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Forum on Global Issues at the Federal Foreign Office

The Forum on Global Issues convened at the Federal Foreign Office on Thursday, 1 March to discuss “The humanitarian dilemma – the neutrality of humanitarian assistance in conflicts”. Various actors and experts from the fields of politics, civil society, the military, and academics discussed to what extent and under what conditions international humanitarian aid in conflict situations can remain neutral, independent, and impartial.

There are four basic principles for humanitarian aid within the framework of international law: humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence. In the real world, especially the last three principles are time and again put to the test, as the current situations in, for example, Syria, Somalia, and the Sudan show. Political and military attacks and restrictions often significantly impede the work of humanitarian aid organizations there. These organizations, on the other hand, risk their credibility, acceptance, and access to areas in need when they call for political or military protection for their efforts.

The ninth Forum on Global Issues Compact, held on 1 March at the Federal Foreign Office, discussed the limits of humanitarian aid and potential conflicts in this context at an event whose slogan was “the humanitarian dilemma – the neutrality of humanitarian assistance in conflicts”.

Participants in discussion with panel members

Participants in discussion with panel members
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Participants in discussion with panel members

Participants in discussion with panel members

Participants in discussion with panel members

“Sticking to the core mandate”

In her opening speech, State Secretary Haber showed how necessary this debate is using examples from the current situation in Syria, Somalia, the Sudan, and Afghanistan, where political or military actors regularly impede access for international aid. “Only if humanitarian aid providers stick to their core mandate can they provide a convincing foundation for their acceptance,” said Haber.

Introductory remarks by keynote speaker Dr Jakob Kellenberger, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, emphasized the significance of the values of independence and neutrality in humanitarian aid. After a discussion by experts building on that point, a panel with several representatives from the fields of politics, civil society, the military, and academics was formed. It was thus possible to illuminate the “humanitarian dilemma” from various angles in a discussion with experts from the audience and to promote understanding of the dilemma. At the closing reception, participants had the opportunity to continue the discussion.


Last updated 02.03.2012