Topic : Humanitarian-military relationships

Interventions armées humanitaires: injustifiables…

Humanitarian action, as Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) conceives it today, is intended to provide relief to populations in danger, and not to add war to war. It must be – in its discourse but especially in practice – neutral, impartial and independent of political powers or state or personal interests. This means that, as a medical and humanitarian organization, it must be able aid all of those in need, regardless of their side, depending on needs and not on any other criteria. MSF cannot determine who the perpetrators are and who the victims are.

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Militär-Humanitär Eine Beziehung voller Spannungen (Military-humanitarians: A tensional relationship)

In accordance with its Charter, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provides assistance to populations in distress, among them the sick and the wounded in conflict zones. Yet MSF’s presence in war zones is not a given, space is not set aside for humanitarian action; it must be negotiated. To gain acceptance, MSF must demonstrate on a daily basis that its only goal is to assist victims of conflict, and that it has no political, economic or other motivation.

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Them and Us

Aid providers have attempted to deliver help to those injured on the battlefield, regardless of their allegiances, since the establishment of the Red Cross. As a result, international humanitarian law has established the right of relief agencies to provide assistance as long as they respect the principles of humanitarianism by treating individuals humanely and without any form of discrimination when dispensing aid.

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Myanmar: la situation sanitaire est catastrophique

Myanmar is a particularly difficult context for MSF’s humanitarian action: access to those in need is possible "at the cost of a permanent contortion exercise between the respect of our principles as humanitarian actors (...) and the willingness to effectively implement our solidarity". Access to health services remains extremely difficult: In district hospitals and health centers, administrative, logistical and financial barriers, as well as discrimination, make access to health care "almost virtual" for the Burmese....

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MSF: l’action humanitaire en Irak ne doit pas avoir d’"agenda caché"

As part of the preparations for the war in Iraq, a "humanitarian component" is currently being organized by the U.S. government and the military. In this article, Jean-Marc Biquet expresses his concern over the military following humanitarians once again during an armed intervention. According to him, humanitarian action must not have a "hidden agenda", but must remain a process in itself, with the sole objective of alleviating the suffering of populations. Today, however, this action is increasingly subject to the political objectives of certain governments.

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Les risques quotidiens de la dévaluation de la démarche humanitaire

After restating the definition, purpose, and role of humanitarian assistance, the author emphasizes the dangers that misuse for political considerations represents for the image of humanitarian action. While recognizing that technical expertise is important for effective provision of aid, the author stresses that humanitarianism requires more than technology. He also warns that collecting the funds necessary for relief operations must not lead to commercial-style marketing of humanitarian assistance.

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Les valeurs que défend Médecins Sans Frontières

"Who do they think they are? The new Knights Hospitaller? A sword in one hand and a stethoscope in the other!" That was, in essence, the ulcerated reaction of the humanitarian community after food packages were dropped by the U.S. military over Afghanistan – between two bombings. During the "first humanitarian war" waged by NATO in Kosovo (1999), it had already felt a real sense of revolt.

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