Aid in Danger
The Perils and Promise of Humanitarianism
Publication Year: 2014
Humanitarian aid workers increasingly remain present in contexts of violence and are injured, kidnapped, and killed as a result. Since 9/11 and in response to these dangers, aid organizations have fortified themselves to shield their staff and programs from outside threats. In Aid in Danger, Larissa Fast critically examines the causes of violence against aid workers and the consequences of the approaches aid agencies use to protect themselves from attack.
Based on more than a decade of research, Aid in Danger explores the assumptions underpinning existing explanations of and responses to violence against aid workers. According to Fast, most explanations of attacks locate the causes externally and maintain an image of aid workers as an exceptional category of civilians. The resulting approaches to security rely on separation and fortification and alienate aid workers from those in need, representing both a symptom and a cause of crisis in the humanitarian system. Missing from most analyses are the internal vulnerabilities, exemplified in the everyday decisions and ordinary human frailties and organizational mistakes that sometimes contribute to the conditions leading to violence. This oversight contributes to the normalization of danger in aid work and undermines the humanitarian ethos. As an alternative, Fast proposes a relational framework that captures both external threats and internal vulnerabilities. By uncovering overlooked causes of violence, Aid in Danger offers a unique perspective on the challenges of providing aid in perilous settings and on the prospects of reforming the system in service of core humanitarian values.
Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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Humanitarianism is in crisis. More than a decade after 9/11 and the advent of the “war on terror,” the dangers to aid workers have increased, as has the complexity of their operating environment. The humanitarian impulse to provide lifesaving assistance is under fire, literally and figuratively: literally, as aid workers from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe are attacked, injured, kidnapped, and killed, and aid agencies are prevented from accessing vulnerable...
Chapter 1. Three Stories of Aid in Danger: From Baghdad and Muttur to Solferino
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The history of humanitarianism is peppered with incidents of violence against aid workers and aid delivery. The deadliest and highest-profile security incidents, however, have occurred since the mid-1990s. Two of these, the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2003 that killed twenty-two people and the murder of seventeen staff members of Action Contre la Faim in Muttur, Sri Lanka, feature in this chapter...
Chapter 2. The Twin Challenges for Contemporary Humanitarianism
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Both the Baghdad bombing and Muttur tragedy occurred in the years following the terror attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon on 11 September 2001. More broadly, writers, social scientists, theorists, and theologians, among others, have analyzed and written about the profound cultural shift and pervasive sense of fear that marks the Western post-9/11 world (Bauman 2006; Altheide 2002; Bader-Saye 2007; Amis 2008)...
Chapter 3. The Dangers They Face: Understanding Violence Against Aid Workers and Agencies
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On 6 December 1936, Italian airplanes bombed the city of Dessié/Dessye in north-central Ethiopia for over an hour, raining bombs onto ambulances and the Tafari Makonnen American hospital displaying the Red Cross symbol. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) promptly lodged a protest, one of many provoked by one or the other side in the 1936 Abyssinian War between Ethiopia and Italy.1...
Chapter 4. The Dominant Explanations: Competing Discourses of Aid
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Violence against aid workers complicates where and how humanitarians operate and whom they can help. In some cases, violence blocks access to vulnerable populations. Security concerns, including fatalities of UN civilian international staff and peacekeepers, caused the United Nations to withdraw all international staff from Somalia in 1993. For many years after, the UN operated humanitarian and other programs remotely from Nairobi, with...
Chapter 5. Explanations in the Shadows: Competing Images of Aid
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In September 2000, three aid workers were killed in West Timor, Indonesia.
An email sent by one of them, Carlos Caseres, just hours before he died,
circulated over the Internet.
I was in the office when the news came out that a wave of violence would soon pound Atambua. We sent most of the staff home, rushing to safety. I just heard someone on the radio saying that they are praying for us in the office. The militias are on the way, and I am sure they will do their best to demolish this office...
Chapter 6. Coping with Danger: Paradigms of Humanitarian Security Management
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The “technicals” of Somalia (pickup trucks mounted with guns used to protect relief operations in 1992 and 1993), much like the bunkerized “Green Zone” of postinvasion Baghdad in 2003, exist in stark contrast to the lack of protection for the aid worker living in a village in Africa or Asia or aid organizations in Iraq in 2004, operating in deliberate anonymity and without armed protection or hard security in an eff ort to blend in with their...
Conclusion. Reclaiming Humanity
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On 28 October 2009, shortly before the Afghan presidential runoff in early November, Taliban militants attacked the UN guest house in Kabul. A lengthy gunfight occurred, and five expatriate UN staff died in the attack. Nine others were wounded. Three of the attackers were wearing suicide vests and were dressed in Afghan police uniforms. They arrived in police vehicles and carried IDs. After they were refused entry into the guesthouse...
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Page Count: 344
Publication Year: 2014
Series Title: Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights