Military and Humanitarian Actors

Authored by: Karsten Friis

The Routledge Companion to Humanitarian Action

Print publication date:  March  2015
Online publication date:  March  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415844420
eBook ISBN: 9780203753422
Adobe ISBN: 9781135013936


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‘It was easier under the Taliban’ – these words come from the head of a leading Western humanitarian NGO in Afghanistan, complaining about how the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) constantly undermined their work and their security (ABC News 2009). She claimed that things had been calmer prior to the Western intervention and that the security situation worsened as more soldiers were deployed. Such outbursts, while possibly inflated, reflect the frustration often felt by humanitarians in encounters with the military. The armed forces, it is often held, undermine the core humanitarian values of independence, impartiality and neutrality and politicize aid by doing humanitarian tasks in an attempt to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the local population. As a result humanitarian actors are put at risk as well (Fast 2010; Collinson and Elhawary 2012). The military and the humanitarians should be kept strictly apart and not interact, it is argued. The military, for its part, has been less restrictive about interaction but tends to view the humanitarian NGO community with some suspicion.

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