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Humanitarian corridors in Ukraine: the illusion of an ideal solution

"Humanitarian corridor". In just a few days, these two words have become a common theme in public speeches about Ukraine, evoking the illusion of an ideal solution to the suffering of people trapped in cities surrounded by Russian forces. However, the imperative need to support any initiative that aims to allow civilians who wish to flee a combat zone should not obscure the political instrumentalisation of which humanitarian corridors are sometimes the object, nor the complexity of their implementation.

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Silent wounds: Understanding the moral challenges associated with humanitarian work

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic made visible to the general public some of the many challenges associated with humanitarian work. Suddenly mortality rates, shortages of medical supplies and the difficulty of making hard choices in contexts with limited resources were reported in the media and discussed in social circles across the world. Little was said, however, about the consequences of making those choices on the frontline humanitarian and healthcare workers who witnessed their direct impact.

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Humanitarian corridors: negotiated exceptions at risk of manipulation

In the absence of a normative framework, the concept of humanitarian corridor lacks a consistent definition and is highly vulnerable to political interpretation. The notion underwent multiple semantic shifts, from referring to a right of passage in situations of armed conflict, to an appeal to facilitated access in the face of bordure closures or bureaucratic constraints.

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Les 50 ans de MSF, ou comment l'humanitaire reste une épine dans le pied des dirigeants

Dresser le bilan de cinquante années d’action humanitaire de Médecins Sans Frontières tout en faisant l’inventaire des défis à venir est un exercice délicat. Avec des activités dans plus de 80 pays grâce à des financements privés approchant les 2 milliards d’euros, l’envergure actuelle de l’organisation est loin de la modeste initiative qui suivit le carnage des années 1960 au Biafra.

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The Business of Conflict: Humanitarian Assistance and the War Economy in Syria

The Syrian crisis is one of the most serious humanitarian disasters in recent history. Yet the widely reported numbers--more than 6 million displaced, including 5 million refugees--reflect only a fractional toll of the conflict. Numerous international organizations, states, and civil society movements have called for the laws of war to be respected, sieges lifted, and humanitarian access facilitated. But beneath each of these humanitarian appeals lies a complicated reality extending beyond the binary narratives that have come to define the war in Syria.

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Sexual abuse perpetrated by humanitarian workers: from moral relativism to competitive victimhood

Drawing on the example of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Françoise Duroch and Emmanuel Noyer review the measures taken by the non-governmental organisation (NGO) to combat sexual violence. The authors show the moral relativism that runs through humanitarian organisations concerned with preserving their public image. Admittedly, the latter are increasingly aware of their obligation to monitor the behaviour of their employees, but the systems need to tackle inequalities, especially gender-based ones.

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Should we discriminate in order to act? Profiling: a necessary but debated practice

In October 2020, MSF organised a workshop in Dakar on staff profiling in operations in the Sahel. Profiling involves the selection of staff based on non-professional criteria, including nationality, skin colour, gender and religion. As such, it raises a number of ethical and practical concerns. As a result of profiling, US nationals have not been deployed in MSF operations in Colombia because of the risk of kidnapping, and Chadians and Rwandans have been excluded in the Central African Republic and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo respectively, because of regional conflicts.

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