MSF book "Condemned to repeat?: The paradox of humanitarian action"

This shortsightedness, argues Terry, results in the paradox that humanitarian aid aimed at alleviating suffering instead sustains the oppressive action that caused it.

In clear and concise analysis, Terry begins with the controversial claim that the aid agencies respond in knee-jerk fashion to any conflict without further investigating or even considering the ramifications of their aid.

In four documented cases, Afghan camps in Pakistan, Salvadoran and Nicaraguan camps in Honduras, Cambodian camps in Thailand, and Rwandan camps in Zaire, Terry details how aid given to help people often ends up in the coffers of the combatants. Terry backs up her claim with photocopies of documents that will be of special interest to scholars of the 1996 Rwanda massacres.

REVIEWS:

Michael Ignatieff:
Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Kennedy School
of Government, Harvard University

Fiona Terry's Condemned to Repeat is a tough-minded and searching critique of the global aid industry. Aid agencies and humanitarian activists who do not think hard about Terry's critiques may find themselves condemned to repeat the mistakes she identifies.

David Rieff:

There are many books criticizing humanitarian action from the outside and many others praising it from the inside. Almost always, both the moral and operational dilemmas of relief work have been terribly oversimplified. Fiona Terry has changed all that. Hers is the first book by an aid worker from the English-speaking world to anatomize the real paradoxes of humanitarian action. It is at once a superb and original work of historical research into the actual practice of contemporary humanitarianism, an arresting polemic about what the consequences of those practices are, and a fine piece of moral reasoning.

Henry Shue:
author of Basic Rights and Professor of Philosophy at Cornell University

Unlike others of who have seen the underbelly of the aid business, Fiona Terry responds not with cynicism or fatalism, but with moral sensitivity, politically relevant, and intellectually lucid proposals about how to bring actual consequences closer to good intentions. Condemned to Repeat? is a passionate and independent challenge to humanitarian practice as usual that can enrich ethics classes and guide the operation of refugee camps - it is a book of extraordinary reach that contributes richly to both theory and practice.

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