Freedoms, set out in 1941,
provided particularly American inspiration for the post-war development of liberal global
governance. 1 But the principles of great-power
trusteeship and balancing, reflected in the Dumbarton Oaks proposals in 1944, were decisive in
the creation of the United Nations. 2 Despite
the early proliferation of liberal institutions under the aegis of the UN, ColdWar prerogatives
undermined cosmopolitan aspirations for world government. Cancelling each other out in the
Security Council, the US and the Soviet Union
collectively from a long battle within the American establishment, in which the military has, for
the time being, gained the upper hand over civil servants and career politicians, with their
cosmopolitan project of liberal order and rules-based global governance, initiated after the
Second World War and expanded after the ColdWar. If this victory is consolidated, it will bring
an end to the American messianism of the twentieth century, with its division of the world
between ‘good’ and ‘evil’, its globalising imperative to reorganise
the world through the
Uses and Misuses of International Humanitarian Law and Humanitarian
ColdWar, which is endangering both humanitarian teams and the operations they
conduct. References to ‘before’ have been heard since the mid-1990s,
in the wake of the Bosnian War and the Tutsi genocide. The mass killings in Bosnia
and Rwanda – coming on the heels of the Somali and Liberian civil wars
– created a landscape of widespread violence, ‘anarchic
conflicts’ in which not even humanitarian workers or journalists were safe.
People stressed the contrast with earlier
A Model for Historical Reflection in the Humanitarian Sector
Kevin O’Sullivan and Réiseal Ní Chéilleachair
effectively than attempting to find answers to such far-reaching questions in a
global context. Somalia was selected because of its pivotal role in redefining
humanitarian aid in the post-ColdWar era. The crisis in the region altered
understandings of humanitarian intervention as a tool of international security,
raised questions about NGO engagement with, or disregard for, local politics and
offered massive logistical challenges in the delivery of aid ( Harper, 2012 ). Its legacy still
especially as reformists of the centre left and right (Clinton, Blair) came to dominate the
party-political scene after Thatcher and Reagan embedded the neoliberal revolution of the 1980s.
After the ColdWar, in other words, the liberal world order was a fact of life. In Margaret
Thatcher’s immortal words, ‘there is no alternative’.
The consequences of this focus on private enterprise, mobile money, weakened unions, reduced
state welfare and regulation and lower taxes are all too visible today in areas like wealth
Security-risk management has long been a concern at Médecins du Monde (MdM),
as it was for other humanitarian agencies operating at the height of the ColdWar.
However, it was in the 1990s that security had to address its own set of issues. The
collapse of the Soviet bloc and the post-ColdWar conflicts created safety issues
for humanitarian agencies: a booming aid sector led to an increase in exposure,
together with a trend for
Drawing its energy from the wave of New Left and counter-cultural radicalism of the 1960s
( Boltanski and Chiapello, 2005 ), an NGO-led direct
humanitarian action pushed onto the international stage during the 1970s. The radicalism of this
new anti-establishment sans frontières humanitarianism lay in its
political challenge to the conventions of ColdWar sovereignty. By being there on the ground it
sought to hold sovereign power to account, witnessing its excesses while professing a
Témoignage , here, was not only an act of speaking out
against state violence, but also an act of resistance against complicity with the
notorious practices of the Ethiopian state.
As coldwar binaries collapsed in the 1990s, long-suppressed grievances erupted in
the form of civil wars, posing new challenges to the stability of nation states.
States retaliated viciously: from Iraqi Kurdistan to Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo and
Chechnya, civilians came under increasing fire. Amid such
Gender Equality and Culture in Humanitarian Action1
Ricardo Fal-Dutra Santos
Engaging Men in the Fight against Gender Violence: Case Studies from
Africa ( New York :
Palgrave Macmillan ), pp.
69 – 100 .
Tickner , J.
A. ( 2001 ),
Gendering World Politics: Issues and Approaches in the Post-ColdWar
Era ( New York :
Marie-Luce Desgrandchamps, Lasse Heerten, Arua Oko Omaka, Kevin O'Sullivan, and Bertrand Taithe
the aftermath of the First World War, the period following the
Second World War, and later, the post-ColdWar 1990s. Biafra has certainly been
mythologised by the humanitarian community. In the case of MSF [Medécins Sans
Frontières], for example, it has been constructed in such a way as to
reinforce a particular image of that organisation’s origins. Nonetheless,
some of Biafra’s tropes are actually very useful for signalling its
importance. The idea that this was the