The Politics of ‘Proximity’ and Performing Humanitarianism in Eastern DRC
need for operational ‘proximity’ to, as well as performative distance from, everyday social and political dynamics.
MSF in North Kivu
In North Kivu, international aid organisations installed themselves en masse after the influx of Rwandan refugees in 1994. The urban landscape of its capital, Goma, has been dramatically reshaped in consequence, while a range of NGOs have established projects in rural areas. The medical humanitarian organisation, MSF, has a long history in the region, having opened its first project in DRC in 1977. Today, three
Matthew Hunt, Sharon O’Brien, Patrick Cadwell, and Dónal P. O’Mathúna
receiving the word of the Other into one’s own home, one’s own
dwelling’ ( 2007 : xvi).
Humanitarian aid entails overcoming distances: geographic distances as national
or international responders travel to a locale experiencing crisis, but also
social, cultural, political and narrative distances due to the vastly divergent
experiences of people caught up in crises. A key challenge for humanitarian
ethics is to take account both of the steep asymmetries
will weather this one as well. I
certainly hope it will. But to do so, it will have to change radically, as radically as Matteo
Salvini, Viktor Orbán and Alternative für Deutschland have transformed
Europe’s political, ethical and moral relations of force. And the only way to do this is
to let go of humanitarian politics in favor of a politics of the pure and simple.
Obviously, despite the efforts of some relief groups to keep their distance from human rights
NGOs, the consensus view is that both enterprises
the use of poor-quality fuels. This change of
direction was also due to a reduction in the number of war-wounded, itself due
to the distance from the front line and the new surgical units set up by the
armed opposition. At that time, Atmeh was a 17-bed hospital with an operating
theatre (used for skin grafts), an emergency room, in-patient beds, a
physiotherapy service and a psychological support unit. It was to become the
only medical facility in
science fiction level body machine melding’. Wearables range from ‘the
eminently practical’ to the ‘utterly fantastical’. The
functions of these digital technologies are not necessarily novel: paper maps have
existed for centuries; pedometers date back to the eighteenth century; devices
measuring distances cycled or walked, spectacles, prosthetic devices and
wristwatches are further examples of historical wearable technologies ( Carter et al. , 2018
Staff Security and Civilian Protection in the Humanitarian
(especially expatriate) personnel are distanced
from those they seek to assist ( Collinson and
Duffield, 2013 ; Duffield,
2012 ; Fast, 2014 ).
The inclusion of hard measures for staff at the same time as they are excluded for
other civilians can be seen to have two additional consequences. First, providing
armed protection to some people – staff – may not only reduce the risk
faced by those people but may also serve to increase the risk by those who do not
A Response to the Journal of Humanitarian Affairs Special Issue on Innovation in Humanitarian Action (JHA, 1:3)
model for humanitarian innovation, they are an indication of the recognition that how innovation is financed and incentivised (or not) is a problem to be addressed. This creates at least some distance from Currion’s ‘deeply pessimistic picture’ – the ‘black hole of humanitarian innovation’.
While there is much progress to be made, based on consideration of the evolution of the humanitarian innovation agenda and professional practice, I would refute the assertion made by Finnigan and Farkas (Innovation Issue) that we have not moved beyond a ‘dominant
distance’ or ‘three people were killed by gunfire’ also takes
financial and physical resources. Unlike journalists – who often set off on
their own with just their backpacks, phones and laptops – humanitarian
workers, diplomats and even intelligence agencies have the physical resources needed
to more systematically analyse events that, if merely reported, don’t
‘say’ much at all.
Suppose that the day after tomorrow I arrive in Kitchanga, North Kivu as a journalist
the power over life; bio-politics can disallow life to the point of death. Violence is progressive and progress is often extremely violent in its normalisation.
Violence Can Be Intelligent through a Mastery of Technology
If war has been the motor of history, technology has been the motor of war. But what makes technology so masterful is precisely the way it can be presented as ambivalent and its advancing technical armies as objective. Technology has distanced the perpetrator of violence from their victims. It has been well documented how during the Great
being in the majority in the organisation ( Shaheen, 2018 ).
It may not be that much easier for historians to write about this, even with the
benefit of distance in the archives; it is difficult to believe that many of these
stories will make it into the archive unredacted, or with the necessary contextual
information to be interpreted and analysed. As Emily Baughan and Juliano Fiori have
shown with their work on Save the Children, INGOs construct and control narratives