Today’s soldiers are smart. They launch missiles and drones from a safe distance behind computer screens. And when they are obliged to venture out, they are forewarned by intelligence and well protected by their armour.
In contrast, more and more civilian aid workers, protected by little more than their sense of righteousness, serve at chaotic frontlines, and are pressured to bear witness and provide succour…come what may. Unsurprisingly, some of them are bound to be harmed.
But it is not just being in the wrong place that puts humanitarian workers at risk.There is increasing mistrust of the humanitarian enterprise either because its practitioners are not so scrupulous nowadays or their efforts can be easily abused for other ends. Besides, in a world of impunity where bad behaviour is a norm and there is rarely any accountability for hurting aid worker, it is simple to target humanitarian access as part of warmaking tactics.
Could it be that it is not random bombs and bullets but the erosion and abuse of humanitarian principles (including by careless humanitarians themselves) that is killing more of them?
When the world is not able to travel, distances of the heart grow faster than bodily distances. And we understand less and less about places not visited. Terrible atrocities can then flourish so easily behind closed borders. Worst of all, as our worldview shrinks, we stop caring and growing ourselves. The sooner the world re-opens, the better for both our sanity and our common humanity.
Is genocide unfolding in Tigray? Against the Rohingya? Against Uyghurs? Does using the G word still have the moral authority to summon help? Have genocides ever been prevented? Before invoking ‘genocide’, what exactly is it? Is the Genocide Convention still stuck in the 1940s, while dictators and despots find ever more clever ways to get around the definition? Reflections here from my own personal journeys through genocide – some even as they were underway.
11 May 2021 – Mukesh Kapila Growing up in the famine-affected Indian state of Bihar in the 1960s, I recall my mother’s eulogy of gratitude to America for sending us food aid. But my childish mind translated the accompanying sense of national humiliation into a dislike of the foreign donor who I knew only from schoolContinue reading “Will Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce be good for philanthropy?”
When confronted by egregious human rights abuses, or war crimes and crimes against humanity including genocide, does speaking up make any difference? Especially if words are not followed by action? There are at least four reasons why it is still crucial to speak out, and how doing so can be effective. Also what matters is the pedestal of the speaker. The higher that is, the greater their responsibility to speak out. Of course,the rhetoric-reality gap is often vast and it is easy to get cynical. But silence or ambivalence kill and destroy much more. So, speak up clearly and loudly to wake up even the dead.
With a multitude of Observance Days, Weeks, and Months, the calendar is cluttered with commemoration events. Why do we do that? Is that too much? Or are they useful micro reminders in our age of diminished attention spans on how we can do good – a day at a time?
Humanitarian business is booming worldwide as disasters, conflicts, and crises reach record levels. So, the appointment of the world’s chief humanitarian officer by the United Nations Secretary-General is of crucial interest to all who care about humanity. What type of person should fill this mandate?
Are you an optimist or pessimist? Who copes better during these troubled times and contributes more usefully to humanity?
How to give thanks for all that we have the good fortune to enjoy is a complex business and how do we do this in the COVID-19 era? Thanksgivings from around the world give us a clue on the art and science of doing it right.
Three cheers for the new Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty. Because an unequal world where some are allowed to retain offensive nuclear capabilities while others can’t acquire them, is unfair and bound to be inherently unstable.