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Policy Debates
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Policy Debate | Humanitarian Action and Protection | Lessons from Sri Lanka

Follow the live policy debate Wednesday 1 April, on https://youtu.be/w4CZ-fK3Y6Q

Editor's notes

This policy debate section presents an initial discussion paper written either by a scholar or a policy-maker, followed by critical reactions from academics, reflective practitioners and other stakeholders in a constructive spirit. This debate can be pursued on the eJournal’s blog http://devpol.hypotheses.org/69 where you are invited to share your reflections under your name (we do not accept anonymous contributions).

Authored by Norah Niland, the initial paper of this debate addresses the protection dimension of humanitarian action in the Sri Lankan Civil War. The end phase of this long-standing war and subsequent internment of survivors illustrate the limited capacity of the international relief system to adequately protect civilians. The author argues that the failure of intergovernmental crisis management and the human rights machinery was exacerbated by the relief system’s lack of agency in safeguarding humanitarian space and the protected status of civilians. According to Norah Niland, relief actors largely ignored the instrumentalisation of humanitarianism and the use of sovereignty and Global War on Terror (GWOT) narratives to rationalise the slaughter of thousands. The lack of accountability for and reflection on the humanitarian  operation  in Sri Lanka will likely complicate future relief efforts and add to the suffering of  civilians in other crisis settings.

Norah Niland’s paper  is followed by critical comments by Sir James Holmes, Former UN Under-Secretary General and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and Miriam Bradley, Postdoctoral Researcher, Programme for the Study of International Governance, the Graduate Institute, Geneva.

You are invited to contribute to this debate on our blog
< http://devpol.hypotheses.org/69 >

Download the whole debate (.pdf)

Initial paper

Norah Niland

Sri Lanka:  Unrestricted Warfare and Limited Protective Humanitarian Action

Comments and reactions

Comments to ‘Sri Lanka: Unrestricted warfare and limited protective humanitarian action’
by Sir John Holmes, Former UN Under-Secretary General and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Sri Lanka: Limited Humanitarian Action — Or a Lesson in the Limits of Humanitarian Action?
by Miriam Bradley, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Programme for the Study of International Governance, Graduate Institute, Geneva.

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