The UN and the Rise of the Humanitarian Tradition
Today, we take it for granted that given a humanitarian crisis, of which there have been more than a few in recent years, the United Nations (UN) will step in. There are no less than five UN agencies with humanitarian mandates—the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and the World Health Organization (WHO). The total budget of these agencies amounted to $7.1 billion in 2010, with over half being taken by the WFP alone, which manages $3.2 billion. This humanitarian aid budget now equals 31 percent of the total UN budget, with an additional 23 percent expended on health, education, and water sanitation.1 It was not always so. The founders intended the UN to be primarily an organization dedicated to resolving conflict and only marginally attending to the issues that might raise conflict.2 How did the UN get itself so involved in what could be loosely termed relief work?
KeywordsUnited Nations United Nations Development Program Geneva Convention Child Soldier Global Civil Society
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- 6.J. W. Meri and J. L. Bacharach, Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia , vol. 1, A–K (Taylor & Francis, 2006), p. 146.Google Scholar
- 7.In particular, the CRB was the inspiration for the creation of United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRAA) combining private charity and international cooperation. See P. MacAlister-Smith, International Humanitarian Assistance: Disaster Relief Actions in International Law and Organizations (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1985), pp. 11–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- 9.See S. Moyn, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010), who also writes that the so-called founders of the natural rights movement were “anything but humanitarians” endorsing an “austere doctrine that refused a list of basic entitlements” (pp. 21–22).Google Scholar
- 12.E. G. Wilson, Thomas Clarkson: A Biography (London: The Macmillan Press, 1989).Google Scholar
- 13.See Las Casas, “An Essay on Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species” (1785), quoted in J. Almeida, Reimagining the Transatlantic: 1780–1890 (Surrey, UK: Ashgate, 2013), p. 31.Google Scholar
- 15.William Wilberforce’s 1789 Abolition Speech before the House of Commons, May 12, 1789, quoted in A. Hochschild, Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt, 2006), p. 160.Google Scholar
- 16.F. Douglass, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass: From 1817–1882 (Radford, VA: Wilder Publications, 2008), p. 209.Google Scholar
- 19.Pictet described the first Geneva Convention as “the basis on which rest the rules of international law for the protection of the victims of armed conflicts.” J. S. Pictet, “The New Geneva Conventions for the Protection of War Victims,” American Journal of International Law 45.3 (1951): 462–475, doi: 10.2307/2194544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar