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The politicization of humanitarian aid and its effect on the principles of humanity, impartiality and neutrality

Masterarbeit 2006 87 Seiten

Politik - Internationale Politik - Thema: Völkerrecht und Menschenrechte


The past two decades have seen a significant increase in frequency and intensity of complex emergencies and natural disasters, leading to a rapid transformation in the policy and the institutional context of humanitarianism. Humanitarian assistance, which once covered a very narrow set of basic relief activities carried out by a small group of relatively independent actors, has expanded significantly to an ever-widening and much more complex range of rehabilitation work. This includes the definition of aid as being a starting-point for addressing poverty or being a tool for peace-building in internal conflicts. A growing diversity of „non-humanitarian” actors in the field, such as various profit agencies, governmental and non-governmental armed forces, also changed the picture of humanitarian aid and the perception of its character. This transformation has created a broad variety of standards for performance in the field, and led to increasing uncertainties on the quality of humanitarian responses and its accountability.
Humanitarian catastrophes, like the Rwandan genocide, finally forced humanitarian agencies to think beyond traditional relief assistance based on the delivery of food, shelter or basic health care, and take a deeper reflection on how they actually perceive their own role and accountability in the humanitarian sphere. In 1997, the ‘Sphere’ project was launched to develop inter alia a so-called ‘Humanitarian Charter’, which tries to put relief aid on a legal basis provided by international law. It emphasizes humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality and expresses agencies’ commitment to act in accordance with them. These principles provide an ethical framework, which defines and delineates the humanitarian space within which NGOs are supposed to operate. ‘Sphere’ and its commitment to these traditional principles have both supporters and critics within the humanitarian system, especially when it comes to its usefulness in addressing the complexity of political factors surrounding an emergency situation.
Humanitarian assistance has always been a highly political activity, as it involves engaging authorities in conflict-affected countries or relying on financial support that can be driven by a donor’s political considerations. Nowadays, relief organizations seem to remain even less in control of their working environment due to expanding peacekeeping and „military-led” missions of the […]


ISBN (eBook)
1.3 MB
Institution / Hochschule
Ruhr-Universität Bochum – Institut für Friedenssicherungsrecht und Humanitäres Völkerrecht, IFHV
entwicklungshilfe rotes kreuz völkerrecht sphere project



Titel: The politicization of humanitarian aid and its effect on the principles of humanity, impartiality and neutrality