The politics of humanitarian organizations : neutrality and solidarity : the case of the ICRC and MSF during the 1994 Rwandan genocide

by Delvaux, Denise

Abstract (Summary)
With the seemingly infinite existence of complex emergencies and the overwhelming presence of humanitarian organizations responding to such crises, it is essential that the assumptions, precepts, and actions of humanitarian organizations be critically examined and understood. The aim of this thesis is to explore differing traditions within humanitarian thought: neutrality and solidarity. In the process, this thesis will determine whether it is possible to maintain clear ideologies in the context of a complex emergency and whether the existence of different humanitarian ideologies results in a dichotomy or polarization of humanitarian action.

This study is of great import as it delves into the contemporary literature claiming that humanitarianism is currently in a state of crisis – the unsustainability of competing humanitarian ideologies operating together in a complex emergency.

Primary documents from both the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) regarding their operations in the 1994 Rwandan complex emergency were examined in order to provide a foundation for the theoretical investigation. Although the ICRC and MSF occupy seemingly polarized positions in the neutrality – solidarity debate, the investigation into their humanitarian activities during the 1994 genocide and the resulting refugee crisis reflected the difficulties of providing relief based upon humanitarian ideals. Due to the complex realities of the 1994 Rwandan crisis, the ideological notions dividing the ICRC and MSF were overshadowed by the simple humanitarian desire to aid those in need.

Bibliographical Information:


School:Rhodes University

School Location:South Africa

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:political studies and international


Date of Publication:01/01/2005

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