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SIPA Panelists Weigh Political Implications of Humanitarian Assistance in Afghanistan

A panel of experts on humanitarian relief debated the implications of U.S. humanitarian relief coupled with military activity in Afghanistan in a forum co-sponsored by the Humanitarian Affairs Program, the Humanitarian Affairs Working Group, the Conflict Resolution Program and the Institute of War and Peace Studies at SIPA.

Patrice Page

Humanitarian assistance during a conflict takes place in a "fragile" space, said Patrice Page, Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), U.N. Liaison Officer. He explained that aid must be performed by impartial actors to maintain credibility with the local population and said that the U.S. military's food drops in Afghanistan presented a confusion of humanitarian and political objectives.

Real (19:52)Video
Roy Williams

According to Roy Williams, former Director of the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, the concept of humanitarianism is not straightforward, and it is difficult to comprehend the distinction between humanitarianism and political action. On a darker note, Williams predicted that the humanitarian community is on the brink of a possible catastrophe, if past performances such as the failed efforts in Northern Iraq and Rwanda were to be replayed today.

Real (13:16)Video
William Nash

How does the United States conduct a military operation against its enemies and, at the same time, try to differentiate those enemies from innocent bystanders who should receive humanitarian assistance? Retired Major General William Nash, Senior Fellow at the Council of Foreign Affairs, explains how the U.S. is coming to grips with offering assistance to the people of Afghanistan during the conduct of war.

Real (12:17)Video

Published: Jan 03, 2002
Last modified:Sep 18, 2002