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Humanitarian space in danger

The theme in 2006 was “the reduction of humanitarian space”, a worrying development which certain observers have been describing for some years now. Geopolitical and strategic issues are increasingly having an effect on humanitarian assistance and the capacity to bring relief to affected populations. How can humanitarians do their job today? The founding principles of humanitarianism - independence, neutrality, impartiality - are currently being challenged and the symbolic space within which it operates is in danger of disappearing. Why has this happened? What are the consequences for humanitarian action? Are the old mandates still appropriate or will the humanitarianism of the future be of a different nature?

A number of specialists made presentations on the geopolitical factors which have affected humanitarian space (the War on Terrorism, the mixing of humanitarian and military operations, the challenging of IHL, the growing insecurity in a number of countries), and also on changes in the operational framework such as the reform of UN and EU institutions, changes in funding mechanisms, etc.

Due to the complexity and importance of this issue, we wanted to bring together representatives from a variety of sectors and countries, and indeed the debates were attended by a large number of French and European NGOs (MSF, Oxfam, AMI-Fondation Portugal, Triangle, Cafod, Croix Rouge etc.), and by representatives of funding agencies (USAID), French institutions (DAH), NATO, UN agencies (Unicef, WFP), research and training institutes and networks (ALNAP, Coordination Sud, IECAH, CESH), independent consultants, and students …