A conference on “Humanitarian Action, Security and the Military,” the Ninth Annual Humanitarian Conference sponsored by Webster University, Geneva, Switzerland, took place at the International Conference Center of Geneva, 22-23 April 2004. The authors of this detailed report present a review of the proceedings and, in summary, where they agree and disagree with the conference findings.—Ed.
“Humanitarian agencies face many challenges within this new [security] environment…”
What is the future of humanitarian action in today’s international system? Given the disasters experienced by aid workers in 2003 and the reluctance of major and middle powers to commit the resources necessary for effective humanitarian operations, the future of international humanitarian action appears doubtful. An urgent reassessment is called for in regard to the changing security requirements and responsibilities for humanitarian operations.
Several senior officials and academics from around the world with extensive experience in the international arena grappled with these issues at a conference in Geneva, Switzerland, 22-23 April 2004. The four keynote speakers were Lieutenant General Romeo A. DALLAIRE, Former Commander of UN troops in Rwanda, who addressed the conference via prerecorded remarks; Cornelio SOMMARUGA, Former President, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); Pierre KRAHENBUEHL, Current Director of Operations, ICRC; and Hugo SLIM, Chief Scholar, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. Several other distinguished speakers participated, and the complete program is presented in the Appendix to this article.
The conference, entitled “Humanitarian Action, Security and the Military,” was the ninth annual Humanitarian Conference in a series sponsored by the Geneva campus of Webster University, St. Louis, Missouri. According to conference organizer, Dr. Otto HIERONYMI, “The objective of the conference [was] to highlight the multiple aspects of an important and topical international humanitarian issue through presentations by experts from a broad range of organizations and backgrounds.” The conference was held under the auspices of the Government of the Canton of Geneva, and it received support from the ICRC; the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); and the Commission of the European Union.
This article addresses the major themes and issues raised by the conference speakers, which are as follows:
- A New Security Environment for Humanitarian Workers and Agencies
- Responsibility to Protect vs. Recognition of Sovereignty
- New Missions and Tactics for Military Forces
- The Moral Hazard of Humanitarian Operations
The authors attended the conference in their capacity as adjunct faculty members for Webster University and as mentors for the International Relations master’s degree programs at two of Webster University’s extended campuses. In addition to the formal presentations, informal discussions took place with the speakers and with other conference participants. Some critical analysis is also offered in regard to some aspects of the conference content.
I. A New Security Environment for Humanitarian Workers and Agencies
Humanitarian workers have become targets in many conflicts around the world. In this new security environment, blue flags and red crosses no longer provide protection. Opposing fighters, insurgents, and terrorists are increasingly attacking international aid workers and local civilian noncombatants in an effort to advance their various causes. These soft targets are easy prey for groups wanting to punish their opposition or for terrorists looking for major media attention. Humanitarian agencies face many challenges within this new environment, such as developing a better understanding of the nature of conflict today, reconsidering the value of neutrality, reexamining the goals of humanitarian action, and finding new ways to provide for the security of aid workers.
Most speakers at the conference viewed the year 2003 as a turning point. Jean-Luc CHOPARD of the City of Geneva in his welcoming address referred to the “tragic events of 2003.” According to Pierre KRAEHENBUEHL of the ICRC, “2003 was a crucial year for humanitarian organizations because of threats and attacks against humanitarian workers.” Alan VERNON referred to the attack on UN offices in Baghdad in August 2003 as a “wake up call” to the UNHCR.
Former U.S. State Department official Dr. John KING attributes this new humanitarian security environment to an outgrowth of what he calls the “new warfare.” He contrasts this with the old. In his view the old warfare was primarily interstate and territorial, in which objectives and battlefields were relatively unambiguous. In the old warfare large, heavy, hierarchical formations made up the preponderance of the forces involved, and these forces followed or at least alleged to follow international rules and conventions.
KING says the old warfare is obsolescent for many reasons. Simply put, most states do not want to go to war. The territorial objectives of the past are no longer appealing. States are deterred by the threat of WMD and by the preponderance of US military power, thus averting war among the great and middle powers. Also, the increasing number of democratic states serves to restrain many national leaders from pursuing war as a policy.
War still exists, says KING, but it is outside of the state system. Ethnic hatreds, local insurgencies, and international terrorism make up the landscape of the new warfare. The new warfare is often stateless and non-territorial, in which goals are unclear or unrealistic. The forces are decentralized and recognize no rules or international conventions, and they increasingly target civilians and aid workers.
Joe SILLS, former spokesman for UN Secretary General Boutros BOUTROS-GHALI, quoted some statistics in regard to civilian casualties. He said that in the First World War fiver percent of all casualties were civilians. In World War II, 50% of all casualties were civilians. In conflicts around the world today, however, ninety percent of all casualties are civilians.
It is within this new warfare that the security environment for humanitarian operations has dramatically changed. The risks to aid workers are great within failed states, or those plagued by ethnic conflict, or in areas targeted by terrorists. The asymmetric nature of these conflicts and the weakness of legitimate governments often make it impossible for humanitarian agencies to operate in safety.
According to Pierre KRAEHENBUEHL, of the ICRC, conflict has become globalized, polarized, and radicalized. The media and communications technology provide a global audience for atrocities. Islamic terrorists and other extremists polarize conflict to such an extent that negotiation and compromise are not possible. Suicide bombers and WMD are radically new threats.
At one time, the shield of “neutrality” provided protection for aid workers, but this is no longer the case. In this new security environment, humanitarian workers are often seen as taking sides, even if they desire to remain neutral. Relief operations are viewed as helping one side or the other. This perception creates the dilemma for aid workers of either being rejected or “instrumentalized” at best, or at worst being targeted and killed. There was a consensus among the conference speakers that for both practical and moral reasons, neutrality is no longer an option.
Practically, to ensure the security of their personnel, aid organizations must cooperate with UN or other intervening military forces. A former Danish military officer Hans HATTING, currently with the ICRC, spoke of the necessity for cooperation between NGOs and the military. This would even include sharing information that may be valuable to the military. As an example, HATTING related an incident during the Balkan crisis in which a US commander declared to a group of NGO officials: “Now you are under our command.”
Efforts to remain neutral are increasingly seen as being immoral. Colum MURPHY, Former Deputy Head of UN Political Affairs in Bosnia, addressed the immorality of neutrality with the question: “How can you be neutral between a rapist and a rape victim?” General DALLAIRE recounted an incident in an NGO hospital operated in Rwanda where the hospital staff refused the assistance of military doctors because of the desire to remain “neutral.” According to DALLAIRE, “This is crap.” NGOs cannot, in fact they do not, operate in isolation.
The need for cooperation with intervening military forces, however, creates tensions. Joe SILLS said that all military actions taken for humanitarian reasons have strong political motives. As a result, SILLS said: “Political and humanitarian actors are uncomfortable bedfellows.”
Hugo SLIM explained these tensions between political and humanitarian actors as a result of conflicting goals. On the one hand, he said, you have “Temporary Goals,” which include stability, saving life, and improving conditions; and on the other hand are “Ultimate Goals,” which include establishing a just and equitable society. Although few disagree with the ultimate goals in general, the path to achieve them is marked by ideology. According to SLIM this contributes to a dilemma among some humanitarian organizations that view their role in terms of advancing ultimate goals, which may put them at odds with the intervening forces.
To operate within this new security environment, SLIM advises humanitarian organizations to stick with temporary goals. In this way, cooperation with UN and US intervening military forces can remain ideologically acceptable. The ultimate goals should remain within the domain of the political actors.
The problem is not that military intervention is going on while humanitarian action is going on. The problem, according to Joe SILLS, is that there is not enough military intervention going on. Without security, humanitarian agencies will remain targets and concerns over neutrality and goals are meaningless.
General DALLAIRE claimed that there has been “a near abdication of the middle powers” from humanitarian operations. He says the greatest deterrent to involvement is the fear of casualties. DALLAIRE believes American forces are a liability because they become a magnet for attacks. However, no other nations have stepped up. Again and again, DALLAIRE addressed the absence of the “middle powers.” He pointed out that the mission in Rwanda to save thousands and thousands of lives was abandoned because of the risk of taking a few western casualties.
Given the need for security and the absence of state or intervening forces, humanitarian organizations are turning to other means. Alan VERNON of the UNHCR spoke of the extensive new in-house security measures taken by that organization. These measures include the hiring of 40 security advisors and strengthening the physical security of field offices. Several other speakers discussed new security measures taken by NGOs and other aid agencies. One consequence of this is that funding provided for assistance is being diverted to provide for security, resulting in the degradation of the humanitarian effort.
Dan HELLINGER, a professor with Webster University, examined Private Military Companies (PMCs) as another outgrowth of the need for security. These for-profit companies contract not only with NGOs and other aid agencies, but also with states and intervening nations to provide security. These PMCs are filling the security vacuum that host nations cannot fill and that Western nations are unwilling to fill with their military forces.
Thus, the situation in which humanitarian agencies find themselves today is fraught with dilemmas and challenges. The new warfare has created a new and perilous security environment. Concerns over neutrality, cooperation, goals, and security will continue to be part of the international humanitarian landscape for years to come.
II. Responsibility to Protect versus Recognition of Sovereignty
The conference wrestled with the issue of responsibility, and more specifically the “responsibility to protect.” This vague concept can have multiple meanings. On the one hand it can refer to protecting humanitarian agencies and workers from insurgents or terrorists, and on the other hand it can mean protecting civilian populations from the same threats as well as protecting civilians from the effects of disease and natural disasters. Finally, in what could be viewed as the tail wagging the dog, the responsibility to protect can also be construed to mean avoiding casualties on the part of international forces deployed in humanitarian operations. Each of these applications of the concept raises a host of thorny issues.
Governments are concerned about the expectation of protection from various international and non-governmental agencies. That expectation may be directed toward the host nation or a neighboring state providing relief for refugees or an international intervention force. Paradoxically, in some cases regarding host nations, the agencies expecting protection from the state are also working against it.
General DALLAIRE began his presentation by asking: Who has the responsibility to protect innocent victims of violent conflict—the state or an international body if no state is available? This, of course, raises concern about sovereignty. Sovereignty, the general continued, is not a positive attribute of human society. Sovereignty should be pushed aside if crimes against humanity are conducted; yet the fear of casualties has caused the UN and others to leave rapidly, such as the US pullout of Somalia in 1993. DALLAIRE says this is an abdication of the responsibility to protect.
Cornelio SOMMARUGA, President of Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining, spoke at length of the globalization of resources and nations, and he equated globalization with the responsibility to protect. “How,” asked SOMMARUGA in much the same manner as General DALLAIRE, “should international government organizations react if faced with flagrant violations of human rights in a sovereign state? Is use of the term ‘humanitarian intervention’ appropriate in war?” His answer was simply, “No! One can’t militarize humanitarianism.”
The entire community of states, SOMMARUGA continued, must assume the responsibility for wide scale famine, murder, rape, disease, torture, and displacement. The responsibility to protect includes preventing violence by eliminating its causes; reacting appropriately by taking coercive measures such as sanctions or armed intervention and reconstruction. For justified armed intervention one should be able to show grave and irreparable damage to human beings to include considerable loss of life or ethnic cleansing accompanied by rape and forced immigration.
Showing his penchant for world government, SOMMARUGA ended his remarks by stating that the requirement to report humanitarian abuses is part of international law; that only the UN Security Council can ask for and approve intervention; and that the permanent five are not authorized to veto a measure before them if international interests is at stake. The General Assembly, according to SOMMARUGA, can pass a resolution that gives legitimacy to actions taken by states; however, without Security Council action, no military intervention is permissible to change a regime. He opined that one should not use military forces against terrorists, but one should use international law, since “real justice” is achieved only when the terrorist is brought before a judge. “There can be no peace without pardon,” He concluded.
Francois SENECHAUD, the ICRC’s head of the unit dealing with Relations for Armed and Security Forces, directly addressed the question of protection by stating that the ICRC has always worked with the military and could not work without military support since the ICRC needs both security and real access to people detained by the military. The ICRC must provide support to wounded prisoners. ICRC guidelines include: save lives, no political ties, help settle the conflict, be independent, consult with everyone. These guidelines are still relevant after 9/11.
The ICRC members, SENECHAUD believes, should participate in pre-briefings on military operations to ensure they and their concerns are known since dialogue with the military is important down to the lowest possible level. However, Ros THOMAS, from the Refugee Studies Center, Oxford, noted that the Red Cross is now a symbol of the UN and, as such, Red Cross workers are viewed as targets representing the wealthy, and therefore require protection.
Vincent CHETAIL, Head of Investigation Unit, Office of the Inspector General, UNHCR, also addressed responsibility versus sovereignty. In 2004, CHETAIL explained, the missions are more complex and involve humanitarian operations, nation building, peacekeeping, peace building, and peace enforcement—all of which are both within and without the UN Charter and may infringe upon sovereignty. Part of collective security includes humanitarian action and nation building, but not specifically mentioned in the Charter are peace enforcement, peace making, and peace keeping, which exist in practice and are somewhat paradoxes. Peacekeeping emerged as a practical way to get around the paralysis of the Cold War and continued to grow post-Cold War, albeit with a difficult legal basis.
Colonel John PHELPS, U.S. Army Judge Advocate’s General Corps, U.S. Naval War College, continued the discussion of responsibility versus sovereignty by using the example of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The occupation, according to PHELPS, is based on the Lincoln model of “malice toward none.” The legal basis for the occupation falls within various instruments including the Declaration of Brussels, The Hague Convention, the 1949 Geneva Convention, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the Palestinian Agreement. The latter includes the requirements of a hostile invasion, a government unable to govern, and one country taking control of the governance of another.
Occupation, according to PHELPS, ends with a peace treaty or if the occupying force returns control to a new government. Duties of the occupying power include restoring and maintaining public order. Penal laws remain in effect unless such laws impede the occupying power’s mission. Citizens are “protected persons.” The occupying power provides food, medicine, protects children, and allows relief operations inside the country. The occupying power cannot destroy public or private property, cannot conduct reprisals, cannot conscript locals, but may take measures to control the population. It can use censorship and curfews but not removal or internment. As PHELPS described, the US has assumed vast responsibilities, in humanitarian and other areas, in Iraq until effective sovereignty can be reestablished.
Salvatore LOMBARDO, head of the Afghan Comprehensive Solution Unit, UNHCR, addressed issues in Afghanistan as the historical “great game.” He recalled the competition between Great Britain and Czarist Russia in the 19th century, then the Soviet Union versus the US during the Cold War, and now the US against the Taliban and their allies in Iran and elsewhere. On the issue of sovereignty, the international community legalized Afghanistan’s current condition with the Bonn Agreement, although questions of justice remain unanswered since many involved in the civil war were included in the Bonn Agreement. The Taliban were not included. The requirements for security and protection, separate from law and order, exist throughout most of the country.
LOMBARDO points out that international troops are not committed beyond Kabul. The international community thought it would build an Afghan army and police force in two years, yet four years later these institutions are just beginning to be built. In 2002, some two million Afghans returned to their former homes. Afghanistan is very different from other places since both opportunities and famine exist. It is impossible for any agency to remain neutral, thus IGOs and NGOs have to take sides very soon.
Following the discussion on Afghanistan, Colum MURPHY, former Deputy Head, UN Political Affairs, Bosnia, took the US and Europe and the UN to task for failing to deal with the crisis in Bosnia early on. The war in Bosnia created a debate between idealists and realists. Idealists thought the UN could step in and stop the killing within twenty-four hours. Realists insisted it would take at least a week. In the last decade of the twentieth century, however, the international community, specifically the UN, was ineffective, so a preventable war lasted not hours or weeks, but several years.
MURPHY believes that the first decade of the twenty-first century has seen a pendulum swing to preventive war. Unfortunately, the international community moves from one extreme to another and miss-applies the lessons learned in Bosnia. The Serbian positions were subject to air attack, but the UN representatives did not want to attack them until they had exhausted negotiations. The international community would not recognize that genocide had occurred and was still occurring. Neither the United States nor anyone else really wanted to talk about it. The United States thought Europe could and should take care of the problem, and Europe agreed to do so when it did not have the capacity to succeed.
MURPHY criticizes the UN for not knowing what was happening in Bosnia earlier than it did and for not doing something to stop the genocide, rape, and displacement. The problem, he concluded, speaks to the need for clarity, both of who is responsible to protect innocent civilians and when should the sovereignty of a state be disregarded by the international community. Specifically, if the state and its military are violating the rights of its own citizens at the level of genocide or ethnic cleansing, that state has essentially surrendered its legitimacy and sovereignty. However, it is easier to assert than it is to put together an international force to intervene, as circumstances in Bosnia showed.
Peter VAN KRIEKEN, Academic Advisory Board, International Office of Migration (IOM), built on the comments of MURPHY with a discussion on how the IOM tried to keep the peace at Srebrenica and apply the rules of peacekeeping, but found there was no peace to keep. UN Resolution 701 was not backed by sufficient force. The idea of creating a “safe haven” never caught on. One cannot send a peacekeeping force into an area that requires a peace enforcement or peace making mission.
According to VAN KRIEKEN, the answer to prevent future problems may lie in the International Criminal Court of Yugoslavia (ICCY), which has the authority to implement laws. If the UN learned anything, it was not to send peacekeepers into a war zone. If one needs the military, send in a professional force. The lack of clarity of the task at hand, of the requirements to accomplish the task, and of the mission itself all led to a lack of will on the part of the UN.
Thus, the various speakers that touched in part or specifically on the responsibility to protect versus sovereignty, generally realized that even though the world has changed, sovereignty remains a dominant force in political events. Most viewed sovereignty as a harmful force and would prefer to see greater authority and capability in the hands of the UN. Today, IGOs and NGOs may be tolerated and protected by a sovereign state, but only if the IGO or NGO is not working in direct opposition to that state’s interest. Protection is not automatic, regardless of expectations. IGOs and NGOs first must request protection and then agree “to do no harm” to the state providing the protection. As Michael VEUTHEY, International Institute of Humanitarian Law, mentioned, IGOs and NGOs currently need to form a coalition with states and even non-state actors to secure their protection. This type of coalition, so VEUTHEY believes, “is the future.”
III. New Missions and Tactics for Military Forces
To meet the challenges for humanitarian operations, the militaries of supporting nations will need to develop new doctrine and techniques for the missions they can expect to receive. Old methods and thinking must give way for the new.
The classical model of peacekeeping is no longer relevant to many of the humanitarian situations military forces find themselves in today. Vincent CHETAIL described the four characteristics of this classical model as:
(1) the force is deployed between the belligerents,
(2) it is impartial,
(3) the belligerents consented, and
(4) it is non-coercive.
In this model the peacekeepers can use force only for self-defense. In today’s humanitarian security environment, this model seems quaint and very much out of date.
The outdated model of peacekeeping came face to face with the new realities of humanitarian operations at Srebrenica in 1993. Peter VAN KRIEKAN detailed the events of this humanitarian disaster. UN Security Council Resolution 819 created a “safe haven” in Srebrenica, and a force of 450 Dutch troops was sent in, of which only 150 were even lightly armed. This peacekeeping force faced over 2000 well-armed Serbs who literally held them hostage. The Dutch UN troops withdrew, and over 7000 Bosnian civilians were massacred. According to VAN KRIEKAN, the citizens of Srebrenica placed their faith in UN authority, in the UNPROFOR forces on the ground, and in NATO air power, all of which failed them.
Not only is classical peacekeeping often inappropriate today, the natural role for the use of military forces is also poorly suited for humanitarian operations. General DALLAIRE spoke of the “philosophy of war” that makes up the innate military ethos. He said this has distinct characteristics; first, generals always plan for the worst-case scenario, and this creates the tendency to constantly ask for more forces. Second, DALLAIRE says the military hates ambiguity, and it requires clear-cut missions. Third, when faced with unexpected obstacles or forces, the normal military practice is to respond with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and battle drills.
The problem, of course, is that this natural military “philosophy of war” does not fit well with humanitarian operations. DALLAIRE says, “The old methods don’t work!” Today, he says, the need is for militaries to develop “soft skills.” These would focus on assisting with political and economic development and nation building. The military needs to be part of the humanitarian effort, not separate from it.
The UN mission to Rwanda in 1994 is a case study of the problems the military faces in humanitarian operations. General DALLAIRE described the ambiguous nature of his mission, which was to: “Establish an environment of security.” This he was prepared to do; however, once his forces suffered 10 casualties, the UN and the nations providing forces ordered him to withdraw. In his view, the mission was to protect and save tens of thousands of innocent Rwandans, but it ended (in his words) as a “catastrophic failure” because of the risk-averse character of the mission’s sponsors, in whose view “security” referred to the UN forces not to the Rwandan people.
Although “peacekeeping” and “peace enforcement” have existed as doctrinal missions for some time, they are not adequate to cover the new requirements of humanitarian operations today. According to Dr. John KING, some of the new roles for military forces include:
- Providing security for refugee camps
- Providing security for NGOs
- Providing transportation
- Assisting local police
- Sharing intelligence with government officials
- Assisting local and national governments
- Controlling border crossings
- Providing provincial reconstruction teams
Francois RUBIO, Director, Doctors of the World, opined that even the military should engage in humanitarian work. Few in the audience wanted to consider the military as a humanitarian instrument, and some voiced their protests over this assertion. No one, according to RUBIO, has a monopoly on humanitarian work. The military should not just assist relief and aid organizations by protecting convoys but should become directly involved in providing aid.
The most extreme mission for the military in the humanitarian context would be “humanitarian intervention,” which is the use of military force across borders to stop mass killing. This could be undertaken without invitation or consent and may require forced entry. Grave circumstances such as genocide or ethnic cleansing must be present to invoke such a use of military force. The interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, and Sierra Leone were justified on these terms. As Joe SILLS said, “The bar must be very high for humanitarian intervention.”
Hugo SLIM discussed counter-insurgency operations and said it was time relearn the lessons of the past. He suggested this is what is needed in Afghanistan and in other places. He presented the principles of Julian THOMPSON’S classic, Defeating Communist Insurgency, which are: legality, protection, and development. The government must create an environment of legality and legitimacy. Military forces must protect the population and create a separation between the people and the insurgents. And the humanitarian community is the third player, providing the “trump card” of developmental assistance. However, there is overlap in that military forces can also provide humanitarian aid. According to SLIM, “The Afghan war will be won by humanitarians.”
Many obstacles stand in the way of effective military humanitarian operations. Developing the force structure and skill sets necessary for peacekeeping missions to forced intervention and all that lies between is a daunting military challenge. Command and communications and logistical arrangements among forces from multiple nationalities present both political and practical difficulties. Generating the political will to deploy sufficient forces is perhaps the main problem. General DALLAIRE warned that until the governments of the developed world accept that the eighty percent of humanity in the undeveloped world is not a residual but is on a par with the twenty percent in the developed world, there is little hope for military humanitarian operations.
IV. The Moral Hazard of Humanitarian Operations
Humanitarian aid might, in itself, cause additional problems for the people, regions, and states relief agencies hope to help. Dr. Kelly-Kate PEASE, Professor of International relations, Webster University, presented this theory in the next to the last paper for the conference. In reality, it should have been the first paper, for it might have greatly changed the tenor and tone of some of the previous presentations. PEASE stated quite simply that humanitarian operations create a “moral hazard.” Shock among the audience turned to defiance as she continued.
According to PEASE, the moral hazard of humanitarian aid is that people behave rationally and opportunistically. Using insurance as a model, PEASE explained that insurance allows one to take greater risks. For example, people may drive in a more risky manner knowing their cars are insured. Similarly, these greater risks can be seen as the unintended consequences of unemployment compensation, welfare programs, the IMF, the World Bank, and so forth. Bank bailouts show how the IMF encouraged risky behavior, which resulted in risky business ventures.
One can apply the theory of moral hazard to humanitarian aid. The altruistic goals of IGOs and NGOs shield them from critical assessment. They have a difficult time seeing their own self-interest in a crisis. For this reason, estimates of the number of refugees, starving people, and so on are often vastly inflated with the hope of generating more “profit” for the NGOs in the form of contributions. Aid operations are a big business. IGOs and NGOs employ many thousands of people. Despite their stated goals, their self-interest in revealed when they scurry out of a troubled area after taking a few casualties. To stay in “business” IGOs and NGOs have greatly reinvented themselves over the years, as with the UN’s Oil for Food program, which now hires people to provide relief.
Another aspect of moral hazard is that humanitarian relief may actually prolong violent conflicts and political crises. By providing the sustenance, shelter, health care, and other services that should be within the province of the state, aid agencies allow belligerents to divert scarce resources to the conflict. Corrupt governments, institutions, insurgents, even terrorists can exploit aid agencies in this way for self-interest.
An example of moral hazard in a humanitarian operation is the myriad of food organizations in North Korea. In a sense, donor states are purchasing insurance against the misfortune of others and using human aid as a substitute for resolving the crisis. Donor states fund refugee relief in order to support their already established policies. Additionally, belligerent states seek to take advantage of humanitarian problems since one cannot discern citizens from combatants. The latter are often sheltered in the camps of the former. Existing international codes do not look at or consider the possibility of moral problems within IGOs and NGOs.
The issue of moral hazard in humanitarian operations requires much more consideration than was given by PEASE’S one paper. However, the scope of this conference did not allow such attention. The brief discussion provided by PEASE was significant in that it did place moral hazard on the table for future analysis.
Our critique will be limited to four brief comments. First, we agree with the consensual view at the conference that the middle powers have not done enough to provide military security for humanitarian operations. There was a sense among the participants that most western, industrial powers were acting as free riders when it comes to providing forces. Our view is that the population and economic resources of Europe are more than adequate to support an expanded capability that should encompass force projection and logistics as well as combat forces.
Second, we also agree with the view of most participants that humanitarian agencies can no longer maintain strict neutrality. Most advocated close cooperation between aid agencies and security forces. Although most would not go so far as to say agencies needed to “choose sides,” there was an understanding that neutrality was no longer an option. The notion of moral equivalency between government forces, international intervention forces, insurgents, and terrorists was rejected.
Related with this view about neutrality was the absence of any overt criticism of the United States. April 2004, the month of the conference, was a period of heavy fighting and casualties in Iraq. Our expectation was that the international participants would take the opportunity of this conference to criticize US policy in Iraq, but that was not the case.
Our third comment is to caution that the “new warfare” described by many may not be all that new. Insurgents and terrorists have existed throughout history, so intervening security forces may need to dust off their history books for lessons from the past in dealing with these types of conflicts. What may be new are the goals of the intervening forces and the international community, which include development and democracy. These goals are in fact revolutionary, and cooperation among aid agencies and military forces is necessary for success.
Finally, we also disagree with the normative assertions of many about national sovereignty. There was a belief among some that if states would just surrender a portion of their sovereignty to international organizations these humanitarian issues would be dealt with much more effectively. It is our view that such discussions serve little purpose, since we perceive little weakening in the sovereignty of nations.
The conference tried to end on an optimistic note with a paper by Otto HIERONYMI, the conference organizer, and Catherine CURRAT, titled “Freedom, Peace, and Human Dignity: The Outlook for the Internal and International Use of Force in the Twenty-first Century.” CURRAT read the paper, starting with a discussion on legitimate and illegitimate uses of force and then moving on to the relevance of domestic and international order. She concluded that the world is a much safer place today than it was twenty years ago.
The thoughtful reassessment of the changing security requirements and responsibilities for international humanitarian operations conducted at this conference may be an important contribution toward crafting improved humanitarian operations in the future. Perhaps the mood of participants at the end of the conference can be described as a “Dutch sky,” which means a sky with some clouds along with some sunlight. This was a comment used by UNHCR official Salvatore LOMBARDO in referring to Afghanistan where both advances and setbacks have occurred. Despite the recent disasters suffered by aid workers and the various challenges discussed at the conference, most participants believed international humanitarian action would continue to play an important role in international affairs.
30 June 2004