Antonio Donini on “The crisis of multilateralism and the future of humanitarian action”

Regarding recent developments in international politics Antonio Donini has published an interesting piece on the crisis of multilateralism and the consequences for humanitarian action on Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN).

Here is his opinion on the topic “The crisis of multilateralism and the future of humanitarian action”

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Antonio Donini is Research Associate at the Geneva Graduate Institute’s Programme for the Study of Global Migration and also senior researcher at the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University. He has worked for 26 years in the United Nations in research, evaluation, and humanitar­ian capacities. His last post was as Director of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan (1999-2002).

JHIL Article: Human Rights for and against Empire

In March 2014 Oliver Dörr (Osnabrück), Marc Frey (Munich), and Jörn Axel Kämmerer (Hamburg) organized the Hamburg Symposium on Colonialism and International Law at the Bucerius Law School. Some of papers of the conference have now been published as articles in the new issue of the Journal of the history of International Law.

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My own article deals with the topic of  Human Rights for and against Empire – Legal and Public Discourses in the Age of Decolonisation (JHIL, Vol. 18, 2016, p. 317-338). Against the background of an ongoing debate about the role of human rights in the age of decolonization this essay approaches the issue from two different angles. It concentrates on the paradoxical situation that anti-colonial movements as well as colonial powers instrumentalized international human rights documents such as the Genocide Convention, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Conventions, and the European Conventions on Human Rights for achieving their political goals. In combining legal and public discourses in a significant way both sides accused each other of gross human rights violations while at the same time presenting themselves as respecting and even guaranteeing fundamental human rights. Especially during the course of the wars of decolonization after 1945 this phenomena became obvious in various diplomatic debates at the United Nations and made universal rights a diplomatic pawn in international debates.

For this recent issue of the JHIL see:

http://www.brill.com/journal-history-international-law-revue-dhistoire-du-droit-international

New Special Issue on “Humanitarianism”

Maria Framke and Joël Glasman have recently edited a special issue on “Humanitarianism” for the German historical journal “Werkstatt.Geschichte”.

Contributions in both English and German by Semih Çelik, Alexandra Pfeiff, Heike Wieters and Florian Hannig shed light on different aspect of humanitarian action in the international shpere in the nineteenth and twentieh century and promise new insights into the global history of humanitarianism:

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Editorial by Maria Framke, Joël Glasman and the editorial staff

Semih Çelik: Between History of Humanitarianism and Humanitarianization of History. A Discussion on Ottoman Help for the Victims of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1852

Alexandra Pfeiff: Das Chinesische Rote Kreuz und die Rote Swastika Gesellschaft. Eine vergleichende Perspektive auf chinesischen Humanitarismus

Heike Wieters: Krisen, Kompromisse, Kalter Krieg. Die amerikanische NGO CARE und die Anfänge humanitärer Nahrungsmittelhilfe in Ägypten, 1954-1958

Florian Hannig: Mitleid mit Biafranern in Westdeutschland. Eine Historisierung von Empathie

For further information on the volume “Humanitarismus”, volume 68 (2015), see http://www.hsozkult.de/journal/id/zeitschriftenausgaben-9337 or the link of the Journal “Werkstatt.Geschichte” @ http://www.werkstattgeschichte.de/

ICRC Report on the Effects of the Atomic Bomb at Hiroshima 1945

Cross-posted from icrchistory

Rapport rédigé en octobre 1945 par Fritz Bilfinger, délégué du CICR au Japon à cette époque, concernant les effets du bombardement atomique sur la population d’Hiroshima.

This report on the effects of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima was written on October 1945 by Fritz Bilfinger, ICRC delegate in Japan

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JP Daughton on the Dark Roots of Humanitarianism

In a study of the history of the French colonial Congo-Océan Railway, the Stanford historian JP Daughton investigates how modern humanitarianism arose from the brutality of European colonialism.

You will find an interesting article on Daughton’s research @:

http://news.stanford.edu/news/2015/april/humanitarian-congo-daughton-042315.html

Essay: Frieden durch Krieg?

Sandrine Mayoraz, Frithjof Benjamin Schenk, and Ueli Mäder have just published the volume Hundert Jahre Basler Friedenskongress (1912-2012). Die erhoffte „Verbrüderung der Völker”, Basel/Zürich 2015. The edited volume is the result of an international conference held at the University of Basel from November 22 to 24, 2012 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the 1912 Basel International Socialist Peace Congress. The complete German volume with various contribution on the question of war and peace is now available online @:

http://sozarch7.uzh.ch/daten/Friedenskongress_Gesamtwerk.pdf

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In my own contribution „Frieden durch Krieg? Zur Janusköpfigkeit militärischer Interventionspraxis im langen 19. Jahrhundert“ (Peace by War? The Janus-faced character of Military Intervention in the long 19th Century) I am focusing on the practice of humanitarian intervention throughout the long 19th century. The essay examines the question whether humanitarian interventions were able to contribute to international peacekeeping or whether they were not in fact an instrument of imperial power, under the guise of humanitarianism. Its aim is to consider the Janus-faced character of humanitarian intervention and to examine the consequences of this for international relations.

You will find my essay @: http://sozarch7.uzh.ch/daten/Friedenskongress_Klose.pdf

The Future of the Past: Shining the Light of History on the Challenges Facing Principled Humanitarian Action

Cross-Posted from imperialglobalexeter

Andrew Thompson History Department, University of Exeter

Even as Red Cross and Red Crescent societies around the world mark the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the movement’s Fundamental Principles, there is a palpable sense that they are at risk. Threatened not only by the resurgence of state sovereignty and proliferation of non-state armed groups, the very universality of the principles may be in question. As the twenty-first century draws on, are the principles of ‘impartiality’, ‘neutrality’ and ‘independence’ still fit for purpose as Western influence wanes and the nature of conflict itself rapidly evolves?

The Red Cross’ principles have marinated in a century and a half of humanitarian history. That history matters. The past helps us to understand how different types of threat to humanitarian principles have emerged from different types of conflict and geopolitical environments. History also sheds light on how, despite such obstacles, the principles came to acquire the public prominence and moral authority they currently possess.

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Food distribution, Pakistan. ICRC / Muhammad, N.

Where did the Fundamental Principles come from?

The principles were first articulated by the Swiss jurist and co-founder of the international Red Cross, Gustave Moynier. His four principles of the 1870s ‒ ‘centralisation’, ‘foresight’, ‘mutuality’ and ‘solidarity’ ‒ were more firmly focused around the role of the national societies and their relation to the ICRC and each other.

Right from the get-go, the idea of giving aid based purely on the needs of the suffering, irrespective of religious, ethnic or political affiliation, was built into the Geneva Conventions. Article 6 of the 1864 Convention stated that wounded or sick combatants would be collected and cared for regardless of nationality.

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Wolfgang Schmale: Europe and Human Rights in 2015

Cross-posted from Wolfgang Schmale’s new blog “Mein Europa”

Die Europäische Union braucht ein großes Ziel – dieses Ziel soll lauten: „Machen wir Europa zum Kontinent der Menschenrechte!“

[1] Geschichtlich stand hinter den Menschenrechten der Gedanke, Menschen vor denjenigen zu schützen, die Macht besaßen und die diese unter Außerachtlassung der Regeln des guten Regierens ausübten. Diese Auffassung lässt sich in Europa ohne weiteres bis in das Mittelalter zurückverfolgen. Das „gute Regieren“ oder, wie in der frühen Neuzeit, die „gute Policey“ traf als Anspruch nicht nur auf den Herrscher zu, sondern im Prinzip auf alle, die Macht besaßen, also etwa Grundherren, Feudalherren. Die zu respektierenden fundamentalen Regeln fand man im göttlichen Recht, im Naturrecht und in einer Reihe offenkundiger Notwendigkeiten, die sich in der Idee eines Rechts auf Subsistenzsicherung zusammenfassen lassen. Einem Bauern seinen Ochsen und Pflug wegen Schulden zu pfänden, verstieß nicht nur moralisch dagegen, sondern es gab fast überall auch schriftlich fixierte Rechtsnormen, also positives einklagbares Recht, das das verbot.

[2] Den Bevölkerungen war die Durchsetzung dieser Regeln zahllose, oft gewaltsame Konflikte sowie teure Gerichtsprozesse wert. Man konnte darüber „seine Armut verrechten“, wie es in der frühen Neuzeit so treffend formuliert wurde, sprich, selbst Menschen mit geringem Einkommen beteiligten sich am Widerstand gegen Unrecht.

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[3] Ab der Mitte des 17. Jahrhunderts wurde die rechtliche Substanz, die gemeint war, gelegentlich als „Menschenrecht“ bezeichnet, doch gängig und häufig wurde diese Bezeichnung erst im Zuge der Französischen Revolution. Sie ging mit einer Kanonbildung der Menschenrechte einher. Außerdem wurden die Regeln des guten Regierens auf die höchste Stufe von Verbindlichkeit und Verpflichtung angehoben – in Gestalt einer schriftlichen Verfassung, wie wir dies aus den nordamerikanischen Staaten, die sich zu den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika zusammenschlossen, als auch von Frankreich 1789-1791 kennen. Die Kombination all dieser Faktoren, die das moderne Verfassungswesen kennzeichnen, ist erst für das späte und revolutionäre 18. Jahrhundert charakteristisch, auch wenn die Geschichte eine lange Reihe von Fundamentalgesetzen (Magna Charta und viele andere) aufweist, die als ferne Vorläufer schriftlicher Verfassungen gelten können.

[4] Die Erkämpfung und Durchsetzung von Grund- und Menschenrechten war ein blutiger Prozess. In der Französischen Revolution brachte es einmal ein einfacher Soldat (Nationalgardist) auf den Begriff: „Das Blut der Freiheit“ (s. unten Dokumentation).

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History in the Making: An @ICRC Interview with Andrew Thompson

Cross-Posted from CIGH Exeter 

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ICRC Headquarters, Geneva.

Malcolm Lucard
Cross-posted from Red Cross Red Crescent Magazine

Internal records from the ICRC’s archives concerning the conflicts of the 1960s and 1970s shed light on a decisive era for humanitarian action.

In a small room in the basement of ICRC headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, historian Andrew Thompson methodically pours through folders full of documents — typewritten mission reports, confidential telegrams and hand-written letters — never before seen by people outside the ICRC.

“It is a process of discovery,” says Thompson, a professor of history at Exeter University in the United Kingdom. “There is a sense of expectation and anticipation not knowing what is going to be there. For a historian, it’s a bit like opening a birthday present, or like going into a candy shop.”

The ‘candy shop’ in this case is the ICRC archives, where Thompson is exploring 40- to 50-year-old records to be released to the public in January 2015 under the ICRC’s policy of making internal documents public in blocks of ten years once 40 years have passed since the events they describe.

Aside from exciting Thompson’s intellectual curiosity, these records offer a deeper understanding of conflicts going on between 1965 and 1975. In particular, they give insight into an area of great interest to Thompson, who took an early look at the records in order to pursue research on the evolution of international humanitarian law and human rights law as they pertain to the treatment of political detainees in non-international conflicts.

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Shtadlanut and the Diplomacy of Jewish Questions

The 18th century saw the beginnings of the discourse on what we understand today as “minority” and “human rights” as well as “international law”. The same is true for the use of the term “diplomacy”. However, already in 1716, François de Callières (1645–1717), a minister of Louis XIV of France and member of the French academy, termed the practices of diplomacy avant la lettre perhaps in the most concise way in his treatise De la manière de négocier avec les souverains (“On the Manner of Negotiating with Princes”). De Callières advised counselors and ministers in his manual about self-control, discretion, and patience. He also recommended an interest-led negotiating style. A good mediator should always try to formulate his proposes according to the interests of his partner and should constantly point out the mutual advantages. Furthermore, the minister emphasized that the negotiating partners should always seek for a permanent, stable relationship.

So long before the concept of “diplomacy” existed and the discourse on minorities and human rights emerged, there were related practices that ensured the intercession for individuals and collectives in previous time periods, the strategic representation of interests and political negotiations. These practices of negotiating and intervening existed in various societies and they were also part of the Jewish culture.

The history of the Jews shows that negotiations with non-Jewish authorities as well as the establishment and consolidation of good relationships played an essential role. The permission of settlement and the location policy were the basis of Jewish life, particularly in medieval and early modern Europe. In the early modern period, the manner of negotiating with the non-Jewish authorities was so refined that a term based on the Aramaic root of “shadal” – meaning “to intercede” or “to make an effort” – was created: the so-called “Shtadlanut” (“intercession”). Continue reading

Journal for Human Rights: Special Issue on “Human Rights and Violence”

The Journal of Human Rights/Zeitschrift für Menschenrechte (zfmr) is a multidisciplinary quarterly journal, which publishes articles concerning the issues of human rights in English and German. Its aim is to serve as an interdisciplinary forum for the public discussion and social-theoretic reflection of questions of human rights. The journal reaches out especially to scholars working in all fields of political science, history, philosophy, sociology, and legal theory as well as politicians, policy makers and decision makers in politics, economy, and civil society. It seeks to intensive significantly the debate about human rights in political science and in related disciplines and offers wide-ranging approaches to the subject including both theoretic and empirical perspectives.

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The main objective of the Journal of Human Rights is “to make a significant scholarly contribution to the theory of human rights and enrich and expand discourses about rights in practical political, economic, and social contexts. The journal is committed to the systematic development of the human rights subfield in political science and to the broadening the debate on human rights at all levels.”

Its recent issue focuses on the topic of “Human Rights and Violence” and contains a broad variety of articles from different disciplines. You can have a look at the abstracts of all contributions @:http://www.zeitschriftfuermenschenrechte.de/

In this issue I have published a contribution on the emergence and limits of the human rights regime after 1945 with a special reference to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 in the colonial context. Continue reading

New publication on the history of humanitarianism in the Middle East and North Africa

The research program “Humanitarian Policy Group” at the British research institute ODI (Overseas Development Institute) in London has recently published the first results of its project on “The global history of humanitarian action”, focusing on the history of humanitarian action in the Middle East and North Africa.

This study, edited by Eleanor Davey and Eva Svoboda, offers interesting insights into both the still unexplored history of humanitarianism in the Arab World and its important links with urgent questions of the present time.

The publication can be found and downloaded at: http://www.odi.org/publications/8787-history-humanitarian-middle-east-mena-zakat-palestine-displacement-lebanon-yemen

 

Special journal issue on solidarity and transnational activism

Some blog readers may be interested in a recent themed issue of the European Review of History, dedicated to ‘Transnational Solidarities and the Politics of the Left, 1890-1990’ and jointly edited by Charlotte Alston and Daniel Laqua (the author of this post). You can access the contributions via this link. While the emphasis is neither on humanitarianism nor on human rights as such, many of the articles address issues that are connected to these phenomena. As a whole, the contributions raise a number of questions that are highly relevant when analysing humanitarian efforts and human rights campaigns within their wider historical context.

  • How do groups, organisations and individuals frame their transnational campaigns? As many of the contributors to this journal issue show, actors often adopted a language that evoked specific rights or liberties, for instance when denouncing ‘despotism’ abroad. In some instances activists stressed their solidarity with a specific cause while also casting their actions as humanitarian (e.g. West German activists who undertook practical work in the Sandinistas’ Nicaragua).
  • What kind of mechanisms can activists draw upon when seeking to mobilise people and organise efforts across national borders? What communication channels do they use? The contributions cover a repertoire – from pamphlets and letter campaigns to broadcasts – that will be familiar to anyone studying humanitarianism or human rights activism.
  • To what extent was the construction of a specific cause as ‘transnational’ or ‘global’ a constituent element of specific campaigns? In many cases, it is necessary to juxtapose the rhetoric of a ‘solidarity beyond borders’ with their limitations and constraints. For instance, several authors shed light on the ways in which transnational campaigns were tied to local aspirations and desires. Continue reading

Conference Panel “The Congress of Vienna and the Slave Trade – Religion, International Relations and Humanitarianism”

As described in one of my earlier posts the Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz successfully applied for the panel “The Congress of Vienna and the Slave Trade -Religion, International Relations and Humanitarianism” at the international conference “The Vienna Congress and Its Global Dimensions.”, which takes place from Thursday 18th to Monday 22nd September 2014 at the University of Vienna.

Here are the abstracts our today’s panel papers.

Introduction:

When evaluating the Congress of Vienna of 1814/15, historians traditionally concentrate on the negotiations to redraw the political map of Europe and on the establishment of an order meant to ensure peace on the continent in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars. However, the implications of the congress went far beyond the European scope and were directly linked to manifold global issues such as the trans-Atlantic slave trade, one of the burning issues of the time. By signing the “Déclaration des 8 Cours, relative à l’Abolition Universelle de la Traite des Nègres” on 8 February 1815 the representatives of the major European powers established for the first time in history a humanitarian norm in international law. The aim of the proposed panel is to investigate the miscellaneous entanglements of this norm-setting process by focusing on the role of religion and religious actors, emerging humanitarianism, international relations and the impact of abolition on the process of Latin-American independence.

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Leibniz-Journal: Issue on Peace and Conflicts

The Leibniz Institut of European History (IEG) Mainz is member of the Leibniz Association, which connects 89 independent research institutions that range in focus from the natural, engineering and environmental sciences via economics, spatial and social sciences to the humanities.

The recent issue of the Leibniz-Journal focuses on the most relevant topic of peace and conflicts in history, international relations and international law. The articles deal with a broad variety of themes reaching from the First World War and the Versailles post-war order to the culture of commemorating war and to most recent conflicts of the 21st century such as in the Ukraine.

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Additionally the contribution of Mounia Meiborg discusses critically the concept of humanitarian intervention by referring to research projects at different Leibniz Institutes, including my own about the history of humanitarian intervention here at the IEG Mainz.

If you are interested in reading the article, you will find it @:

http://www.leibnizgemeinschaft.de/fileadmin/user_upload/

downloads/Presse/Journal/14_2_Konflikte/Im_Namen_der_Humanitaet_02_2014_WEB.pdf