The armed forces in humanitarian assistance work blurring the image of humanitarism?

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Mertens, Anne
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The title of thesis “The armed forces in humanitarian assistance work blurring the image of humanitarianism?” refers to the increasing interference of the military in humanitarian assistance work. Humanitarian aid has always been considered as the monopoly of non-governmental organisations and other humanitarian organisations claiming to act in accordance with high moral standards for the sake of the victims in need. The switch from inter-State conflicts to intra-State conflicts and the increasing interest the international community shows for these conflicts has as a consequence that politics get more and more involved in all the stages and aspects of a crisis, including relief work. The military forces are reformed to respond to the tasks and challenges they have to face in their growing number of international operations. Indeed the focus of the military has switched from the classical national territorial defence to international crisis management. In these new types of operations an important part of the work of the military consists in non-combat tasks, taking on relief activities formerly exclusively carried out by independent and neutral humanitarian workers. In today’s conflicts there is an intermingling of humanitarianism, politics and military considerations. This is very much criticised by humanitarian organisations who argue that such a politicisation and militarization would compromise the fundamental principles of humanitarian aid which are to provide relief to persons on the sole basis of need in a neutral, non-discriminatory and impartial way. However, in analysing some of today’s complex emergencies it becomes obvious that the different actors involved, militaries, humanitarians and political authorities, are interdependent. They act in the same field and often have common goals. Thus the challenge is to find a way towards an effective cooperation and coordination, joining the resources and capacities, avoiding competition and a duplication of work, and aiming at an optimisation of relief for the benefit of the victims.
Second semester University: University of Graz
armed forces, defence, European Union, humanitarian assistance, international humanitarian law, intervention, peacekeeping forces, security