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MPEG 1 format (5.8 MB)
March 9, 2005
Protecting the Humanitarian Space in the Face of Violence and Terror
Moderator: María Ángeles Espinosa
Panellists: Denis Caillaux, Hany El-Bana, Ed Cairns, Austens Davis
The panel Protecting the Humanitarian Space in the Face of Violence and Terror discussed the challenges for humanitarian action following the attacks of September 11 and the consequent ‘War on Terror’. Panellists argued that it was necessary to ‘roll back’ the politicisation of humanitarian aid. Ideas for strategies through which the lost space for humanitarian action could be recovered included increased accountability towards local actors, as well as the greater involvement and participation of civil society. The panel was organised in collaboration with Intermón Oxfam.
Complete audio of the conference
- Protecting the Humanitarian Space in the Face of Violence and Terror
- Audio Archive (English and Spanish) [1h. 26m., 20 MB, MP3]
Transcription / Transcripción
Note: […] Means not audible or missing content from the original tapes because of the recording
Nota: […] Significa no audible o que falta contenido en la cinta original debido a la grabación
Moderadora: María Ángeles Espinosa
Tenemos ante nosotros el reto de comentar durante más o menos hora y media, intercambiar opiniones sobre cómo proteger el espacio humanitario frente a la violencia y el terror. Si me permiten un breve apunte personal, cuando recibí la invitación para moderar esta mesa, una de las razones que me animó a hacerlo fue mi propia experiencia. Cuando llegué a Afganistán hace un par de años, en verano del año 2002, para ver cuáles habían sido los efectos de la intervención militar estadounidense en el país. Me encontré que la mayoría de los trabajadores humanitarios se encontraban francamente en pie de guerra. El ejército norteamericano estaba utilizando las funciones y las formas de trabajo que tradicionalmente hemos asociado con las organizaciones humanitarias como forma de acercarse a la sociedad afgana. Incluso en ocasiones utilizaban vehículos similares a los que suelen utilizar las organizaciones humanitarias, vehículos blancos, sin distintivos militares. Probablemente las matrículas decían que eso eran vehículos militares pero eso es un detalle muy pequeño. E incluso se vestían de civil aunque tenían siempre armas a mano. En esas circunstancias las restricciones resultaban muy difíciles para campesinos de provincias como [...] o [...], resultaban incluso difíciles para nosotros los periodistas.
Y dos años después en Irak hemos visto de alguna forma lo que son las consecuencias de este tipo de actuación. Ha desaparecido por completo ese escudo invisible con el que todos dábamos por hecho que estaban protegidos los trabajadores humanitarios. El secuestro de las dos cooperantes italianas, que también llegamos a conocer como a las dos simonas, o mucho más grave el secuestro y asesinato de Margaret Hassan, la delegada de [...] en Irak, acabaron con cualquier sensación de seguridad que el personal de organizaciones humanitarias pudiera tener.
En pocos años esa fina línea que ha separado la labor humanitaria de las acciones militares, se ha desdibujado hasta casi desaparecer por completo o al menos a veces tenemos esa imagen y en consecuencia las organizaciones humanitarias han dejado de ser consideradas como agentes neutrales. Ahora tenemos una oportunidad aquí con nuestros invitados y también con la participación de ustedes en el público para tratar de marcar alguna líneas sobre que puede hacerse para recuperar ese espacio humanitario.
Tratando de responder a esta pregunta y contribuir –que es el objetivo final de esta sesión– al borrador final de esa Agenda de Madrid que se espera que salga de esta gran cumbre.
Vamos a contar con nosotros, con el secretario general de CARE Internacional, el señor Denis Caillaux y supervisa las labores de ayuda al desarrollo en mas de 70 países y que tiene una experiencia tanto sobre el terreno como de carácter organizativo. También nos acompaña el señor Hany El-Bana que es el fundador y presidente de Islamic Relief y que en la actualidad está participando como mediador en el proceso de paz en el Sudán. A continuación el señor Ed Cairns que es jefe de campaña para conflictos y asuntos humanitarios de Oxfam Internacional. Y finalmente a mi izquierda está el señor Austen Davis, que es el director general del capítulo holandés de Médicos Sin Fronteras. Contaremos como relator de este panel –la persona que al final recogerá al final los temas sobre los que vamos a estar hablando– con el señor Francisco Rey, que es investigador del Instituto de Estudios Sobre Conflictos y Acción Humanitaria y que en la actualidad precisamente investiga este tema de la acción humanitaria en los conflictos y las implicaciones de la guerra contra el terrorismo sobre este trabajo. Pero antes de que pueda redactar, no conclusiones, no vamos a llegar aquí a conclusiones, pero sí esas líneas generales de debate, ejercerá un poco de Pepito Grillo, de retador sobre las opiniones que aquí muestren los invitados o incluso el público. Señor Mariano Aguirre, que es Coordinador de Proyectos, Gobernabilidad y Sociedad Civil en la Fundación Ford.
Vamos a empezar entonces si les parece bien a todos viendo qué ha cambiado, cuáles son los nuevos retos y las amenazas que vive hoy el espacio humanitario. Si les parece el señor Caillaux podría empezar.
Perdóneme. Van a tener cada uno 7 minutos de intervención. Les rogaría que traten de ser concisos y ajustarse a las reglas del juego del acto.
Thank you very much. Welcome everyone. You have to let me know when I have used up my time because obviously seven minutes on a topic like that is really a challenge.
I don’t have the answers. I only have questions, doubts. This is the most difficult issue we can deal with and I think not a single person in this room has the answers to the questions and this is something in the humanitarian community live with, day in and day out, and agonize over and over and that is just it's going to be. For all of us, the recent development that you were referring to is what I would call to a large extent the end of innocence.
We had a model of humanitarian intervention that was clear, that was solid, that was accepted, that is basically being challenged, and we have to find how to adapt and react to that and obviously it is an agony. What you had really before were the fundamental principles of humanitarian action, which you all are familiar with, I will not revisit them. Humanity, independence, impartiality and neutrality, and the idea was that if you were strongly upholding these principles, you would develop an acceptance and trust in the population you were trying to help and support and this would basically guarantee your action. So this acceptance approach based on trust, informed consent, on the basis of this key humanitarian principle, was enough. And the extreme was that in order for that approach to function, you would not pass judgment basically on anything. It’s that sentence that ICRC put, that in order to establish justice in war you would not pass judgment on the justice of war. And obviously that has changed, some of us definitely had to express opinion on some of the conflict that were unfolding, so that’s a fundamental challenge we are exposed to.
This fundamental model of humanitarian intervention –what I have just called the acceptance model, the acceptance approach– has basically been blown away in my view by two things. On the part of parties to conflict, to put it in the broadest possibility, what were before, were as civilian populations, true international humanitarian law, were basically taken out of the equation. Non-combatants were taken out of the equation in order to be protected. Some parties to the conflict put them squarely back into the dynamic of the conflict.
You don’t shoot at an ambulance. Well, you didn’t use to do that but now you do. Now you do shoot women and children, because it’s more shocking, because it’s more repulsing, because it’s more destabilizing. So there was some kind of a consensus to take the non-combatant out of the equation. They have been put straight back in. So that’s one evolution.
The second evolution is on the other side, on some other parties of the conflict. You have this whole dynamic that we can discuss certainly later on and that my colleagues will also mention: this civil military relationship. This perception of humanitarian actors as force multiplier by military forces, there is an even more amazing expressions that I’ve heard once, that NGO’s are non-kinetic attack weapons. This is the world we live in. So these two elements basically blew up completely the acceptance model. And how are we supposed to deal with that? How are we supposed to react to that in these radically new environments? As you now, a lot of people talked today about the coherence approach. You had the acceptance approach. Now you have the coherence approach, whereby you should have in any conflict situation a military intervention that will bring you stability, a political development that will bring you true elections and a democratic situation. You would have intervention in the area of human rights to eliminate impunity and you would have humanitarian in intervention to save lives. And this whole thing would happen at the same time.
And that’s the problem some of us have with the coherence approach, with this concept of integrated missions. Why? Because what we passionately believe is that the humanitarian response, the saving lives, has and can only be independent. So it’s not that you have this dimension, you have to use your brain, and in what you do analyze the impact that is going to have in the long-term, and so on. Obviously, but you are talking about two circles there that are not connected, that are not overlapping, you have the circle with the political and the military, and the peace building, and the long-term and the development, but you have another circle with the humanitarian response, and basically of course these studies are related one with the other, but your humanitarian response is a realm of action that can only be independent, fully-autonomous. Otherwise, it’s not a humanitarian response.
Thank you. Muchas gracias. No quisiera que nos estancáramos aquí, y aunque los intervinientes puedan hacer alguna alusión si les parece oportuna a esta primera pregunta, me gustaría que diéramos un paso en nuestro debate. Si le parece, Sr. Hany-El Bana, le preguntaría a usted si valen los principios humanitarios tradicionales en todas las culturas, en todas las regiones y en todos los ámbitos religiosos.
Thank you very much. I have prepared this document for you but I can not present it because it’s too long. It’s time to have the presentation in seven minutes.
I’m talking from a different angle totally to what you are speaking today. I’m talking from an ethical and historical background. I’m using the model of consolidation in the good old days, as a role model for me and all of us. On this light, he knew the needs of the weakest member of the society, and for this he has to respond to the needs of the weakest member of the society, and these are some requirements for leadership, and this is how he based his kingdom. The most fundamental issue is justice, justice before freedom and democracy, which can activate the potential of the citizens themselves.
Who is the human? I’m going to address seven questions so we can briefly go through it. The human is a custodian, who is a caretaker of all the creation of the universe; it’s his responsibility to look after the well-being of everybody or every creation of god in the universe, animated or inanimate. Humanity is what we refer to human beings. It’s called humanity because it’s lead by humans but not made by human. It’s made by all the components of life, including animated and inanimate themselves, and the human himself should be the caretaker of humanity. It includes all the creation of God as you can see it here and terrorism is a big definition.
The first one, during the war, with the rising of peaceful and unarmed people, and the creation of God as well. And the sets of peace are those alleys and enemies who are not fighting, and those who have the inclination or inclination to fight you. If you want to kill somebody you have to tell them “I am going to kill you” during this act of terror. Terrorism is not only exclusive to man. We do ourselves terrorize other creations of God: birds, animals, insects, habitat, by our action. Ideological terror is when we actually prevent people from expressing their views. The murder of a war is more painful than the murder of a soul, because the soul dies once but the war dies hundreds of times every day.
We can talk about the sentence but we have to treat the cause of terrorism itself, and if we don't go to the root of the causes of terrorism itself we cannot sort the problem. Who are the enemies of humanity? Quite often we talk about other people, but we don’t talk about ourselves. It could be ourselves or others. It’s like the coin, it has two sides, and you are one of them. So we can be looking at ourselves, internally, but you have to look at the people outside, externally, as well.
As I mentioned before, we have to remove the causes of terrorism, not to deal only with the manifestation of terrorism. Some of the causes of terrorism, and there are hundreds of them, but actually you have to go back to the most important and fundamental of them, which is justice. Fair justice for all. If we look at us as human beings, we have a lot in common. A lot of common to live and to discuss, and to communicate with. We should not concentrate on the minute of differences between us. At this tradition the prophet said “suspicion is the end of corruption and the end of envy“. If we start to suspect on one another, we could lead to a conflict, we could lead to violence and to terror itself.
Do we need law to protect our universe? Yes we do. But our law has to be three-dimensional. It has to have the right intention, the right contents and have the authority and power to protect it. Intentions that can not be misinterpreted by anyone because it serves everyone. Conscience that loves people and a pure conscience that does not break relations between people. Law has to be protected by the power and authority that initiated it as it is and implements justice for all.
The conclusion. This is the chicken and this is the egg. Who comes first? Come to the story if King Salomon. Once upon a time in his democratic council, the holy bird came back and he was a little bit late and King Salomon said that he was going to punish the holy bird because he was late. The holy bird out of his initiative traveled thousands of miles to Yemen, to discover it and he came to stand as a weak member of the society in front of the mighty king and God and he said “I have come to you with news you have no knowledge about”. This kind of initiative was taken by the holy bird because he felt free and he was actually practicing democracy on the basis of justice. So the cornerstone of all our discussion is justice for all. So does the bird come first or the egg comes first? I think the holy bird is a citizen, which is a chicken, and King Solomon is the egg, so we need many chickens to be able to have millions and millions of eggs like King Solomon.
This is actually my intervention, which is actually different to what, I think others will be talking about, but I’m trying to look at it from different points of view, because a lot of principles and values have been embedded in our history and we ignore it. We have to bring it back to make it better. Thank you very much,
Muchas gracias, veo que son muy disciplinados en el uso del tiempo. Vamos a pasar al Sr. Ed Cairns y me gustaría que él contestara, aparte de si tiene algún comentario a las preguntas que hemos lanzado hasta ahora, a la cuestión de si las instituciones humanitarias tienen un papel en la protección de los civiles.
María, thank you very much and I’ll try to answer that question in the course of my seven minutes.
I was very pleased that Dr. Hany went back to King Solomon thousands of years ago because I think that there is a danger in us Western civil societies and others, of exaggerating quite how much has changed since 9/11 and since the war in terror, and an awful lot has changed, and I’m going to go into that, but sometimes we exaggerate how much has changed and that precludes all the people suffering around the world which are not on the frontline of the war on terror. So if I may I will be brief, I want to go over four points about the impact of war on terror but in the end we will be looking at violence and the need to protect civilians elsewhere, and I’m sure María will kick me under the table if I'm getting dangerously close to the end of my seven minutes.
First point: I certainly agree on the thesis of this session, that our ability and humanitarian agency’s ability to help people’s suffering has been impeded by the war on terror, or to put it more accurately, it has been impeded by the vicious circle of terror and the war and terror, and I use both those phrases with a great caution, with "inverted commas" we say in English, because both terms are more used by propagandists and analysts. I used to reason why we left Iraq. We withdrew our international staff from Iraq in August 2003 and then our operation closed down entirely in April 2004. And we left because of the insecurity caused by all sides, not just by one side. Yes, the direct cause and threat that we were facing was from the so-called insurgents, who practically had killed some eight workers before we left and many more after we left. But our clear belief at the time was that the action of the coalition, rather than reduce the violence of the insurgents, was actually fuelling it, because it was clear to a large number of Iraqis that the coalition was not careful of protecting the civilians themselves and that lead into a vicious cycle of violence, so some left Iraq because of the vicious cycle of war and terror, not just one thing, that’s point one.
Point two is perhaps is worth asking whether the greatest threat to humanitarian workers is because they’re humanitarian or because their Western, and I think that is really the case in most cases. And you can see the truth of that very clearly when you see that far more Western private contractors have been killed that humanitarian workers, obviously too many humanitarian workers. But humanitarian workers like private contractors are targeted primarily because they are Western, because there is a perception whatever they do, that they are part of a single and homogeneous Western cultural and political intervention, and there are two consequences to noting that. One is, to some extent, what is under threat is not humanitarian space but is a Western model of humanitarian action to some extent. And the other consequence of that is, sadly, humanitarian agencies that are facing this problem, whatever the coalition in Iraq and Afghanistan did about humanitarian aid.
I think it is a great damage that you see soldiers giving out relief. You see the humanitarian language used by the US led coalition, the military humanitarian functions in the same team. All those things are wrong, but I think we are facing a threat because we are seen as Western, even if those things did happen.
Third point is, quickly: why have some humanitarian agencies, despite all of the difficulties, have been more successful in some places than others, in maintaining a secure space. We tried in Iraq, we refused funding from coalition governments, we appointed middle-eastern managers, and we made very clear we were not contractors of the coalition. But we failed, we failed to present ourselves as independent, we were overwhelmed by this perception that any Westerner is a target. And I think the reason we failed in Iraq but have succeeded more or less in Afghanistan, is because in Iraq we didn’t’ have a history of working with Iraqis of all sides, while in Afghanistan we have a long history for working with Afghans in both sides. We had a record of being independent and in Afghanistan separate of the coalition and, therefore, we maintained our presence in Afghanistan even though we had many of the same kind of problems, like the workers killed a couple of days ago.
And I think the same kind of thing, if we look a couple of years backward, to Kosovo at the end of the 1990’s. We were working in Serbia, we were working in NATO built camps in Macedonia, Albania, we were working in Kosovo before and after the war. But also because NATO more or less did not attempt to resent humanitarian agencies as part of their mission, how different from Iraq. So fourthly, what can we do about this? And I want to be slightly provocative, I feel that we probably exaggerate how much benefit will come if the coalition government were more careful to keep that space between themselves and humanitarian agencies. I’m sure it would be a good thing if they didn’t give aid, if war and governments didn’t fund NGOs and so on. But I think Western humanitarian agencies would be still in a big problem of maintaining their space in the world until two fundamental things happen.
One is that I think we have got responsibilities to be more genuinely diverse and global and less Western as humanitarian agencies and secondly is the collapse of trust between the West and some parts of the Islamic world. I think we who are seen as Western humanitarian agencies whatever we think of ourselves, we will never be safe in some areas until the West rebuilds part of the Islamic world. And that’s a bigger subject; it’s about just solutions in Palestine and other solutions which are beyond my topic to talk.
But finally, I just wanted to end how I began, to remind that aid workers are worked in other places as well as Iraq. Aid agencies like “Save the Children” had to withdraw from other places as well as most of us had to withdraw from Iraq. It’s a global problem and certainly if you’re looking after violent civilians which are more important than humanitarian agencies, the violence of civilians around the world, it’s war in Sudan, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, than it is even more than in Iraq and Afghanistan. I was reminded by a colleague of a chilling observation, since he said that when he talked to women in displaced people’s camps they generally have agonized, where it was more important to go out of the camp to get firewood, to cook for their children, than the risk of being raped or attacked when they go and collect that firewood. And where the international have done something about it, in some towns where the union soldiers are providing some security, people are less vulnerable.
But in all these crises, not just this one I’ve mentioned, the international community has lent a hand. I have a strong belief of the idea that all governments have the responsibility of protecting civilians everywhere and as a last resort to use military force to do that. That's a big challenge to world leaders when they meet in New York in September at the “Millennium Plus Five” Summit , to endorse that idea of a responsibility to protect, but it's also a big challenge to watch these humanitarian agencies to press our governments to act. So to finish with just two sentences, the challenge to us is to stand up the humanitarian space in Afghanistan and Iraq where it is threatened by terrorism and the war on terror, but also uphold our responsibilities as humanitarians to press all our governments to protect civilians everywhere.
Thank you. Me gustaría aprovechar la oportunidad para saludar a la Sra. Mary Robinson que se acaba de incorporar a nuestro debate y quizá luego tendrá la amabilidad de contestar alguna pregunta. Vamos a darle la palabra al Sr. Austen Davis, al que quisiera plantearle, puesto que estamos hablando de la posibilidad de la intervención armada para defender la tarea humanitaria, otro problema al que se enfrentan ahora las organizaciones humanitarias que es la necesidad de proteger a veces con personal armado a los trabajadores humanitarios, qué implicaciones puede tener eso y cómo se puede evitar que en circunstancias de riesgo los trabajadores humanitarios tengan que requerir protección armada.
[...] I’d like to say good morning, it’s very nice to be here. I’m looking at the panel and I can see I don’t have a tie. I recently moved to Norway and I was pleased with the success of my move, you always brake or loose things when you move and I thought everything had gone perfectly, I hadn’t forgotten my new child and everything seemed until I had to unpack and find a tie. So I was very relieved to see “business casual” on the logistics description, so I feel I’m trying to be business casual this morning.
I think, first of all, I need to say a little bit about what our reading of humanitarian is. It’s not something that just exists and is defined, it’s about a proactive sense of needing to do something in the face of human indignity, humiliation, intense suffering and degradation. So a sense that both that individual requires some help, but also the common body of humanity is reduced if people don’t do something and that’s about it really. So the next thing you get on to is “how do you do it?”.
A lot of what we are talking about today, the principles, whether you go for the acceptance or coherence model, is really about method and so a lot of that method applies a little bit to what you who you think you are as an actor and what you think you do and what you belief in humanitarian action is. So it is important, so the inherent thesis of the panel is that since the war on terror, which I don’t know when it began, there has been a sudden end of naivety or of the good period of acceptance of the workers. Like Ed was saying, I challenge that a little bit. In the beginning of the twentieth century, when the newly installed Bolshevik regime collectivized agriculture in Ukraine, the enormous famine they created, and when the international community wanted to provide food relief, the Bolshevik insisted that that be given through government channels.
The issue of political interference or the face between the humanitarian and the political is extremely complex. It is bound to happen. You can not divorce humanitarian action from societal concerns and beliefs. It is one the one hand something about individuals, and that reflects on the tension of our societies, between building the good society and the liberty of the individual. It’s very difficult. Sometimes you say “I’m going to fluorinate the water” and some individuals say “I don’t want my water tempered with” and that may seem irrelevant but it was an extremely hot debate in America, about twenty years, ago, a really serious debate, that issue about the individual and society. So some societies are lead by leadership which is strong and powerful, provides a lot of political good and is very positive for the people and others are obviously more despotic, and the people underneath the regime suffer greatly from that.
But whether the political project is positive or negative almost is not the question for the humanitarian the issue is much more about the experience to the suffering of the day, which changes over time. The political topography changes and we are just reactors and we react to it. Humanitarian action under IHL, the Geneva Convention, it’s an “opt-out” clause, it’s not something that goes with the military and the political and even nice things like social development, and I may add, nice things like the introduction of democracy.
We are not critical enough about how political these issues are. In the West it seems that these soft political issues have become so inherent in our values that we forget that they are not universally accepted. And as humanitarians we need to be a bit disciplined in talking some distance and wondering. You have to wonder, why the terrorists have a political project and even so, what would they think about this conference even? What would they think about the nature of humanitarian space and isn't it terrible it's under fire? So we’ve been struggling with the confrontation between the humanitarian and the political as long as humanitarianism has been institutionalized and has been allowed in institutions. And it is inevitable to continue and it is a good thing that interface has to happen and sometimes it’s a lot more difficult. I think humanitarianism was a lot more difficult during the Second World War than it is today and possibly during the Cold War. But certainly we’re going through difficult times and I will try and say a little bit about what I think may be new.
There seems to be quite a lot of Western intervention at the moment but I think what’s even more new is the acceptance of casualties and the active involvement. There used to be a lot of peace-keeping, Western involvement in Western peace-keeping missions, but as soon as anyone was killed they left. And we were sort of left, and all the soldiers would run away, and they were the big boys with bullet-proof-vests and guns, and they were leaving, and we were there standing with some Toyotas and some food and wondering whether we should leave as well.
But now there is a greater desire at both the political and public level to militarily..., to use force for political ends and to accept casualties and that is quiet a big change in terms of public will for war and also the public understanding and support for the public humanitarianism. The second is the remarkable increase in the use of spectacular terror and particularly suicide attacks as a means of war. It’s not that new, it started in the eighties, not even within necessarily Islam sources, but it’s but again, its’ something about one side’s perception of injustice and the degree to which a response is justified and the degree to which people somehow accept the means of that response in such an asymmetric war, and trying to balance the asymmetry as people have to use tactics which seem absurd and horrific and disgusting. And yet, if you travel in various areas, and I’m not talking only about the Islamic world. There is a lot of confusion. People want to get a Visa to go and live in America and yet they express considerable joy when the West is hit. It’s something about that underdog mentality, it's something about the humility and the lack of opportunity that people all over the world are experiencing. There is some confusion about what they want for their own lives and also what is just and what is not just, and it is a problem that people are not talking about the way this war is forced and there is no open combination of the methods of violence.
But I don't think we can get to that unless people start being more disciplined about what the conflict is about. What is the war? Who is fighting for? For what aims? And that includes public which has to be clearer about. Some of the things that we think are essential goods, which aren’t, they are political aspirations and not everyone shares them.
I think there’s been an abandonment of the laws of war, and that’s partly because the other has been delegitimized and criminalized, and so they’re out there, and they do not need to follow the laws. And when you criminalize the other, history indicates that when you de-humanize the other, when you break all bridges of discussion you can use weapons against them that otherwise would not be acceptable, and I think this is happening on both sides, unfortunately. The abandonment of the laws of war and the method of war, because of the demonization of the other and because of the delegitimization of the enemy, is really significant for the possibility to practice humanitarian action.
I think the increased military involvement in the planning and delivery of aid, but that’s a gradual increase, increasing use of private contractors and aid, and increasing control of the public media by forces on both sides, rather than independent media coverage, and thinking an analysis about what’s really going on. So I think there is an increasing polarization amongst communities. The acceptance amongst communities with us is very different from when I started. People still want to receive the relief goods but they’re not as connected to the actual relief giver, they’re not as concerned with the fate of the agency, and that is in part because people have genuinely started to accept the political critique of Westernism and Westerners started to see us as rather confused agents of the West who are taking on the one hand and giving on the other. But also I think there is a problem within the aid world. I think that aid agencies have become more bureaucratic in their efforts to negotiate space with the political parties, and a bureaucratic imperative has overtaken the humanitarian community. I think we spend too much time thinking about our institutions and cooperating with other institutions, and that we have lost a sense of humility and caring, and a means of expressing that to victims. I think it’s a humiliating experience to receive aid today. They think you’re a number, you get a package, it’s not tailored to your needs and there is very little care and I don’t blame the victims for not caring about the fate of aid agencies. And it’s imperative that the victims of crisis believe that we are there for them.
Thank you. Muchas gracias. Ahora si me lo permiten y antes de que demos la palabra al Sr. Aguirre para que pueda retar alguna de estas ideas y quizás hacer algunas preguntas adicionales a nuestros invitados, quisiera aprovechar la presencia de la Sra. Mary Robinson entre nosotros. La Sra. Mary Robinson como todos ustedes saben ha sido presidenta de Irlanda, también ha sido Alta Comisionada de las Naciones Unidas y en este momento ejerce su tarea, su vocación a la lucha contra la pobreza, desde una interesante iniciativa que se llama “Ethical Globalization Initiative”. Quizá quisiera comentar con nosotros alguno de estos temas sobre los que estamos hablando.
Si me lo permite, yo le plantearía una pregunta que ha sobrevolado las intervenciones de esta mañana. ¿Existe el riesgo de que las cuestiones humanitarias se perciban por parte de las personas que reciben esa asistencia como una parte de la agenda de los países ricos?
Thank you. First of all, could I apologize for being late. There was some accident on the road, just around the corner. I’m very glad that this session is taking place, your question is one that a lot of people are asking and want clear answers.
I think that a number of the complex issues that Austen Davis has just talked about are very real. Somehow, we have to reclaim in a way that has great integrity the role of humanitarian intervention in the truer sense and the humanitarian working with those who are victims of conflict. The importance of international humanitarian law, the importance of the laws of war, the importance of addressing small arms, and I'm very glad that Oxfam and Amnesty International have joined with other NGO’s and am very supportive of those campaigns. It's the small arms that are the weapons of mass destruction in real terms and that’s part of the problem. But a lot of the complexities have been brought out in Europe, contributions. But I would say in aid of the Madrid agenda in moving forward in this agenda, is that it would be good to have true reclaiming of the humanitarian space.
And for that, there must not be a perception that those who are working on the ground with civilian populations in times of conflict are in any way seen as agents of power groups or political agendas. So I think clarity and reclaiming that humanitarian space is perhaps the most important contribution that this section can make. I think it means there should be different messages for different players, messages about the extent of using private groups for part of the services of armed groups and the military, and clarifying their role and accountability. At the moment the biggest problem is that it is very difficult to trace any accountability. So that’s one of the issues. The role of military and where military should not be, seeking to cloud and confuse in a way that causes a confusion of identity to those who are working in a humanitarian perspective and should be working with that independence and impartiality that is such an important value.
So, I would say that having identified the problems, it would be very good to apply your expertise know to reclaiming the principles and necessary practices that will recreate this humanitarian space, which is vital for the victims, for families who desperately need the dignity of also being actors in their local community, for how they move forward, out of conflict. So, I'll be very interested to see how we can address these issues.
Ahora es el momento en que el Sr. Aguirre pueda plantearnos también algunas cuestiones que le han sugerido las intervenciones de los invitados. De acuerdo con las estrictas normas de la casa tiene usted cuatro minutos para intentar poner en apuros a nuestros invitados
¿En qué idioma lo quiere?
Como usted prefiriera, ya que tiene la traducción simultánea.
Lo haré en inglés para facilitarles los comentarios
Thank you very much for your presentations, they are very interesting and very useful. I think that, in four minutes, I need to pick up two or three things that must be important to stress. The first one is that we can say after listening to you is that war has changed and humanitarian rules have been broken or are under attack. We can say that the rules for humanitarian action have been increasingly broken in the last decade, in the last years, and that the humanitarian space is under risk and its actors, particularly humanitarian workers, and victims as well, are under risk.
Now, my question is: who has broken the rules? Who is the first actor or the first actors that have broken the rules of humanitarian action? And who is not protecting the international humanitarian law? I must say that I am a little bit disappointed that you didn’t mention in the table the concept of international humanitarian law, maybe because you are workers in the field, just like asking a doctor to mention the instruments they are using. But you didn’t mention that at all and I think it is an important concept which has to be mentioned here. So, to answer the question: “Who broke the rules? Who is not protecting international humanitarian law?”, I think that we must first say that some states, and this is the second concept that you didn’t mention, some states are violating international law. You have mentioned the States already but not the rest. There are some particular states that are violating international humanitarian law. They are also creating a strong confusion among the different concepts: war, invasions, humanitarian intervention, peace-keeping operations, and they are messing up all of these concepts. The second problem or second answer to the question: "Who has broken the rules?”, that is broken but there are some non-state actors that feel that if there are no rules they can act without limits or boundaries. The liberalization of war and the attempts to redefine human rights and principles are encouraging terrorist, private contractors and freelance guerrillas to act freely in this humanitarian context.
So my first response is that, except Mr. Cairns [?], that asking for more pressures from governments to protect the humanitarian space is a little bit frustrating, since no one talks here about the UN, about the multilateral system and the tools of the multilateral system. To put it in a different way, we have more than fifty years of norm development processes and we need to reivindicate the law, and I think we need to do it in these humanitarian spaces. My second remark is that it is also important –this is a different topic– to recognize the cultural frameworks of the humanitarian spaces. This is something that for many years, many humanitarian action organizations didn’t recognize. But I’m also, as far as the role the moderator asked me to do, a little bit, let’s say, worried that we have the risk of passing from a sort of imperialist humanitarian action, going there to see what we can do without knowing them, to a sort of humanitarian relativism, in which now everything is fine, we can go there and we need to respect everybody. And at the same time, this is a sort of circle, we can return to point one, in terms of forgetting that there are some universal norms, and we need to be attached to these universal norms, and then we can discuss about the cultural particularities. Thank you.
Bueno yo creo que aunque ahora sería el turno de que ustedes plantearan alguna pregunta, quizás sería bueno escuchar lo que nuestros invitados tienen que decir a estos puntos que ha mencionado el Sr. Aguirre. Entonces, Brevemente, si alguno de ustedes tiene algo que decir en un minuto o minuto y medio.
(Continued in: Protecting the Humanitarian Space in the Face of Violence and Terror, part 2).