This seminar provides a critical introduction to humanitarian aid as one major field of crisis management. Humanitarian aid is about the delivery of support to civilians afflicted by wars and disasters. Together with refugee and development aid, which is the more long-term, structural approach of foreign aid, it has become a major pillar of the aid industry, which involves today thousands of aid organizations, ranging from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA) to the World Food Program (WFP), as well as governments and private citizens. While never was more spent to send food, medicine or water treatment equipment after earthquakes, floods or during wars such as currently in Ukraine (‘new humanitarianism’), humanitarian aid has come under close scrutiny. Why does so little of the money we spend reach those in need? Why is aid so unevenly distributed among crises, with some receiving almost all of our attention while others do not even receive the minimum? Why is coordination so poor among donors, aid organizations and recipients and how can we alleviate disastrous effects on the aid recipients? Should be always be neutral when distributing aid in conflict scenarios, even when one conflict party commits atrocious crimes or misuses aid for military purposes? Should we always keep quiet in order not to lose access to the victims? How can we better protect aid workers on the ground who are increasingly targeted? These questions demonstrate how closely humanitarian aid is linked to politics, in particular conflict management, and that we face many ethical dilemmas when delivering aid.
In the seminar we will first look at the history of humanitarian aid: its origins in the 19th century and the role of Henri Dunant as the founder of the ICRC, its evolution during the Cold War crises and most recent developments. Afterwards, we take a close look at to the guiding principles of humanitarian aid, in particular impartiality, neutrality and independence, and debate major dilemmas by looking at two cases: the ICRC and its strict understanding of neutrality vis-à-vis the Nazi concentration camps and the turn towards advocacy by Doctors Without Frontiers after the Biafra war of the 1960s. Subsequently, we will try to understand the distinct and often contradictory motives and interests of the major humanitarian actors (states, aid organizations and recipients) and discuss the systemic challenges of coordinating aid. Finally, we explore the question of aid effectiveness, reflect some of the criticism (including the role of media) and discuss reform proposals. One session will be reserved for humanitarian aid in the current war in Ukraine.
- Barnett, Michael (ed., 2017), Paternalism Beyond Borders, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Ibid. (2011), Empire of Humanity: A History of Humanitarianism, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
- Bornstein, Erica and Redfield, Peter (2011), Forces of Compassion: Humanitarianism Between Ethics and Politics, School of Advanced Research Press.
- Keen, David (2008), Complex Emergencies, Malden, MA: Polity Press (bes. Kap. 5 und 6).
- Mac Ginty, Roger und Peterson, Jenny H. (eds., 2015), The Routledge Companion to Humanitarian Action, London: Routledge.
- Moorehead, Caroline (1999), Dunant’s Dream. War, Switzerland and the History of the Red Cross, London: Harper Collins Publisher.
- Riddell, Roger C. (2008), Does Foreign Aid Really Work? Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Slim, Hugo (), Humanitarian Ethics. A Guide to the Morality of Aid in War and Disaster, London: Hurst & Company.
Further links: Reliefweb (https://reliefweb.int/), Blog “Humanitarianism and Human Rights (https://hhr.hypotheses.org/), Blog “Humanitarian Law & Policy” by Hugo Slim (https://blogs.icrc.org/law-and-policy/contributor/hugo-slim/)
This English-language seminar is taught on-site, if possible. Compliance with the Covid rules will be ensured. The seminar is restricted to 20 students. In order to obtain credits, a class presentation and a term paper are obligatory. Papers can already be handed in during the semester (esp. for those who need to prepare for a semester abroad).