About Johannes Paulmann

Historian of Europe, Director of Leibniz Institute of European History at Mainz; see my cv on http://ieg-mainz.academia.edu/JohannesPaulmann

Report Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA) 2016

The 2nd Global Humanitarianism Research Academy at the Centre for Imperial and Global History, University of Exeter, and the Archives of International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva

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GHRA 2016 at Reed Hall, University of Exeter, 13 July 2016

The GHRA 2016, organized by FABIAN KLOSE (Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz), JOHANNES PAULMANN (Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz), and ANDREW THOMPSON (University of Exeter) in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross and with support by the German Historical Institute London, took place from July 11 to 22, 2016 at the University of Exeter and the Archives of International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva. The 2016 GHRA had eleven fellows (ten PhD candidates, one Postdoc) who were selected in a highly competitive application process. They came from Austria, Canada, Germany, Japan, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They represented a range of disciplinary approaches from History, International History, Politics, International Relations, and Area Studies. The Research Academy was joined by STACEY HYND (University of Exeter) and KATHARINA STORNIG (Leibniz Institute of European History) as well as JEAN-LUC BLONDEL (formerly of the ICRC) and MARC-WILLIAM PALEN (University of Exeter).

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The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Impact of History

On Wednesday, 20th July, the fellows of the GHRA 2016 discussed topical issues as well as the role and impact of history with Charlotte Lindsey Curtet at the Humanitarium, the conference centre at the headquarters of the ICRC in Geneva. As Director of Communication and Information Management since 2010, Charlotte Lindsey is not only current in all present affairs but also responsible for the Archives of the ICRC.

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Charlotte Lindsey Curtet with the fellows of the Global Humanitarianism Research Academy, Geneva 20 July 2016.

She herself has witnessed great changes since she joined the organisation in 1993 when she first went on missions to Bosnia and Ruanda. In 1999-2000 she conducted a major research on women and war resulting in the publication of Women Facing War (2001). The findings in some instances surprised her herself, she said. Looking at women not merely through the prism of sexual violence and as victims but as actors in their own right broadened the perspectives and made the ICRC more gender sensitive in terms of operational response as well as legal development. The “all victims approach” prevalent until then has since been abandoned in favour of a more nuanced notion without giving up the principle of impartiality. In more recent years, similar discussions are taking place in relation to the challenges of cultural and particularly religious differences. The aim always is to find communality in order to come to the aid of those who suffer across the divides of a conflict. Increasing Respect for International Humanitarian Law in non-International Armed Conflicts (2008) suggests in a chapter on “strategic argumentation” to appeal to core values as “the fundamental principles of humanitarian law are often mirrored in the values, ethics or morality of local cultures and traditions. Pointing out how certain rules or principles found in IHL also exist within the culture of a party to a conflict can help lead to increased compliance“ (p. 31).

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New Report on Red Cross Fundamental Principles: A critical historical perspective

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CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / L. Lehongre

For more than half a century, the Fundamental Principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality have underpinned the global humanitarian work of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. But how have these principles evolved since their codification in 1965, and to what extent have they been adapted for modern day conflict and emergency contexts? Are certain principles more ‘valuable’ than others, and what can the successes, failures and controversies of the past teach us about the future of humanitarian work?

These are just some of the thought-provoking questions raised in a new report: Connecting with the Past: The Fundamental Principles in Critical Historical Perspective. The report, a collaboration between the ICRC, University of Exeter and the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, reflects the debates and key points raised by eminent academics, historians and humanitarians who attended a symposium at ICRC headquarters in Geneva in September, 2015. The event and related report, examine five significant periods of history, starting with the founding of the Red Cross in 1865 and ending with the post 9/11 era and the many unprecedented and complex humanitarian challenges that have arisen throughout.

Humanitarian Ethics – Berlin Colloquium on Contemporary History

From Rights to Favour? Didier Fassin on the ‘Moral Economy of Asylum in Contemporary Society’

Some notes by Johannes Paulmann (IEG, Mainz)

“Refugees Welcome” – Portraits of refugees and volunteers as part of a rally, 3rd Oct. 2015, Vienna, Mariahilferstraße, photo: © Bwag/Commons, CCBY-SA-4.0

The anthropologist and sociologist Didier Fassin (Princeton) opened the 21st Berlin Colloquium on Contemporary History at the Einstein Forum, Potsdam, on 3 December 2015. In his public lecture Fassin analysed the recent shift in representing individual refugees and the legitimacy of their claims – a shift, as he explained, from a right to asylum to granting asylum as a favour. How are we to explain the accompanying changes in recognition rates and in the manner of accepting refugees?

Fassin sees the convergent logics of two developments at play. On the one side, the political economy regarding immigration changed during the 1970s. Until then workers from abroad were invited and welcomed into an expanding west European economy. With the onset of economic crisis and the slowing down of growth, immigrants were regarded as superfluous in the labour market. However, this perspective is not a sufficient explanation. It took also, on the other side, a change in terms of moral economy, the logic of which shifted from a matter of compassion and admiration for those persecuted to suspicion and hostility towards immigrants during the 1990s when the Cold War ended, the control of borders within the EU was abolished, far right movements rose, and the social integration of refugees or migrants became a matter of public debate.

Fassin adapts here historian E.P. Thompson’s idea of the ‘moral economy’ but neither regards it as a code particular to a group, such as rural workers during the industrial revolution, nor understands it as something long lasting and stable. He rather uses the notion of a moral economy to describe the production, circulation and appropriation of values and affects within the realm of specific problems, in his case migrants wishing to enter a country. The moral economy regarding ‘refugees’ has changed several times during the period since the Second World War. While I would disagree with the historical periodization of the affects and the way Fassin links them to particular groups, for example concentration camp survivors, Latin American resistance fighters or civil war refugees from the former Yugoslavia, the elements he detects certainly were central to the evolving moral economy: commiseration, respect, admiration, compassion, and mistrust.

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