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Condemned to Repeat?: The Paradox of Humanitarian Action

by Fiona Terry Cornell University Press
Pub Date:
05/2002
ISBN:
9780801487965
Format:
Pbk 304 pages
Price:
AU$57.99 NZ$61.73
Product Status: Available in Approx 14 days
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Humanitarian groups have failed, Fiona Terry believes, to face up to the core paradox of their activity: humanitarian action aims to alleviate suffering, but by inadvertently sustaining conflict it potentially prolongs suffering. In Condemned to Repeat?, Terry examines the side-effects of intervention by aid organizations and points out the need to acknowledge the political consequences of the choice to give aid. The author makes the controversial claim that aid agencies act as though the initial decision to supply aid satisfies any need for ethical discussion and are often blind to the moral quandaries of aid. Terry focuses on four historically relevant cases: Rwandan camps in Zaire, Afghan camps in Pakistan, Salvadoran and Nicaraguan camps in Honduras, and Cambodian camps in Thailand. Terry was the head of the French section of Medecins sans frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) when it withdrew from the Rwandan refugee camps in Zaire because aid intended for refugees actually strengthened those responsible for perpetrating genocide. This book contains documents from the former Rwandan army and government that were found in the refugee camps after they were attacked in late 1996. This material illustrates how combatants manipulate humanitarian action to their benefit.Condemned to Repeat? makes clear that the paradox of aid demands immediate attention by organizations and governments around the world. The author stresses that, if international agencies are to meet the needs of populations in crisis, their organizational behavior must adjust to the wider political and socioeconomic contexts in which aid occurs.

Introduction
1. Humanitarian Action and Responsibility
2. The Afghan Refugee Camps in Pakistan
3. The Nicaraguan and Salvadoran Refugee Camps in Honduras
4. The Cambodian Refugee Camps in Thailand
5. The Rwandan Refugee Camps in Zaire
6. Humanitarian Action in a Second-Best World

Appendix: Documents from the Rwandan Refugee Camps
Index

"Unlike others who have seen the underbelly of the aid business, Fiona Terry responds, not with cynicism or fatalism, but with morally sensitive, politically relevant, and intellectually lucid proposals about how to bring actual consequences closer to good intentions. Condemned to Repeat? is a passionate and independent challenge to humanitarian practice-as-usual that can enrich ethics classes and guide refugee camps. It is a book of extraordinary reach that contributes richly to both theory and practice."

Fiona Terry has spent most of the last 20 years involved in humanitarian operations in different parts of the world, including northern Iraq, Somalia, the Great Lakes region of Africa, Liberia and Sudan. She was a research director for Médecins Sans Frontières in Paris from 2000 to 2003 working on North Korea, Sierra Leone and Angola, before spending three years with the ICRC in Myanmar. She holds a Ph.D. in international relations and political science from the Australian National University.