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Bloomsbury Debates on Humanitarianism: Profits, Politics and Power
Thursday, 15 November 2012 from 18:30 to 19:30 (GMT)
London, United Kingdom
This is the first of a series of Roundtable Discussions jointly organised by Birkbeck College, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Medecins Sans Frontieres, in collaboration with The Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust & Genocide.
Since its distant origins on the battlefields of Solferino, the idea and practice of humanitarianism has undergone significant changes, generally reflecting wider social, economic and political transformations in international society. Over the past two decades, under the guise of ‘humanitarian intervention’ and in response to ‘complex emergencies’, the inevitably political character of the category has been especially pronounced. Indeed, many today see humanitarianism as an expression of a specifically liberal way of peace and war or worse, as a form of ‘human rights imperialism’.
This roundtable discussion brings together distinguished experts and practitioners of humanitarianism to explore the political power and socio-economic dimensions of contemporary international humanitarianism. Among the questions to be discussed are: can the ‘principles of independence, neutrality and impartiality’ be upheld in asymmetrical conflicts? Can and should non-governmental organisations remain non-political in complex emergencies? what role is there for the private sector in humanitarian relief operations? and, to what extent should humanitarian agencies work as a branch of states' foreign policies?
Sarah Collinson, ODI London
Stephen Hopgood, Senior Lecturer, SOAS
Joanna Macrae, DFID
Fabrice Weissman, MSF/CRASH
Chair: Alex Colas, Politics Department, Birkbeck College