Thursday, November 08, 2007

The dangers of DIY humanitarianism

The situation in Africa warrants a degree of despair and, for many, the time for direct action and intervention has long since past.  However, as this article discusses, the nuances of intervention, the morality of direct action and the implications for empowerment are just as valid when the acts are by humanitarian agencies and individuals as they are when another country intervenes militarily to affect change.
Most assuredly, direct action NGOs would not contemplate casting themselves in the same light as George Bush's US troops, but morally, philosophically and conceptually, how are their actions different?  When is outside intervention justified?  Or is accountability a much better criterion?  The end never justifies the means: this construct is the first to be lost when people assume their moral position obviates them from following the "rules" of engagement.
In many ways, this latest case once more reinforces the abject failure of the United Nations to function as a global meeting place for dialogue around such central governing constructs.