Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Humanitarian Aid and the War on Terror

Democracy Arsenal has a thought-provoking post on humanitarian aid and how it fits into the War on Terror. It has been a longstanding policy of the International Red Cross for its workers to both remain non-partisan during their work and to give out "little or no information about the situation that" they observe. By maintining discretion, they aim to preserve their neutrality.
Field NGOs trying to be genuinely non-partisan, of course, don't have the luxury of wringing their hands. Instead, they have two unpalatable choices: leave or diminish their activities in war zones, as the ICRC did after an attack on its Baghdad headquarters in 2003; or become more partisan and seek protection from one side, as many NGOS have felt they had no choice but to do in Afghanistan.
Perhaps during military interventions of lesser scope - Bosnia and Somalia come to mind - it was realistic for the ICRC to remain non-partisan. But considering we are in the midst of a Global War on Terror - where we have declared that people are either "with us or against us" - trying to preserve complete independence is dangerous to the aid workers and simply unsustainable.
-- Eric

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