Category Archives: Issue N°5 – July 2017

Summary – Issue N°5

 

Editorial    
  Virginie Troit

Jean-François Mattei-

The challenges of humanitarian transition in Africa p. 3
 

Perspectives

  Arjun Claire Humanitarian aid as a deterrent in Greece p. 14
  Franck Esnée

Michaël Neuman

Sheltering, hosting or receiving refugees: the unresolved ambiguities of the La Linière refugee camp p. 30
 

Focus : Afrique: entre ombre et lumière

  Serge Michailof Sub-Saharan Africa: worrying clouds on the horizon p. 46
  Sadio Ba Gning

Kelly Poulet

Senegal: The difficulty for NGOs to gain independence from the State p. 61
  Christiane Rafidinarivo The impact of international proceedings for bypassing the State: the example of Madagascar p. 74
 

Ethics

  Arnaud Dandoy The ethics of care versus humanitarian exceptionalism p. 88
 

Reportage

  Sandra Calligaro Afghan Stories : Waiting for Hope p. 100
 

Culture

  Totally Brax   p. 115
  Film “Barbarity is well shared : no religion exerts a monopoly over it”, interview with Jonathan Littell p. 116
  Books Chronicle of a genocide p. 121
  Development aid in 350 words p. 130
  In times of remote-control war p. 131
  Is humanitarianism on the decline? p. 139
  A guide to fight against health inequalities p. 144

To download the summary in a PDF version please click here.

Culture Section – Issue N°5

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FILMS

Interview with Jonathan Littell “Barbarity is well shared: no religion exerts a monopoly over it”

Jonathan Littell was born in 1967 in New York. Brought up in France, he entered humanitarian aid in 1993 and spent seven years on the field with Action against Hunger, mainly in Bosnia, Chechnya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Afghanistan. His novel Les Bienveillantes (The Kindly Ones) published in 2006, was awarded the same year the French Goncourt literary prize, since followed by several essays and reports in areas of conflict. Wrong Elements, a documentary released in April 2017, the subject of which is child soldiers, is his first movie .[Read more]

BOOKS

Interview with Marc Le Pape : “Chronicle of a genocide”

As sociologist, Marc Le Pape has conducted research in Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, and Central Africa. His recent work focuses on the conflicts in the Great Lakes region of Africa. He has co-edited several books like Côte d’Ivoire, l’année terrible 1999-2000 (with Claudine Vidal, Karthala, 2003), Crises extrêmes (with Johanna Siméant and Claudine Vidal, La Découverte, 2006), and with Médecins Sans Frontières, Une guerre contre les civils. Réflexions sur les pratiques humanitaires au Congo-Brazzaville, 1998-2000 (with Pierre Salignon, Karthala, 2001). Marc Le Pape was a researcher at the CNRS, and is currently an associate researcher at the Ehess (Centre for African Studies). He has just published, with Jean-Hervé Bradol of Crash (Centre of reflection on humanitarian action and knowledge) a book reflecting on the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda, drawing from the archives of Médecins Sans Frontières. [Read more]

Development aid in 350 words

 

 

With its 350 entries, this dictionary of development, in the ironic way of the stereotypes from Gustave Flaubert, proposes to go through the words and commonplaces of development policies in Africa. The author, practitioner of development projects, regularly publishes in specialized journals showing the poverty of the practical thinking about development. [Read more]

In times of remote-control war

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By Philippe Ryffman -  The return to total war is already having major consequences on the international system of humanitarian aid. Yet the probability of the generalisation, on the short or medium term, of weapons from the “robolution”, which increasingly eliminate the human factor, adds an extra dimension or even a yawning gulf to the issue. [Read more]

Interview with Jérôme Larché: Is humanitarianism on the decline?

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Jérôme Larché is an intensive care intern working for over 30 years in the humanitarian field. His assignment with the NGO, Médecins du Monde, landed him in the midst of numerous conflicts, natural disasters, and dangerous situations, where violence and corruption were his daily lot. As a researcher associated with the Foundation for Strategic Research and the Canadian Research Institute on Humanitarian Crisis and Aid (OCCAH), Jérôme Larché expounded his thoughts in a book, with a clear-cut title immediately attracting our attention at Humanitarian Alternatives. We went to meet him. [Read more]

A guide to fight against health inequalities

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By Pierre Micheletti - The high-level conference on public health held in France in January 2016 under the auspices of the Prime Minister, aimed to emphasize the essential preconditions for the success of any new health law, including training health professionals on the Indexes of Social Health. The instigators of this publication aim to contribute to meeting this challenge and perpetuate dynamics initiated a decade ago.   [Read more]

“Afghan Stories: Waiting for Hope” by Sandra Calligaro

Sandra Calligaro • Photographe

S. Calligaro

After studying art and photography at the University of Paris 8, Sandra Calligaro oriented her career to the field reporting and went to Afghanistan for the first time in 2007. Since then, she has been living between Paris and Kabul, alternating reports for the French and European media, commissioning by NGOs and carrying more personal projects with a documentary focus. First headed to be a “war photographer”, it is – on the contrary – the vulnerability of the tormented country’s daily life that has continuously fascinated her; a country for which she offers a glance full of tenderness.

We publish here a selection from her last project, Afghan Stories: Waiting for Hope, produced in collaboration with Action against Hunger and ECHO. Apart from the pictures, it includes testimonies of afghan-displaced populations.

http://waitingforhope.org

Translated from the French by Audrey Sala

All pictures:
© Sandra Calligaro/Action contre la Faim/Picturetank
www.sandracalligaro.com

Sahr Mohamad. Maïmana, Faryab Province.

“We have 6 children, 2 girls and 4 boys. Until they reach 5 years old they are in good health, after that, they get sick, and seem to be paralysed. 3 out of our 4 boys have polio and the fourth has a degenerative disease – we don’t know which one exactly. We have borrowed 40,000 afghanis (560 euros) to take him to Pakistan for treatment, the doctor asked us to take him a second time – as well as the rest of our children – but we don’t have the means to do so unless we go deeper into debt. Fortunately, our two girls don’t seem affected, yet.” Mahajubeen, Chaghcharan, Ghor Province.

Nearly 40 years of conflict have deeply affected Afghanistan. Despite the stabilisation objectives of the country announced by the international community, the security situation continues to deteriorate. 2016 was indeed a particularly bloody year and 2017 has begun in violence. The Afghan civilians have paid a heavy price, as have health structures and humanitarian aid workers.

Jabor, 15 years-old (photo 3), Abdul Satar, 8 years-old (photo 4) and Abdul Sardar, 10 years-old (photo 5), are three of Mahajubeen’s children, Chaghcharan, Ghor Province : 

 

Successive waves of violence have resulted in large population displacements, both within the country and into neighbouring countries (Iran and Pakistan). 2016 saw a new record in terms of population movement: more than 630,000 people fled their villages to safer places and more than 560,000 Afghans left Pakistan. Forced to return to their country of origin after more than 30 years, it is estimated that a total of 5.7 million of its exiled population have now returned to find themselves in serious difficulties, finding suitable shelter, providing for themselves and their families and having access to basic services. In addition, frequent waves of drought and natural disasters (floods, landslides, earthquakes) make the daily lives of millions of families across the country ever more difficult. In addition, the United Nations estimate that more than 250,000 people are affected by natural disasters (floods, landslides, earthquakes) every year in the different regions of Afghanistan.

 

“Before the war, we had a beautiful life. Then everything collapsed. We lost all our belongings and our house was burned. Today my children are not getting enough to eat, I have nothing to give to them; and we have to get water from the river because our neighbours refuse that we use their wells.” Zahra, Chaghcharan, Ghor Province.

The current conflict continues to prevent NGOs from accessing certain areas of the country in order to assess the needs of populations and to implement their programs. Essential services remain inaccessible for parts of the population, especially for rural communities and displaced persons. 2015 and 2016 were both record years in terms of the number of attacks on health services and workers: 125 attacks were reported in 2015, compared with 59 reported in 2014 and 33 in 2013. During the first half of 2016 alone 64 attacks were reported.

Bibi Khaki (left) and Khodadad (right), from the neighbouring Badghis Province. Chaghcharan, Ghor Province.

Kimkhai (left) and Khan Bibi (right), from the neighbouring Badghis Province. Chaghcharan, Ghor Province.

The most vulnerable are once again the first victims: since 2013 the number of child-victims has continued to increase year after year. In 2016, 2,461 child-victims were counted, an increase of 15% compared to the figure in 2015. However the number of children killed because of the conflict is less than 1 % of the number of children dying of malnutrition per year in Afghanistan. Acute malnutrition and severe acute malnutrition rates have been noted – sometimes well above emergency thresholds, particularly in camps for displaced persons.

It has been established that conflict and insecurity are the major obstacles when it comes to accessing necessary services and that these also have a huge impact on chronic malnutrition and stunting.

“Of which one of our sufferings do you want me to talk to you about? Our poverty? The suffering of being a refugee? The pain of an entire Nation? I don’t even know where I should start…Look at where we are, my children are miserable. Look at my feet they’re so dirty. Look at me, I have nothing, no water, no pots to put away, nothing, nothing, I have nothing. We are stuck here, poor, but if we go back to Kunduz, what are we going to live on?” Awara, Kabul, Kabul Province.

In order to respond effectively and rapidly to emergencies caused by sudden natural disasters and conflicts, the European Commission has set up an emergency response mechanism called the Emergency Response Mechanism (ERM). Funded by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Operations (ECHO) it aims to meet the increasing humanitarian and structural needs of populations.

“My daughter has been sick for three years, yes it’s been three years now. She has impetigo on the neck, we’ve done tests in the laboratory and the doctors told us that we had to operate and that it would cost between 30 and 40 000 afghanis (420-560 euros). But if we can’t even spend 5,000 afghanis, how can we find 40,000?” Karim, Pul-e Khumri, Baghlan Province.

The ERM was launched in Afghanistan in 2011. The implementation of the emergency response relies on a network of humanitarian organisations, which ensures a wide geographical coverage of the country. By providing these organisations with prior financial resources, ECHO ensures that they can provide a rapid humanitarian response to the immediate needs of communities affected by conflict or natural disasters.

Zaïr Uddin, Maïmana, Faryab Province.

The first step of action of the ERM is to collect and share information on the disaster in the shortest time possible. To reduce the impact of the disaster on families, the ERM carries out an accurate assessment of their needs and then offers them an adapted response. Finally, the mechanism attempts to facilitate humanitarian access in the country that has become particularly dangerous.

Zarnegar and his son Omid. Pul-e Khumri, Baghlan Province.

The ERM currently consists of eight international non-governmental organisations (NGOs): Action Against Hunger (ACF), Aid for Technical Cooperation and Development (Acted), the Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees (DACAAR), the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), People in Need (PIN), First International Emergency (PUI) and Solidarités International. All have long-lasting experience in Afghanistan and respect the charter of humanitarian principles – humanity, neutrality, impartiality, independence and transparency. The sectors covered by the ERM include: economic interventions; water, sanitation and hygiene assistance; disaster risk management and reduction, protection and shelter; food security and nutrition.

“I am responsible for two persons that are sick: my old mother and my sick daughter. I wish I could have good times, a lighter life filled with joy. At least here, I am calm and reassured. My children can go out without fear, and look for work. We are safe, and in a way, that makes me happy.” Sediqa (right), Herat, Herat Province.

“This, on the wall, is card board packaging for fruit juice. Rich people drink that. Our children pick it up: we cut it out for use as small storage.” Tawarook, Chaghcharan, Ghor Province.

Kadija and her cousin Mohamad, Herat, Herat Province.

To read the article in PDF please contact us.

ISBN of the article (HTML): 978-2-37704-244-9 

Tribute to Stanley Greene

To choose a picture taken by Stanley Greene to illustrate this new issue was a necessity. While we were finalising the summary, one of the greatest war reporters passed away. Born a few years after the end of the Second World War, Stanley Greene was a member of the Black Panthers, an objector to the Vietnam War, before immersing himself into violence – camera in hand. At the beginning of the 1990s, he documented the fall of the Soviet Union, the wars of Chechnya, Rwanda and Darfur and while staying in Chad a contaminated razor blade infected him with hepatitis C. From this report realised in 2003, he said: “I began this quest to try and understand the back-story of the tragedy of Darfur… The great Diaspora from Darfur began in the spring of 2003, when the government of Sudan, led by a regime of Arab fundamentalists, embarked on a campaign to crush an uprising by the black African farmers of Darfur. Tens of thousands of villagers, most of them women and children, set off across the bleak Sahel landscape in search of refuge. Many dispersed throughout Darfur, and others headed toward the border of Chad. Most Chadian villagers greeted them with compassion, offering water and food. The refugees hoped to return soon to their homeland, but, as the months wore on, more refugees kept arriving, bearing horrific accounts of Janjaweed atrocities. The carnage in Darfur continued for many months before it became known to the outside World.” There, like elsewhere, Stanley Greene will have contributed revealing this.

A guide to fight against health inequalities

– Pierre Micheletti

Men are born free and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions can be based only on public utility.” The first article of the French Declaration of the rights of Man and of the Citizen of 26th August 1789 subsequently served in 1791 as the preamble to the Constitution of the French Republic. Yet from a person’s birth, obvious health inequalities emerge and these have a direct impact on life expectancy, with a particularly negative effect on those with the lowest incomes. Preventable premature mortality also affects the different social classes in a very selective way.

            Redressing these inequalities is therefore a question of social justice, but action taken on this front should not be an act of charity in which good will supersedes competence. Knowledge, know-how and life-skills are indispensable. These cannot be plucked from the air but are the outcome of a necessary learning process, enriched by experience. However, the acquisition of these skills is patently absent in the basic training for a great number of occupations including those in which professionals are commonly faced with social inequalities and the impact of these on health. This point has been made very clearly in a certain number of reports commissioned by successive governments, including that of the French High Council for Public Health in 2009. The high-level conference on public health held in France in January 2016 under the auspices of the Prime Minister, aimed to emphasize the essential preconditions for the success of any new health law, including training health professionals on the Indexes of Social Health. The instigators of this publication aim to contribute to meeting this challenge and perpetuate dynamics initiated a decade ago.

The fruits of shared experience

            Starting in 2003, some stakeholders working for the NGO “Médecins du Monde” [Doctors of the World] began to set up postgraduate degree courses in University Medical Schools in several towns, on the subjects of health, solidarity and vulnerability, first in Grenoble, then in Lille, Paris, Bordeaux, Montpellier, Strasbourg, Nancy and Clermont-Ferrand. Open to a wider public than just doctors, these degrees were backed by those Deans of Medical Faculties who were sensitive to the importance of these issues, and by various key local players in the medical and social fields: local and departmental authorities, regional health agencies, mutual insurance societies, health centres, public hospitals, other associations. In every case, all these actors were closely involved in the conception and implementation of the teaching courses created. As a result of these alliances and synergies, the content of these courses and the skills targeted went beyond the ambit of serious poverty to deal with wider health inequalities all the way along the gradient of health inequalities which characterise human communities.

            This book is the fruit of the experience of these remarkable “co-building” dynamics. It illustrates the contribution of French associations as catalysts and innovators, just as Alexis de Tocqueville hoped they would. At the beginning of the 19th century, he saw them as having a political role to play, just as Didier Fassin today calls the actions of health practitioners the “tools of social construction”. Without this creative energy, the book would not have been written. These project leaders and the skills they deployed in the teaching courses they designed are referred to in most chapters.

A content, the result of proven educational experience

            The chapters are structured around six themes, following a logical progression directly inspired by the university experiences mentioned above, and by the annual evaluations made by the students on the courses. A general framework is first provided with reference to historical, political, technical and legal benchmarks, the knowledge of which is essential if readers are to understand the concepts conveyed as they advance through the book.

            Then, following a logic which is commonplace in the analysis of health issues, three approaches are used to analyse the situations: one based on specific populations, another on the type of local community (or the lack of any links to a specific community) and a third approach dealing with the most common health problems found among the most disadvantaged. These approaches define the following three parts. The crucial question of the difficulties often experienced when implementing initiatives in favour of the socially disadvantaged is then considered. This is the part of the book that deals with the “conditions for the success” of the solutions applied. The sixth and final part is the logical consequence of the first: since the processes producing health inequalities are various, the ways of solving them are also necessarily to be found in the convergence and synergies in the spheres of competence and the institutions which contribute to health promotion initiatives. The book ends on the issue of alliances, networks and partnerships.

Subhead: A wide readership

            The book is intended for various different groups including those undergoing initial, in-service or lifelong training, or simply professionals, politicians and policymakers and those who are confronted with or interested in these issues. It targets, among others:

  • students enrolled on the various health, solidarity and vulnerability courses already available;
  • students and professionals in the health, social and welfare spheres;
  • students following graduate and post-graduate medical studies and those studying for other healthcare professions;
  • students in healthcare management institutes (IFCS);
  • professionals training at the French National Public Administration Centre (CNFPT);
  • politicians and heads of associations and organisations;
  • … and all stakeholders not mentioned here who are called upon to deal with the issue of the access of vulnerable sections of society to health services.

Pierre Micheletti

Physician, Vice-chairman of “Action Contre la Faim”, Member of the French National Council for Mental Health, and former chairman of “Médecins du Monde”

Translated from the French by Fay Guerry

To read the article in PDF click here.

ISBN of the article (HTML): 978-2-37704-264-7 

Interview with Jérôme Larché: Is humanitarianism on the decline?

Interview with Jérôme Larché

Jérôme Larché is an intensive care intern working for over 30 years in the humanitarian field. His assignment with the NGO, Médecins du Monde, landed him in the midst of numerous conflicts, natural disasters, and dangerous situations, where violence and corruption were his daily lot. As a researcher associated with the Foundation for Strategic Research and the Canadian Research Institute on Humanitarian Crisis and Aid (OCCAH), Jérôme Larché expounded his thoughts in a book, with a clear-cut title immediately attracting our attention at Humanitarian Alternatives. We went to meet him.

Read the article

In times of remote-control war

– by Philippe Ryfman

Humanitarian organisations are directly affected by the new forms of conflict which have been multiplying on the planet since the beginning of the 21st century (from Iraq to North and South Sudan, from Syria to Afghanistan, from the Sahel to Myanmar). The violence of war is currently characterised by a marked “extremisation”, radicalisation and re-ideologisation of warring factions, the blurring of the boundary between front and rear (the battlefield being everywhere and no longer specifically demarcated), the disappearance of the differentiation between civilians and combatants. The proliferation of atrocities, massacres and terror strategies which deliberately target civilian populations has become a matter of routine. Terrorist acts which intentionally target festive gatherings, places dedicated to the arts, transport systems or places of worship also contribute to this rise of extremism. The return to total war is already having major consequences on the international system of humanitarian aid. Yet the probability of the generalisation, on the short or medium term, of weapons from the “robolution”, which increasingly eliminate the human factor, adds an extra dimension or even a yawning gulf to the issue.

            As such, the fact that weapons systems prove deadly for combatants and even more so for civilians is nothing new, as the 20th century conclusively showed. However, the disruption(1)The term originated in Silicon Valley, as a synonym for essential upheavals. which these robot machines are likely to introduce stems foremost from the fact that they have enormous capacities which are constantly being honed by the techno-scientific revolution. Secondly, those which currently exist are still activated by human operators, often located several thousand kilometres from the battlefield, with only the viewpoint given by electronics and satellite sensors. This situation results in a radically different perception of the skirmishes of war than that which existed before. Finally, the more or less distant risk of an eruption of killer robots with autonomous and decisional capacities (over which humans would have only limited control, if any), is not insignificant. It is a cause of profound concern for many.

            Yet humanitarian actors have not yet taken the measure of these rapid developments. Progress in artificial intelligence, the power and capacity of algorithms often praised by the media or from within the generation are growing exponentially, including in the military field. Yet information on the subject remains scarce, especially since technical aspects are often prioritised, the majority of publications – generally English-language – favour them and the debate tends to be restricted to specialised circles, be they military or legal. We must therefore salute the publication of a major work in French, one of the first really dedicated to this issue and the in-depth analysis of tendencies and breaches which advanced robotics will produce in the conduct and unfolding of hostilities(2)The book also covers highly relevant developments relating to internal security. Nonetheless, this aspect is not directly linked to humanitarian issues, at least not at the international level. It will therefore not be mentioned here. as a new tool for coercion, especially through what are known as Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS).

            This collective work fills a gap and should therefore become a milestone. Published in 2015, it went relatively unnoticed, though it is acutely relevant. It deserves to be mentioned, especially since it was remarkably piloted by a trio of researchers and professors (Ronan Doaré, Didier Danet and Gérard de Boisboissel), all three of whom are attached to the Centre de recherche des écoles de Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan, where future officers of the French army are trained. Published by the Presses universitaires de Rennes, it also had the support of the Fondation Saint-Cyr. Its 260 pages – in spite of the classic differences in writing and style between the twenty-odd contributors (which here are limited) – make for easy reading, facilitating understanding of a complex subject. This can be attributed to the transversal approach taken, which mixes military and civilian experts on a multidisciplinary basis (p. 17). The diversity and richness of almost all of the contributions must also be highlighted.

            One of its essential qualities is to be found in its structure, which follows coherent categories, without being didactic. Almost all of the first half is devoted to putting military and police robots into perspective. This has the advantage of combining reflections on the “robotisation” of the battlefield, uses in matters of internal security and the use of armed drones. The general public discovered the latter through their systematic use by the Obama administration over the last few years against Al Qaeda and its affiliates. For Stéphane Taillat, who analyses it, it must nevertheless “be relativised inasmuch as it is a tool that is part of a particular tactic at the service of a strategy” (p. 62). It does not change the conduct of the war, but modifies the perception of it. The fact remains that the use of these robots has been developing, including within non-state armed groups, such as the Islamic State (ISIS), which handmakes them for use in Iraq and in Syria. Other authors – such as Jean-Baptiste Jeangène-Vilmer, Catherine Tessier or Gérard de Boisboissel – endeavour to emphasise the distinction between drones and LAWS, the stakes and uses of each seeming to belong to two very different categories.

            A second significant section describes the situation in substantive law, both internally (in France especially), and internationally, regarding the control of military and police robots. Humanitarian actors will retain Caroline Brandao’s article, which studies the challenges raised by military robotics for international humanitarian law. According to her, there is not, in reality, any “legal vacuum in the use of autonomous or semi-autonomous weapons” (p. 132). She adds, in conclusion, that new technologies do not alter existing laws but must on the contrary conform to them, even if it means elaborating complementary norms in the face of certain challenges. Whilst this approach is understandable coming from a legal expert associated with the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, it is permissible to question it and find it exaggeratedly optimistic, because it is institutional. We can mention that the International Committee of the Red Cross was one of the first to include the subject on its agenda(3)See for example the International Review of the Red Cross (IRRC), n° 886, été 2012, “New technologies and Warfare”, Cambridge University Press, www.icrc.org/eng/resources/international-review/review-886-new-technologies-warfare/review-886-all.pdf. For their part, Dominik Gerhold and Marion Vironda-Dubray, both members of the Department of legal affairs of the French defence ministry, carried out an in-depth analysis of the military obligations and responsibilities in the face of the “robotisation” of the battle field.

            Finally, the third and last part expands on the question of control of robots, debating reform (qualified by the authors as “necessary”). Jean-Marie Fardeau, as Director of Human Rights Watch-France (at the time of going to press), hence argues for a preventive ban on completely autonomous weapons. He explains that HRW has spearheaded an international campaign to this end. For him, it is legitimate and justified for four reasons: the impossible respect of IHL, the absence of human emotions, the facilitation of war and the responsibility for damages caused, especially to civilians (p. 198 – 200). Whilst this initiative, which was launched in 2013, met with a rather large public response, it must be said that it has difficulty in mobilising sustainably in civil society, and, above all, that it seems in no way to have slowed down the development of LAWS… Didier Danet, in a very thorough article, strongly criticises this proposal and considers that wanting to ban killer robots is a “road to hell paved with good intentions” (p. 203). According to this author, a normative ad hoc regime is even less necessary given that its object – the killer robot – does not exist in reality, and that we must not confuse law and science fiction. The demonstration is rigorous, but seems somewhat peremptory because it takes as a given that existing systems will never evolve, and that it is therefore unnecessary to plan ahead.

            The book concludes with no less than three chapters dedicated to the ethical questions raised by robotisation. The comparative points of view of a philosopher and physicist (Dominique Lambert), a military chief engineer (Thierry Pichevin), and an American vice-admiral, ethics and public policy professor at the naval academy of the United States (George Lucas), are particularly stimulating on this level.

            The brief conclusion signed, once again, by Didier Danet, shows the extent to which this work is acutely relevant since, when it was nearly finished, several eminent Silicon Valley actors in California – the motor (with Japan) of the “robolution” – publicly warned against the potential of seeing war machines endowed with artificial intelligence gaining independence and turning against their creators. At the end of 2014/beginning of 2015, the public declarations of Elon Musk (head of Tesla and Space X), and Bill Gates (the founder of Microsoft) marked public opinion. Stephen Hawking, the famous British physicist and cosmologist, was even more radical in declaring to the BBC in December 2014 that “once humans develop artificial intelligence, it would take off on its own and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate” (p. 257)… Whilst Danet tempers these worrying statements, considering that we are “very far from developing a truly autonomous artificial intelligence and the risk of seeing a military robot emancipate itself from those operating it is nil” (p. 258)(4)This is his position which is constantly restated in the book, as we have seen. See also his column « Terminator est déjà encadré par les lois », Libération, November 2nd 2015., he nevertheless points out the importance of discussing the issue from different angles. For him, the central question is the following: how can we benefit from scientific progress without the development of artificial intelligence in terms of armed coercion provoking the dilution of operational and political responsibilities on the long term (p. 259)?

            Due to the professional positioning of the three coordinators, and of certain authors, the balance between military and civilian expertise sometimes seems to swing in favour of the former. The debate is nevertheless unquestionably important and will no doubt grow in years to come. It would be advisable for the humanitarian field to take an eminent position in this debate, in its different dimensions. Not only the legal dimension, but also the potentialities and risks of robotics, artificial intelligence and even transhumanism. Several humanitarian agencies have already integrated the robolution in their daily practice, with big data and the use of drones. But ultimately, and probably soon, the production of material on the ground with 3D printers, the use of integrally automated vehicles or even humanoid robots(5)Japanese companies are seeking to develop “humanitarian robots”. in aid distribution operations, and finally the use of augmented human capacities or transhumanism will imply incalculable impacts which have not been sufficiently thought out or discussed. However it would be absurd and even dangerous to consider these technological aspects alone, without, in parallel, comparing them with debates on autonomous weapons systems.

            It is certainly not its objective, but if the reading of this book allowed for a reciprocal enrichment of reflection between the humanitarian sphere and that of security and defence, or even common research initiatives - in favour of the protection of civilian populations in conflict situations - it would add an extra level to an already already rich palette.

Philippe Ryfman

Professor and honorary associate researcher at Université Paris-I,
associate researcher at the Canadian research institute on humanitarian crisis and aid (OCCAH) at the Université du Québec in Montreal (UQÀM),
lawyer and researcher on non-governmental and humanitarian issues.

Translated from the French by Juliet Powys

To read the article in PDF click here.

ISBN of the article (HTML): 978-2-37704-256-2 

   [ + ]

1. The term originated in Silicon Valley, as a synonym for essential upheavals.
2. The book also covers highly relevant developments relating to internal security. Nonetheless, this aspect is not directly linked to humanitarian issues, at least not at the international level. It will therefore not be mentioned here.
3. See for example the International Review of the Red Cross (IRRC), n° 886, été 2012, “New technologies and Warfare”, Cambridge University Press, www.icrc.org/eng/resources/international-review/review-886-new-technologies-warfare/review-886-all.pdf
4. This is his position which is constantly restated in the book, as we have seen. See also his column « Terminator est déjà encadré par les lois », Libération, November 2nd 2015.
5. Japanese companies are seeking to develop “humanitarian robots”.

Development aid in 350 words

Publisher’s comments

“ ’Actor: Of his own development, of democracy. Must play his part well. Must play his part as written by someone else.’ With its 350 entries, this dictionary of development, in the ironic way of the stereotypes from Gustave Flaubert, proposes to go through the words and commonplaces of development policies in Africa. The author, practitioner of development projects, regularly publishes in specialized journals showing the poverty of the practical thinking about development. With this etymological dictionary targeting the general public, he goes further. In a style that is sometimes that of a pamphleteer, the author uses Gustave Flaubert’s formula, ’irony does not remove anything from the pathetic, it amplifies it on the contrary.’ The author demonstrates that the delay in human development that still characterises the African continent – against the blissful afro-optimism – is first of all the consequence of the stupidity of development thinking”

Interview with Marc Le Pape : “Chronicle of a genocide”

Entretien avec Marc Le Pape

Humanitarian aid, genocide and mass killings. Médecins Sans Frontières, the Rwandan Experience (1982−97) by Jean-Hervé Bradol and Marc Le Pape Manchester University Press, 2017

As sociologist, Marc Le Pape has conducted research in Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, and Central Africa. His recent work focuses on the conflicts in the Great Lakes region of Africa. He has co-edited several books like Côte d’Ivoire, l’année terrible 1999-2000 (with Claudine Vidal, Karthala, 2003), Crises extrêmes (with Johanna Siméant and Claudine Vidal, La Découverte, 2006), and with Médecins Sans Frontières, Une guerre contre les civils. Réflexions sur les pratiques humanitaires au Congo-Brazzaville, 1998-2000 (with Pierre Salignon, Karthala, 2001). Marc Le Pape was a researcher at the CNRS, and is currently an associate researcher at the Ehess (Centre for African Studies). He has just published, with Jean-Hervé Bradol of Crash (Centre of reflection on humanitarian action and knowledge) a book reflecting on the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda, drawing from the archives of Médecins Sans Frontières.

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Interview with Jonathan Littell “Barbarity is well shared: no religion exerts a monopoly over it”

Interview with Jonathan Littell

Jonathan Littell was born in 1967 in New York. Brought up in France, he entered humanitarian aid in 1993 and spent seven years on the field with Action against Hunger, mainly in Bosnia, Chechnya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Afghanistan. His novel Les Bienveillantes (The Kindly Ones) published in 2006, was awarded the same year the French Goncourt literary prize, since followed by several essays and reports in areas of conflict. Wrong Elements, a documentary released in April 2017, the subject of which is child soldiers, is his first movie. During his fieldwork in the 1990s, Jonathan Littell met Benoît Miribel, whose questions he has now kindly accepted to answer here. He also shares with us his personal thoughts on the special behaviour patterns of children who have fallen into the grips of an Ugandan mystical rebellion, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

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