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Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Blurring the lines between humanitarian and military action undermines aid

The European Parliament organised a hearing on if and how military and political objectives can coexist with humanitarian action when helping civilians in armed conflicts. Politicians, military officers and NGO representatives pointed to lessons from Afghanistan, DR Congo, Haiti and Libya which could help improve the situation and uphold the independence and neutrality of humanitarian actors. Opening the meeting, the vice-chair of Parliament's Development Committee, French EPP member, Michèle Striffler, said "efforts of humanitarian aid workers providing impartial help are often jeopardised by political military and security actions", but "both sides need each other". Speaking of conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Prof. Robert Kabamba of Belgium's Liège University explained that there was confusion between military action as a first step to solve a crisis and humanitarian aid as a second step: "The role of the military forces was vague" and their mission "not clearly defined". In any case, assistance should only be based on actual needs, Ross Mountain of DARA (an NGO specialising in the review of humanitarian donor activity) underlined: "We identified politicisation and militarisation of aid as increasing problems with negative effects on access, protection and safety". Speaking from the donors' perspective, the head of ECHO, the European Commission's international aid department, Peter Zangl said: "When aid supports military force, it is no longer considered as humanitarian. The more aid is perceived as politicised, the less effective it is".

Source: European Parliament