The Pulse of Humanitarian Assistance

The Pulse of Humanitarian Assistance

The Pulse of Humanitarian Assistance

The Pulse of Humanitarian Assistance


Understanding the complex nature of international humanitarian action—particularly following natural disasters or armed conflicts—has been the mission of this unique series. This book explores the cutting-edge concerns that will affect how assistance is offered in the future. Featuring twelve original essays by leading practitioners, policymakers, and scholars, the book is a state of the field report on problems, threats, and opportunities facing relief efforts in today’s world. With contributions from such authorities as Bernard Kouchner, founder of Doctors Without Borders, Charles McCormick, CEO of Save the Children, and physicians, military leaders, field workers, and others, the essays confront the most critical issues facing the delivery of effective relief. The issues include military and civilian cooperation in large-scale disasters, with special attention to the growth of private armies. How traditional nongovernmental organizations and faith-based agencies adapt to new challenges is also explored. Ways to strengthen security for humanitarian workers, refugees, and internally displaced persons and those in transition after wars are also considered. Bringing together diplomatic, military, medical, legal, political, religious, and ethical perspectives from experiences in Darfur, West Africa, Iraq, Pakistan, and other areas, the essays offer an authoritative inventory of where humanitarian relief has been, and how it must change to save lives and communities in peril.


Everything evolves and grows or it stagnates and dies. This is clearly true in nature, where plants and animals need to constantly adapt for their species to survive. It is also obvious that the philosophic, economic, and even religious bases of civilization change in response to unforeseen challenges, sometimes influenced by new technology and knowledge, often in reaction to failures.

In the medical world the humbling process of an autopsy—a detailed postmortem examination—allows pathologists and clinicians to better understand the causes of death. It is, simultaneously, a study intended to stimulate solutions in the endless fight against disease and to improve our methods of treating, and even preventing, fatal complications. Individuals and societies striving to create a more peaceful world must learn from past mistakes as well, constantly analyzing practices and principles once accepted as inevitable. If a better approach to the terrible problems that divide humanity seems feasible, then mankind must have the wisdom, and the courage, to try new paths forward.

This is the essence of diplomacy—the art of searching for a common ground while avoiding the seductive trap of dogmatic posturing. Productive diplomacy promotes cooperative efforts that can replace the ultimately futile cycles of violence and warfare. While laws and treaties, international conventions, and ecclesiastical doctrines have helped codify mankind’s most basic beliefs, every generation must reevaluate these tenets. Constant interpretation and alteration to meet new realities is always necessary to advance the human journey toward global peace.

In this sad, almost patently self-destructive era, those of us privileged to work in humanitarian assistance find ourselves struggling . . .

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