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Contextualisation of Humanitarian Assistance and its Shortcomings in International Human Rights Law

  • Anicée Van Engeland (a1)
Abstract

This article challenges the idea that contextualisation of humanitarian aid affects the principle of universality of human rights as well as the principles of neutrality and impartiality. It seeks to demonstrate that contextualisation will not only improve access, delivery and protection: contextualising a mission also enables aid workers to respect the local context without impacting negatively upon universal human rights. The author argues that affecting the societies in which aid is delivered is inevitable. The key then becomes to avoid endorsing indirect cultural relativism. This is why the article puts forward the idea of creating a yardstick or a test that would help in deciding which beliefs and values are to be included when considering the context, and which should be excluded. The process of selection of values and beliefs is to be operated by an empowered local population. The filter suggested in the case at hand is the Muslim legal instrument of maslaha, which protects the public interest. The use of this filter can be efficient only if Islamic authoritative sources are interpreted differently, in a reformist fashion, to try and match universal human rights law. This is possible through the Muslim theories advocating change. Muslim beneficiaries who are vulnerable as a result of a disaster or during a conflict provide an opportunity to test the filter of maslaha, looking at how an empowered community can change and influence the agendas of aid agencies.

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47 Ferris (n 42).

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55 ibid.

56 Cammack (n 53) 104.

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58 Cammack (n 53) 103.

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63 ibid 156.

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71 ibid 93.

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74 ibid 13–14.

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95 An-Na'im (n 87).

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99 Katherine Nightingale, ‘Building the Future of Humanitarian Aid: Local Capacity and Partnerships in Emergency Assistance’, Christian Aid, March 2012, 14, http://www.christianaid.org.uk/images/building-the-future-of-humanitarian-aid.pdf.

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101 ibid.

102 ibid.

103 James Shaw-Hamilton, ‘Cross-Cultural Collaboration: Building Partnerships’, Humanitarian Exchange Magazine, May 2011, http://odihpn.org/magazine/cross-cultural-collaboration-building-partnerships.

104 International Federation of the Red Cross, ‘World Disasters Report 2014: Focus on Culture and Risk’, http://www.ifrc.org/Global/Documents/Secretariat/201410/WDR%202014.pdf; Gaillard, Jean-Christophe and Texier, Pauline, ‘Religions, Natural Hazards, and Disasters: An Introduction’ (2010) 40(2) Religion 81; Andreana Reale, ‘Acts of God(s): The Role of Religion in Disaster Risk Reduction’, Humanitarian Exchange Magazine, October 2010, http://odihpn.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/humanitarianexchange048.pdf.

105 The Sphere Project (n 70) 54.

106 UNDP (n 98).

107 ibid.

108 ibid.

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