Research Handbooks in Human Rights series
Edited by Robert Kolb and Gloria Gaggioli
Chapter 15: Humanitarian assistance to protect human rights and international humanitarian law
Humanitarian assistance plays a crucial role in the International Community and a strong debate currently revolves around many of its facets: funding sources, adequacy of means, and the solutions adopted to grant universal access to victims. In case of humanitarian emergency, contrasts among the States often arise, as well as conflicts among, or inside, the main International Organizations. Public opinion plays a key role too, by facilitating the achievement of the defined goals as well as by monitoring the development of humanitarian activities to make sure they follow clear and transparent procedures. The search for this transparency is assigned to the media, which are frequently accused of arbitrarily putting forward some emergencies while ignoring others. Or, also, of creating the illusion of a prompt response from the International Community even when this is lacking. The aforementioned debate is amplified by natural disasters and armed conflicts, particularly asymmetric conflicts, where, unfortunately, we witness an increase in civil victims and the killing of humanitarian operators. In situations of conflict, the presence of humanitarian assistance operations are nowadays considered to be not only an important condition for the calling of a truce, but a necessary element to reach, in the words of the UN Secretary General, ‘Global Peace’, which requires the solution of social, economic, cultural and humanitarian problems. Therefore, any obstacle to the delivery of aid is correctly considered as a danger to international peace and security. But this integrated approach is often criticized as it would interfere with the independence of humanitarian operations.
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