Kevin O’Sullivan
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Concern for Africa
The Biafran humanitarian crisis
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This chapter examines the rise of two new, and related, forms of international relations that simultaneously bolstered and bypassed traditional channels of diplomacy: aid and humanitarianism. It describes the powerful impact the Biafran humanitarian crisis had on inter-state relations, shifting aid and emergency relief to centre stage in the ‘fire brigade’ states’ relationship with the developing world. Diplomatic support for the decolonisation process was translated into economic and humanitarian support for ailing independent states. But, as this chapter shows, this shift was significant primarily because it was accompanied by the emergence of a new global discourse on aid and humanitarianism, and a new group of transnational actors whose work bypassed traditional political structures to emphasise the power of ‘people-to-people’ action: NGOs.

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