Protect the aid worker

There is a campaign to get 2010 marked as “The Year to Protect the Humanitarian Aid Worker.”

A worthwhile cause to be sure and no quibbles from me, but I cannot entirely suppress a little snigger.

There was a campaign slogan from Amnesty International to ‘Protect the Human’ that struck me as a nice play on the more traditional ‘Protect the Whale’ kinda deal. The evolution of important things to protect from Orangutans to Aid Workers is flattering.

Aid workers are more often in the role of protecting others; there is a whole sub-species specialised in and dedicated to protecting the rights of refugees and the displaced, children, women, the elderly and disabled.

But it seems we too have joined the ranks of the endangered (for evidence, read this (pdf)  report) and general wretched of the earth, and so it is time to act!

Buy the badge, drop your loose change in the bucket and sign the petition. Forget the fundraising pictures of doe-eyed, fly-ridden African kids; we need mug-shots of dead Aid Workers. Draft codes and laws setting forth our rights to intervene in the name of goodness (oh, they exist already you say?) and protection against the unethical use of pictures of dead Aid Workers. Write to the Sudanese government demanding a little r-e-s-p-e-c-t!

But just one year?! Don’t we at least deserve a decade? And since I principally need protecting from bad drivers, dodgy airplanes and the Taliban (plus changes in currency exchange rates, insurance premiums, bad managers, the whims of donors, stomach bugs and cirrhosis), how, pray tell, am I to be protected?

What’s more, is it fair and right to objectify Aid Workers in such a fashion? I’m not sure I care for the use of the definite article in the campaign title. We are all individuals with different needs. Who has the right to offer me their protection, to speak on behalf of all Aid Workers?

Seriously, no disrespect to the Stephen D. Vance Foundation. I salute you, and may even sign your pledge. It might be a start to also get international aid organisations to themselves do more to protect their national staff, who bear the brunt of all attacks. Or how about a year of actively demilitarising aid? (I have no idea how.) But anyways, ‘Protect Me!’

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2 Responses to “Protect the aid worker”

  1. Marianne Says:

    I’m ready to sign up. I’ll have to email you about my latest project – it’s very much in keeping with the spirit of protecting aid workers. Hope you are well after your RnR. I was a bit shocked about the air strike in Ghor. Time for a new plan for ‘helping’ Afghanistan I reckon.

  2. Matthew Devereux Edwards Says:

    An interesting perspective.

    “Aid workers are more often in the role of protecting others; there is a whole sub-species specialised in and dedicated to protecting the rights of refugees and the displaced, children, women, the elderly and disabled.”

    Is there a difference between the protection of rights and the protection of lives? If so, is the role of aid worker a form of specialised position different from, say, peacekeeping soldier? Has that specialisation gone too far – should the roles be combined? Is it Adam Smith gone mad? How far is the current so-called ‘Coalition’ (or ‘Church of NATO’ as a 1950s Soviet cartoon had it) succeeding in protecting either? How is the concept of aid work and protection of rights be squared with laws such as the one about a woman having to ask permission to leave the house or a woman having to provide her man with sexual intercourse within a particular time period?

    PLUS…When Britain has its General Election, and if that election manages to actually be vaguely democratic, and there is a mandate to remove all British soldiers from Afghanistan immediately, what would happen next?

    matthaus.

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