Thursday, April 5, 2012

Treat You To Kill You Later

Ceasefire... An agreement between both sides of a conflict to halt shooting for a specified period of time to allow humanitarian aid to safely enter the zone. The unbelievable contradiction of purpose exhibited in this term gravels me! 

It basically says, I will pause the shooting, call an ambulance to treat your wounds and in an hour, I will resume the shooting, so be prepared. How does this twisted logic work? The mere concept of a "ceasefire" has perplexed me for the longest time. Thus, I grasped an opportunity to attend a seminar discussing this exact complicated situation. The seminar was organized by Aljazeera Center for Studies in cooperation with Doctors without Borders. I have decided to outline the main points discussed in the seminar for readers to ingest. I myself have definitely changed my perception after the seminar, but have not fully reflected on the discussion to form a final opinion on the matter as whole.  


About the Seminar
The seminar discussed the problematic relationship between humanitarian aid and politics in conflict zones. The aim of the seminar was to shed light on these issues through the experiences of participating guests and explore the role of the media in covering the overlapping and somewhat contradicting duties of both parties.

From A Humanitarian Perspective 
The speakers all agreed that Humanitarian aid providers cannot be biased under any circumstances and must remain neutral to the politics. Emphasizing that the role of humanitarian organizations is to “minimize the number of deaths and causalities in conflict zones” as stated by Claire Magone, Director of Studies at MSF’s Center for reflection on Humanitarian Action.



Furthermore, the discussion addressed the international law stating that an occupier must provide basic services in a country they have occupied to substitute the basic humanitarian requirements previously provided by a country’s government. This issue stimulated a lot of controversy, questioning the ultimate meaning of Humanitarian Aid and whether providing these services by the same party enforcing military control and stirring violence is considered “humanitarian” at all. In response to this issue, Michiel Hofman, Strategy Advisor for Operations at Doctors without Borders (MSF) states “We do not applaud countries or political groups for providing humanitarian aid after occupying a land, but they are required to by the law. What we denounce though is calling it “Human Aid”. As nonprofit organizations, what we can do is reject money from any party, government or organization exerting military control on any grounds”.

Values of Humanitarian Work  
The discussion then evolved in to the values of Humanitarian Aid, how to implement them in conflict zones and use them to assess “grey area” situations.   Khaled Diab, International Planning Cooperation Advisor at the Qatar Red Crescent Society, summarized these values affirming “The core value of humanitarian aid is to respect human life above all. If this is granted, all else should be simple logic to follow”, he added “In humanitarian aid you must not be biased and you must negotiate with all parties” asserting that negotiating with a party does not necessarily mean avowing its authenticity.

From A Political Perspective 
Of course international law and politics play a major role in this eternal dilemma and  Hassan Al-Mujamar, News Producer and Planner of activities and programs on human rights and legal support at Aljazeera Media Network, elaborated on the legal implications of the matter. He explained the UN’s perception of conflict zone issues, emphasizing that “The UN recognizes the negative impact of enforcing ‘war laws’ and thus, in an aim to protect future generations has discussed all war protocols under a single section by the title Human Right Laws.” He concluded that there is no such thing as ‘rules of war’ because war is unacceptable. However, it is inevitable so what politics can do is provide Human Right laws to protect people in disputed areas.

 The seminar concluded with an open discussion that touched on a number of issues, perhaps the most prominent were; Coping with Security and Military Problems, Humanitarian Aid Amidst Bias and Politicization, Social Media between Facts & Propaganda and Sectarian Tension & Unequal Access to Affected Areas.



  


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