Aid in Danger
The Perils and Promise of Humanitarianism
344 pages | 6 x 9
Cloth May 2014 | ISBN 978-0-8122-4603-2 | $75.00s | £49.00 | Add to cart
Ebook May 2014 | ISBN 978-0-8122-0963-1 | $75.00s | £49.00 | About | Add to cart
A volume in the Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights series
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Humanitarian aid workers increasingly remain present in contexts of violence and are injured, kidnapped, and killed as a result. Since 9/11 and in response to these dangers, aid organizations have fortified themselves to shield their staff and programs from outside threats. In Aid in Danger, Larissa Fast critically examines the causes of violence against aid workers and the consequences of the approaches aid agencies use to protect themselves from attack.
Based on more than a decade of research, Aid in Danger explores the assumptions underpinning existing explanations of and responses to violence against aid workers. According to Fast, most explanations of attacks locate the causes externally and maintain an image of aid workers as an exceptional category of civilians. The resulting approaches to security rely on separation and fortification and alienate aid workers from those in need, representing both a symptom and a cause of crisis in the humanitarian system. Missing from most analyses are the internal vulnerabilities, exemplified in the everyday decisions and ordinary human frailties and organizational mistakes that sometimes contribute to the conditions leading to violence. This oversight contributes to the normalization of danger in aid work and undermines the humanitarian ethos. As an alternative, Fast proposes a relational framework for understanding threats that captures both external threats and internal vulnerabilities. By uncovering overlooked causes of violence, Aid in Danger offers a unique perspective on the challenges of providing aid in perilous settings and on the prospects of reforming the system in service of core humanitarian values.
Larissa Fast teaches at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and the Department of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame.