humanitarian work ≠ human rights work

Um, what do you mean humanitarian work ≠ human rights work?

I’m what I like to call an “anecdotal learner” so I’m going to just highlight a story here to explain.

Once upon a time in March 2009, human rights (“HR”)activists celebrated years of hard, important work and got the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir on war crimes charges.

Why was this a big deal?   #1, this was the first time in history that the ICC went after a current/sitting head of state. Big implications for the future. and #2, al-Bashir deserved it. Which will be talked about later, but in two sentences: he is responsible for the genocide and systematic rape of several ethnic groups living in the Darfur region. + broadly, his genocide plan was: hire guys to slaughter the men, then airstrike the village, then have the hired people rape the surviving women to impregnate them.

So, understandably, human rights activists were happy. Humanitarians were not. Because soon after, al-Bashir kicked out 13 humanitarian NGOs and shut down 3 Sudanese NGOs.

These included:  Doctors without Borders (MSF) + Oxfam CAREMercy Corps Save the Children Norwegian Refugee Council, the International Rescue Committee, Action contre la faim, Solidarités and CHF International.

JUST THINK FOR A MOMENT HOW MANY HUNDREDS OF LIVES WERE AFFECTED. FOR A WARRANT. THIS IS THE COMPLEXITY OF DOING GOOD – THERE ARE TRADE-OFFS. AND THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF WHY HUMAN RIGHTS WORK & HUMANITARIAN WORK, ALTHOUGH ALIGNED, ARE NOT THE SAME THING.

& this is an excellent example of the theme of this blog, which is that good intentions, and even good work, may have unintended and harmful consequences.

those interested in reading more: nytimes. irin. US dept of state memo. misc. here and here.

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