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Informing the Integration Debate with Recent Experience

  • Larry Minear


The overriding challenge faced by policy-makers in the post–Cold War era is not, as many would have us believe, the achievement of integration of humanitarian action into the prevailing politico-military context. It is rather the protection of its independence. The debate, rather than focusing on fitting humanitarian action more snugly into the given political framework, should explore how to ensure the indispensable independence of humanitarian actors from that framework.

The experience of the Humanitarianism and War Project, an action-oriented research and publications initiative studying humanitarian activities in post–Cold War conflicts, suggests the essential elements of such independence. They include structural protection for humanitarian action against political conditionality; more sensitivity to local perceptions regarding humanitarian actors and action; tighter discipline within the humanitarian sector by those providing assistance and protection; increased attention to the origins of aid resources and of the personnel administering them; greater participation and ownership by local institutions and leaders in crisis countries; and an agreed overarching political framework that gives higher priority to human security.



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1 Most of the Humanitarianism and War Project's publications are available at .

2 For a more extended discussion, see Minear, Larry, The Humanitarian Enterprise: Dilemmas and Discoveries (Bloomfield, Conn.: Kumarian, 2002), pp. 132–34, 75f'f.

3 Médecins Sans Frontièrs, “MSF Pulls Out of Afghanistan,” July 28, 2004; available at

4 Ibid., pp. 101102.

5 Egeland, Jan , “ Humanitarianism under Fire ,” Christian Science Monitor, August 5, 2004; available at .

6 Slim, Hugo , “ With or Against? Humanitarian Agencies and Coalition Counter-Insurgenc y” ( Geneva: Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, July 2004 ), p. 4.

7 Ingram, James, “The Future Architecture for International Humanitarian Assistance,” in Weiss, Thomas G. and Minear, Larry, eds., Humanitarianism Across Borders: Sustaining Civilians in Times of War (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 1993), p. 183.

8 Sommers, Marc, The Dynamics of Coordination (Providence: Watson Institute, 2000 ), p. 41.

9 Report of the Secretary-General, UN General Assembly, 13th session, document A/3934, October 9,1958, para. 158ff.

10 Minear, Larry, van Baarda, Ted, and Summers, Marc, NATO and Humanitarian Action in the Kosovo Crisis (Providence: Watson Institute, 2000 ), p. 6768.

11 Ibid.

12 Telephone conversation between DPA headquarters official and the author.

13 Comments made at the roundtable , “ Humanitarian Aid and Intervention: The Challenges of Integration ,” Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, New York, N.Y.,, October 30, 2003 .

14 Minear, , The Humanitarian Enterprise, pp. 102103.

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Informing the Integration Debate with Recent Experience

  • Larry Minear


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