Conflict & Justice

Aid groups face moral dilemma

It's a delicate situation and on the one hand we want people to continue to work in a particular country, but on the other hand how can we negotiate and deal with the tough restraints placed on us by restrictive governments, as is the case in Zimbabwe. (A lot of people in Myanmar talk about the moral imperative for aid groups there to get any aid in, even if it requires defying the military.) In practical terms, that's what we've been doing. But it's still very insufficient, we've encountered some people who have never received aid. There is a question as to whether military intervention towards a country like Myanmar is effective and helpful. (Doesn't MSF have an obligation to push back against such a regime?) We have to be outspoken, we have to talk about it, but we have to do it in a way that is going to allow things to open up. We have to convince and pressure them without making them feel they need to close up. (If some steps were taken to force aid on Myanmar, where would MSF fall in that decision?) the problem with a military intervention is it would be linked to political change in the country and could have other side effects. Military intervention has been reserved for situations like Rwanda, a genocide or a massacre. We have to nuance a bit how serious the situation is, but I have to be careful not to minimize it also. The picture of the repressive military government is a bit inaccurate because in parts of the Delta they can't have authority anyway. There we've been able to deliver aid directly. (Are there any historical examples which could point the wisest way ahead?) We have seen countries where humanitarian assistance has been futile, such as in North Korea. In the case of Myanmar, we can reach some areas, even though both these countries' governments fall under the category of repressive military dictatorships.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the audio to hear it.)

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