What is the humanitarian crisis of conscience, and how has the debate on the principles of humanitarianism shaped humanitarian responses to crises?

The moral conscience in action.

The world, in its broad sense of the perspective view of humanity, is bogged down to the human conflicts that surround us today. The humanitarian efforts are defined by its relative fundamentals; impartiality, neutrality and independence. Humanitarian actors have to abide to these sets of rules and procedures of supposed doctrine, without the notion of un-benign motive and agenda. With the advancements of technology that comes into the aid of humanitarian effort; its rules and procedures have been in a constant shift of amendments, of which is much inclined to the reconstruction of the humanitarian process. However in the past, countries who were the recipients of humanitarian aid, some of which funds that come in aid were mishandled in terms of resources and monetary renaissance. The retrospect of humanitarianism, and looking at aspects from the different viewpoints of governments and organisations, garners the debate on whether the humanitarian crisis of conscience is threaded on the right path.

Humanitarian actors are categorised into state and non-state actors; governments and humanitarian organisations such as the UN and ICRC. The former, UN, which its intricate humanitarian principles are prescribed in the doctrine of OCHA: Humanity, Neutrality, Impartiality and Independence. The moral conscience of humanitarianism; firstly, it is a humanitarian value to preserve lives. Secondly, everyone has their rights to civil, economic, social and political stance. Thirdly, the approach to humanitarianism has to be impartial. Priority is given to the extremely distressed and devastated, and is applied without prejudice and distinctions which are based on nationality, race, gender, class, religious belief and political agenda. Fourthly, the independence and the assurance of staff safety implicitly emphasise on the importance of autonomy and the insurgence of humanitarian aid, without any form of political agenda.

The implications that surround the competence and reliability of humanitarianism have come under scrutiny in a number of causes. Humanitarianism in its primitive form is a process and a result of politicization. From the past decades, there has been a new emergence of humanitarian actors. Non-western actors such as China, Brazil and India have joined in the global arena of humanitarian assistance. Sovereignty is seen as part of a distinct South-South co-operation approach that looks to promote an equal relationship between the governments that provide aid and those that receive it. In such instances, non-western actors rely on the traditional doctrine of their Western counterparts, and the salient notion of religious norms as a footprint for humanitarian aid. Non-Western actors are perceived to respect the sovereignty and impartiality of governments which are the recipients of humanitarian aid lest, of much preferred to humanitarian cooperation with the latter. The consequence of this approach is that governments are not inclined to protect its people from internally armed conflicts. A choice has to be made of the lesser good, on whether humanitarian aid is to be handed to the correct hands of the beneficiary.

In the context of the Afghanistan war in the Middle East, we have seen countless humanitarian efforts brought upon the government and its people. Factions of its people are controlled by an extremist group, the Taliban. Transparency is another factor that concerns that imperative nature of humanitarianism. Humanitarian aid that comes in the monetary sense may not be a reliable accountability to the receiving end of which the government are not able to protect its people that are controlled by the Taliban. Aid agencies, on whose work thousands of lives depend, have found it increasingly difficult to deliver assistance in recent years, as many regions are inaccessible due to the conflict. The government of Afghanistan is in a state of conflict with the Taliban; territories are inaccessible to humanitarian aid in these conflicted areas.

As we touched on the function of state to state humanitarian assistance, humanitarian organisations also play an important role on humanitarianism. The in-depth cohesion and substance of humanitarian organisations lie on its actions. What propels these agencies to take its actions, why agencies react to the humanitarian crisis and how do they implement their actions. The existence of totalitarian regimes often coincides with the notion of coercion against its people, which may prompt the insurgence of humanitarian aid. Agencies have to consider their personal capacity, of which they are deemed capable of implementing and sustaining the proposed humanitarian aid, in terms of quantitative value such as monetary funding and ample humanitarian staff. To essentially conjure up effective solutions in utmost moral sense, the deliberation of pressing issues is drawn up on the roundtable for debate and consultation which will lead to better decision making. An effort to reduce minimal damage to both parties by reconciliation and mitigation, it can be done by collecting sufficient information regarding the nature and the geographical location of the conflict.

From the duration of perceived humanitarian intervention we can end up with an absolute: short-term or long-term humanitarian assistance. Humanitarianism posed the question on the effectiveness of immediate or future-oriented form of humanitarian intervention, is expressed in two views: decontological and teleological. A decontological view galvanises the importance of an immediate and impetuous and is seen as short-term oriented. A light-footprint approach comes into pretext; the UN’s case in Afghanistan is akin to the immediate and short-term view. But Afghanistan’s peace process is far from secure. In its latest report to the Security Council, the UN mission said insecurity and the lack of law and order continue to erode support for the transitional process. The process of building a nation back to its feet requires enormous effort: a guaranteed safe country, primitive social contract between the government and its people and the notion of sustenance.

To ideally approach the situation in Afghanistan, a teleological view has to be considered. It has become fashionable to state that long-term food security and peacebuilding depend on functioning states. Instead of a short-term minimalistic approach; a better option is to consider all factors that encircle the whole situation. Decisions are thoroughly analysed to solve these perceived view of complicated affairs and it takes account the long-term effects that will however, constitute good outcomes in all its possibilities.

The dilemmas of humanitarianism bog down to the notion of politics and governance. As time proceeds, the professionalism and bureaucratisation of humanitarianism has altered the process in benign progress. Politicization and institutionalisation have become a progressive norm for humanitarian organisations. However, the process of which has withholding consequences. While the consequences of institutionalisation are largely negative and at times deeply compromising of fundamental humanitarian principles, the consequences of politicization are far more mixed, subtle, and challenging. The end of the Cold War rewrites the status quo for the principles of humanitarianism, thereby its complexity and accountability are increasingly difficult to manage.

The emergence of the multipolar world instead of a previous bipolar obverse proved that states’ behaviours are shifting in its own perspective, without the influence of global powers. However, the political nature of these organisations remains intact. The purpose of humanitarian organisations is to provide humanitarian assistance, in the expense of apolitical and empathy driven agenda. Institutionalisation touches on the aspects of a humanitarian organisation’s survival and funding. Humanitarian organisations compete in a very unequal marketplace, with many agencies and often only one or two big funder: a national agency and one of the UN agencies- either UNHCR, or WFP, or WHO, depending on the kind of emergency and the services the organisation provides. The constraints humanitarian organisations face are often a bed stone for prudent reporting of their services and performances, which may lead to inaccurate judiciary placed upon these organisations. This prudence behaviour is of many bad practices often reflects the substantive results and humanitarian assistance that appears benign but in fact hides a shadow of inferiority.

The humanitarian crisis of conscience based itself on the rhetoric, and willing, put it into action. Impartiality, neutrality and independence: the doctrine for which humanitarian organisations and states promote the welfare of the people, and also act as a voice for altruism. For some empirical studies it seems that the past holds a light in educating the people, for only the progressive re-amendments and reconstruction of humanitarian principles can be truly achieved by research and enlightenment.


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