What is the difference between Sphere's
NGO Handbook on humanitarian response and a counter-insurgency manual?
This question is not as facetious as it may sound because much enlightened
counter-insurgency strategy focuses on improving people's lives through
relief and development work. Indeed, the question suggests a deeper one
about the contemporary relationship between Coalition counter-insurgency
and humanitarian programming. Do humanitarian agencies and Coalition forces
in Iraq and Afghanistan share some of the same moral goals and employ the
same means to these ends? This is a serious question today and one which
has been forced upon humanitarians by each of the warring parties who both
describe UN agencies and NGOs as 'collaborators' - albeit with rather different
meanings. Coalition authorities have welcomed humanitarians positively
as partners while resistance groups have killed humanitarians as treacherous
agents of the enemy.
The purpose of this paper is to look
briefly at liberal counterinsurgency doctrine and to show how, in its best
form, it has much in common - morally and methodologically - with the
concerns and methods of humanitarian and development work. It shows that
Coalition, UN and NGO peace aims are indeed very similar. They share significant
moral overlap with one another. But more than just comparing the two fields
and their moral ideals, I want to suggest that UN agencies, NGOs and other
humanitarian commentators may be in an interesting form of denial about
the morality they have in common with Coalition authorities.