World Humanitarian Day: A Day of Celebration & Commemoration

World Humanitarian Day: A Day of Celebration & Commemoration

World Humanitarian Day: A Day of Celebration & Commemoration

World Humanitarian Day is a day to salute the soldiers – these ones don’t carry guns or wear a uniform or fly a flag in support of a side. Yet they are fighting for freedom. Unlike the equally praiseworthy heroes in uniform of the two great wars, these freedom fighters are not just fighting for a free nation but a free world – A world free from disease, from hunger from poverty and from ignorance. They are feeding the hungry, arming the uneducated with books and tending the wounds of war. From Chile to China, Palestine to Pakistan. Their march and mission is global. They come in all shapes and sizes from researchers to social workers to teachers – united in their service to humanity.

UN Geneva/Creative commons license
UN Geneva/Creative commons license

World Humanitarian Day marks the day in which 22 humanitarian aid workers were killed in the bombing of UN Headquarters in Baghdad. As well as a day for celebrating the achievements of the hundreds of thousands of humanitarian workers all over the world, today should also be a day of commemoration. As in any war, in the global war on poverty, many a troop has fallen. This year and in this article, please allow me to pay tribute to just one of the heroes who laid down their life so that we could live in a healthier, happier, safer and ultimately freer world.

On May 2016 a 23-year old aid worker with Save the Children was killed Idlib, northern Syria. As a part of operation “Violet” he was delivering healthcare, food and other aid to the area. Following an airstrike on a nearby building, he was trying to save families trapped under rubble when a subsequent airstrike killed him and several others.

Of course not everyone has the brilliance or the bravery to travel to a war zone but in the words

UN Geneva/Creative commons license
UN Geneva/Creative commons license

of Valerie Amos, the eighth UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Relief Coordinator: “Everyday extraordinary things can happen when ordinary people take action.” In this digital age, the internet is exploding with opportunities. Whether you want to take a big leap and actually pursue a career in humanitarianism or whether you want to make humanitarianism a “hobby” there will be something. Passion can very easily be matched with purpose. Amnesty International, Save the Children, Oxfam, Unicef, Doctors Without Borders! The possibilities are endless. If you’re something of a writer or wordsmith, why not write for this blog! Singer or songwriter? The 2012 campaign “I Was Here” was about making your mark, by doing something good, somewhere, for someone else. The campaign had a social reach of more than 1 billion people around the world and was supported by Beyonce whose brilliant video has been viewed more than 50 million times!

Overall, World Humanitarian Day is a day where we should open up our minds and our hearts to the immense suffering around the world. Today we are witnessing the biggest refugee crisis in history. Whether you have a spare room in your house or a bit of money or even the seed of an idea for a potential solution, we all have something to give. In the words of Nelson Mandela “Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings.” Be the change that you want to see in the world. Take action and become a humanitarian!

 


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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ISIS: If bombs aren’t the answer what is?

ISIS: If bombs aren’t the answer what is?

Terrorism and conflict are still a constant presence in the 21st Century, the latest expression of which has emerged in the form of ISIS. As cynicism of interventionist foreign policy grows, Raphael Kiyani explores what alternatives could be pursued to end the threat of ISIS.

ISIS, the Jihadist death-cult, has consumed the international discussion with its expansion of power and the many sickening atrocities they’ve inflicted on humanity, both towards Muslims and Non-Muslims alike. Military intervention whether through bombing or boots on the ground is widely considered to be a last option. So a question arises – if bombs are not the answer- what is? Here I shall put forward some practical international actions that could be undertaken to eliminate ISIS.

‘Back’ Assad

By no means a perfect man and this can be viewed as controversial but, it’s fast becoming clear that  the West’s hatred for Assad is scuppering the opportunity to obtain vital intelligence in order to co-ordinate in the region. Take the liberation of Palymra, now freed from the clutches of ISIS due to strategic co-operation between Assad’s Syrian Army and Russia – no carpet bombing, just precision airstrikes that aided the Syrian Army to retake the historic city. Whilst, yes, a few weapons were used through Russian intervention, it was largely a victory by Syrian government forces – demonstrating that putting aside differences with the Syrian President to thwart ISIS can remove the need for mass military intervention.  Secondly, if Assad were to be removed from office, a power-vacuum would occur which would lead to further instability. Many now believe Assad needs to be kept in power to stop ISIS, including UK military chief Sir David Richards.

Quapan / Creative Commons License
Quapan / Creative Commons License

Diplomacy

To end ISIS and the emergence of other terrorist networks, better, more coherent political solutions need to be reached. More pragmatic approaches could be the key to fostering a more stable Middle East including open and genuine dialogue with Russia, China and Iran for instance. New political settlements could very well cultivate a better future for the region without the need for bombing. Various figures in both the political and military establishments are beginning to agree that interventionist policy is not necessarily the answer to terror – From security and foreign policy analyst Daniel L. Davies to former French PM Domininque de Villepin

Back the Kurds

The Kurdish forces already fighting ISIS on the ground are a key ally and non-lethal aid could very well turn the tide in their favour. The International Community could improve their intelligence co-ordination with secure-communication equipment and GPS applications, strategic fighting could be improved with night vision goggles and means of travel could be improved in the form of functioning spare parts for vehicles the Kurdish forces have captured.

Arian Zwegers / Creative Commons License
Arian Zwegers / Creative Commons License

Stop arming ‘Rebels’

So-called ‘Rebel’ groups in Syria funded, armed and trained by The West to topple the Assad regime have been causing instability and violence across the region. In fact numbers of their members and weaponry have made their way to ISIS for financial reasons. It’s clear that vast swathes of ‘Rebels’ are not freedom fighters at all but mercenaries and to continue to support them is, in effect, to support the rise of ISIS. Furthermore, ‘Rebels’ that haven’t joined ISIS aren’t largely fighting them but fighting Government forces in Syria. For Western nations it seems there’s now a question of priority – what is more important? The removal of Assad or the defeat of ISIS?

Re-assess Allies that support Jihadists

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Turkey are allies that have exported and financed Jihadist ideology across the Middle East. Fresh talks and perhaps even sanctions on the regimes are necessary to stop the spread of toxic Islamic extremism. It legitimises ISIS and fuels their very existence. Turkey is evidently going further than this – fighting the Kurdish forces already fighting ISIS and there is much evidence that points to Turkey directly facilitating the rise of ISIS, including a black market oil trade. Combating this would begin to dramatically cut ISIS off from power and funds.

Putting an end this vile group  – ISIS, ISIL, IS, Daesh – whatever you wish to call them, for good, will involve us taking a good, hard look at our priorities, expanding our range of options and swallowing some bitter pills.

 

 

 


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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Syria is a shining example of a greater cooperative need for a responsibility to protect

Syria is a shining example of a greater cooperative need for a responsibility to protect

The civil war in Syria is a clear example of the world witnessing unprecedented displacement. It has produced over 6.6 million internally displaced persons due to violence, over 4.8 million people have already fled the country and over 13.5 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance according to OCHA, amounting to over half of the population of Syria.

The conflict in Syria is stretched across the political and military landscape, yet responses have been primarily humanitarian by the international community. The crisis we see is part of a much larger complexity of issues related to how the international community collectively responds to war and humanitarian crises’.

Western and EU nations, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Gulf states have all meddled in the conflict for strategic reasons. For example, the Obama administration has been financing, training and voicing its support for a rebel opposition to the Syrian Assad regime while bringing together a coalition to “degrade and destroy” the terrorist faction known as ‘Islamic State’ or ISIS in Syria and its neighbouring countries.

The UK has provided intelligence and airstrikes for the coalition forces. France has also joined the coalition and rejected the Assad regime and joined the fight against ISIS. Neighbouring Turkey has been assisting the rebel opposition in an attempt to “push” the Assad regime out of power, whilst refusing to commit a military force, which Saudi Arabia and Qatar continually ask for.

Arian Zwegers / Creative Commons License
Arian Zwegers / Creative Commons License

Where as neighbouring country Iran, and Russia have been supporting the Assad regime, whilst differing on ISIS, with Iran holding an argued murky relationshipwith ISIS and largely abstaining, while Russia have been active in their attempts to eliminate ISIS and rebel controlled areas, both labeled as terrorists’ themselves by Russia and the Assad regime.

Direct intervention in Syria through the application of R2P (Responsibility To Protect) was blocked by Russia and China, who are permanent partners at the UN Security Council table, with only a diluted action plan being agreed upon by the UN to the crisis in Syria.

Syria has become a global political power game of chess. Thus, how is it possible that being lead actors in a supposedly domestic conflict, nations can deny a safe haven to those who have been the casualties of world politics?

Germany bellowed for between 300,000 to 500,000 people a year. However, Chancellor merkel retreated on these claims after apprehension from citizens inside the German borders. It is a similar story across Europe particularly after the President of the European Commission called for its members to take an additional 120,000 Syrian refugees in the EU-wide quota commitment, which only represents 0.11% of the total EU population. This hardly responds to the scope of the crisis.

Wojtek Ogrodowczyk / Creative Commons License
Wojtek Ogrodowczyk / Creative Commons License

However, Poland still signaled a complete retreat on the EU-wide quota commitment, similarly in Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic with other nations set to follow or water down their commitment.

Faced with Europe’s biggest refugee crisis… EU governments can only agree to push responsibility to countries outside the Union“, put up fences and close borders, rather than a policy consensus to help the safety of the Syrian people.

Currently, smaller neighbouring countries’, with modest infrastructure, stretched resources and growing national discourse are being swamped with people seeking sanctuary, and here in lies the reason many are risking their lives to attempt to reach European shores.

According to Amnesty International, over 4 million or 95% of the Syrian refugees are in just 5 countries; in Lebanon they amount to around 20% of the total population, in Jordan they amount to around 10%, and Turkey has taken in nearly 2 million to date, Iraq and Egypt have also taken in large numbers of Syrian Refugees.

EU leaders have followed a similar route to Arab and Gulf states pledging money for humanitarian assistance. However, the overall funding to Syria this year still falls desperately short of the need, with only 19.9% (as of May 30th 2016) of total requirements met in line with the Syrian Humanitarian Response Plan.

The International community has a responsibility to protect the people of Syria, which has largely been ignored or devalued, in favor of political debates arguing who’s responsibility it is whilst passing on blame and accountability.

In today’s globalized world we need to promote more comprehensive and inclusive policies that value difference in our society not divide, for which the recent spate of terror attacks in Europe and around the world intend to do. To eliminate such issues we must devise new and all-encompassing strategies to counter hatred and not simply roll out the same failed reactionary tactics that have only worsened cultural tensions and international relations.

 


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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Partitioning: A tool for Greater Stability in Syria and Iraq

Partitioning: A tool for Greater Stability in Syria and Iraq

Is the current strategy used by the international community preventing conflict between Syria and Iraq? Jordan Creed suggests the potential of partitioning as a more effective strategy in the Middle-East in order to ensure greater stability.

Partition has only even been utilised reluctantly by the international community as a means of conflict resolution. The extent of this reluctance is demonstrated by the fact that it is only just being considered as a plan B option by the US foreign secretary John Kerry after five years of conflict in Syria. However partition could provide a means of not only ending the conflict in Syria and Iraq it could also potentially help establish long term stability.

The reason for this is that it the current borders of Syria and Iraq are now impractical and undesirable obstructions to peace and stability. This is because the strengthening of the ethnic identities in an environment of insecurity and distrust has discredited the notion of a shared Iraq and Syria identity.

The conflicts in Syria and Iraq currently appear to reflect Barry Posen’s contention that ethnic conflict is a result of a security dilemma that emerges from the anarchy of state collapse.

Quapan / Creative Commons License
Quapan / Creative Commons License

The anarchy that emerges from state collapse means that ethnic groups must provide their own security. Posen claims that groups will assess whether other groups are a threat on the basis of how they have treated them historically.

This assessment by groups will also often be a worst case analysis because of the costs of judging wrongly. The combination of this insecurity and group’s negative assessment of each other’s intentions can make offensive action an extremely rational option. The reason for this is because it is able to remove the perceived security threat completely i.e. the other groups.

Posen’s assessment of ethnic conflict appears to be very applicable the conflicts currently going on in Syria and Iraq. As both are experiencing state collapse and the breakdown of order as a consequence of it. Syria and Iraq also both have legacies of ethnic tension as groups have committed atrocities and discriminated against each other. Therefore the levels of distrust between the ethnic groups is likely to be high.

Moreover, stories about the atrocities will be retold in various fictional, historical, documentary forms. This will mean they are likely to fundamentally discredit the notion of a shared Syrian or Iraqi identity between the ethnic groups. The atrocities are likely to do this because they will shape the ethnic identities in Syria and Iraq. The result of this will be to create a sense of separate historical experience between the ethnicities in Syria and Iraq.

Center for American Progress Action Fund / Creative Commons License
Center for American Progress Action Fund / Creative Commons License

The consequence of this hardening of identities in a highly insecure climate is that elections are likely to reflect the ‘ethnic census’. What is meant by this is that parties and politicians that are elected in this environment will be ones that will take a hard-line stance on their ethnic groups’ interests. It is likely that these politicians and parties will be reluctant to compromise with other ethnic groups’ representatives. As compromise is likely to be viewed as betraying their own group’s interests.

This has the potential to lead to a state that is mired in gridlock where even the most basic issues cannot be resolved. Bosnia provides a telling example of this as there little compromise between ethnic groups representatives. The deadlock resulting from this in Bosnia has impeded important economic and institutional reform.

Partition can reduce the chances of such situations arising in post war Syria and Iraq because it can reduce the perception of insecurity among the majority group.  The reason it can decrease the insecurity felt among the majority group is because unlike other post-conflict reconstructions, it significantly reduces the population size of minority groups.

By doing this partition creates conditions for concessions to be made by the majority group, as this decreases the perceived level of insecurity felt by the majority group. Partition therefore creates an environment where the majority group will be more likely to be willing to compromise with other groups, as the potential security risks for doing so will have lessened significantly.

Admittedly, an unfortunate part of any effort to partition multi-ethnic states is that it involves population transfers. While, undesirable populations transfers are already a reality in much of Syria and Iraq as members of minority groups have been fleeing to areas where they are majority.

Finally, by accepting the reality that Syria and Iraq as we know them gone, the international community could create a means of achieving peace in Syria and Iraq. As the prospect of a Sunni-state would give Sunnis an attractive alternative to the Islamic state. This would in turn severely undermine IS ability to present itself as the only viable alternative for Sunni Muslims. In contrast the international current adherence to Syria and Iraq’s current borders. Implies to Sunnis that their reward for rising up against the Islamic state will be to put them back under Assad rule or the Shia dominated government in Baghdad.



















 


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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What lessons can be found in Syria and Iraq today from the post-soviet un-recognized states?

What lessons can be found in Syria and Iraq today from the post-soviet un-recognized states?

Jordan Creed traces the impediments un-recognised states may have on international development efforts. Using historical examples, it appears that similarities coexist between Syria and Iraq, and many post-Soviet Union states. This may lead to hostility in the future.

An unrecognized state is one that is generally not recognised by most of the international community but has had effective control over a territory and provides government services to its citizens. The recent conflicts in both Syria and Iraq have created a very real prospect of new un-recognized states emerging such as Kurdistan or a Sunni and Shia state that would be supported by Saudi Arabia or Iran. This article will examine the trends that have emerged out of the post-Soviet un-recognised states and the challenges that have arisen for international development efforts. It will be contended that a new approach is needed towards un-recognised states in order for international development to not be severely undermined by their existence

The first relevant challenge to international development is that the existence of an un-recognized represents ‘frozen conflict’.  This applies to conflicts where active hostilities  have ended but no post-conflict settlement has been established between the parties. This could easily become a reality in the Middle East between a de-facto independent Kurdistan and the Syrian state. Such a development creates an extremely dangerous environment for development efforts to be conducted. The dangers are evident in two ways; firstly, the immediate danger of conflict re-emerging between the two sides as is illustrated by the recent re-emerging of conflict between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan forces. This immediate danger is further compounded by the potential for a patron state to partition an un-recognized state from its original state as Russia has done in South Ossetia.

Minamie's Photo / Creative Commons License. Photo of Tiraspol, Transnistria
Minamie’s Photo / Creative Commons License. Photo of Tiraspol, Transnistria

 

Secondly, the insecure conditions that un-recognized states exist in further undermine development efforts, because the insecure environment allows state leaders to justify their high levels of repression. An example of this is illustrated by how Transnistria state leaders have used the insecure environment as justification for the harassment and imprisonment of local NGOs such as Promo-Lex that promote human rights and democracy.

A further bi-product produced by the existence of a ‘frozen conflict’ is that it increases the level of militarization in a region. This impedes international development further as it increases funding towards the military at the expense of education and health. As is demonstrated by Azerbaijan’s 89 percent increase in military spending in 2011 in response to a heightening of tensions with Nagorno-Karabakh. In addition, increased militarization undermines attempts to build stability and peace in a region. This is because it undermines de-mobilization efforts as the existence of an un-recognized state makes it much more difficult to control the proliferation of small arms in a region. In Transnistria for example it has been claimed that the state is complicit in manufacturing small arms and not adequately securing its old Soviet stockpiles.

C & More / Creative Commons License. Picture of Syria, Damascus, from the Qasiune mountain
C & More / Creative Commons License. Picture of Syria, Damascus, from the Qasiune mountain

 

Furthermore, the existence of an un-recognized state in a region can undermine efforts to build foundations for economic growth. The reason for this is because it has been claimed un-recognized state exacerbate a culture of corruption in their region, which can undermine economic growth. It is claimed that existence of an un-recognized ‘’state’’ in a region can worsen the culture of disrespect for the rule of law and impunity. This disrespect is particularly salient in un-recognized states because the dominant ethnic group will often have had experience of how new laws can be used to marginalise them. This is something all the ethnic groups in Syria and Iraq will have experienced to varying degrees. The presence of an un-recognized state can further undermine economic growth by undercutting the official market in the region. This is demonstrated by the widespread smuggling network that originates from Transnistria which has resulted in the loss of millions of dollars of revenue in the sale of goods such as alcohol, cigarettes and food for Moldova and Ukraine.

To conclude, although it could be argued that such trends would be unlikely to develop in the Middle East because of the historical and contextual differences with the post-Soviet sphere. I would contend that there are still significant major similarities between the two, such as the presence of weak homeland states, and high levels of distrust and conflict between ethnic groups and a patron state. This leads to the position that in order to avoid similar trends emerging in the Middle East, states should develop an approach of engagement. What is meant by this is that the international community should be prepared to not unconditionally support a state’s attempt to reclaim territory by any means. This would also involve the international community taking a more active role in encouraging dialogue and economic integration between the homeland state and breakaway region. The benefits of this approach for international development are evident as this would not only more likely result in a more stable peace but would also help economic growth.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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The Youth Summit: DFID assert youths will “make or break” the success of the SDGs

The Youth Summit: DFID assert youths will “make or break” the success of the SDGs

On September 12, London saw thousands of protestors marching towards Parliament over the refugee crisis, demanding Mr. Cameron to open UK borders on the grounds of humanity. Anahita Hossein-Pour heard the protestors that day from the other side of the fence, attending the UK’s Department of International Development’s (DFID) Youth Summit in Whitehall. Here she investiagtes the importance of young people in the formation and success of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The development summit’s agenda seemed all the more important in the context of the tragedies that had been occurring the last few months, as the impact of the Syrian Civil War has caught attention from all eyes across the globe. The SDGs assertion to leave no-one behind will be heavily tested when war and conflict continues to set back societies for decades- and that’s where the calibre of youths come in.

Asian Development Bank /Creative Commons License
Asian Development Bank /Creative Commons License

 

For the International Citizen Service (ICS) alumni attending the Youth Summit that day, amongst the entertainment of the Pandemonium Drummers, the various speakers and NGO led workshops, DFID’s message was loud and clear: young people are an intrinsic part to successful development. Secretary of State Justine Greening said in the summit’s opening plenary, young people will “make or break” the successful delivery of the SDGs. Ms. Greening promised to carry the views expressed at the Youth Summit to the United Nations, and earmarked this statement with the announcement that two young people will be joining the UK delegation to the United Nations post-2015 Development Summit.

Even UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon delivered a personal video message, calling upon delegates for their “energy, ideas and initiatives” to push governments to fulfil their commitments and be the “torch bearers of the future we want.”

In the creation of the 17 targets, youths across the world voiced their priorities and concerns, explaining the formal up take of certain targets such as goal 16- to promote peaceful and inclusive societies. At the Youth Summit, goal 16 for peace and goal five for gender equality were the two favourites when I asked various ICS delegates which SDG was the most important in their eyes. For one delegate who favoured gender equality, she made an interesting point that climate change cannot be stopped, but you can mobilise the whole world who can make a difference. The Secretary of State also described gender inequality as the “greatest unmet human challenge”.

So whilst youths are perceived as being agents for change, they are also amongst the most affected groups when faced with shortfalls in education, nutrition, environment and all other aspects the SDGs are trying to improve. According to the UN Population Fund, 1.8 billion people are aged between 10 and 24, and 90% of them live in least developed countries. 50% of sub-Saharan Africa’s population is under 30. Youths are the future for all societies and so DFID is right to place them at the heart of their agenda in all aspects of the development process.

The question is, how will DFID follow up on their Youth Summit statement? Will they really “pull young people into the department” as Ms Greening said? What struck me throughout the conference was the emphasis on getting involved in the “conversation”- how, where and what that means appears yet to be explained.

Jessica Lea/DFID/Creative Commons License
Jessica Lea/DFID/Creative Commons License

 

Certainly the summit was alive with enthusiasm and energy from all participants, the #Youth4Change movement, as well as ONE, Restless Development, World Vision, and other NGOs and activists all brought their experiences and ideas to the near 300 crowd to inspire them to make change happen. Many of the ICS delegates were highly motivated, dedicated individuals to the causes they themselves experienced on their projects abroad in developing countries.

One delegate, Pippa told me how her ICS project in South Africa has driven her to make a career change from accountancy, to working in an NGO- maybe even Skillshare International who co-ordinated her project. With that however, was the understanding of the competitive, long drawn out process and low pay that the International Development career route currently has to offer newcomers to the industry. Although that view was not shared by all. A member of the Youth Summit’s Youth Panel told me how being an ICS alumni member has opened doors for her to get further involved in International Development, with increasing opportunities with ICS, NCS and NGOs.

It was a shame Whitehall’s logistics meant only a small number of young people were able to attend the summit, and that the event only reached out to the government funded programme’s alumni. For certain many more youths outside government networks would relish the opportunity to take part in helping create our post-2015 world. The summit asserted such a strong sentiment that DFID is undergoing fundamental change to include youths, and valuing their role they have to play in our futures. The next step will be to witness actions speaking louder than words, and with the Secretary of State ending the summit on a note to “watch this space,” we should all intend to do exactly that and follow up if this ‘space’ is not filled with action.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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The role of the health community in the European refugee crisis

The role of the health community in the European refugee crisis

Adam Tiliouine is a volunteer for global health charity Medact, and involved in organising ‘Health Through Peace’, a two-day conference in November of this year. http://www.medact.org/events/peace-health/

2014 was the deadliest year on record for people crossing the Mediterranean in a desperate attempt to reach safety in Europe; over 3,400 people are thought to have died. In 2015 so far, that number is already over 2000. Last year, arrivals in the second half of the year were almost double those of the first half, and predictions therefore suggest that come December the death toll will be higher than ever before.

The numbers go on, and each statistic is both shocking and distressing. Between January and June this year, 137,000 people crossed the Mediterranean, an 83% increase on the 75,000 in the same period last year. In April alone, 1,308 people drowned or went missing. In Calais, earlier this summer, over 1,000 people per night were attempting to reach the UK on lorries or trains. It is the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

©European Commission/Creative Commons License
©European Commission/Creative Commons License

 

The large majority of these people are fleeing from war, conflict, or persecution, and approximately one third are from Syria, escaping a conflict in which the West is a key player. Therefore, the majority are refugees, not migrants, despite the European media’s attempts at creating a hostile atmosphere with their terminology: the migrant crisis. Some news outlets, such as Al Jazeera, have refused to use the word ‘migrant’ where appropriate.

The rapidly escalating situation has led to a quite unsettling response from the political elite of Europe. Hungary is building a four metre high fence along its 110 mile border with Serbia, and its right-wing nationalist prime minister Victor Orbán has advocated for internment camps for illegal immigrants, stating that they should be forced to work. The Italian Navy’s search and rescue program, Mare Nostrum, was discontinued without a replacement in late 2014 due to a lack of funding from European governments, and David Cameron has been branded “irresponsible” and his comments “dehumanising,” when referring to a “swarm” of people crossing the sea.

The response from the health and development community, however, has been much more compassionate and proactive. Large organisations such as Médecins San Frontières (MSF) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have been especially vocal in their criticism of the European response. Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said that “indifference” is to blame for the crisis, and Arjan Hehenkamp, General Director of MSF Holland, has also stated that “ignoring this situation will not make it go away.”

They have joined forces with smaller national organisations from all over Europe, and the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, to provide the humanitarian response. Health workers who wish to contribute to the response have the option to do so through smaller organisations, or larger aid agencies operating in Europe, and many are.

 

 

 

 

©Royal Navy Media Archive/Creative Commons License
©Royal Navy Media Archive/Creative Commons License

 

Some would see it as a responsibility of the health community to respond, especially given the unique and excessive vulnerabilities of refugees to health complications. While many may leave their homes in relatively good health, the majority of those who survive the dangerous journey are in need of immediate attention when they arrive in Europe – especially those who have spent days locked in the hold of a boat crossing the Mediterranean. All types of health professionals therefore, are needed, and are providing their services on the frontline in Europe, mainly in Greece and southern Italy. Mainly volunteers, although not all, they are doctors, nurses, midwifes and aid workers.

Volunteer health workers are also setting up health stations in Calais, in the various migrant and refugee camps that have formed on the French side of the channel. Free healthcare is provided, although it is not close to being able to meet the need and the demand; many of those in Calais have travelled for almost a month across Europe before arriving in at the French coast.

It is not only on the frontline in Europe, however, that health workers have a role to play. The majority of these people are fleeing conflict-affected countries, and there is a growing conversation in the development community around the role that the health sector can play in both building peace initially, and the transformation to peace in the aftermath of conflict. A functioning health system has the potential to contribute to enhanced social cohesion, and state legitimacy; both of which play a major role in mitigating the likelihood of a relapse into conflict. It also has the potential to redress social inequity and inequality, both key causes and drivers of conflict.

While the role of the health community in Europe is crucial, more needs to be done at the source of the issue itself: in the countries that people are fleeing. It is a big issue, and there is no simple answer, but as Sy from the IFRC said, they have been warning for years that the crisis will continue to escalate and spiral out of control, unless there is a comprehensive response to meet humanitarian need in the countries of origin.

The health community can help address the issue, but it can also help prevent it.

Medact, a global health charity of health professionals, is hosting a conference on November 13th-14th in London, ‘Health Through Peace’. The conference will bring together interested parties to discuss issues such as this, and many more. Join us! http://www.medact.org/events/peace-health/

 

Medact, a global health charity of health professionals, is hosting a conference on November 13th-14th in London, ‘Health Through Peace’. The conference will bring together interested parties to discuss issues such as this, and many more. Join us! http://www.medact.org/events/peace-health/

medact


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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USA, the fallen superpower?

USA, the fallen superpower?

The wane of the US as world superpower has long been prophesied. Warwick University student Karan Thakrar argues that recent world events are bringing this moment ever closer, and that one may be replaced by three.

 

Ever since the end of the Cold War, US dominance as a world superpower has been obvious. Their economic strength and the so-called ‘McDonaldisation‘ of global culture have resulted in the relative destruction of communism as a viable modern ideology. US military capacity is also unusually strong. The US spends $640 billion (£377 billion) on its military alone. Its defence budget is so big, it outspends the defence budgets of all the richest eight countries combined. Add to this a widespread feeling of American exceptionalism – the belief that the US is fundamentally different to other nations – which has contributed to some aggressive foreign policy in the 20th century.

A US soldier in Ameriyah, Iraq, 2007. © US Army/Creative Commons license

But is this declining? While the US has displayed willingness to back itself up with hard power, such as the invasion of Iraq in 2003, in recent times this has not been the case, and as a result its influence on the world stage has diminished. The Obama administration has arguably been lacklustre in its performance on the international stage compared to previous administrations. Take the example of Syria. Obama’s famous ‘red line’ comment over Assad’s use of chemical weapons sparked a reaction from the US, who immediately started planning on bombing strategic sites in Syria. However, after the British Parliament voted against military intervention, followed by France, the US felt it did not have the support to proceed. Keep reading →


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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