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The Humanitarian Activity of International Organizations

Introduction

An international organization is the association of state or non-state character, created based on agreements. International organizations are divided into international intergovernmental organizations and international NGOs (non-governmental, public) organizations.

International intergovernmental organizations are the associations of states or state institutions created based on an international agreement between states or their authorized institutions.

International NGOs (non-governmental, public) are the associations whose members unite on the basis of joint activity to protect common interests and achieve the statutory goals of civil, political, cultural, social and economic spheres. International organizations have many functions and permeate different realms. One of the spheres is a humanitarian one, and there are organizations that have humanitarian activity as a priority and those that make it only one aspect of general activity. In modern world with emerging conflicts and instability, such organizations as UNESCO, Oxfam, Amnesty International, UNICEF, United Nations Environment Programme, UN World Food Programme, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, UNRWA, Doctors without Borders and Red Cross are playing more important role in preserving human rights and protecting people. Organizations of that kind are a good example of global governance in one particular field.

Outline of Humanitarian Assistance Provided by International Organizations

Humanitarian assistance is broader in a sense than humanitarian aid. Humanitarian aid is distributed free of charge among the population of the areas covered by a humanitarian disaster or standing on its edge. It includes the provision of food, clothing, medicines and other humanitarian aid, but it does not include the provision of weapons, weapons systems, ammunition, or other equipment, vehicles, and materials that can be used to cause serious injury or causes of death. Humanitarian cooperation of international organizations includes education, human rights preservation, health, and refugees’ issues, dealing with famine or poverty and environmental issues.

Principles of cooperation of international organizations working in the humanitarian sphere or “humanitarian principles” include humanity, neutrality, impartiality and solidarity (Martin & Simmons, 2013). The humanitarian neutrality can be properly understood only in connection with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). In fact, the ICRC recognizes that it refers to neutrality having a lack of preference for political reasons, to any party in the conflict. Impartiality means providing humanitarian assistance, based on the needs, without any discrimination on grounds of race, religion or other classifications. Respect for the principle of impartiality, in the heart of which lies the provision of assistance to the people, not to the states or rebel movements, making the organization avoid labeling people as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ victim. Impartiality provides some flexibility in terms of the public position of the organization. Some may prefer not to publicize the application of this principle; others choose active impartiality. The active position allows the organization to criticize the actions of the parties, which refuse to help people who are under their authority. Impartial organizations often operate on both sides of the front; these include, in particular, the ICRC and the “Doctors without Borders” (MSF).

Solidarity is defined as the decision to take the side of people and support their political objectives. It should be noted that MSF and other organizations often use the alternative definition of ‘solidarity’, according to which this term means a willingness to share the suffering of people and to be physically close to them. While both definitions of solidarity have an element of policy, it is necessary to distinguish between solidarity, involving division of the burdens of the population through the physical presence of humanitarian organizations (how often does MSF), and, on the other hand, open solution to work with only one party to the conflict (Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors without Borders (MSF), 2013).

Such international organizations as “People help Norway” (Norwegian People’s Aid, NPA) in Southern Sudan and the “Catholic Relief Services” (Catholic Relief Services, CRS) in Sierra Leone serve as the examples. In Sierra Leone, after the return of the government Kabbah in 1998, CRS has adopted a solution not to work in the territories controlled by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) (Macalister-Smith, 1991). Solidarity can have positive and negative aspects: the decision to work with one group implies a decision not to work with the other. Thus, some victims are worthy of assistance, and others will not receive it - because of those under whose power they are.

Independence means that the organization largely is funded by non-governmental sources. Such organizations may initiate and carry out operations that do not support large institutional donors, or it is the position, which separates the organization from its sponsors (e.g., state location or traditional supporters), enables it to adhere to views different from those of the state, and publicly expresses those views.

Lastly, the sub-contractors, involved in the implementation of projects, are developed by the state. This approach is more common in the United States, where the US Agency for International Development often asks organizations to take part in the competition to provide a specific set of services (Margesson, 2015). An example is the US government’s program of “Assistance for the Reconstruction of Sudan in the Transitional Period” (STAR) in Southern Sudan. In 1998, USAID, in the framework of a broader operation in Sudan, asked a group of NGOs to participate in the contest to host the above-mentioned program, aimed at the development of civil society in the Western Equatorial Province (Oxfam, 2015). Traditional subcontractors do not express political opinions that differ from the policies of their governments.

According to Ferris (2005), “There are also faith-based humanitarian organizations share many characteristics with their secular counterparts and are influenced by the same political, social and economic contexts”. Nevertheless, the author states that there are several characteristics, which “make faith-based humanitarian organizations different from most secular humanitarian organizations: faith-based organizations are motivated by their faith and they have a constituency that is broader than humanitarian concerns” (Ferris, 2005).

Humanitarian Organizations

“International Committee of Red Cross” is the humanitarian organization, which operates around the world, based on the principle of neutrality and impartiality. It provides protection and assistance to victims of armed conflict and internal violence including visiting prisoners of war and persons detained in connection with armed conflict; facilitating the exchange of messages between separated family members. ICRC objectives are the reunion of separated families; the provision of clean water, food and medical care to those who need it and promoting respect for the international humanitarian law (Ferris, 2005).

“UN Children’s Fund” (UNICEF) is focusing on the needs of children in crises. Core Commitments for Children (CCCs) in the UN humanitarian activity is a key strategy of UNICEF to protect the rights of children affected by humanitarian crises. The updated CCCs continue to promote predictable, effective and timely collective humanitarian action, as well as clearly define the field. The first version was developed in 1998 and renovated in 2004 (Macalister-Smith, 1991). UNICEF works in 190 countries of the world to protect and support children. To address children’s problems, UNICEF engages the widest circle of those who can and should take care about the future of new generations, actively collaborating with governments and academic institutions, business and community organizations, hospitals and educational institutions, informing about the problems of children, offering proven and effective solutions, stimulating legislative changes.

“Doctors without Borders” (M?decins sans Fronti?res, MSF) is an independent, humanitarian organization that provides medical care around the world. It works where there is no medical infrastructure or where the existing infrastructure cannot withstand the load to which it is exposed. In most cases, aid programs are rehabilitation projects that can operate for several years. Today, it carries out one of the major programs to help the victims of the Central African Republic, capital Bangui. Since the beginning of December 2014, the volunteers of MSF, working in a number of surgical medical city projects, have helped more than 1,000 victims of violence (MSF, 2013). The organization also continues to carry out humanitarian activities in Syria. MSF created six hospitals and two health centers in Syria. From June 2012 to date, it has been carried out 102,828 medical consultations, 4,899 operations and 1,516 births (MSF, 2013).

“Oxfam” is an international non-profit association of 17 organizations operating in more than 90 countries around the world. The main objective of this association is to fight poverty. Currently, the main assistance programs are organized to victims of war and armed conflicts in the countries such as South Sudan, Syria, Central African Republic, and the territory of the Gaza Strip. “Oxfam“ provides clean drinking water and food. In Southern Sudan, 53 volunteers have been trained in hygiene promotion, supplying of about 192,000 liters of potable water a day. In the area of Gaza, the organization is engaged in supplying water, medicines and necessary materials (Oxfam, 2015).

“Amnesty International” is working on seven main areas: women’s rights, children’s rights, eradication of torture and the abolition of the death penalty, the rights of refugees, the rights of prisoners of conscience and protection of human dignity (Renzaho, 2007).

“UN World Food Programme” (WFP) assists millions of people who are victims of disasters. It is responsible for mobilizing resources for the food and transporting it across all the large-scale relief operation for refugees (Renzaho, 2007).

“The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations” (FAO) is helping farmers often after floods, outbreaks of livestock and similar emergencies. “Global Information and Early Warning System” continuously monitors crop production prospects and food security situation at global, regional, national and sub-national levels and warns of the occurrence of food problems and emergencies (Fischer, 2012).

The uniqueness of “The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East” (UNRWA) is a long-standing commitment to one group of refugees. The main objective of the Agency is the protection of the rights and well-being of refugees. The Agency seeks to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum in another country while having the opportunity to return home and integrate into the local community or to resettle in a third country. The General Assembly established the “Near East Agency of the United Nations Relief and Works” (UNRWA) for emergency assistance to 750,000 Palestinian refugees who lost their homes and livelihoods because of the Arab-Israeli conflict (Renzaho, 2007). The agency’s mandate also includes assistance to stateless persons. UNRWA headquarters and field offices are in Jordan, located in Amman, Jordan. UNRWA also operates in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Lebanon, and Syria.

Office of the High Commissioner of the United Nations for Refugees (UNHCR) is a United Nations agency dedicated to providing assistance to refugees. The work of the Agency for Refugees, the United Nations-led by the UN General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The organization conducts and coordinates international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. In 2012, UNHCR found 3.34 million stateless persons in 72 countries. However, the total number of stateless persons in the world estimated to be over 10 million. In 2013, the annual budget reached a record high of $3.92 billion. By mid-2013, UNHCR launched an appeal to donors for an additional $1.3 billion. There is an annual award named after the great Norwegian polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen. The Nansen Refugee Award consists of a medal and a cash prize of $100,000. It is awarded every year in October for outstanding services in supporting refugees.

Environmental programs such as the “United Nations Environment Programme,” established under the UN program, promote coordination of nature protection in the system-wide level. The main goal of UNEP is the organization and carrying out of measures aimed at protecting and improving the environment for present and future generations. The motto of the program is “Environment for Development” (Fischer, 2012). UNEP is sponsoring a program for the development of solar energy, making a significant discount on the purchase of solar panels, thereby significantly reducing the price for consumers, and increasing the number of people willing to buy these panels. The success of this program led to the implementation of similar projects in other developing countries as Tunisia, Morocco, Indonesia, and Mexico. UNEP also sponsors a project for the protection of the marshlands in the Middle East and endangered species.

Global Governance on the Detailed Example of UNESCO

The UN and UNESCO are concerned with humanitarian problems such as international security, terrorism, the arms race, and the activities of international intergovernmental organizations issues. UNESCO helps to develop friendly relations among nations based on principles of international law and cooperation. Those principles include respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination, cooperation in the economic, social, cultural and humanitarian spheres and fundamental freedoms for all people of the world.

Many humanitarian problems, especially issues of education, culture, and science, communication and information, are the domain of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). According to the Charter, the UNESCO is an international intergovernmental organization whose members can only be a sovereign state. The priority objective of UNESCO is to achieve international cooperation based on the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and its Charter. However, if the United Nations’ international cooperation relates to security, UNESCO’s relates to education, science, culture, information, and communications. In this field, it promotes the establishment of human rights and peace in international relations.

UNESCO’s mission in the modern world is reduced to five main functions: the prediction of the development of science, culture, means of communication; the promotion, transfer, and sharing of basic, primarily research, methods of training and education; normative activities, development, revision, the use of “international law”; expert assistance to the Member States in policies and projects; the exchange of specialized information.

UNESCO cooperates with 588 non-governmental organizations and centers of 4,800 associations and clubs, implementing programs of joint activities. Its annual budget is $455 million (Volger, 2010). The budget of UNESCO, in addition to contributions from the Member States, includes additional funding from the United Nations Development Programme, Population Fund, and regional development funds.

The following UNESCO departments play an important role in solving the problems of education: International Bureau of Education; UNESCO Institute for Education; International Institute for Educational Planning and UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education.

UNESCO has adopted a number of conventions, declarations, and recommendations that are designed to ensure that everyone has the right to education. Among these documents, the most fame and influence gained Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960), which is aimed at the implementation of Articles 2 and 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It prohibits all forms of discrimination in education, taking into account the measures to be taken to implement the Convention with equal opportunities participating States (Macalister-Smith, 1991).

There also is the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), which contains specific articles on the need to provide primary education to expand free secondary and higher education, to improve the material conditions of teaching staff.

UNESCO created regional conventions on the recognition of certificates of secondary education completion, higher education diplomas and scientific degrees, the recommendations on the status of teachers, the Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice (Volger, 2010).

In addition, the program “Education for the XXI Century” is based on the assumption that humankind must fundamentally rethink the role of education in the world because of the global situation at the turn of XX-XXI centuries where more and more countries are facing a crisis and other challenges, particularly in the problems of development in their humanistic and social aspects.

A key focus in this area, in accordance with the UNESCO, is the program “Education for All” (EFA), which should become an integral part of “Millennium Development Goals” that was defined in the UN General Assembly and the UN Millennium Declaration of 8 September 2000 (Volger, 2010).

In the field of education for sustainable development, UNESCO’s policy was aimed at improving the technical and vocational, higher education, human rights, civic education, improving the educational system in the context of conflict and post-conflict situations, HIV and AIDS through education (Volger, 2010).

In 1966, the General Conference of UNESCO adopted a Declaration of Principles of International Cultural Cooperation, which highlights that the development of own culture is the right of every nation. UNESCO adopted its General Conference, a Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972), in which for the first time in history, it was stated that humanity has a common heritage and, therefore, should jointly ensure its preservation (Macalister-Smith, 1991).

Conclusion

The examples of international organizations providing humanitarian assistance are the following: UNESCO, Oxfam, Amnesty International, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, UNICEF, Office of the High Commissioner of the United Nations for Refugees, United Nations Environment Programme, UN World Food Programme, UNRWA, Doctors without Borders and Red Cross showed its growing importance. The humanitarian assistance is especially in need in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The Middle East and Europe to a lesser extent are covered by the activities of humanitarian organizations. Actually, any region of the world that has any level of poverty or instability receives a certain kind of humanitarian assistance. International organizations ensure more effective and powerful cooperation then. They provide aid as the United Nations that is acting through its institutions, for example, through the “Save the Children Fund” (UNICEF). Most humanitarian organizations pursue two main objectives: to provide emergency assistance to people affected by a disaster or war, and long-term care. It includes food, shelter, clean water, education, and health care. These organizations seek to help people improve their living conditions: they train, provide tools and equipment for the improvement of agriculture and water supply. Volunteers and trained experts also teach people to read and write. Some European and North American organizations conduct outreach to the citizens of their own countries, explaining the causes of poverty and hardship in developing countries.

Despite attempts by many humanitarian actors to initiate meetings and to create mechanisms for the advancement of mutual understanding and a common position, organizations providing humanitarian assistance are still diverse, and there is a huge variation in the perception of humanitarian action. Their software installation and working methods vary greatly among themselves.