If armies engaged in the fighting are involved in delivering humanitarian assistance, it can be regarded by their opponents as an act of war.
Civilians will in the end suffer if humanitarian action is seen as partisan, and aid, and aid workers, can easily be targeted. Humanitarian aid promotes a concern for humanity and dignity in times of violence. This relies on a respect for the impartiality of aid agencies, and their independence from the pursuit of military causes. This is a precondition for being able to give aid solely based on needs. The politicized and militarized "humanitarian" concept which now is increasingly emerging, is not what has been described in the Geneva conventions where humanitarian action is required to be neutral, independent and impartial.
We have also observed, with great concern, the reduction in media space and attention to those foreign stories which do not have a direct link to the war on terror.
Even before September 2001 we admittedly struggled to convince media of the importance of covering stories outside their nations direct geo-political sphere of influence. International attention to humanitarian issues was always notoriously fickle and patchy. But at least sometimes we achieved success, and the world would heed the suffering of people in places such as Africa. It is now nearly non-existent, certainly in the anglo-saxon media, unless a link can be made to the war on terror. Despite the witnessing the worst mortality and malnutrition rates for years in Angola in Spring 2002, for example, media coverage of this situation was extremely difficult to attain, as is coverage of the human cost of the continuing conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo, or Burundi. Clearly, resources and focus are elsewhere.
In stark contrast to the crassly insufficient level of Western political and financial commitment to global deprivation, it was telling to observe after September 11th, that it was entirely possible within a matter of weeks to mobilize a worldwide political coalition and billions and billions of dollars to fight al-Qaeda and the Taliban because they were considered to be a common threat. Lack of financial resources was not an issue, there was only the question of political will.
International media attention to humanitarian issues was always notoriously fickle and patchy. But at least sometimes we achieved success, and the world would heed the suffering of people in places such as Africa. It is now nearly non-existent, certainly in the anglo-saxon media, unless a link can be made to the war on terror.