flow of aid around the country, UNPROFOR and aid agencies had to depend on the consent of their attackers to reach vulnerable populations.

With all of the looting and destruction, aid workers’ efforts were thwarted by the need to negotiate humanitarian access and eventually some 950,000 tons of humanitarian relief supplies were delivered throughout the country; but how effective was aid expected to be if there was no political will to address the underlying situation? Under the threat of a Bosnian Serb attack the designated “safe areas” essentially functioned as open air detention centers for Bosniaks, humanitarians, and UNPROFOR alike. With belligerents deliberately targeting civilians, in addition to manipulating humanitarian efforts to serve their objectives, how did the humanitarian principles factor into aid activity on the ground?

“You are a humanitarian working in Bosnia’s safe areas. You notice that armed groups are taking relief and food supplies and selling emergency aid on the black market. What do you do?

  •                            
a. Stop your work and withdraw from the area because humanitarian efforts on the ground could be fueling the conflict


  •                            
b. Notify your organization and express your concern about the effectiveness of aid in the current environment


  •                            
c. Continue your focus on vulnerable populations and avoid confrontations with armed groups


  •                            
d. Confront the armed actors and demand that they respect the humanitarian nature of relief supplies.



………………………………………………………………………………………..

Discussion 10 :

What is the impact of humanitarian assistance being harnessed to advance security, military, and political aims?

Topic: 5. Afghanistan-Pakistan – Set 1 / Topic 1

Reading List

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Required Reading List

Andrew Featherstone and Amany Abouzeid, “It’s the thought that counts: humanitarian principles and practice in Pakistan,” ActionAid (2010).

“Humanitarianism in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Humanitarian Exchange 49 (2011).

IRIN, “The use and and abuse of humanitarian principle,” IRIN News (2013).

Recommended Additional Resources

Julia Brooks, “Tensions of Civil-Military Engagement in Complex Emergencies: The Case of Pakistan,” Advanced Training Program on Humanitarian Action (2017).

Marion Pechayre, “Humanitarian Action in Pakistan 2005-2010: Challenges, Principles and Politics,” Feinstein International Center (2011).

Antonio Donini, “Between a rock and a hard place: integration or independence of humanitarian action”, International Review of the Red Cross 93 (2011). 

Jamie A. Williamson, “Using humanitarian aid to ‘win hearts and minds’: a costly failure?”, International Review of the Red Cross, 93 (2011).

Michael Young, “The uses of adversity: humanitarian principles and reform in the Pakistan displacement crisis,” Humanitarian Practice Network (2010).

Victoria Metcalfe, Simone Haysom, and Stuart Gordon, “Trends and Challenges in Humanitarian Civil–military Coordination: A Review of the Literature,” Humanitarian Policy Group (2012).

Introductory Text

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Case 4: Afghanistan and Pakistan

Introduction

Afghanistan and Pakistan have long exemplified some of the most daunting challenges to the humanitarian community. Both countries showcase the trends in the humanitarian landscape over the past two decades: the increase in frequency and intensity of complex emergencies and natural disasters; the expansion of humanitarian assistance from a narrow set of relief activities to a widening range of poverty reduction, peacebuilding, and development activities; and the growing involvement of private contractors, government actors, and military forces in humanitarian response.

While militaries have long played key roles in humanitarian response, the “militarization of aid” as seen in Afghanistan and Pakistan illustrated the unprecedented use of humanitarian assistance as a core pillar of political and military strategies. This shift led to the steady erosion of the perceived neutrality, impartiality, and independence of humanitarian actors in both countries, with clear consequences for the access, acceptance, and safety of humanitarian workers.

Learning Objectives

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Learning objectives for this case:

  • Scope of humanitarian work: Describe the expansion of humanitarian action beyond emergency relief activities to its use in advancing political and military aims
  • Implementation of humanitarian work: Identify the issues that arise when humanitarian action is supported by a growing range of political and military actors
  • Humanitarian principles: Understand how perceptions of neutrality and impartiality affect operational access and security

Themes: Militarization of aid, risk and securitymental healthfunding

Case: Background

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Background

Divided by the Durand Line, Afghanistan and Pakistan are bound by historical, religious, and ethnolinguistic connections between the Pashtun people and other ethnic groups that reside on both sides of this border. Both countries have a long and turbulent history of violent wars, natural disasters, and political instability.

Afghanistan has experienced armed conflict and a series of devastating civil wars that have lasted over thirty years. The Soviet-Afghan War lasted from 1979-1989, resulting in the deaths of 850,000 to 1.5 million civilians. Millions of Afghan refugees left the country, mostly going to Pakistan and Iran. To date, Afghanistan, with an approximate population of 32 million, has some of the world’s worst social indicators, compounded by extremely high levels of violence and gender discrimination. Humanitarian needs are varied and difficult to meet: the majority of Afghans live in hard-to-reach rural areas; about 840,000 Afghans are internally displaced by conflict; over 200,000 people are exposed to natural disasters each year; and more than 2.2 million people suffer from food insecurity.

The post-independence history of Pakistan (population over 192 million) has been similarly characterized by political instability, hand-offs between civilian and military rule, and conflicts with its other neighbor, India. The country continues to face problems of overpopulation, poverty, illiteracy, and corruption. Internal conflicts are fueled by a war between radical and moderate Islam, a crisis of governance between Pakistan’s center and periphery, Pashtun nationalism, a class war against Pakistan’s politically dominant feudal interests, and the expansion of regional and transnational terrorist and security threats. The country also suffers from persistent large-scale disasters. Between 1991 and 2013, Pakistan experienced 44 distinct total disasters, an average of 1-2 a year. These included avalanches, cold waves, cyclones, droughts, earthquakes, floods, heat waves, rain and snowfall, and storms. In 2010, widespread flooding in Pakistan affected more than 18 million people, injuring over 2,900 and killing 1,985 people, and doing an estimated $9.7 billion in infrastructure damage.

These substantial challenges were compounded after the attacks on September 11, 2001 initiated the “Global War on Terrorism,” a military, political, legal, and ideological struggle that transformed the geopolitics of the Middle East and radically altered the political and institutional context of humanitarian operations in the region. Afghanistan and Pakistan soon became the most prominent theater of operations against al-Qaeda and its radical Islamic affiliates, the targets of a political and military strategy that would disrupt designated terrorist organizations and prevent them from continuing attacks against the United States and its allies.

In October 2001, the U.S. government launched Operation Enduring Freedom to topple the Taliban government in Afghanistan, the first in a variety of counterinsurgency and anti-terrorism operations that would unfold across both countries. In December, after the Taliban government fell from power and a new Afghan government formed under President Hamid Karzai, the UN Security Council established an initial international force of 1600 troops (the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF) to provide security and bolster the Karzai administration. Meanwhile, the Taliban began to regroup in Pakistan, nurturing an insurgency to launch attacks on coalition forces and regain control of Afghanistan that continues to date.

The Pakistani government has been a close ally of the West in the War on Terror, though regarding the conflict largely as an internal concern. The Pakistani military’s offensives against Taliban insurgents in the west of the country have generated massive population displacements on a scale unmatched since Pakistan became an independent state in 1947. In 2008, at least 500,000 people were displaced, mainly from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). While the Pakistani military had engaged in fighting with the Taliban since 2001, it was still offering political concessions to militant groups as recently as February 2009, including ceasefire agreements and introduction of sharia law in North West Frontier Province (NWFP). It was only after the Taliban continued attacks in NWFP’s Central Swat District and into Buner, just 100 km from the capital city of Islamabad, that the government escalated its response and launched a major offensive in April 2009. In the first three weeks of May 2009, 1.4 million people fled from NWFP. By mid-July, Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) put the total at just over 2 million, although unofficial figures were as high as 3.5 million. In August 2014, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had registered 714,548 internally displaced people (IDPs) in need of humanitarian assistance due to ongoing security operations in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (the new name for NWFP), with operations in North Waziristan further displacing approximately 500,000 people.

Case: Part 1

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Case: Part 1

As the international community poured unprecedented attention and resources into Afghanistan and Pakistan to promote stability and peace within the larger framework of the US-led Global War on Terror (over 130,000 troops as of 2010), humanitarian assistance came to be seen as a critical tool to advance security and political interests. In the interest of legitimizing counterinsurgency efforts and undermining support for militant groups, Western militaries and governments deployed joint civil-military teams with expansive mandates that went far beyond traditional combat missions, to strategies for winning the “hearts and minds” of local communities with the provision of food, water, medicine, and other traditional humanitarian goods and services.

Click to write the question text

You are the Country Director of a humanitarian organization hoping to access a community in dire need of assistance. The only way to access the community is with the assistance of government forces, who have been locked in a campaign with insurgents taking cover in the community. What do you do?

  •                            
a. Accept the military assistance


  •                            
b. Refuse the assistance

Case: Part 2

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Case: Part 2

In May 2003, US Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Andrew Natsios sent a clear message against neutral humanitarianism by scolding NGOs for not clearly and consistently identifying their aid activities in Afghanistan as funded by the US government. In Afghanistan, the US military’s delivery of assistance in civilian clothing, as well as the conditionality placed on military aid in return for intelligence, was particularly controversial. In Pakistan, the majority of international organizations remained silent on the lack of independent access to conflict areas, acquiescing to constant pressure from the Pakistani government not to speak of “internally displaced persons” or the conduct of hostilities, or to even use the word “humanitarian” in appeals and other communications from the humanitarian community. Instead, anti-Taliban operations were downplayed as law enforcement operations that resulted in the temporary dislocation of civilians.

The reputation of humanitarian organizations was further compromised by a few well-publicized instances of intelligence operations using humanitarian work as a cover. In Pakistan, the US used the relief effort in Kashmir after the 2005 earthquake to slip covert officers into the country; in 2011, the CIA used several public health and vaccination campaigns as a ruse for DNA collection to assist in searching for al-Qaeda operatives in local communities. Revelations of these activities resulted in significant curtailment of humanitarian access in Pakistan, and in 2012, Pakistani authorities’ expulsion of the NGO Save the Children received much attention. To date, Pakistani authorities have deregistered dozens of local aid groups and moved to cut off foreign funding to local organizations. Such curtailment has caused severe consequences for public health and humanitarian outcomes, and limited the ability of organizations to assess and respond to severe humanitarian needs.

Humanitarians hoping to maintain a neutral, impartial, or independent stance were severely compromised by these pressures. On the ground, this blurring of the lines between humanitarian, political, and military actors meant that humanitarians were often perceived as taking sides, fueling hostility and the willingness of militant groups like the Taliban to intentionally target civilian aid workers. As insurgent groups came to regard humanitarian agencies as legitimate targets, attacks on civilians, especially international aid workers, contractors and local leaders, increased as a deliberate strategy to maintain a high level of violence and fear.

The space for humanitarians to operate safely and effectively shrunk dramatically. Remote management and monitoring of projects affected both the reach and quality of aid, and national and international pressure significantly curtailed impartial dialogue with insurgent groups in order to reach vulnerable communities. In a sign of increased risk adversity, “bunkerization” by humanitarian organizations and development NGOs became more common. Security measures — such as erecting high walls, reducing staff mobility, employing armed security and escorts, and limiting interaction with local people — in some cases mitigated risk and facilitated access to populations in need. However, in the longer term, associations with armed forces may have further jeopardized perceptions of humanitarians as neutral, impartial actors.

Humanitarian assistance has always been a political activity, as it engages authorities in conflict-affected countries and relies on financial support from donors that hold their own political interests. Yet, the expansion of military operations in the interest of a counterinsurgency and regional stabilization agenda has resulted in an unprecedented loss of control by humanitarian relief organizations over their working environment. Afghanistan remains the only complex emergency where all major donors, with the exception of Switzerland, are also belligerents; it is the only conflict where the UN has fully sided with the government, though its legitimacy is questioned by many Afghans; and it is the only complex emergency where the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is neither visibly negotiating access nor openly advocating for the respect for humanitarian principles. In Pakistan, the military has not only played a critical role as a first responder after natural disasters; it is also a party to a non-international armed conflict against militant groups on Pakistani territory, and acts as an arm of the state largely dictating the terms of humanitarian response, particularly in areas with anti-Taliban operations.

In complex and highly politicized contexts like Afghanistan and Pakistan, the humanitarian principles are fundamental in order to gain the trust of local populations, maintain acceptance by parties to conflict, and thereby secure access to meet humanitarian needs. Yet the universality, relevance and applicability of humanitarian principles are increasingly being challenged by the counterinsurgency and stabilization doctrine. How can organizations better uphold or assert humanitarian principles? Is it even possible to do so in such a challenging operating environment?

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You are the Country Director of a humanitarian organization, and your donor implements a new policy stating that all assistance must be clearly marked to indicate the source of funding. Doing so would have immediate effects on the local community’s perception of your organization. What do you do?  

  •                            
a. Comply with the policy


  •                            
b. Refuse to comply


  •  

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Discussion 1 :

Consider the humanitarian principle of neutrality. How can humanitarian organizations remain neutral while also gaining the acceptance of local populations, armed groups and/or host states? Should they?

Topic: 1. Humanitarian Principles / Topic 1

Discussion 2

IHL limits the scope of hostilities and unnecessary suffering in armed conflict, however, it also allows for considerable collateral damage to civilians in accordance with military necessity. Is this still consistent with the principle of humanity and the preservation of life and dignity? Why or why not?

Topic: 1. Humanitarian Principles / Topic 2

Reading List

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Required Reading List

OCHA, “Humanitarian Principles,” (2010). 

ICRC, “The Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Disaster Relief,” (1994). [for other languages, click here]

ICRC, “Summary of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and their Additional Protocols,” International Committee of the Red Cross (2012).  

ICRC, “International Humanitarian Law: Answers to your Questions,” International Committee of the Red Cross (2002). 

Schwendimann, F., “ “The legal framework of humanitarian access in armed conflict”,” International Review of the Red Cross 93 (2011)

Recommended Additional Resources

Online Learning Modules

Advanced Training Program on Humanitarian Action, International Humanitarian Law Distance Learning Series

Building a Better Response

ICRC, The basic rules and principles of IHL

Articles

J. Labbé and P. Daudin, “Applying the humanitarian principles: Reflecting on the experience of the International Committee of the Red Cross”, International Review of the Red Cross 97 (2015)

L. Minear, “The theory and practice of neutrality: Some thoughts on the tensions”, International Review of the Red Cross 81 (1999)

K. Mackintosh, “The Principles of Humanitarian Action in International Humanitarian Law”, Humanitarian Policy Group Report 5, Overseas Development Institute (2000)

Brookings Institute, Humanitarian Principles and Law (2011) (book chapter) 

ICRC, International Humanitarian Law and the challenges of contemporary armed conflicts, 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent ( 2015)

J.-F. Quéguiner, ‘Precautions under the law governing the conduct of hostilities’, International Review of the Red Cross 88 (2006).

Websites

ICRC, How does law protect in war?

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, Rule of Law in Armed Conflict (RULAC) Project

IHL Full Text Databases

ICRC, IHL Treaties

ICRC, Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Additional Protocols, and their Commentaries

ICRC, Customary IHL database

ICRC, National Implementation of IHL

…………………………………………………………………………………………….

Discussion 3:

Why is the crisis in Goma considered a failure of humanitarian action?

Topic: 2. Goma – Set 1 / Topic 1

 Discussion 4:

What measures could humanitarians have taken to increase the safety and security within Goma’s refugee camps?

Topic: 2. Goma – Set 1 / Topic 2

Discussion 5:

In what ways did the Sphere project advance humanitarian response? In what ways has Sphere fallen short?

Topic: 2. Goma – Set 1 / Topic 3

Reading List

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Required Reading List

John Eriksson, “Study III. Humanitarian Aid and Effects,” The International Response to Conflict and Genocide: Lessons from the Rwanda Experience – Synthesis Report (1996). 

Margie Buchanan-Smith, “How the Sphere Project Came into Being: A Case Study of Policy-Making in the Humanitarian Aid Sector and the Relative Influence of Research,” Overseas Development Institute (2015). 

Ray Wilkinson, “Heart of Darkness,” Refugees Magazine (1997). 

Recommended Additional Resources

Médecins Sans Frontières, “Rwandan Refugee Camps in Zaire and Tanzania 1994-1995,” Case Studies: Médecins Sans Frontières Speaks Out (2016).

Peter Walker and Catherine Russ, “Fit for purpose: the role of modern professionalism in evolving the humanitarian endeavour,” International Review of the Red Cross 93 (2011).

Peter Walker and Catherine Russ, “Professionalizing the Humanitarian Sector – A Scoping Study,” Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance (2010).

Sphere Project, “Sphere Handbook: Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response, 2011” (2011).

Introductory Text

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Case 1: Goma

Introduction

In 1994, the Rwandan genocide triggered one of the largest and most rapid population displacements in the modern era. In addition to the internal displacement of over one million people within Rwanda, in a matter of two months, over two million people fled to Tanzania, Burundi and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo).

The Great Lakes Refugee Crisis, as it came to be known, hit its peak in mid-July 1994, when a rapid refugee influx into major camps north of Goma (Zaire) was followed by a devastating cholera and dysentery outbreak. The humanitarian community, overtaken by the sudden influx of over one million refugees from Rwanda, was unable to meet the escalating needs of the refugee population, calling into question the professionalism of various actors, the limits of an international response, the ability of humanitarians to protect vulnerable groups, and the potential for humanitarian response to intensify suffering.

Learning Objectives

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Learning Objectives for this case:

  • Scope of humanitarian work: Weigh the value of humanitarian action in conflict, particularly when aid results in unintended consequences that harm the affected population.
  • Implementation of humanitarian work: Understand the events that gave critical momentum to humanitarian professionalization efforts, such as the Sphere project.
  • Humanitarian principles: Identify the dilemmas that arise in maintaining neutrality and impartiality when aid may serve to fuel conflict or harm the affected population.

Themes: Professionalism, local capacity, aid and developmentvulnerable populations

Case: Background

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Background

Known as “the land of a thousand hills,” Rwanda’s unique geography has played a major role in its development. Bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (which was known as Zaire until 1997), Rwanda is separated from its neighbors by the Rift Valley to the west, taken up by  large Lake Kivu; the Virunga volcano chain to the north; and the large marshes and savannah along its eastern border.

Rwanda is considered densely populated by African standards. Most of the population is concentrated in the fertile central zone of the country. Before European exploration and colonization of Rwanda, the Hutu and Tutsi groups lived largely peacefully side by side. Hutus were mainly Bantu farmers comprising roughly 85% of the population. Tutsis were mainly pastoralist migrants from Ethiopia, comprising roughly 15% of the population. Hutus and Tutsis spoke the same Kinyarwanda language, intermarried, and had no distinguishable cultural customs or attributes.

In the late 19th century, Tutsi kings began centralizing power and enacting anti-Hutu policies. From 1899-1916, Germany controlled Rwanda, and from 1916-1961, Rwanda was under Belgian trusteeship. Both European nations perpetuated anti-Hutu, pro-Tutsi policies. In 1959, the Hutu population revolted. Thousands of Tutsis were massacred, and thousands more fled into Burundi and Uganda. From these neighboring countries, Tutsi armed groups would make incursions into Rwanda over the coming decades.

In the following 40 years of Rwandan independence, Hutus consolidated their political power under an authoritarian central government. Tutsi refugees living abroad became increasingly frustrated by the Rwandan government’s refusal to allow for their return, in addition to inhospitable policies displayed by their host countries. In 1990, the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) launched a cross-border insurgency from Uganda. The Arusha peace accords, signed in 1993 by representatives of the Rwandan government and the RPF, signaled a resolution to the conflict. However, the terms of the accord were never implemented. Violence against the minority Tutsi population and Hutu critics of the government escalated, fed by state support and a media campaign of “Hutu power” in which “feudal” Tutsis were presented as a “foreign” threat to Hutu existence. Hutu civilians began organizing into militias, many of them armed with machetes.

On April 6, 1994, a surface to air missile struck a plane carrying the Hutu President of Rwanda, Juvenal Habyarimana, and the Hutu president of Burundi, killing both men shortly before the plane was slated to land in Kigali. This incident caused the simmering ethnic hostilities between Tutsis and Hutus to erupt. Mass violence and slaughter began across Rwanda. Over the course of 100 days, Hutu extremist militias killed over 800,000 Tutsis and their Hutu sympathizers—causing the third largest genocide of the 20th century. The genocide was brought to an end in July when the RPF reinvaded Rwanda, gaining control of Kigali and most of the countryside.

A mass exodus of Rwandan, as well as Burundian and Zairian refugees followed in the genocide’s aftermath. Fearing retribution, two million Hutus fled Rwanda, while 750,000 Tutsis living abroad returned to the country. An estimated 500,000 Rwandans fled east into Tanzania in the month of April. By May, a further 200,000 people had fled south into Burundi. By the end of August, the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that 2.1 million refugees had fled to neighboring countries, spread across 35 camps, in what became known as the Great Lakes Refugee crisis.

The largest and most precarious refugee settlements centered around north of the small lakeside border town of Goma, the capital of North Kivu in Zaire. Under Belgian rule, Goma and neighboring towns like Bukavu and Gisenyi had been idyllic colonial retreats, with lakeside mansions and expensive European restaurants surrounded by majestic volcanos. However, Goma was poorly suited to host refugees, with limited habitable space along Lake Kivu, and surrounding areas to the north composed of hard volcanic rock.

Case: Part 1

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Case: Part 1

On July 14 and 15, 10-12,000 refugees crossed the border per hour, most through the sole Rwanda-Zaire border crossing of Gisenyi-Goma on the north shore of Lake Kivu. By the end of that short week (July 14-19), approximately 1.2 million Hutu refugees flowed into the North Kivu region of Zaire, with 850,000 refugees crossing into Goma town and traveling further north. The unprecedented size and scale of the refugee presence dwarfed Goma’s own population of 15,000 people, and with nowhere to go, refugees squatted near the lake and were turned north to form a vast camp on the volcanic flats of Mount Nyaragongo. The lava terrain at the foothills was so hard that boreholes, wells, or latrines proved nearly impossible to dig. As refugees turned to scant water supplies trucked in from Lake Kivu as their repository for drinking, washing clothes, bathing, and sewage, the conditions were set for rapid and large-scale outbreaks of waterborne diarrheal disease, exacerbated by dehydration, malnutrition, and exhaustion.

By the end of July, an epidemic of cholera and dysentery was affecting all camps in the area, and the strained humanitarian community struggled to meet demands for clean water, proper sanitation and hygiene. Over 48,000 Rwandan refugees would die during the first month after their arrival in Zaire, a death rate two to three times the highest previously recorded in any refugee population. On the worst day in late July, at least 7,000 people died in one 24-hour period. Ninety percent of these deaths were due to diarrheal disease; the rest from dehydration, malnutrition, and exhaustion.

Those who witnessed the suffering in Goma described it as “hell on earth.” Extensive media coverage, a nearby airport facilitating access, and a weakened government authority soon prompted an outpouring of international support. Many organizations arrived and established themselves as “humanitarian NGOs” to contribute to the relief efforts. In the first two weeks of the Goma operation, the international community spent an estimated $2 billion on the response, and nearly 200 organizations – including UN agencies, NGOs, civil defense and disaster response agencies, and several military contingents from donor countries – played a role. This proliferation of responders resulted not only in duplication and wasted resources but – in a few egregious cases – unnecessary loss of life. Independent evaluations conducted after the epidemic revealed that some organizations had sent inadequately trained and equipped personnel, others had pledged to cover a particular sector and failed, and some were unwilling or unable to coordinate their activities with other organizations. One NGO left people unattended on drips during the cholera outbreak, likely contributing to the death of some of those affected.

During the cases we are going to ask you to put yourself in the situation as described and make a decision. There is not a correct answer. 

After you submit your choice, you can see how your classmates responded.

What defines a “humanitarian organization”? Who should have direct access to IDPs, refugees and vulnerable populations in emergency situations?

  •                            
a. Any group with good intentions, including informal organizations and individuals


  •                            
b. Any group that adheres to the humanitarian principles


  •                            
c. Any group that is providing aid, including non-governmental organizations, militaries, and national agencies


  •                            
d. Any group that has local experience and local capacities to provide aid


  •                            
e. Any group that is officially registered with the host government


  •                            
f. Official governmental and accredited non-governmental agencies with a demonstrated record of providing aid

  •  

Case: Part 2

The struggle to provide assistance was further complicated by a volatile environment of conflict and insecurity. The level of violence within the camps was extremely high, with one retrospective survey of a single camp suggesting that 4,000 refugees died as a result of violence at the hands of Hutu militia members, undisciplined Zairian soldiers, and other refugees. Due to these dangerous conditions, most foreign personnel did not venture deep into the vast refugee settlement and were unable to remain at medical facilities in the camps overnight, severely hampering the ability of medical personnel to maintain continuous care of patients. A proposed peacekeeping force – intended to secure and demilitarize the camps, separate and placate groups of refugees, and move the camps further back from the border with Rwanda – never materialized due to inadequate troop commitments. By the time the epidemic was contained in August, camps in Goma were under the tight control of Hutu “refugee leaders” who were using the camps as bases from which to re-conquer Rwanda and resupply Hutu militia with massive diversions of aid. Many refugees were subjected to propaganda, intimidation, violence, and threats against repatriating.

During the cases we are going to ask you to put yourself in the situation as described and make a decision. There is no correct answer. 

After you submit your choice, you can see how your classmates responded.

Imagine you are the manager of a camp where refugees are being subjected to harassment, recruitment and extortion of aid goods by members of armed groups operating nearby. To what lengths would you go to control the situation and to limit violence?

  •                            
a. I would continue providing aid and not even consider withholding assistance, as it would violate humanitarian principles


  •                            
b. I would divert aid resources to increase security in the camps and attempt to limit the disruption


  •                            
c. I would withhold aid from certain populations in the camps who are associating with the armed groups


  •                            
d. I would pull out entirely rather than see aid be manipulated



The refugee crisis in Goma, and the Rwandan genocide more broadly, constituted a traumatic turning point for the humanitarian sector. It brought into sharp focus the drive for accountability and performance management that had been gaining momentum as agencies were entering increasingly difficult conflict environments in the 1990s. The unprecedented number of agencies and organizations, their lack of regulation, different agencies’ range of standards, combined with poor performance and lack of professionalism, fueled concerns that the humanitarian system was in serious need of an overhaul.

Seven months after the genocide began, a multinational, multi-donor evaluation was launched by a consortium of donors, UN agencies, and NGOs. The landmark Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda (JEEAR) consisted of four separate studies, with Study III of the JEEAR widely regarded as catalyzing nascent efforts to strengthen accountability, improve performance, and institute standards and regulation across the humanitarian sector. Its first set of recommendations aimed to improve NGO performance, such as through a set of principles that would lay the groundwork for future humanitarian work. The second set of recommendations focused on the development of standards and recommended a system of NGO accreditation. One of the key humanitarian quality and accountability initiatives that came out of Rwanda and the drive for wider sectoral reform was the Sphere project, which involved many stakeholders involved in JEEAR.

While JEEAR identified specific weaknesses and suggested reforms for the humanitarian sector, it also pointed to the critical failings outside the humanitarian domain. The Rwanda crisis has been called the ultimate failure: the failure to intervene to prevent or halt the genocide, the subsequent failure to manage the epidemic in Goma, and the failure of the international community to coordinate a political strategy to resolve the crisis. Lacking a political, diplomatic, and military resolution, can we blame the humanitarian community for what happened in Goma? Can humanitarian action ever become a substitute for political will?

  •  

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Discussion 6:

Was the costly international endeavor in Somalia worth the estimated 100,000 lives that it saved? Discuss both sides of the issue to arrive at your conclusion.

Topic: 3. Somalia – Set 1 / Topic 1

Discussion 7:

How did humanitarian relief influence the duration and level of violence in Somalia? Based on your response, discuss the implications of continuing humanitarian work under the conditions laid out in this case.

Topic: 3. Somalia – Set 1 / Topic 2

Reading List

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Reading List

Prunier, Gérard. “Somalia: Civil War, Intervention and Withdrawal 1990 – 1995.” Refworld – WRITENET (1995).

“Somalia, No mercy in Mogadishu: the human cost of the conflict & the struggle for relief.” Africa Watch and Physicians for Human Rights (1992).

Somalia – UNOSOM 1. United Nations News Center.

Additional Resources

Clarke, Walter, and Jeffrey Herbst. “Somalia and the future of humanitarian intervention.” Foreign Affairs 75 (1996).

“Countering Terror in Humanitarian Crises: The Challenge of Delivering Aid to Somalia.” Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research, Harvard University.

Golebiewski, Daniel. “The Humanitarian Interventions of the UN.” The Politic (2013).

Western, Jon, and Joshua S. Goldstein. “Humanitarian intervention comes of age: Lessons from Somalia to Libya.” Foreign Affairs 90 (2011).

Lofland, Valerie J. “Somalia: US intervention and operation restore hope.” Case Studies in Policy-making and Implementation 6 (1992).

Introductory Text

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Case 2: Somalia

Introduction

Somalia in the early 1990s hosted some of the most ambitious and costly humanitarian activities to date. Billions of dollars worth of international interventions arrived in the form of large-scale humanitarian relief, robust state-building programs, and even military operations aimed at stabilizing the country. Yet these humanitarian measures are widely remembered as failed endeavors. The debate remains as to what specifically went wrong, and why such large efforts to stabilize a country yielded so few tangible results.

Learning Objectives

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Learning objectives for this case:

  • Scope of humanitarian work: Understand the debate on whether or not humanitarian actors should be tasked with more than providing immediate relief and aid (e.g. development, nation-building).
  • Implementation of humanitarian work: Analyze the implications of civilian and military response during the complex humanitarian emergency in Somalia.
  • Humanitarian principles: Identify the challenges of adhering to the principles, and the dilemmas that arise from compromising principles in order to gain operational access.

Themes: Media, burnout, civil-military relations

Case: Background

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Background

Located in the Horn of Africa, Somalia is home to infamous warlords and militia and remains one of the poorest economies in the world. Bordered by Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya and 3,000 km of coast along the Indian Ocean, Somalia historically served as the commercial hub of sailors and merchants. It is for its strategic location that the Somalis were colonized by various foreign powers, including Egypt, Britain, France, Italy, and Ethiopia, during the late nineteenth century. Following World War II, Britain retained control of both British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland as protectorates. British Somaliland became independent on June 26, 1960, and Italian Somaliland five days later; the two territories united to form the Somali Republic (otherwise known as Somalia) on July 1, 1960.

In late 1969, President Abdirashid Ali Shermarke was assassinated by his own bodyguard, and a military government assumed power in a coup d’état led by General Mohamed Siad Barre. Barre established himself as the new president and tried to rule in the form of a highly centralized and brutal Marxist dictatorship. He insisted upon the supremacy of party and nation, cutting across local clan loyalties, which had been a strong feature of traditional Somali culture. In July 1977, Barre attempted to expand Greater Somalia to incorporate the Ogaden region, a formerly Somali territory that the British ceded to the Ethiopian Emperor in 1897. Somali troops controlled up to 90% of the Ogaden region at one point, but were ultimately pushed out by a massive Soviet intervention coming to the aid of Ethiopia’s communist regime. In true Cold War fashion, Somalia turned to the U.S. for help.

Between 1977-1978, the Ogaden War caused a massive influx of Somalis living in eastern Ethiopia to enter Somalia. The Somali government appealed for help to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the UNHCR and other humanitarian actors provided basic foodstuffs and services for the next decade. The Barre regime took advantage of international goodwill and deliberately inflated the numbers of refugees in order to increase the amount of aid entering the country. In early 1982, Mogadishu estimated that there were more than 1.3 million refugees in the camps and an additional 700,000 to 800,000 refugees at large. Alternatively, the UN estimated that 450,000 to 620,000 refugees were in the camps. When aid arrived, Somali officials put themselves in between the aid agencies and the refugees to divert much of the relief. The Barre regime went so far as recruiting many of the refugees into its military and using international aid to support these military units. While many of the humanitarian actors on the ground were well aware of these transgressions, aid continued to flow. Barre had given the U.S. access to naval bases in both the North and South, and in return, he received economic and military aid, as well as diplomatic support to sustain his regime.

Throughout the 1980s, the Barre regime intensified repressive tactics to suppress dissidents from all clans. As jailings, torture, and executions mounted, opposition groups organized. Clan-based insurgent movements united in force with a mission to topple Barre’s oppressive regime. A full-scale civil war erupted in 1988 and eventually insurgents stormed the presidential palace in Mogadishu and took control over the capital. However, unity among the opposition groups did not last. In November 1991, eleven months after the overthrow of President Siad Barre, major fighting erupted again. Somalia remained in a perpetual state of violence as different clans and rebel groups competed to fill the power vacuum. Two main armed rival factions emerged, one supporting interim president Ali Mahdi Mohamed, and the other behind General Mohamed Farah Aideed. As fighting intensified in Mogadishu, the international actors on the ground were forced to decide whether or not to remain in Somalia in the midst of the chaos.

Case: Part 1

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Case: Part 1

In this period, beginning in 1990, the flight of farmers due to the conflict began a country-wide collapse of agricultural production and destruction of village water systems. By early 1991, deaths from disease and malnutrition began to rise to alarming proportions. A drought from 1991-1992 further exacerbated the emergency situation. As the food shortage became more extreme, local food and food delivered by humanitarian aid became so valuable that theft and assault on those with food supplies became widespread. Throughout 1991 and into the early 1992 the famine intensified.

In response to the mounting danger on the ground, the U.S. foreign embassy in Somalia evacuated its staff in January 1991 and the United Nations (UN) followed suit; the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also withdrew to their regional offices in Nairobi. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and a handful of other international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – including World Vision, International Medical Corps (IMC), CARE, Save the Children-UK, and Doctors without Borders (MSF) – continued working in country, constituting the only foreign humanitarian presence to stay throughout the fighting. Fraught with fighting among competing militias and lacking central authority, Somalia effectively became a collapsed/failed state and remained one of the world’s poorest and least developed countries. In the absence of law and order and with the proliferation of guns and heavy artillery, travel became dangerous, requiring extraordinary measures on the part of humanitarian organizations. For example, upon failure to reach agreement with the warlords in its area of operations, the ICRC, for the first time, hired armed guards to protect relief supplies and convoys. Countless death threats and physical assaults continued to be directed at humanitarian workers, and several lost their lives while serving in Somalia during this time.

Imagine you are a decision-maker for the ICRC in Somalia in the early 1990s. Your staff are facing increasing threats and violent attacks, how do you respond?

  •                            
a. Continue working and accept the risks


  •                            
b. Work with the local community to inform them of your role, to build your relationship, and to determine the source of the threats


  •                            
c. Divert some aid resources to appease those actors which are threatening your staff


  •                            
d. Hire armed guards to protect the humanitarian workers


  •                            
e. Withdraw your team and end operations.



Case: Part 2

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Case: Part 2

Without a legitimate government, commerce and trade ground to a halt, the banking system was in shambles, electric power and water supply for Mogadishu was unavailable, sanitation and waste collection service was non-existent, and transportation was unreliable at best and dangerous at worst. In 1992, an estimated 1.5 million civilians were displaced from their homes as a result of the shelling and machine gun fire; many camped out in the streets – fearful and starving. Among the Somali population, those most at risk of dying were displaced children who were vulnerable to malnutrition. As local food resources became increasingly scarce and prices rocketed, the armed factions seized relief supplies and controlled its distribution, deeply exacerbating the food security problems faced by the civilian population. In response to the clans hijacking emergency food aid, the international community doubled down on its commitment and expanded its presence on the ground. Following extensive international media coverage of Somalis dying of disease, starvation, and civil war, a large number of humanitarian agencies entered southern Somalia, creating a crowded field of NGOs. Divisions between NGOs and the international agencies deepened when the UN returned to the country in 1992, bringing only a handful of staff. This renewal of UN authority fostered criticism among the NGO community who felt that they were being told what to do by an organization that had abandoned Somalia the year before.

From the rebel groups and warlords who were fighting for control of the government, to international NGOs and the UN who had different ideas on how to best help the people, Somalia had become a quagmire of competing interests and conflicting agendas. What started out as a humanitarian mission to quell an emergency and feed the starving quickly evolved into something more. Humanitarian workers were giving out food to a starving population, but armed security was necessary to protect aid workers and Somali citizens alike. Recognizing that this pattern would not be sustainable for the long-run, the international community put more effort into sponsoring negotiations with different Somali factions and contributing towards nation-building efforts. The mandates of UN missions also started to conflate humanitarian initiatives with state stabilization. As the UN Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM I) fell short of securing humanitarian relief and monitoring a UN-brokered ceasefire of the civil war, a more robust operation took its place. In December 1992, the United Task Force (UNITAF), also known as Operation Restore Hope, was created under the leadership of the United States. This operation was the first time that the UN authorized a military intervention under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to secure an environment for humanitarian relief operations. President Bush ordered 28,000 troops into Somalia to end the looting and attacks on the delivery of food and other supplies, and to “save thousands of innocents.” Not only were US troops better prepared for the deployment to the Somali desert, but UNITAF also had greater tactical mobility and airborne firepower than the earlier UNOSOM force. Some aid agencies also now relied on armed escorts by UNITAF for access and security. The transitional body of UNITAF restored partial security in Mogadishu and the surrounding region, and the UN Secretary-General convened a meeting in early 1993 in which 14 Somalia political and rebel factions agreed to hand over their weapons to international peacekeepers. In May 1993, UNOSOM II formally took over UNITAF operations with a revived mission to continue relief efforts and to restore peace and rebuild the Somali state and economy. Unfortunately, as UNITAF forces withdrew, local militias resumed their prior violent activities and the civil war quickly escalated to pre-UNITAF levels. Military and civilian agencies struggled to coordinate in this early iteration of civilian-military relations, with the military expecting NGOs to support its objective of enforcing order and civilian agencies wanting the military to support their objective of delivering aid.

To what or whom are humanitarian responders ultimately most accountable?

  •                            
a. The aid operation, objectives or mission


  •                            
b. Their organization


  •                            
c. The people they seek to serve


  •                            
d. The humanitarian principles


  •                            
e. Themselves



Further complicating the situation was General Aideed, who came to view UNOSOM II as a threat to his political ambitions. His men increasingly engaged with UN forces and Aideed began broadcasting anti-UN propaganda on Radio Mogadishu. On June 5, 1993, when UN forces were inspecting an arms weapons storage site located near the radio station, Aideed’s militia ambushed and killed 24 Pakistani soldiers assigned to UNOSOM II. The next day, the UN Security Council issued an emergency resolution calling for the arrest of “those responsible” for the massacre. The peacekeepers, far from maintaining their mandate of neutrality, become entangled in a war with Aideed, and UNOSOM II ultimately failed to keep peace in Somalia. Shortly after the tragic Battle of Mogadishu in October 1993, where 18 US soldiers were killed and 84 wounded in a manhunt for Aideed, the US announced the withdrawal of its troops. Other nations, such as Belgium, France, and Sweden follow suit.

Overall, these joint endeavors cost $3 billion, with the US government financing $2.28 billion. The total spent on humanitarian aid was less than 10 percent of that spent on military intervention, since humanitarian aid was only possible with military security. During these three missions, 8, 18, and 143 military personnel were killed, in UNOSOM I, UNITAF, and UNOSOM II, respectively; and it is estimated that 10,000 Somalis were either injured or killed during the combined interventions. Despite the costs, however, most analysts would agree that the operations did help alleviate the humanitarian crisis: the number of displaced persons dropped from 1.5 million in 1992 to 465,000 refugees and 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) by December 2004. The Refugee Policy Group estimated the total number of lives saved in the interventions to be 110,000.

Yet the peak deaths from famine had occurred by the fall of 1992 – before the UN and US-led peacekeeping interventions took place. Though the late operations did help lessen the humanitarian crisis, what were some of the intended and unintended consequences of military support of humanitarian assistance on Somalia’s economic and political situation? Is this type of humanitarian action justified at any cost?

…………………………………………………………………………………………….

Discussion 8:

How should humanitarians reconcile the tension between filling material needs, playing a direct role in ensuring physical security or protection for vulnerable populations, and taking a direct stance in the face of human rights violations?

Topic: 4. The Balkans – Set 1 / Topic 1

Discussion 9:

What were the implications of differing interpretations of neutrality in this context? Consider specific groups or organizations, how they approached their neutrality, and the results.

Topic: 4. The Balkans – Set 1 / Topic 2

Reading List

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Required Reading List

Cutts, Mark. “The humanitarian operation in Bosnia, 1992-95: dilemmas of negotiating humanitarian access.” Centre for Documentation and Research, UNHCR Working Paper no. 8 (1999).

Daalder, Ivo H. “Decision to intervene: How the war in Bosnia ended.” Foreign Service Journal 75 (1998).

Recommended Additional Resources

Kuperman, Alan J. “The moral hazard of humanitarian intervention: Lessons from the Balkans.” International Studies Quarterly 52  (2008).

Young, Kirsten. “UNHCR and ICRC in the former Yugoslavia: Bosnia-Herzegovina.” Revue Internationale de la Croix-Rouge/International Review of the Red Cross 83 (2001).

Introduction

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Case 3: The Balkans

Introduction

The Yugoslav Wars from 1991-2001 resulted in the deaths of an estimated 140,000 people and the displacement of more than 2.2 million individuals. Often depicted as Europe’s deadliest conflict since World War II, the hostilities amidst the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia have become infamous for war crimes and crimes against humanity including genocide, ethnic cleansing, and widespread rape. Emergency relief operations took place in all the republics of the former Yugoslavia, and the UNHCR’s Balkans operation cost over one billion US dollars between 1991 and 1995. However, with armed forces seeking to manipulate aid efforts for political and military objectives, the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina (1992-1995) presented a unique challenge to humanitarians in effectively serving the vulnerable. UN peacekeepers were brought in to secure the humanitarian corridor for aid to reach the intended beneficiaries, but ultimately, the international community failed to safeguard the areas it resolved to keep safe and facilitated the capture and execution of thousands of civilians. In the case of the Balkans, consider how the humanitarians’ understanding of neutrality and impartiality might have limited their ability to protect the vulnerable population they were there to serve.

Learning Objectives

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Learning objectives for this case:

  • Scope of humanitarian work: Understand the responsibility of the humanitarian community, particularly in the absence of political will to address the underlying causes of conflict
  • Implementation of humanitarian work: Understand how aid can fall under the control of belligerents, and how humanitarian workers might mitigate attempts by outsiders to manipulate aid efforts for political or military objectives
  • Humanitarian principles: Understand the limits to the principles and recognize situations in which adhering too strictly to the principles can do more harm than good

Themes: perception and acceptance, neutrality and independence, human rights and crimes against humanity during a humanitarian response.

Case: Background

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Background

The Balkan peninsula is an area of southeast Europe that is surrounded by water on three sides: the Adriatic Sea to the west, the Mediterranean Sea and the Marmara Sea to the south, and the Black Sea to the east. Historically, the Balkans was known as a crossroad of cultures; it was the juncture between Latin and Greek influence, Orthodox and Catholic Christianity, Bulgars and Slavs, as well as a meeting point between Islam and Christianity. The First Balkan War occurred in 1912-1913, when the nation-states of Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, and Montenegro united against the Ottoman Empire. By the end of the war, almost all remaining European territories of the Ottoman Empire were partitioned among the allies. Bulgaria was dissatisfied over the division of spoils in Macedonia and attacked Serbia and Greece, thus starting the Second Balkan War.

The First World War was also sparked in the Balkans in 1914 when a revolutionary organization assassinated the Austro-Hungarian heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. In the aftermath of World War I, the nation of Yugoslavia was created as a union of the South Slavic peoples in a merger between the provisional State of Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, and the Kingdom of Serbia. Six socialist republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia, and Serbia made up Yugoslavia – Serbia also contained two Socialist Autonomous Provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo. When the Second World War began, German, Italian, and Hungarian forces invaded Yugoslavia. The Nazis created an independent state of Croatia as a satellite state and German troops occupied Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as parts of Serbia and Slovenia. By 1945, the Soviets entered Romania and Bulgaria and forced the Germans out of the Balkans. Yugoslavia was renamed the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia in 1946, and again renamed the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1963, both under the socialist leadership of Josip Broz Tito. Under Tito’s rule, Yugoslavia began to prosper economically, but toward the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, certain government voices among Yugoslavia’s constituent areas became increasingly nationalistic. After Tito’s death in 1980, the Yugoslavian government became increasingly divided across nationalistic lines.

During the Cold War, most countries in the Balkans were governed by communist governments; by the early 1990s, the region’s former Soviet bloc countries began transitioning towards democratic free-market societies. During this process, wars between the former Yugoslav republics broke out after Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia declared independence, and Serbia declared the dissolution of the union as unconstitutional. The Yugoslav Wars were ethnic conflicts at the root, and the dominance of the Serbian nationalist movement in the Yugoslav federation eventually led to the “Republika Srpska’s” campaign of land reacquisition and ethnic cleansing of eastern Bosnia. What followed was a decade of armed confrontation, where gradually all other Republics declared independence. Bosnia-Herzegovina was the most affected by the fighting, and it was to ameliorate these scenes of bloodshed that the United Nations, NATO, and international humanitarian actors intervened.

Case: Part 1

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Case: Part 1

In 1991, the population of the multi-ethnic Socialist Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina was diverse and geographically intermingled, with approximately 43% Bosniaks (mainly Muslim), 31% Bosnian Serbs (mainly Orthodox), and 17% Bosnian Croats (mainly Catholic). Following Slovenia and Croatia’s secessions from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Bosnia-Herzegovina overwhelmingly passed a referendum for independence in February 1992. However, the political representatives of the Bosnian Serbs boycotted the referendum and moved to establish their own Serbian republic within Bosnia, the Republika Srpska (RS). They received support from neighboring Serbia under the leadership of Slobodan Milošević and the Serb-dominated Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA). In the fight for territory, Milošević and his Bosnian Serb allies pursued a policy of redrawing borders to unify ethnic Serbs into a “Greater Serbia.” Uncertain of whether and how to intervene, outside powers remained ambivalent and humanitarian action became the only form of political action.

As the dissolution of Yugoslavia began to turn violent in 1991, the United Nations imposed an arms embargo on all of former Yugoslavia. However, when Bosnia declared independence in 1992, this restriction on weapons inadvertently perpetuated the imbalance of power and helped the militarily superior Bosnian Serb troops, backed materially and politically by Belgrade, to dominate in Bosnia. While ethnic Serb, Croat, and Bosniak forces all committed crimes amidst the conflict, the brutality of the Bosnian Serb forces or the “VRS” was the most severe. Belligerents separated healthy men from their families and put them in camps under a brutal regimen of abuse, murder, and group executions. They terrorized women, children, and the elderly in unsanitary detention centers, depriving them of food and water, and subjecting them to rape and beatings. In 1992, British journalists captured and publicized footage of Omarska and Trnopolje concentration camps in Bosnia; this was only a small glimpse into a much larger pattern of ethnic cleansing in the region. Bosnian Serb forces strategically located dozens of concentration camps with the intention of clearing all traces of Muslim and Croat “enemies” from “their” land. The aggressors were unconcerned with outside scrutiny or sanctions, and blatantly used civilians and international relief activities as pawns in the conflict.

The town of Srebrenica has perhaps become most synonymous with the crimes of the Bosnian War. As the Bosnian Serb army expelled non-Serbs from the Serb-controlled areas of Bosnia, many displaced Bosnian Muslims fled to, or became trapped in, the city of Srebrenica. Over the course of the war, the town’s population had swelled to an estimated 60,000 – about six times its peacetime population. Along with other towns located in the predominantly Serbian-majority eastern Bosnia, Srebrenica’s Bosniak majority posed an obstacle to plans of a “Greater Serbia.” In an attempt to force their surrender, Bosnian Serb forces surrounded and besieged the town – cutting off vital supply lines of food, medicine, electricity, and running water – and exposed the population to indiscriminate shelling, sniping, and landmines, exacerbating already severe humanitarian needs among the growing population. The most vulnerable were displaced Bosniak children and elderly, many of whom lacked adequate shelter in freezing temperatures. Communicable diseases and risk of starvation quickly became a major problem, with deaths and malnutrition peaking in the winter of 1992/1993. Doctors without Borders (MSF) surgeons, anesthetics, medical doctors, and nurses entered the enclave in March 1993 and provided the main source of care in Srebrenica – although their access to supplies was not significantly better than that of others trapped in the enclave.

In the same month, the UN peacekeeping commander in Bosnia, General Philippe Morillon, led a UN medical and reconnaissance team to Srebrenica to assess the dire situation. When the desperate Bosniaks physically prevented General Morillon’s departure, he responded by announcing that Srebrenica was now under the protection of the UN forces. While this announcement quelled the fears of the listening Bosniaks, it created panic at UN headquarters. General Morillon had made a moral commitment on behalf of the international community without clearance or debate. The UN Security Council continued to discuss how best to end the Bosnian crisis and in April 1993, in part trapped by Morillon’s declaration, the UN Security Council passed a resolution to create safe areas – first for Srebrenica then for Sarajevo, Tuzla, Zepa, Gorazde and Bihac. These protected zones designated certain areas as off-limits for military targeting and authorized the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) to deter attacks against the safe areas. However, the lack of clarity in military mandate and implementation coupled with the disregard of the Bosnian Serb authorities for international norms and conventions, would soon result in a direct test of the UN’s resolve in Bosnia.

The UNPROFOR commander, the commander of the Bosnian Muslim forces, and the Commander of the Bosnian Serb forces signed a trilateral agreement to demilitarize Srebrenica on April 17, 1993. Bosniak forces in Srebrenica started handing over their weapons in return for UNPROFOR protection, but the Bosnian Serb forces never laid down their arms. When Mladic’s forces continued their offensive, UNPROFOR denied the Bosniaks’ request to have their weapons returned. Bosnian Serb forces surrounded the city of Srebrenica in January 1993, and increasingly controlled both humanitarian and civilian access, leading up to the massacre in 1995. Humanitarian actors including the ICRC and UNHCR who attempted to strictly adhere to the principles of neutrality and impartiality, found it exceedingly difficult to provide assistance or protection to Srebrenician civilians because of aggressive actions by the Bosnian Serbs who controlled access to the enclave. Bosnian Serb forces ignored international condemnation for their deadbolt control of the region and continued to kidnap and intimidate Bosniaks and peacekeepers alike. Safe areas had become some of the most dangerous places for Bosnian Muslims to be.

Imagine you are a humanitarian actor who recently arrived in the field, and you are receiving conflicting information regarding security conditions in your area of operations. On which of the following would you rely the most?

  •                            
a. The international community (i.e. the United Nations, or Peacekeeping forces)


  •                            
b. Your organization’s headquarters (i.e. information or directives from leadership)


  •                            
c. Your own assessment of the situation on the ground


  •                            
d. Local partners and community sources

Case: Part 2

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Case: Part 2

For two years the Bosnian Serb army under General Ratko Mladić continued to test the resolve of the international community to protect the safe areas. In July 1995, they attacked and captured five UNPROFOR observation posts in the southern part of the enclave, forcing Bosniak residents to flee north into the town of Srebrenica. When some UN forces withdrew after taking fire from the Serbs, a group of Bosniaks demanded their protection and made makeshift brigades to prevent the UNPROFOR from retreating. The President of the Republic of Srbska, Radovan Karadžić, taking advantage of the demilitarized Bosniaks and UNPROFOR’s lack of resolve, ordered the capture of Srebrenica. Serb forces quickly overran the safe area. By July 11, 1995, 40,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and residents from Srebrenica had gathered seeking protection at the UN base in Potočari just a few miles away from Srebrenica town center. When Bosnian Serb forces advanced to Poticari, they detained all men of fighting age, and deported the women and children on buses under the watch of UNPROFOR Dutch battalion officers. In the ensuing days, Bosnian Serb troops systematically murdered more than 8,000 detained Bosniak Muslim men and boys, and dumped their bodies into pits in the surrounding forests and fields. UNPROFOR Dutch forces surrendered their posts and retreated to their armored personnel carriers, while the UN’s 30,000 liters of petrol was used to fuel the transport of men and boys to the killing fields, and power the bulldozers to plough thousands of corpses into mass graves. In Srebrenica, where the massacre of 8,000 men and boys has been deemed genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), some analysts have faulted the Dutch peacekeepers for not only mishandling the crisis, but for being complicit in it – by disarming the Bosniaks, then abandoning them and even facilitating their deportation and murder. Others maintain that the UNPROFOR lacked the mandate and resources to prevent hostilities and protect civilians, or even themselves.

The international community was heavily criticized for failing to stop ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia. There was no consensus then, nor is there now, on what UN, or UNPROFOR should have done in the absence of international political resolve to settle the conflict. The peacekeepers’ primary mission was to supervise a ceasefire that did not exist, and the mandate was enlarged to secure the conditions for the effective delivery of humanitarian aid without the means to enforce it. As the belligerents, especially the Bosnian Serb forces, tried to control the flow of aid around the country, UNPROFOR and aid agencies had to depend on the consent of their attackers to reach vulnerable populations.

With all of the looting and destruction, aid workers’ efforts were thwarted by the need to negotiate humanitarian access and eventually some 950,000 tons of humanitarian relief supplies were delivered throughout the country; but how effective was aid expected to be if there was no political will to address the underlying situation? Under the threat of a Bosnian Serb attack the designated “safe areas” essentially functioned as open air detention centers for Bosniaks, humanitarians, and UNPROFOR alike. With belligerents deliberately targeting civilians, in addition to manipulating humanitarian efforts to serve their objectives, how did the humanitarian principles factor into aid activity on the ground?

“You are a humanitarian working in Bosnia’s safe areas. You notice that armed groups are taking relief and food supplies and selling emergency aid on the black market. What do you do?

  •                            
a. Stop your work and withdraw from the area because humanitarian efforts on the ground could be fueling the conflict


  •                            
b. Notify your organization and express your concern about the effectiveness of aid in the current environment


  •                            
c. Continue your focus on vulnerable populations and avoid confrontations with armed groups


  •                            
d. Confront the armed actors and demand that they respect the humanitarian nature of relief supplies.



………………………………………………………………………………………..

Discussion 10 :

What is the impact of humanitarian assistance being harnessed to advance security, military, and political aims?

Topic: 5. Afghanistan-Pakistan – Set 1 / Topic 1

Reading List

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Required Reading List

Andrew Featherstone and Amany Abouzeid, “It’s the thought that counts: humanitarian principles and practice in Pakistan,” ActionAid (2010).

“Humanitarianism in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Humanitarian Exchange 49 (2011).

IRIN, “The use and and abuse of humanitarian principle,” IRIN News (2013).

Recommended Additional Resources

Julia Brooks, “Tensions of Civil-Military Engagement in Complex Emergencies: The Case of Pakistan,” Advanced Training Program on Humanitarian Action (2017).

Marion Pechayre, “Humanitarian Action in Pakistan 2005-2010: Challenges, Principles and Politics,” Feinstein International Center (2011).

Antonio Donini, “Between a rock and a hard place: integration or independence of humanitarian action”, International Review of the Red Cross 93 (2011). 

Jamie A. Williamson, “Using humanitarian aid to ‘win hearts and minds’: a costly failure?”, International Review of the Red Cross, 93 (2011).

Michael Young, “The uses of adversity: humanitarian principles and reform in the Pakistan displacement crisis,” Humanitarian Practice Network (2010).

Victoria Metcalfe, Simone Haysom, and Stuart Gordon, “Trends and Challenges in Humanitarian Civil–military Coordination: A Review of the Literature,” Humanitarian Policy Group (2012).

Introductory Text

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Case 4: Afghanistan and Pakistan

Introduction

Afghanistan and Pakistan have long exemplified some of the most daunting challenges to the humanitarian community. Both countries showcase the trends in the humanitarian landscape over the past two decades: the increase in frequency and intensity of complex emergencies and natural disasters; the expansion of humanitarian assistance from a narrow set of relief activities to a widening range of poverty reduction, peacebuilding, and development activities; and the growing involvement of private contractors, government actors, and military forces in humanitarian response.

While militaries have long played key roles in humanitarian response, the “militarization of aid” as seen in Afghanistan and Pakistan illustrated the unprecedented use of humanitarian assistance as a core pillar of political and military strategies. This shift led to the steady erosion of the perceived neutrality, impartiality, and independence of humanitarian actors in both countries, with clear consequences for the access, acceptance, and safety of humanitarian workers.

Learning Objectives

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Learning objectives for this case:

  • Scope of humanitarian work: Describe the expansion of humanitarian action beyond emergency relief activities to its use in advancing political and military aims
  • Implementation of humanitarian work: Identify the issues that arise when humanitarian action is supported by a growing range of political and military actors
  • Humanitarian principles: Understand how perceptions of neutrality and impartiality affect operational access and security

Themes: Militarization of aid, risk and securitymental healthfunding

Case: Background

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Background

Divided by the Durand Line, Afghanistan and Pakistan are bound by historical, religious, and ethnolinguistic connections between the Pashtun people and other ethnic groups that reside on both sides of this border. Both countries have a long and turbulent history of violent wars, natural disasters, and political instability.

Afghanistan has experienced armed conflict and a series of devastating civil wars that have lasted over thirty years. The Soviet-Afghan War lasted from 1979-1989, resulting in the deaths of 850,000 to 1.5 million civilians. Millions of Afghan refugees left the country, mostly going to Pakistan and Iran. To date, Afghanistan, with an approximate population of 32 million, has some of the world’s worst social indicators, compounded by extremely high levels of violence and gender discrimination. Humanitarian needs are varied and difficult to meet: the majority of Afghans live in hard-to-reach rural areas; about 840,000 Afghans are internally displaced by conflict; over 200,000 people are exposed to natural disasters each year; and more than 2.2 million people suffer from food insecurity.

The post-independence history of Pakistan (population over 192 million) has been similarly characterized by political instability, hand-offs between civilian and military rule, and conflicts with its other neighbor, India. The country continues to face problems of overpopulation, poverty, illiteracy, and corruption. Internal conflicts are fueled by a war between radical and moderate Islam, a crisis of governance between Pakistan’s center and periphery, Pashtun nationalism, a class war against Pakistan’s politically dominant feudal interests, and the expansion of regional and transnational terrorist and security threats. The country also suffers from persistent large-scale disasters. Between 1991 and 2013, Pakistan experienced 44 distinct total disasters, an average of 1-2 a year. These included avalanches, cold waves, cyclones, droughts, earthquakes, floods, heat waves, rain and snowfall, and storms. In 2010, widespread flooding in Pakistan affected more than 18 million people, injuring over 2,900 and killing 1,985 people, and doing an estimated $9.7 billion in infrastructure damage.

These substantial challenges were compounded after the attacks on September 11, 2001 initiated the “Global War on Terrorism,” a military, political, legal, and ideological struggle that transformed the geopolitics of the Middle East and radically altered the political and institutional context of humanitarian operations in the region. Afghanistan and Pakistan soon became the most prominent theater of operations against al-Qaeda and its radical Islamic affiliates, the targets of a political and military strategy that would disrupt designated terrorist organizations and prevent them from continuing attacks against the United States and its allies.

In October 2001, the U.S. government launched Operation Enduring Freedom to topple the Taliban government in Afghanistan, the first in a variety of counterinsurgency and anti-terrorism operations that would unfold across both countries. In December, after the Taliban government fell from power and a new Afghan government formed under President Hamid Karzai, the UN Security Council established an initial international force of 1600 troops (the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF) to provide security and bolster the Karzai administration. Meanwhile, the Taliban began to regroup in Pakistan, nurturing an insurgency to launch attacks on coalition forces and regain control of Afghanistan that continues to date.

The Pakistani government has been a close ally of the West in the War on Terror, though regarding the conflict largely as an internal concern. The Pakistani military’s offensives against Taliban insurgents in the west of the country have generated massive population displacements on a scale unmatched since Pakistan became an independent state in 1947. In 2008, at least 500,000 people were displaced, mainly from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). While the Pakistani military had engaged in fighting with the Taliban since 2001, it was still offering political concessions to militant groups as recently as February 2009, including ceasefire agreements and introduction of sharia law in North West Frontier Province (NWFP). It was only after the Taliban continued attacks in NWFP’s Central Swat District and into Buner, just 100 km from the capital city of Islamabad, that the government escalated its response and launched a major offensive in April 2009. In the first three weeks of May 2009, 1.4 million people fled from NWFP. By mid-July, Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) put the total at just over 2 million, although unofficial figures were as high as 3.5 million. In August 2014, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had registered 714,548 internally displaced people (IDPs) in need of humanitarian assistance due to ongoing security operations in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (the new name for NWFP), with operations in North Waziristan further displacing approximately 500,000 people.

Case: Part 1

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Case: Part 1

As the international community poured unprecedented attention and resources into Afghanistan and Pakistan to promote stability and peace within the larger framework of the US-led Global War on Terror (over 130,000 troops as of 2010), humanitarian assistance came to be seen as a critical tool to advance security and political interests. In the interest of legitimizing counterinsurgency efforts and undermining support for militant groups, Western militaries and governments deployed joint civil-military teams with expansive mandates that went far beyond traditional combat missions, to strategies for winning the “hearts and minds” of local communities with the provision of food, water, medicine, and other traditional humanitarian goods and services.

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You are the Country Director of a humanitarian organization hoping to access a community in dire need of assistance. The only way to access the community is with the assistance of government forces, who have been locked in a campaign with insurgents taking cover in the community. What do you do?

  •                            
a. Accept the military assistance


  •                            
b. Refuse the assistance

Case: Part 2

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Case: Part 2

In May 2003, US Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Andrew Natsios sent a clear message against neutral humanitarianism by scolding NGOs for not clearly and consistently identifying their aid activities in Afghanistan as funded by the US government. In Afghanistan, the US military’s delivery of assistance in civilian clothing, as well as the conditionality placed on military aid in return for intelligence, was particularly controversial. In Pakistan, the majority of international organizations remained silent on the lack of independent access to conflict areas, acquiescing to constant pressure from the Pakistani government not to speak of “internally displaced persons” or the conduct of hostilities, or to even use the word “humanitarian” in appeals and other communications from the humanitarian community. Instead, anti-Taliban operations were downplayed as law enforcement operations that resulted in the temporary dislocation of civilians.

The reputation of humanitarian organizations was further compromised by a few well-publicized instances of intelligence operations using humanitarian work as a cover. In Pakistan, the US used the relief effort in Kashmir after the 2005 earthquake to slip covert officers into the country; in 2011, the CIA used several public health and vaccination campaigns as a ruse for DNA collection to assist in searching for al-Qaeda operatives in local communities. Revelations of these activities resulted in significant curtailment of humanitarian access in Pakistan, and in 2012, Pakistani authorities’ expulsion of the NGO Save the Children received much attention. To date, Pakistani authorities have deregistered dozens of local aid groups and moved to cut off foreign funding to local organizations. Such curtailment has caused severe consequences for public health and humanitarian outcomes, and limited the ability of organizations to assess and respond to severe humanitarian needs.

Humanitarians hoping to maintain a neutral, impartial, or independent stance were severely compromised by these pressures. On the ground, this blurring of the lines between humanitarian, political, and military actors meant that humanitarians were often perceived as taking sides, fueling hostility and the willingness of militant groups like the Taliban to intentionally target civilian aid workers. As insurgent groups came to regard humanitarian agencies as legitimate targets, attacks on civilians, especially international aid workers, contractors and local leaders, increased as a deliberate strategy to maintain a high level of violence and fear.

The space for humanitarians to operate safely and effectively shrunk dramatically. Remote management and monitoring of projects affected both the reach and quality of aid, and national and international pressure significantly curtailed impartial dialogue with insurgent groups in order to reach vulnerable communities. In a sign of increased risk adversity, “bunkerization” by humanitarian organizations and development NGOs became more common. Security measures — such as erecting high walls, reducing staff mobility, employing armed security and escorts, and limiting interaction with local people — in some cases mitigated risk and facilitated access to populations in need. However, in the longer term, associations with armed forces may have further jeopardized perceptions of humanitarians as neutral, impartial actors.

Humanitarian assistance has always been a political activity, as it engages authorities in conflict-affected countries and relies on financial support from donors that hold their own political interests. Yet, the expansion of military operations in the interest of a counterinsurgency and regional stabilization agenda has resulted in an unprecedented loss of control by humanitarian relief organizations over their working environment. Afghanistan remains the only complex emergency where all major donors, with the exception of Switzerland, are also belligerents; it is the only conflict where the UN has fully sided with the government, though its legitimacy is questioned by many Afghans; and it is the only complex emergency where the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is neither visibly negotiating access nor openly advocating for the respect for humanitarian principles. In Pakistan, the military has not only played a critical role as a first responder after natural disasters; it is also a party to a non-international armed conflict against militant groups on Pakistani territory, and acts as an arm of the state largely dictating the terms of humanitarian response, particularly in areas with anti-Taliban operations.

In complex and highly politicized contexts like Afghanistan and Pakistan, the humanitarian principles are fundamental in order to gain the trust of local populations, maintain acceptance by parties to conflict, and thereby secure access to meet humanitarian needs. Yet the universality, relevance and applicability of humanitarian principles are increasingly being challenged by the counterinsurgency and stabilization doctrine. How can organizations better uphold or assert humanitarian principles? Is it even possible to do so in such a challenging operating environment?

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You are the Country Director of a humanitarian organization, and your donor implements a new policy stating that all assistance must be clearly marked to indicate the source of funding. Doing so would have immediate effects on the local community’s perception of your organization. What do you do?  

  •                            
a. Comply with the policy


  •                            
b. Refuse to comply


  •  
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