Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Humanitarian Intervention and Neo Colonialism

I've always felt a bit uneasy about the concept of military Humanitarian Intervention--particularly as it has been unfolding in the recent past. The presentation last week by Jim Harding at the World Tribunal on Iraq has given me a lot more reasons to hesitate and think twice. His presentation is one of an incredible collection available at the World Tribunal site. Here is a small excerpt...
On the history of HI:
The doctrine was criticized for its lack of precision regarding what constitutes humanitarianism, as well as the inconsistent practices of colonial powers. It was seen to be a doctrine of double standards, with ‘human rights’ as only an “accessory motive of intervention.” The colonial powers decided the criteria for applying the doctrine and were also their own judges. There was no democratic division of power between the authority formulating these criteria and the one executing the intervention. It was therefore a “tool of power politics” which
shielded the fundamental inequality between the European and colonial states as well as the authoritarian relationship between the rulers and their own “citizens”.

True humanitarian intervention may be possible, but only when carried out by disinterested parties under the guidance and control of an international body with stringent definitions of human rights and a real commitment to uphold them in all circumstances. True humanitarian intervention would look a lot more like food aid, infrastructure support, respectful and culturally appropriate resource provision...and would be proactive, building collaborations between nations before events escalate to unbearable levels.

As individuals, we can participate, right now, in our own humanitarian interventions by becoming aware of how we contribute to the pressures on non-North American or European countries. We can begin to make different decisions that affect the inequitable distribution of wealth and resources. We can attend to the inequities, injustice, and oppression at our own doorsteps. We can engage in personal processes of transformation to gain the skills and consciousness necessary to co-exist in peaceful, sustainable, and egalitarian communities.

I'm not saying any of that is easy...just necessary.

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