A brief review of this edited collection by Garnier, Jubilut & Sandvik is now available in the Book Notes section of Journal of Peace Research. The review highlights the importance of the book for scholars and practitioners exploring the linkages of refugee protection with humanitarian practice, and the power asymmetries this implies. Click here to read the review, and read more about the book here.
Gunnar M. Sørbø is a social anthropologist, former director of the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI), and former Chair of the Board of the NCHS.
This text is based on an op-ed which was first published in Norwegian in Bergens Tidende, 5 May 2019: Europas nye grensevakter.
Are we supporting a development which ultimately sends even more refugees towards Europe?
More than a million migrants crossed the Mediterranean in an attempt to reach Europe during the 2015 refugee crisis, the vast majority arriving either in Greece or Italy. The following year the European Union entered the so-called “EU-Turkey Deal”, a statement of cooperation between European states and the Turkish government. The agreement was meant to ensure that migrants and refugees arriving in Turkey, most of whom were fleeing Syria, would remain there, and that migrants making it to Greece would be returned to Turkey.
From a European
perspective, the agreement with Turkey has been successful. Only about 360.000
migrants and refugees arrived by sea in 2016. The arrivals were distributed
quite evenly between Greece and Italy, the two European countries that received
most of the migrants leaving Northern Africa. To ensure that the flow of people
would be further reduced, the EU as well as several singular European countries
made similar bilateral agreements with Libya, and later with countries in the
Sahel region south of Libya: Sudan, Niger and Chad.
Norway is among the
European countries which has intensified its focus on the region over the past
few years. As with other countries, the motivation behind the increased support
has not been limited to stopping large-scale migration, but also to stop the
spread of Islamic terrorism. This type of terrorism affected Norwegians
directly in 2013 when an attack on the Norwegian energy company Statoil’s gas
facility in Algeria resulted in the loss of Norwegian lives.
In Libya, the EU made an agreement with the government in Tripoli. At the time, the
Libyan authorities had limited territorial control and depended on various
militias for survival. Presently, they are fighting the forces of General
Khalifa Haftar, who is based in the eastern part of Libya and is supported by
Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Libya has faced political destabilization
since the former head of state Gaddafi lost power and was killed in 2011.
Thus, Italy suggested
to create checkpoints along the border in southern Libya, an area controlled by
militias often in conflict with each other. The countries south of Libya also
tend to have problems controlling their border regions, yet authoritarian heads
of state have promised to exercise migration control in exchange for much
needed financial support from Europe.
This type of “outsourcing”
means that Europe has become entangled with some unusual border guards that are
difficult to control.
In Sudan, the task of controlling migration has to a large extent been
handed to militias allied with the regime in Khartoum. These are the same armed
groups that were responsible for excessive use of force displacing large groups
of people from their homes during the Darfur crisis of 2003-2004. They patrol
the border to Libya claiming to stop migrants from travelling north, while
simultaneously smuggling people into Libya in cooperation with actors on the
other side of the border.
The same armed forces (Rapid Support Forces – RSF) have also been active at the border between Sudan and Eritrea. Studies conducted through a joint effort by universities in Sudan and the Chr. Michelsen’s Institute/The University of Bergen show that migrants from Eritrea, Syria and other countries continue to journey through Sudan. However, the migrants are paying a higher price than before, taking new routes, and doing so at a greater risk.
While Sudan has
received support from the EU for “managing” migration, the regime’s brutal
policies and the country’s wrecked economy are contributing to a steady flow of
Sudanese people wanting to leave their own country. In 2014-2016, 9,300
Sudanese arrived in Italy, and in 2017, twenty per cent of those granted political
asylum in France came from Sudan.
A report from the Clingendael Institute in the Netherlands (“Multilateral Damage”, 2018) confirms some of the
tendencies we have observed in Sudan. Firstly, new migration routes have
emerged, more dangerous and secretive than before, and therefore also more
expensive and criminalized. The total number of migrants making the journey has
decreased, but evidence suggests that the number of migrant deaths has
Secondly, the overall stability in these countries is threatened as the
number of ungovernable militia groups grow. Some of these armed groups profit
from stopping migrants, others from smuggling migrants northwards, and a
considerable number practice both. In Niger, the ban on migration has disturbed
the fragile balance that was established when the Tuareg and Tubu rebels in the
northern part of the country entered a peace accord with the government.
The local economy has deteriorated,
and new militias have emerged in the border regions. A common denominator for
all these countries is that armed groups outside of the state’s control are
becoming more powerful and constituting a security threat.
Political developments in Sudan during April and May 2019 have led the RSFleader Hemetti to power as second-in-command in the Transitional Military Council (TMC), now participating in talks with the protesters about a new government. In Libya, both parties in the war for the capital Tripoli are depending on alliances with militias. Many of them are keeping migrants and refugees in custody and subjecting them to torture and extortion, before a small number – barely 500 in the first three months of this year – gets transported en route to Europe.
In a desperate plea
for help from the EU, the Libyan Prime Minister is threatening that up to 800,000
people will cross the Mediterranean if Libya were to face political collapse.
This is most likely an overstatement, as there are probably not that many
refugees and migrants wishing to reach Europe from Libya right now, and because
transportation by sea is arranged by mafia-like organizations that may be
dissolved if the political chaos in the country is amplified. Nevertheless, the
prime minister’s statement speaks volumes about the vulnerability of the
agreements that have been made.
Most European countries are aware of the risks associated with
“externalizing” border control, but across Europe the field of migration is
characterized by realpolitik. Lowering the number of migrants and asylum
seekers reaching Europe has become the overarching objective.
We are seemingly becoming
less concerned with the policies’ unintended consequences. This is probably
caused by European migration policies claiming to answer all our concerns: not
just migration, but also security, political stability and terrorism – based on
the assumption that human trafficking, drug trafficking, arms dealings and
terrorism are driven by a conglomerate of mafia-like organizations and that
these are hurting local communities in the affected regions.
However, most people
involved in migrant smuggling do not view themselves as criminals, and their
activities may also create positive ripple effects in many local communities across
Before the overthrow of Gaddafi, when many migrants from other African countries went to work in Libya, assisting migrants was part of the formal economy. Now, the practice is considered criminal. This may result in participants formerly engaged with assisting migrants moving their affairs elsewhere, for instance into activities eroding the state’s control such as revolt and terrorism.
Many European politicians probably recognize that the agreements
that are being made strengthen forces we would rather not be associated with,
whether this is an increasingly authoritarian president in Turkey or militia
groups in the Sahel region.
Yet, the question we must ask ourselves is whether this policy is
sustainable in the long run. I am here thinking not only of the immense human
suffering caused by such policies, but also whether we are supporting a
development which will ultimately push even more people in the direction of
The Centre for Integrated Emergency Management (CIEM) at the University of Agder invites you to a seminar to present and demo the results from the H2020 project iTRACK in combination with the first day of the EURO-Hope Mini conference on Humanitarian Operations.
TECHNOLOGY FOR SAFETY & SECURITY
Thursday 5 September 2019, 10.30-14.45 University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway
The seminar is centered around the H2020 project iTRACK (Integrated system for real-time TRACKing and collective intelligence in civilian humanitarian missions). This 3-year European research project focused on increasing safety and security of humanitarian missions and improving efficiency of humanitarian logistics. Together with an international consortium of 13 project partners from industry, academia, and humanitarian organizations, we developed a suite of solutions to support tracking, threat detection, navigation, logistics, and coordination in conflict disasters. These solutions will be embedded in the work practices and policies for humanitarian conflict situations and take into account the many responsible data challenges. iTRACK is designed to be a cost-effective open source system, supporting humanitarian organisations where resources may be limited. Website: https://www.itrack-project.eu/.
AIMS & OUTLINE OF THE SEMINAR
The seminar will start with results from the project, which will be presented by iTRACK researchers from CIEM, NORCE and Teleplan Globe. We will highlight and showcase key features of several components, such as AI for threat detection 6 decision making, secure communications and messaging, and GPS-free navigation. During Technology & data in conflicts & roadmap panel, we will engage in a discussion about the policies and processes for data collection, sharing, and coordination that are needed to guide the development and use of technology. Thereby, we aim to develop a roadmap for collaboration and a research agenda for technology & innovation in safety and security. The seminar will be co-hosted with the 4th EURO-HOpe mini-conference for Humanitarian Operations Management. This arrangement provides an excellent opportunity for discussion and networking with top researchers and practitioners in the field of humanitarian logistics. You can register for both days or the first day only. There is no registration fee.
10.00 Welcome desk and registration, coffee
10.30-12.30 iTRACK Workshop & demo
13.30-13.45 EURO Mini-conference official opening: Welcome note
13.45-14.45 Panel 1. Technology & data in conflicts and roadmap. Tina Comes (TU Delft), Giulio Coppi or Bassam Ibrahim (Norwegian Refugee Council), Ole Kristoffer Bjelland (Norwegian Red Cross)
EURO Hope Mini-Conference on Humanitarian Operations 5-6. September
The EURO HOPE Mini-Conference is an annual event that is designed to facilitate a dialogue between researchers and stakeholders working with humanitarian operations. Each year, the conference brings together academics and practitioners that are interested in decision-making problems related to providing logistical assistance for humanitarian purposes, and in response to humanitarian crises.
We welcome researchers and professionals to this conference, beyond the duration of the iTRACK workshop.
Flying is an important contributor to global warming, and by far
one of the most complicated. There are no signs that flying will be reduced and
technical solutions to reduce carbon emissions are a long way off and not very
feasible. Unlike cars, electric planes are not an option—flying a plane would
require its entire space to be filled with batteries.
The IPCC report that came
out last week is absolutely terrifying. The possibility of retaining global
heating within 1.5 degrees is rapidly disappearing and we are facing global
warming of 2 or even 3 degrees. The report contains convincing evidence of the
devastation of that extra degree on biodiversity, sea level rise, disaster
events, the economy, coral reefs, and so on.
With regards to flying, governments should get their acts
together and start taxing air travel, while investing in alternatives,
especially a huge expansion of fast train networks. But in the meantime, I
think organisations and their employees should also take some level of
The IPCC report comes out in the midst of a scandal over the irresponsible
‘flying behaviour’ of Erik Solheim, the director of the United
Nations Environment Programme, who travels 80% of his time. In the coverage of
the scandal, most attention centred on his flying for private purposes. This
reflects a general view that private flying is a luxury, but business-related
travel is just what needs to be done. But is that really true? I’m pretty sure
that huge cuts could easily be made in business-related air travel.
There is now a call for
environmental guidelines within the UN. What, only now?
Shocking, right? But let’s be honest, the whole aid and development world—the
UN, NGOs, and my own world of academic departments and development
studies—is shamefully late in taking responsibility. For decades, I have not
given my flying behaviour much thought either, and found it normal or at best a
necessary evil to hop on a plane for every piece of research, conference or
I will not go into name-shaming, but I know for a fact that some
of the front runner developmental institutes and think tanks are not using
carbon offsetting for their flights, and have no policy on reducing air travel.
Since a few years back, I have tried to reduce my own air travel. I still have
an oversized ecological footprint, but I fly significantly less than I used to.
I also—cautiously—try to bring up the topic in conversations
with people I work with. Here some experiences:
1) When preparing a lecture at a development institute in the
UK: “Sorry, we are short on budget this year, would you mind taking the
plane rather than the train?”
2) A director of a development department in the Netherlands:
“Sorry, we are too busy. We will consider introducing a policy next year”.
3) A consultant coming over for an assignment: “Really,
is there now a train connecting London to Amsterdam in less than four hours? I
Two further defences are that people start laughing when I raise
this issue, because they consider air travel to be at the core of who we are;
or that they point at real polluters, usually big business or an American
president. Good points, but my reading of the IPCC report is that all of us
need to step up the effort: governments, business, institutions, employees and
I also know many people that refuse to carbon offset because some offset programmes
are open to criticism, or because they find this tokenistic. However,
offsetting is a first step. While the IPCC focuses on the devastation of future
temperature rises, it is absolutely clear that climate change is already
wreaking havoc, especially for poor people in poor countries.
More droughts, floods, fires. More hunger, poverty, and distress
migration. It is a core principle in environmental politics that polluters
should pay. There are a number of offset schemes that take this into account
and use the money they generate for programs that combine livelihoods with
mitigation of carbon emission, for example by protecting the vast peat areas in
the world that contain huge levels of carbon. If only for this reason, a simple
measure such as offsetting every flight you take should not be too much to ask.
But compensation programmes can only ever be a first small step.
Next comes sharply reducing the number of flights we take.
Of course, there are already signs of these changes, and best
practices are rapidly evolving. I have the feeling that NGOs may be ahead of
the game compared to universities and research institutes. We academics may
even be worse than the United Nations or some companies. Some obvious things we
Some NGOs (like Oxfam – see below) have ruled that travel below xx
hours cannot use air travel. I have not yet heard of a single university that
sets such rules.
No more face-to-face job interviews, where applicants are
invited to fly in so that the personal chemistry can be tested.
Organise international conferences of study associations every
three or four years rather than every year.
Get used to teaching and seminars through Skype.
Introduce a rule that planes must be booked well in advance to
avoid that the only available or affordable ticket comes with three stops and
Invest more in identifying and fostering local experts to avoid
I’m sure there are plenty more examples, and would love to hear
suggestions. Taxing carbon use and investing in green transport systems like
fast trains will definitely help to reduce air travel. What we really need,
though, is a change of mentality. Let’s stop kidding ourselves. Let’s get ready
for an era where flying is the new smoking. It won’t be long before people who
fly have some awkward explaining to do over the Friday afternoon drinks after
Climate change impacts both humanitarian work and affects already vulnerable populations. Wednesday 5 June, the NCHS co-hosted a breakfast seminar on climate change and humanitarian consequences in cooperation with the Norwegian Red Cross and the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). The seminar had a special focus on conflict-related humanitarian needs, health, livelihoods and migration patterns.
The seminar launched a new Norwegian Red Cross report on the theme, called “Overlapping Vulnerabilities” (read full report here).
Amongst the speakers were President of the Norwegian Red Cross Robert Mood, Assistant Professor at Uppsala University and Associate Senior Researcher at PRIO and one of the authors of the report Nina von Uexkull, Research Director at CICERO Jennifer Joy West, Senior Adviser at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health Susanne Hyllestad, Lecturer at King’s College London Helen Adams, Research Professor at PRIO Halvard Buhaug, Climate Advisor at the American Red Cross Julie Arrighi, and Member of the National Youth Council of the Red Cross Youth Andrea Edlund. The seminar was chaired by Head of Humanitarian needs and analysis at the Norwegian Red Cross Anette Bringedal Houge.
To listen to the recording of the seminar, please click here.
The 2019 international conference on ‘Ending Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Humanitarian Crises’ was held in Oslo 23-24 May. The Conference was hosted by the governments of Norway, Iraq, Somalia, United Arab Emirates, the United Nations entities OCHA and UNFPA, and the ICRC. Among the attendees were a broad range of civil society organizations and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Denis Mukwege. In connection with the Conference, the Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies (NCHS) hosted a meeting with UN Resident Coordinator Edward Kallon, and a workshop for local civil society organizations working to end sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).
Meeting with the UN
Resident Coordinator/Humanitarian Coordinator Nigeria
Wednesday 22 May, the NCHS organized a meeting with the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, Mr. Edward Kallon. The purpose of the meeting was for the Resident Coordinator to present challenges in his work relating to violence and humanitarian need in Nigeria, followed by a conversation on how future research may contribute in shedding light on these issues and disseminating information about the country and the multidimensional challenges it faces. SGBV were amongst the issues discussed in detail. In attendance were also colleagues from the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator, UN OCHA Nigeria, the Norwegian MFA, the Norwegian Red Cross, NUPI and PRIO.
Workshop on Research,
Proposal Development and Advocacy Skill-share
Wednesday 22 May, the NCHS in cooperation with CARE, GBV AoR, PARG, UN OCHA, COFEM and VOICE hosted a Research, Proposal Development & Advocacy Skill-share Workshop for local partners from civil society. Women’s groups and civil society organizations working on sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian settings showed overwhelming enthusiasm and commitment to making the Oslo conference a success. By April 2019, more than 1,200 applications were received by conference organizers, to support 150 funded places for women civil society leaders to attend the civil society day of the conference on 23 May. To ensure the success of their participation at the conference, women’s groups and local partners must be a visible and heard presence, to represent the issues and concerns of communities at local and country-level. They must also have access to the financial support raised at the Oslo conference to fund their work in preventing and responding to SGBV at community level. Within this context, the workshop was organized with the objective to provide technical support to local partners for proposal development and advocacy.
During the workshop, research professor Kristin Bergtora Sandvik (PRIO & UiO) and Director of the Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert, presented recent research on the topic, followed by a discussion on how women’s organizations can benefit from research initiatives. Following, James Kunjumen from UN OCHA led a proposal development workshop, and the workshop ended with an advocacy skill-share led by GBV AoR, PARG and COFEM.
This post first appeared on “ALNAP” and is re-posted here.
In the wake of the scandal in Haiti revolving around sexual misconduct by Oxfam staff in the aftermath of the 2010 Earthquake, the aid sector is now engaging in ‘safeguarding’ exercises. While initially based on a UK legal definition that applied to vulnerable adults and children, safeguarding has acquired a broader meaning, which includes all actions by aid actors to protect staff from harm (abuse, sexual harassment and violence) and to ensure staff do not harm beneficiaries. However, despite good intentions, I suggest that the safeguarding response has some problematic qualities which need to be discussed. Here I will focus on two:
Formulating inclusive and informed safeguarding
we move from arguments for the legitimacy of safeguarding initiatives, to a
discussion of the legitimacy of how they are implemented, there has been vocal
concern about the lack of inclusivity to this extent. Critics have noted that a “safeguarding
industry was hatched, and experts magically appeared and promises of change
were made’ with little attention to local and national contexts or
types of objections speak to the sector’s long-standing struggle with bottom-up
accountability. The view that safeguarding is yet another Western-centric practice, and frustrated
complaints about the absence of meaningful field participation and local
consultations when formulating safeguarding approaches, need to be taken
seriously and addressed carefully – with the cognisance that the underlying
issues of discontent go much beyond safeguarding.
think we need to be clear that technical and ‘programming’ conversations around
safeguarding also expose difficult and normally ‘hidden’ contestations over privilege, power and race. Where long-standing struggles of women
of colour in aid crash head-on into the whiteness of the Me Too movement, the
whiteness of ‘humanitarian feminism’ and the whiteness of the sector more generally. Here I
think the sector – including reform minded individuals – could be more honest
about who is around the table and why, and display a greater willingness to
engage: this type of conversation is and will be uncomfortable – but if we want
to go anywhere with safeguarding, so be it.
Establishing clarity not de facto criminalisation
issue pertains to the inherent vagueness and malleability of the concept. While
problems in the sector are frequently attributed to a ‘lack of clear
definition’ of an emerging challenge, something else seems to be at play here.
At its core, the idea of safeguarding is to reinforce the humanitarian
imperative to Do No Harm, by preventing ‘sexual abuse and exploitation’.
Humanitarians have long been concerned about this and tried to do something
about it. For decades, sexual exploitation has been considered the worst possible behaviour humanitarian workers
can be guilty of, but it has perhaps not been quite so clear what constitutes
exploitation and which relationships exploitation takes place in.
too many behaviours and relationships were left out of the equation for
behavioural mores in the sector – but are we on the road to leaving too many in
today? Is safeguarding at risk of becoming some sort of moral trojan horse that
implants new social and political struggles into the humanitarian space?
I am here
particularly thinking about transactional sex. The interpretation of what
safeguarding means is also shaped by changing cultural perceptions of
transactional sex and prostitution, primarily in the Global North. While the Me
Too campaign is of very recent date, it links up with a more longstanding trend
in big donor countries, namely the de facto criminalisation of prostitution by
criminalising the buyer. Whereas Codes of Conduct have been promoted as a key
mechanism for governing the sexual behaviour of humanitarian workers, the act
of buying sex is increasingly construed legally and ideologically as a criminal
view, this is possibly the most difficult field of social practice covered by
safeguarding, and where it is vital to think carefully so that one can navigate
the fine line between justifiable moral censure and moralistic outrage. Is
moralistic outrage necessarily a bad thing? The view appears to be emerging
that paying for sex, anywhere and at any time, is incompatible with being a
‘good’ humanitarian worker and dependable employee; the distinction between
paying for sex and exploiting someone for sex is being erased.
buying sex in the 1980s, for example, appears to have been a fairly common practice in the aid world (broadly defined), much of the moral
indignation previously linked to prostitution and aid was linked to the
HIV/AIDS epidemic and the fact that buying sex helped spread the epidemic at
home and abroad. Today, in such donor countries as Canada, France, Iceland,
Ireland, Norway and Sweden, buying sex is illegal and is punished with fines or prison
sentences. At the same time, criminalisation remains extremely controversial,
and the extent of this controversy is perhaps getting lost as the abolitionist
approach travels to the humanitarian space.
prostitution activism has long been an ideological battlefield, with a
seemingly unbridgeable abyss between those who see prostitution as violence against women and those who want it regulated as work, regardless of gender.
What are the costs and trade-offs of transporting this battlefield into
humanitarian practice? While I am not aware of any comprehensive effort to
track the consequences of criminalisation for sex workers, new research indicates that vulnerable women in
prostitution become more vulnerable through criminalisation in the Global
trying to gauge an appropriate scope for the idea of safeguarding, I think it
is necessary to reflect on the usefulness (and normative appropriateness) of
maintaining a strong conceptual distinction between procuring sexual services
from individuals receiving aid or falling under protection mandates, from sex
workers who are not recipients of aid nor in a position of vulnerability in a
specific humanitarian field setting.
It is now widely recognised that buying sex in emergencies rests on deep power differences, is fundamentally unacceptable and as such threatens the legitimacy of the sector. While this recognition is long overdue, its emergence should be seen as progress. However, this does not imply that safeguarding practices should be used as a vehicle for criminalising buyers and abolishing prostitution going forward.
Written by Teresa Degenhardt, Queen’s University Belfast
This is the sixth and
final post in a series on ‘Penal Humanitarianism’, edited by Kjersti Lohne. The
posts center around Mary Bosworth’s concept and Kjersti Lohne’s development of
penal humanitarianism, and how penal power is justified and extended through
the invocation of humanitarian reason. The blog posts were first posted on the
“Border Criminologies” blog, and are re-posted here. This post argues that the 2011
Nato intervention in Libya mimics a reaction similar to that of the state, suggesting
that the ‘right to punish’ is re-articulated outside the state and within the
Jus Puniendi in the International?
Penal humanitarianism – the combination of punitive sentiments and humanitarian ideals – is increasingly moving the ‘power to punish’ beyond the state – not only in relation to migration and international criminal justice; but also in relation to the use of military force to protect vulnerable populations facing systematic violence. Since the 1990s, the use of military interventions has been increasingly launched following humanitarian sentiments towards far away populations subjected to mass violence and in conjunction with human rights imperatives, conveying the idea of ‘doing justice’ through war. This inscription of war among the tools to sanction wrong-doing is linked to the increased status of human rights as global norms for the protection of individuals from violence.
this post, I argue that the 2011
Nato intervention in Libya shows how human rights are
treated with a mix of political condemnation, judicial proceedings, and
military might, to indicate wrong-doing within the international- and thus
mimic a criminal justice reaction similar to that of the state. This
suggests that the ‘right to punish’ of the state – its ‘jus puniendi’- is now
re-articulated outside the state and within the international.
international law, sovereign states are autonomous and in control of their
territory and their population. In this line of thought, the international
community has no power to interfere with what happens within the borders of a
state. However, against the context described above, in the last 30 years the
individual, not the state, has moved to the centre of the protection afforded
by international law. Therefore, the international society has the duty to
protect individuals when states fail; thus, legitimising military operations.
These military practices operate outside state power and often feature multiple
states and actors, in ways that change
our understanding of what counts as punishment,
intersecting with humanitarian sentiments, foreign policy, and postcolonial
2011 military intervention in Libya was launched with the approval of the UN
Security Council under the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), a
rule that sanctions the international community’s ‘collective responsibility to
assist populations’ under threat of, or actually experiencing, mass violence in
situations where the host state fails to protect them (art 138-139). The UN
Resolution authorising military intervention under R2P came as a response to
accusations by various power figures, including UK Prime Minister Cameron and
French President Sarkozy, of gross human rights violations by the Gaddafi
regime against civilians protesting his regime. In this way, powerful actors in
the Global North passed a judgment on Libyan elites and their criminality.
NATO, swiftly took the lead and intervened militarily, claiming its role as
protector of the Libyan people, and framing itself as the authority in charge
of enforcing human rights in the region. In other words, it established its
jurisdiction over local events. The Libyan leaders – i.e. Gaddafi, his son,
acting Prime Minister Salif Al Islam, and former intelligence chief Al Senussi
– were indicted by the International Criminal
Court’s prosecutor Moreno Ocampo,
evidencing that military operations now function within a criminal justice
military might with legal prosecution (or at least court activation) shapes our
understanding of war as an ethical mechanism that censures human rights
violations perpetrated by individual criminals. As argued by Lohne, these manifestations of
penal humanitarianism require more consideration on the effects that these
practices have on our understanding of punishment and sovereignty and on the
sort of tension these may engender.
punitive military operations launched to sanction and end mass violence are
often followed by practices of peacekeeping aimed at getting local populations
to accept specific rules of coexistence, establishing the local sovereign state
and its criminal justice systems through human rights and international
standards. After the NATO victory and the death of Gaddafi in controversial
circumstances, the UN sent a small contingent to the country to assist with the
establishment of peace. These representatives of international society operated
on the ground as experts on democratic institutions, training the locals in
human rights norms, encouraging them to adopt specific institutional
structures, laws and international standards. The UN Secretary General Reports
show how these international experts watched and judged local authorities on
their institutional practices. UN officials not only urged new authorities to
adopt human rights standards as norms, but also constantly monitored their
exercise of power making sure it is informed by international best practices.
These international experts effectively attempt to operate some sort of
pedagogy of liberal institutions, to shape the local sovereign state, at the
same time as they tie its power to the Global North; thus, incorporating the
new sovereign and its population in its remit. In doing so, the Global North
expands its reach; it shapes governance through sovereign structures at the
local level while re-articulating sovereign power at the global level. These
two sovereign powers should not be seen as hierarchically constituted but as
The new norm of
responsibility to protect re-articulates the principle of protection within the
international society, in turn relocating the state’s power and right to
punish, as envisioned within the well-known Hobbesian Leviathan idea. This is
symptomatic of an international society increasingly thought of as united
through reference to humanity, in which the individual is at the centre of protection.
However, this framework problematically renders war and in general military
force the best instrument to protect life and create order, at the same time as
it legitimates neo-colonial enterprises. While not unprecedented, this way of
conceptualising war is odd, given that war used to be thought of as the epitome
of disorder (anomie), with military strategists confirming that ‘you know how a
war may start but never how it ends’.
Written by Kjersti Lohne, University of Oslo, & Anette Bringedal Houge, Norwegian Red Cross
This is the fifth post in a six-part series on ‘Penal Humanitarianism’, edited by Kjersti Lohne. The posts center around Mary Bosworth’s concept and Kjersti Lohne’s development of penal humanitarianism, and how penal power is justified and extended through the invocation of humanitarian reason. The blog posts were first posted on the “Border Criminologies” blog, and are re-posted here. The research for this post was conducted while Anette Bringedal Houge was a doctoral research fellow at the University of Oslo, and does not reflect the views of the NRC. The post challenges the recent paradigm in which global grievances are interpreted through a legal lens and criminal justice has become the primary means through which conflict-related sexual violence is to be prevented.
The fight Against Impunity for Sexual Violence in Conflict:
Penal Humanitarianism Par Excellence?
Whilst sexual violence has been an offence associated both with war and peacetime throughout history, its rise to the tables where international peace and security are negotiated, represents a significant shift. For this reason, last year’s Nobel Peace Prize was an important, hard-fought recognition of rampant sexual violence on a global scale. Indeed, the apex of the fight against impunity for sexual violence thus far was the media coverage of Nobel laureates Dennis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, and their relentless fight against sexual violence. By showing how imageries of humanitarian suffering have shaped the fight against conflict-related sexual violence as the fight against impunity, this blogpost develops work from Lohne’s 2018 Theoretical Criminology article on penal humanitarianism beyond the state.
fairly recently, criminal prosecution of conflict-related sexual violence was
practically unheard of. Today, criminal prosecution has become key in dealing
with conflict-related sexual violence. As an example of how penal power spreads
in the name of ‘doing good’, we nonetheless challenge this rapid and exhaustive
naturalization of criminal prosecution not only as a means by which
conflict-related sexual violence can be addressed, but as the primary
means through which such violence is to be prevented. As Karen Engle observed some time ago, while
‘criminalization of wartime rape marches forward … there has been little
reflection … on whether more criminalization is necessarily better than
of the way the associations between punishment and humanitarianism seem
particularly strong when disembedded from the nation state framework, the
combination of a victim-oriented justification for international justice and
graphic reproductions of the violence victims suffer, are central in the
international advocacy and policy field that responds to conflict-related
sexual violence. In our analysis of human rights reporting on conflict-related
sexual violence, we find reports to follow a script, including an abundance of
testimonies that detail the violence and the victims’ suffering during and
after the offences. The reports as such draw their titles from victims’
testimonies – as illustrated by ‘My heart is cut’ and ‘I just sit and wait to die.’ Maria E. Baaz and Maria Stern have
characterized survivor testimonies for this use as constituting a pornography
of violence. In order to produce outrage, a discourse on ‘war/rape/porn’ has
emerged, where activists try ‘to outdo each other with the most barbaric gang-rape
scenario’. Yet while ‘victims’ justice’ is often evoked as the raison
d’être of international criminal justice, the fight against impunity also
produces particular imageries of perpetrators and criminality. Perpetrators are
re-presented as barbarian,
bizarre, and inexplicable. We suggest that this
particular combination of victim and perpetrator subjectivities, and the
reduction of causalities that it implies, serve to legitimize calls to ‘end
impunity!’ through the projected, all-encompassing catharsis brought by the
criminal justice system.
categorical representations of good and evil, civilization and barbarity,
humanity and inhumanity disguise the expansion of penal power through
the fight against conflict-related sexual violence. Yet punishment should
always raise awkward questions about
violence, power, and its legitimacy, even though, and perhaps especially so,
when calls for punishment have become naturalized in response to humanitarian
human suffering is what drives the moral imperative to intervene in the first
place, the fight against impunity movement reflects a strong faith in the
ability of law in general – and criminal justice in particular – to transform
people and societies. In our study, we show how this faith
has materialized in a prognostic social movement to end impunity, exemplified
by UN Security Council resolutions and reports from Human Rights Watch.
However, in spite of the emergence of what Kathryn Sikkink has called the ‘justice cascade’, that
is, an increase of criminal prosecutions of human rights violations, there has
been far less attention to
whether this has led to a corresponding increase in justice. Thus,
instead of addressing root causes of war/violence/rape, criminal justice is
offered as a solution that will ensure that victims’ ‘plight will be heard and their attackers punished [and
that] future rapes can be heeded’. The strong footing of
deterrence as justification and rationale for criminal prosecutions of
conflict-related sexual violence can partly be explained by the more general
embrace of liberal legalism as ideology and practice in international policy.
It is a world view that substantially privileges individual autonomy – and
responsibility. This means that the individual has increasingly become a
subject of international law, with corresponding individual rights and
responsibilities. Moreover, it has also substantially juridified our
understanding of social phenomena: law (particularly rights-claiming) has
become the preferred interpretative tool through which to frame global
grievances. It is in this paradigm, the fight against conflict-related sexual
violence has become the fight against impunity, to the extent that it is only
through ending impunity we can address sexual violence. Prevention has become
prosecution as humanitarian calls to end suffering has turned to criminal
the construction of criminal justice as a panacea for conflict-related sexual
violence zealously overestimates its ability to civilize and transform, and
distracts attention away from broader social and structural conditions that
foster and allow for sexual violence to take place. Paralleling criticism of
domestic carceral feminism, we see a need for greater attention to the
political, economic and gendered inequalities and structures within which
sexual violence take place. Conflict-related sexual violence is indeed part of
a repertoire of illegitimate warfare, and a reaction to the chaotic, desperate
and demoralizing experiences that war brings with it, but it is also the result
of gendered hierarchies, subordination, and poverty, and a continuum of
violence that transgresses war and peace.
While our article
unpacks how conflict-related sexual violence is reduced to a problem of criminal
justice, we also recognize its instrumental capacities as a tool for
criminal justice. Epitomizing how humanitarianism can facilitate the expansion of penal power, the fight against impunity for conflict-related sexual violence has
produced particularly apt imageries of victims and perpetrators that serve the
international criminal justice project, contributing to legitimate its current
institutions and practices. If ending impunity prevails and perseveres as the
ultimately meaningful response to conflict-related sexual violence despite
criminal justice’s limited merits as a preventive tool, it is pertinent to ask
if the primary aim of this fight is to prevent conflict-related sexual
violence, or rather, to strengthen the penal power of international criminal
justice as such.
Written by Eva Magdalena Stambøl, Doctoral Researcher, Aalborg University
This is the fourth post
in a six-part series on ‘Penal Humanitarianism’, edited by Kjersti Lohne. The
posts center around Mary Bosworth’s concept and Kjersti Lohne’s development of
penal humanitarianism, and how penal power is justified and extended through
the invocation of humanitarian reason. The blog posts were first posted on the
“Border Criminologies” blog, and are re-posted here. Drawing on the case of Niger,
this post explores some of the processes through which the EU projects penal
power beyond Europe and its allegedly humanitarian rationale.
Projecting European Penal Power
Beyond Europe: Humanitarian War on Migrant Smuggling in West Africa
The European Union (EU) and its member states are increasingly pushing countries in the southern (extended) neighbourhood to criminalise unwanted mobility, and bolstering their internal security apparatuses and borders. The objective of this ‘internal security assistance’ is to combat transnational security threats and illicit flows of goods and people allegedly en route to Europe. Based on my doctoral research, which has included fieldwork in Niger, Mali, Senegal and Brussels, this post reflects on the EU’s increasing tendency of crime control ‘at a distance’ in West Africa.
power is the power to render an activity criminal and to enforce criminal law,
which is neatly entwined with a state’s sovereignty. For instance, Vanessa Barker writes how the
reinforcement of national borders within Europe can be seen as a recent
expression of state-craft where penal power is particularly salient. Yet Mary Bosworth argues that
humanitarianism allows penal power to travel beyond the nation state, as can be
observed in cases such as England’s aid to the building of prisons in its
former colonies to which it can transfer and expel prisoners from these
countries. Developing Bosworth’s concept of ‘penal humanitarianism’ further, Kjersti Lohne shows, through
the supranational case of the International Criminal Court (ICC), how the power
to punish is particularly driven by humanitarian reason when punishment is
disembedded from the nation state altogether.
blogpost examines some of the processes through which the EU projects penal
power beyond Europe and its allegedly humanitarian rationale. I draw on the
country case of Niger, which is also an example often used by the EU to
showcase a well-functioning partnership in stopping migration to Europe through
criminalisation and ‘breaking the business model of human smugglers.’ In this
case, penal power is not actually detached from the state. While the EU is both
a supranational and inter-governmental entity, I argue it could also be seen as
something like ‘pooled European penal power’. This European penal power works through a third state by
bolstering this state’s own penal power, without being entirely able to control
how this power is in turn utilised in practice. So what is the relation between
sovereignty and penal power when the EU border is externalised to West Africa?
European penal power in West Africa
Africa, and the Sahel region that cuts across the Sahara Desert, have become a
priority to the EU and its member states in terms of controlling unwanted
mobility. Conceptualising security threats as flows of illicit or dangerous
commodities and people crossing borders and spilling into Europe, the EU is now
seeking ‘partnerships’ with African regimes to build barriers further south.
Substantial efforts are being put into shaping West African penal codes and
reinforcing criminal justice and security apparatuses to deal with illicit
flows. In order to incentivise an actual change, EU aid and budget support, on
which many West African countries depend, is increasingly made conditional upon
the adoption of security strategies, the reform of internal security forces and
the securing of borders.
such example is the EU’s much celebrated ‘partnership’ with President Issoufou
of Niger. In 2015, conspicuously coinciding with the European ‘migration
crisis’, Niger adopted a law criminalising ‘migrant smuggling’. The EU assisted
Niger in drafting the law and provided advice, training and capacity-building
for its enforcement. This was done, among other, through the Common Security
and Defence Policy (CSDP) mission EUCAP Sahel Niger, and through projects
financed by the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. EU aid to Niger continued
to grow, and in December 2017 the European Commission announced 1 billion
euro in support by 2020, as Niger had demonstrated ‘strong political
willingness and leadership’ to confront challenges. Indeed, in 2016 Nigerien
authorities started rigorously enforcing the law, selectively in the northern
town of Agadez which had figured in the international press as the hub for
migrants travelling to Libya and Algeria. Since then more than 130 ‘migrant
smugglers’ have been arrested and their vehicles seized, and the number of
migrants crossing into Libya registered by the International Organisation for
Migration (IOM) is reported to have dropped. The Niger migrant smuggling law
and its enforcement is seen as so successful that the EU wants to replicate it
in other Sahel countries as well.
Penal humanitarianism at Europe’s extraterritorial border
rationale behind the EU’s fight against ‘migrant smugglers’ in Niger is framed
as a humanitarian obligation: stopping migrants from travelling through Niger
equals saving them from dying in the hands of evil people smugglers or in
Libyan detention camps. This is not very different from Libya further north,
where the EU’s training of the ‘coast guard’ is justified by saving people from
drowning in the Mediterranean. Nor is it very different from the EU’s external
borders where, according to Katja Franko and Helene Gundhus, the
discourse of protecting the human rights of migrants permeate the borderwork of
society organisations (CSOs) in Niger and the local population in Agadez are
strongly opposed to the criminal category of ‘migrant smuggling’ as it relates
to Nigerien reality. Guiding people through the desert has been a noble, traditional
role for centuries, and now-called migrant smugglers are not ‘organised crime
syndicates’ as the European Commission assumes (also see Sanchez, 2015).
Moreover, CSOs claim the new law is de facto suspending the Economic Community
of West African States (ECOWAS) Protocol on free movement for ECOWAS citizens,
which most of the migrants are. Intra-African migration is a crucial livelihood
strategy in a region fraught with periodical extreme drought and climate
change. Research also documented severe
de-stabilising effects of the law enforcement as the economy of the region of
Agadez collapsed, leading the local population to lose their livelihoods, fuelling
economic frustrations and anger, and increasing armed banditry and general
The case of EU policies in Niger corroborates the argument that penal power can take on a humanitarian rationale when it travels. This seems to be particularly the case when criminal justice, migration control, international development and foreign policy intersect. Complicating the relationship between sovereignty and penal power, Niger’s sovereignty is both hollowed out by mediating European ‘pooled’ penal power and at the same time boosted by the co-option of aid into President Issoufou’s personal goals. What is certain is that the security of Europe does not equal the human security of migrants or local Nigerien communities, nor does the latter equal the security of the Nigerien regime.