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Gregor Gall

This chapter first establishes the providence and the provenance of the appellation of ‘working-class hero’ given to Mick Lynch. This entails examining how Lynch was perceived by various parties and people. The chapter then lays out a definition of a ‘working-class hero’, which is required to facilitate studying Lynch as a working-class hero, and considers some of the complexities and contradictions this involves. Lynch’s demonisation by many parts of the media at a time of growing popular anger against the Tories, the establishment and the cost-of-living crisis created one part of the equation of his becoming a working-class hero. Another part was Lynch’s popular and polished media performance. But the process and the outcome of becoming a working-class hero are more complex than this, because they rest on concoction and context. Indeed, Lynch became a working-class hero for many because of what he said rather than what he did. But having become a working-class hero, what were the expectations thereafter? And were they realistic? Would ‘fighting the good fight’ be good enough? Would words rather than deeds suffice – and for how long?

in Mick Lynch
Gregor Gall

Amongst the ranks of working-class heroes, the summer of 2022 saw a new one made in the minds of many. This chapter begins with a reminder of the praise and plaudits Mick Lynch won in the early summer of 2022 as he broke into the mainstream media and into the common consciousness. He emerged as the victor and not the vanquished. But this did not necessarily equate to the RMT winning its struggles with him at the helm. ‘Soft power’ did not generate ‘hard power’. Consequently, the chapter considers Lynch’s communication capabilities, the context and the content of what he conveyed as well as his self-deprecating demeanour. It also makes comparisons of Lynch with Crow, Cash and Corbyn. Finally, it considers whether Lynch as a working-class hero was not just a hero for, but also of and from the working class.

in Mick Lynch
Gregor Gall

This chapter covers Mick Lynch’s time as a national officer of the RMT, including during an internal union dispute between 2020 and 2021. Although Lynch did not start working as an employee of the RMT until 2015, he did work for the union as a fully seconded, full-time senior lay officer from 2009 to 2011 and again from 2015 before being elected as a national officer. So this chapter traces Lynch’s elevation to the senior levels of the RMT, involving him as a ‘mover and shaker’ in a period of severe internal turbulence. Though he was critical of the far-left, he did form a working relationship with the RMT Broad Left. This would be an important part of his election victory as General Secretary, seeing Lynch complete his rapid rise to the top of the RMT. The internal struggle showed Lynch had developed the capabilities to fulfil many of the six functions of leadership. Again, these would be put to good use as General Secretary to shape what the RMT did according to Lynch’s agenda and style.

in Mick Lynch
Humanitarian Disruption in Conflict Settings
Maelle L’Homme

In March 2022, intercommunal fighting forced Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to suspend its activities after nearly fourteen years of operating in Agok, a small town located in the disputed Abyei Special Administrative Area (ASAA) on the border between Sudan and South Sudan. After the shock of having to close a 185-bed hospital unexpectedly came questions about the unintentional consequences of MSF’s presence. With the benefit of hindsight, the organisation deemed it important to examine the potentially destabilising influence it might have had on the local environment. This article builds on an internal capitalisation exercise conducted with the aim of documenting MSF’s experience and critically reflecting on the potential of aid being a factor in disrupting local balances, or worse, a factor in fuelling violence. By exploring the premises that MSF was an anchor factor for the population and that the economic fallouts made Agok a place worth fighting for, the author investigates the long-term, unintended impact of MSF’s presence on the local political economy of conflict, as well as the organisation’s possible share of responsibility for aggravating intercommunal grievances. Based on the observation that aid inevitably benefits some more than others, the author also asks to what extent MSF was aware of the adverse consequences of its presence and whether more awareness would have led to different operational choices and mitigating measures. This questioning does not detract in any way from the project’s achievements in terms of providing high-quality secondary healthcare in a context where there was none, in one of the poorest countries in the world.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Open Access (free)
Duncan McLean
Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
What the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Shown Us about the Humanitarian Sphere’s Approach to Local Faith Engagement
Ellen Goodwin

The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be much more than a health emergency, with serious social, political and economic consequences. The diverse challenges for people and communities, specifically in low- and middle-income and fragile contexts, have necessitated multi-sectoral responses from international humanitarian and development actors. For many international faith-inspired organisations (IFIOs), these responses included a faith dimension. Drawing on interviews with staff working in IFIOs during the pandemic, this paper will argue that the COVID-19 pandemic saw many, although not all, IFIOs engage with local faith actors and local communities of faith more quickly, and in increasingly diverse and meaningful ways, than during previous comparable public health crises. This shift in willingness to engage with faith and religion at the local level has been reflected, to some extent, by the broader humanitarian sphere. The COVID-19 pandemic therefore marks an important step towards more faith-literate humanitarian responses, with many IFIOs at the forefront of this progress.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Lessons from the MSF Listen Experience
Jake Leyland
,
Sandrine Tiller
, and
Budhaditya Bhattacharya

While health misinformation is important to address in humanitarian settings, over-focusing on it can obfuscate a more holistic understanding of a community’s needs in a crisis. Through Médecins Sans Frontières’ experience of deploying a platform to tackle health misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic, this field report argues that, while important, health misinformation became a diversionary topic during COVID-19, which represented a lack of trust between communities, humanitarian organisations and health institutions, rather a fundamental obstacle to effective humanitarian interventions.

From our practitioners’ viewpoint, we reflect on the deployment of the ‘MSF Listen’ platform in our programmes and how it evolved from a purely misinformation-focused digital tool to a broader workflow and approach to understanding community needs in crises through accountable management of community feedback.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Emma Tomalin
and
Olivia Wilkinson

This paper explores findings from research carried out alongside a humanitarian project called ‘Bridging the Gap (BtG): The Role of Local Faith Actors in Humanitarian Response in South Sudan’. BtG aimed to better understand the barriers that stand in the way of engagement between local faith actors (LFAs) and international humanitarians (IHs) and to introduce learning opportunities (e.g. training and workshops) to address these. We share perspectives from the LFAs who participated in this ‘localisation’ project about what it means to become ‘legitimate’ humanitarian actors that are recognised and trusted by the international system and why this is important for them, as well as what BtG tells us about the legitimacy of the international humanitarian system from the point of view of LFAs and LFAs’ legitimacy in the eyes of their local communities. We also reflect upon the ways in which the processes of NGO-isation and professionalisation that accompany this journey to become ‘legitimate’, can compromise and undervalue the very qualities that local actors are presumed to possess. This does not indicate the failure of the localisation agenda, but that bold action is needed to make localisation more inclusive in ways that might challenge some areas of humanitarian orthodoxy.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Darryl Stellmach
,
Margaux Pinaud
,
Margot Tudor
, and
Larissa Fast

This paper assesses the influence of the humanitarian innovation agenda on the aid sector, particularly medical humanitarian actors’ increasing reliance on digital technologies. Pressure to innovate arises from the belief that technological advancements can save lives, leading to the exploration of new technologies in humanitarian contexts. However, the rapid, often uncritical, adoption of new technologies and data practices has raised ethical, political and institutional concerns. To this end, the paper surveys key debates and ethical challenges arising from the deployment of biometric and medical data technologies in humanitarian and disaster settings. To achieve this aim, it gathers issues into three major categories of enquiry: governance, power and control; justice and equity; and trust. These categories assist in conceptualising the moral and ethical tensions between technologies, data and actors in humanitarian spaces. The ongoing deployment of biometric and medical data technologies in humanitarian and disaster contexts raises significant ethical challenges that can only be addressed by practitioners and researchers together. The paper concludes with a call to jointly assess the broader implications of medical data innovations in humanitarianism, emphasising the need for further research and collaboration among different disciplines.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Matthew Hunt
,
Isabel Muñoz Beaulieu
, and
Handreen Mohammed Saeed

Humanitarian health projects generate extensive amounts of data as part of their activities. In many situations, this data will endure long after the projects have ended. Careful attention is needed within project closure planning and implementation to decisions of when and how to share, store, return to the individuals from whom it was collected, or destroy data. Drawing on a review of the literature and guidelines related to data responsibility and project closure, we propose seven questions that can help orient reflection and deliberation around data management from the perspective of an ethics of project closure. The questions foreground considerations related to purpose limitation and data minimisation, respect for data rights, upholding duties of care, clarifying expectations, commitments and agreements, minimisation and mitigation of risk, and alignment of policy and regulatory frameworks for data responsibility. We illustrate the application of the questions to a case study of the handover of a healthcare project in a refugee camp where project activities were transferred from an international humanitarian organisation to local authorities. This analysis reinforces the importance of understanding data responsibility as an essential component of ‘closing well’.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs