The Future of Humanitarian Aid

We’re continuing to dig through our archives for our EU for You podcasts; for more recent events, including our ongoing “Eurospective” series with European artists and writers, be sure to visit the IHS section of our website as most of our events are recorded.

This week’s podcast is an edited recording of an  April 12, 2005 panel discussion on the “Future of Humanitarian Aid” with Janina Ochojska, founder and President of the Polish Humanitarian Organization, the first such organization created in Eastern Europe to help victims of war, natural disasters and severe poverty in, among other places, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Chechnya, Afghanistan and Iraq, and Larry Cox, at the time Senior Program Officer of the Human Rights and International Cooperation Unit at the Ford Foundation. The event is introduced by Irena Grudzinska Gross, former director of the Institute for Human Sciences. Please note that this discussion was originally recorded for the June 5, 2005 “World of Ideas” program on WBUR; we are grateful to WBUR for making the recording available to us.

Ochojska discussed the issues and challenges facing humanitarian aid and development assistance in today’s world, and outlined the “ten commandments” which direct the way her organization provides aid in an effort to ensure that “the aid does not become humiliation instead of relief, addiction instead of problem solution, or humanitarian industry instead of real aid to human beings.” She gave several examples from her work in war-torn and disaster-ridden countries and stressed above the need for knowledge, which forms the basis of solidarity, shaping our awareness and the will to help.

Larry Cox addressed some of the political dilemmas faced by humanitarian organizations today, and the criticisms leveled at them. He noted, for example, the growing convergence between human rights work and humanitarianism, but whereas some, notably David Rieff, find this trend worrisome, Cox argued they share the same values and are fighting the same enemies and “need each other if the fight is going to be won.” He did, however, express worry over the militarization and commercialization of human rights and humanitarian aid.

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