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Until the 1970s, food scarcity and natural disasters were viewed as the underlying cause of all humanitarian crises in Africa. In the 1980s the limitations of the disasters explanations were revealed. Analysis began to focus on the failure of the production and distribution systems in general and on food and agricultural systems and policies in particular. On the one hand some scholars blamed internal class struggle and the expansion of the capitalist socioeconomic system in rural Africa, the cash crops policies and urban bias (Cater, 1986; Curtis et al., 1988; Ibrahim, 1985; O'Neill and O'Brien, 1988), while others emphasised the importance of the international linkages of the capitalist system and neo-Imperialism (See Raikes, 1988; Kent, 1987). On the other hand, many argued that humanitarian crises in Africa were caused by the collapse of the agricultural production system of the egalitarian socialist regimes that removed or reduced production incentives.4 Unlike the former group, the latter argued that economic liberalisation and the expansion of the capitalist mode of production was the remedy not the disease. 3
Empirical evidence, from Africa and elsewhere, shows that the food production system and political ideology thesis is oversimplified and cannot fully explain recent crises of internal displacement. For example, massive waves of displacement have occurred in command economies with strong socialist agendas (e.g. Ethiopia in the mid-1980s and North Korea in the 1990s) as well as in liberalised economies (e.g. Sudan in the 1980s and 1990s). Sudan has also witnessed widespread displacement and dislocation under various political systems. For example, while the displacements of 1983-1985 and the 1990s occurred under military dictatorships, those in south-western Kordufan and southern Sudan in the late 1980s took place under an open parliamentary democratic system and in the presence and with the full knowledge of the UN agencies and western NGOs. Evidence from various parts of Africa also revealed the complexity of the politics involved in the creation and sustenance of internal displacement (Cater, 1986; Curtis et al., 1988; Shepherd, 1988; Bush, 1985; Kent, 1987). Nevertheless, until the end of the 1980s, the debate on internal displacement was associated with famine and poverty, and was dominated by arguments concerning disasters (man-made or natural), poverty and policy failure. In other words, internal displacement was seen as a problem of (under)development. Thus, better policies and development strategies in favour of displaced and other 'poor' populations were seen as the remedy. A temporary provision of humanitarian aid to restore normality was seen as an essential short-term fix. With normality restored, development and advancement were seen as a guarantee of protection against vulnerability, conflict, disasters, famine and displacement.
By the 1990s, the idea of humanitarian crises such as displacement as exceptional events caused by disasters had been powerfully denounced. Most analyses emphasised that all cases of population displacement and their associated impoverishments involve a political element (Cf Eltigani, 1995; Hampton, 1998; Cohen and Deng, 1998a). Furthermore, the notion of disasters as temporary departures from normality was challenged (Christoplos, 2000). Many scholars contributed to the analysis of humanitarian crises as integral parts of correlated national and international political processes rather than as exceptional events (Bush, 1996; Raikes, 1988; Duffield, 1994; Keen, 1994). In Sudan, for example, the evidence shows that the current displacement crisis is a continuation of longstanding exploitative processes rather than a unique or exceptional event (Gamal Eldin, 2005). It was also argued that far from being an unfortunate result of policy failure, crises could be intentional, serving important political functions (Rangasami, 1985; Raikes, 1988; Keen, 1998; Duffield, 2002). Furthermore, analyses of conflict-induced humanitarian crises in the 1990s placed them in their historical context and highlighted the impact of the colonial legacy, the nature of post-colonial state policies, and the incorporation of African economies into the global market (Sogge, 1994). More importantly, recent political analyses of conflict-related humanitarian crises have vividly emphasised the interrelation between famine, population displacement and civil conflicts. The distinctive nature and role of war economies and the use of famine as a weapon of war have also been emphasised4
Within international humanitarianism, the term 'complex political emergency' (CPE) became widely used in defining situations of protracted violent conflict that trigger widespread famine and population displacement (e.g. Uganda, Sudan, Angola, Iraq, and Bosnia). Situations of CPEs were however, analysed in different ways. For example, the approach adopted by the Representative of the UN Secretary-General for IDPs, Dr Francis Deng, tends to portray internal displacement as a failure of the international refugee law to provide adequate assistance and protection for the 'vulnerable' and 'helpless' IDPs who were trapped within their national borders (Deng, 1993). For Deng, this situation is exacerbated by the failure of the international community to rise to the challenge of filling the 'moral vacuum' created by the divisive politics of 'ineffective governments' and failed states ( Cohen and Deng, 1998b, Deng, 1993). Cohen and Deng suggest that internal displacement is not just a failure but a 'breakdown' in the society in question. They argue that:
The tragedy of internal displacement goes beyond the statistics and the plight of those directly affected; it reflects a breakdown within a society, in which both fundamental human rights and freedoms and economic and social development are compromised (Cohen and Deng, 1998a: 2).
According to Deng, internal displacement 'Exists in a vacuum of moral responsibility between contending forces, a vacuum for which the international community is called upon to compensate' (Deng, 1993: 109). For him, meeting this challenge meant that the international community must reconsider the validity of the absolute sovereignty of states over populations within their territories. He argues that sovereignty is legitimised by responsibility and ability to provide assistance and protection. If states were, for whatever reason, 'unable' or 'unwilling' to meet these responsibilities, then they should accept some comprises in their sovereignty (Deng, 1993).
As displacement is linked to civil conflicts and ethnic tensions, the analysis of the nature and causes of civil conflicts became central, not only to studies of CPEs, but also to the international humanitarian intervention to redress them. Hence, the distinctive strategies of post-Cold War and post-structural adjustment conflicts were incorporated in the analysis (See Macrae and Zwi, 1994; Hampton, 1998; NRC, 2003). It was emphasised that unlike those of conventional wars, the strategies of recent warfare seek not only to inflict a military defeat, but also to disempower and dismantle the power-base of rivals and opponents, to deny them an independent identity, and to undermine their ability to maintain political and economic integrity (Summerfield, 1991). 5
Moreover, following the emergence of strong evidence of the adverse effects of humanitarian aid in conflict situations in the 1990s, humanitarian intervention and the institutions involved were also brought under analysis (Cf Kent, 1987; Macrae and Zwi, 1994; African Rights, 1997). Many of the assumptions that shape the principles of humanitarian intervention were questioned, and the implications of the expansion of the mandate of international humanitarian intervention were highlighted (African Rights, 1994; Duffield, 2001a). The presumption of neutrality in the provision of humanitarian aid in CPEs was considered undesirable or unrealistic (Anderson, 1999; African Rights, 1994, 1997; Duffield, 1994). Prevailing forms of humanitarianism were criticised for exacerbating crises rather than relieving them (Duffield, 1994, 2001a; Anderson, 1999; de Waal, 1997; African Rights, 1997). A critical assessment of the role of humanitarian intervention revealed that humanitarianism is increasingly becoming part of wider agendas of foreign, security and military strategies (Macrae and Zwi, 1994; Karim et al., 1996; Duffield, 2001a; Edkins, 2003). Many scholars emphasised that humanitarian intervention and the provision of humanitarian assistance in protracted conflict situations are becoming increasingly integrated in local and international political and economic processes, and are causing adverse effects on the crises and their victims (de Waal, 1997; African Rights, 1994, 1997). Particular emphases were given to the violations of civilians' human rights, especially within conflict situations.
Since the mid-1990s, and following the revelation of the organic link between 'humanitarian crises' and human rights abuses (Cf Karim et al., 1996; Hampton, 1998; Human Rights Watch, 1999), and given the strong critique of the provision of aid in conflict situations, a new 'rights-based' humanitarian approach has emerged. This approach was largely prompted by the compelling evidence of the intentionality of humanitarian crises, the deliberate targeting of civilians in conflict situations, and the failure of the conventional responses to humanitarian crises (i.e. through the provision of food and life-saving materials). Yet the rights-based approach seems to mean different things to different actors in the humanitarian field. There is no consensus among either aid agencies or observers as to 'whose right to what' is being referred to. For example, while some use the term to refer to the importance of protecting IDPs in conflict or non-conflict situations from human rights violations and exploitation, and promoting their civic, legal and political rights (Cf Hampton, 1998; de Waal, 1997; Human Rights Watch, 1999), for most aid agencies the rights-based approach simply refers to victims' rights to humanitarian assistance (mainly food) and development (Karim et al., 1996. Also see Hampton, 1998; NRC, 2003). The UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which were introduced in 1998, adopted and consolidated such an understanding (See Cohen and Deng, 1998a, 1998b). Aid agencies were charged with protecting the IDPs from huger and want and assisting them to 'cope' with displacement and become 'self-sufficient'. To incorporate this notion of 'rights', aid agencies have reinvented themselves and reproblematised development and redefined it as a human right. Therefore, human rights in the emerging rights-based 6
approach represent a repackaging of the developmental model of what Duffield called 'liberal self-management' rather than an incorporation of civic, legal and political rights.5Aid agencies became concerned with the assertion of 'the rights of aid beneficiaries and partners, especially the right to protection and development' (Duffield, 2002: 07). In his study of aid practices with regard to southern IDPs in northern Sudan, Duffield argues that the rights-based approach represents complicity between aid agencies and state authoritarianism rather than a care to protect the rights of IDPs (Duffield, 2002). Aid agencies are primarily concerned with the provision of material assistance such as food, medicine and shelter and rarely challenge human rights abuses by the state and the forcible relocation of IDPs or their political and cultural repression (See Hampton, 1998). In spite of their claim to incorporate human rights in their operations, aid agencies, according to Duffield, 'are not changing what they do to incorporate human rights, they are changing the way human rights are understood so as to reinvent and legitimate the work they already do' (Duffield, 2002: 19). However, the significance of the emerging rights-based approach to aid agencies - as agents of modernity - is that it fits well and serves their tendency to categorise populations and distribute rights and services among them on the basis of who is entitled to, deserves or does not deserve what. Generally, despite the widely accepted recognition that all humanitarian crises are man-made and involve a political element, the implications of this recognition for humanitarian intervention, especially in CPE situations, remain blurred. Prescriptions and policies derived from this recognition are invariably technical and managerial (See Cohen and Deng, 1998a; Hampton, 1998; NRC, 2003). Informed and influenced by 'modernity' and its view of the world, the response of most aid agencies to the implications of the ambivalence of humanitarian aid in conflict situations is an emerging form of 'neo-humanitarianism' which continually seeks to reinvent and repackage its role. The emergence of neo-humanitarianism has followed a 'radicalisation of development' as a security matter whereby scarcity and underdevelopment are seen as security issues, and humanitarian agencies assume new peace-making and peacekeeping roles (Duffield, 2001a). The so-called weak, rogue, dysfunctional, or dissolving state in Africa (See, for example, Kaplan, 1994; Zartman, 1995; Bayart et al., 1999; Deng, 1993; Wade, 2005) is seen as an underlying factor in the humanitarian crisis and has consequently been undermined by aid agencies in favour of building the capacities of civil society organisations (CSOs), which are believed to be the engine for restoring and sustaining 'normality'.
5 Duffield coined the term liberal self-management to refer to the emerging model of development whereby 'development has become an adaptive process of household self-realisation and social reform within a liberal
The unrealised dream of the relief-development continuum of the 1980s was further complicated in the 1990s by the expansion of the mandate of aid agencies through the incorporation of conflict resolution, peace-making and social reform roles into the unrealistic and problematic assumption of the 7
market. Duffield, 2002, p. 07. 6 Kofi Anan cited in Hampton, 1998, pp. 6-7. 7 Following Foucault 1979, 1977 and Bauman, 1989, Edkins defines modernity as 'a distinct form of life and particular ways of resolving the questions that being human entails. It is a way of life that involves historically contingent political formations and a specific regime of truth. The political systems of modernity revolve around the legal authority of the sovereign state with its corresponding views on the individual as a citizen'. Edkins, 2000, pp. xv-xvi.
developmental role of humanitarian intervention. According to the UN Secretary-General, in situations of internal displacement, 'Humanitarian assistance should provide not only an effective relief but also a capacity to protect vulnerable population to survive in hostile environment'.6Curtailing or eradicating the adverse impact of humanitarian aid through targeted intervention was also seen as important (See Anderson, 1999). Separating 'good' aid from 'bad' and expanding it therefore became a central element of the aid agencies' work (Anderson, 1999). In many cases where the assessed risks of intervention outweighed the benefits, inaction was seen as a tough option, yet the best available one (Leader, 1999; Slim, 1997). Adding a developmental role for humanitarian assistance is hardly achievable without further radicalisation of development. Thus, development itself has been reproblematised, to become 'a practice to change the behaviour and attitude of people' (Duffield, 2002, 2001a). Humanitarian crises are perceived by aid agencies (as agents of modernity) as poverty and vulnerability related. Aid agencies therefore emphasise the interplay of structural disadvantages and natural causes in the creation of poverty, famine and displacement (Duffield, 2002: 20). Development is seen as the answer, but development itself is becoming more concerned with reforming the 'undeveloped' populations, than with providing them with assistance. According to Duffield, the justification seems to be that: Since we cannot change nature, this carries a strong moral obligation for the disadvantaged themselves to change their ways. The proper business of aid therefore is to provide the incentives and know-how for the poor to create new forms of social organisation and identity (Duffield, 2002). To understand the continuing endeavour of aid agencies to create new forms of organisation and identity and their tendency to resist change by re-problematising 'humanitarian crises', development, security, and human rights and repackaging and reproducing themselves, one needs to look at the way modernity informs and shapes the views of international humanitarianism.
1.2 Modernity and Displacement
The way aid agencies understand and act on internal displacement is influenced by modernity's7 notion of scarcity and its abstract analysis, which adopt technical approaches centred around measurability and 8
calculability to address what is essentially a political problem (Edkins, 2000; Duffield, 2002). These technical approaches are continually repackaged and reproduced, as the institutions and the relations designed to solve problems technically are themselves embodiments of power and governance relations. In other words they are the means by which power is organised. Whether the problem is believed to lie within the agricultural system, economic distribution, or population growth and mobility, or is thought to be caused by political breakdown, humanitarian crises are seen as a failure of modernity that can be overcome by progress and advanced technology (Edkins, 2000).
Both understanding and acting on internal displacement (perceived as a humanitarian crisis) have been formed around this 'modern' discourse, which de-politicises crises so that they can be subject to the technical power of 'experts' - and advocates 'calculable' technical measures. These measures include the improvement of the agricultural production system and crop yields, the provision of food aid, the control of population growth and movement, the protection of 'legitimate' entitlements, the establishment of advance famine/displacement and conflict early warning systems (EWSs), and the promotion of western-style CSOs to fill the vacuum created by what are perceived to be dysfunctional, weak or failed states (Hampton, 1998; Deng, 1993; Cohen and Deng, 1998a). Advanced technology is often advocated as it creates a rationale for intervention by those who are believed to possess superior knowledge (i.e. the experts). Solutions based on such measures reinstate and reproduce a specific form of politics - modern politics - that generated displacement in the first place.
International humanitarianism's perception of internal displacement is derived from the debate on disaster (natural, population, economic, or political) as a cause of scarcity. Scarcity in turn is seen as a cause of the poverty and vulnerability of some individuals, with immediate threat to their livelihood (through famine and displacement) and eventually their lives. This notion reflects central elements of modernity. It sees humanitarian crises as exceptional events and failures of modernity that can be fixed by development and advancement typical of or similar to western socioeconomic and political styles. Humanitarian intervention is therefore seen as an essential tool to prevent disasters from causing a total derailment of the afflicted community from the path of modernisation and abundance, with possible national, regional or international adverse impacts. Within this context, internal displacement becomes a threat to national and international security. Cohen and Deng see post-Cold War displacements as a security matter and express views that consolidate the widespread securitisation of displacement. They depict the IDPs as an international threat and warn that 'Their [IDPs'] plight not only poses a humanitarian challenge but also threatens the security and stability of countries, regions, and through a chain effect, the international system of which they are an integral part' (Cohen and Deng, 1998a: 01). They added that 'In countries where there is massive displacement many are in dire need of elemental protection and assistance, the impact extends well beyond those counted as displaced' (Cohen and Deng, 1998a: 02).9
The central themes of the disasters-scarcity continuum that shapes the understanding of internal displacement as a 'humanitarian crisis' rest within or around Malthus' population thesis. This thesis embodies the core of modernity's 'regime of truth' or, in other words, its view of the world and its ways of knowing (Edkins, 2000).
1.3 Malthusianism and the Politics of Population
One of the earliest scholars to analyse the relationship between populations and their means of subsistence was Thomas Malthus in his Essay on the Principle of Population of 1798 (Malthus, 1798). Although initially focused on famine, Malthus' work goes beyond famine analysis and becomes a core of modernity's view of the world. Malthus' observations on population are influenced by the notion of scarcity, which assumes that we exist under conditions of insufficiency where human existence depends upon conquering nature in the battle over limited resources (Xenos, 1989; Mackenzie, 1994).8Modernisation, progress and development are seen as the most efficient weapons for winning the battle. Malthusianism also depicts populations as masses who are passive, helpless and waiting to be fed and cared for. The proactive role of populations as active agents capable of effecting positive transformations in their environment and living conditions is often undermined (Boserup, 1993; Franke and Chasin, 1980). Despite the powerful denunciation of old the old Malthusian thesis, Malthus's crucial observations on population and his underlying assumption of scarcity have continually been repackaged and reproduced in various forms by different Neo-Malthusian scholars and practitioners. Neo-Malthusianism has allied with neo-Environmentalism and constantly reinvented itself and maintained its dominance within a wide range of 'human sciences'. For example, the Malthusian thesis is increasingly being reinvented to analyse wider economic and political crises such as civil conflicts and global security.
8 Xenos questions the notion of scarcity and argues that scarcity itself is a central failure of the way modernity constitutes the world. 9 Similar arguments are often expressed by the World-Watch Institute in Washington (Cf Brown, 1996). 10 For details and discussions see Edkins, 2000, Chapter 3.
Neo-Malthusians tend to view population increase and population reproduction behaviour in the developing world - rather than in general - as source of threat and a cause of a wide range of problems. Robert Kaplan's work illustrates the core of this notion; emphasising that population growth, scarcity of resources and environmental degradation are causing wars, diseases and regional instability (Kaplan, 1994). 9
In general, the Malthusian thesis has a profound effect on the way internal displacement is understood and responded to by humanitarian actors. Its endurance in modern discourse is evident in the fact that very few of its critics have managed to escape its influence.10 This persistent revival of Malthusianism may be better explained by examining what Malthusianism represents and reflects rather than what Malthus 10
himself postulates in relation to the behaviour of populations. As stated earlier, Malthusianism reflects 'modernity's regime of truth', its views of the world and its associated form of politics. To understand the perpetuity of Malthusianism, one needs to explicate the politics of populations associated and integrated with it. The Foucauldain approach provides a good framework for analysing and understanding the 'modern' politics of populations, or, to use Foucault's term, modern 'bio-power' (Foucault, 1979: 140-144).
1.4 Populations and Bio-Politics
The Malthusian thesis on population forms a central element of 'modern' discourse that tends to separate man from nature (Edkins, 2000). Under the influence of Malthus and other philosophers and following the development of modern 'human sciences', a new form of politics, which is concerned with the regulation and control of populations, has emerged and developed since the eighteenth century (Foucault, 1977; 1979). The concepts of scarcity of natural resources and the danger of 'unchecked' population growth and population reproductive behaviour are central to this modern form of politics.
Foucault uses a methodology that he refers to as the 'archaeology of knowledge' in order to uncover the rise of 'human sciences' that has man and human life as primary objects of knowledge (Foucault, 1970). He identifies a number of changes occurring at the turn of the eighteenth century as crucial in the rise of the human sciences (Foucault, 1979, 1980). A whole series of epistemic shifts took place at a range of disciplinary sites resulting in what Foucault calls 'modern episteme' - or way of knowing - that constitutes modernity's regime of truth (ibid.). According to Foucault this modern regime is reflected in the 'general politics of truth: that is, the types of discourse which it accepts and makes function as true' (Foucault, 1980: 131).
What has changed with the modern epistemic's shifts, according to Foucault, is not a discovery of new objects of analysis brought to light by progress or the rationalisation of previous immature and inaccurate forms of knowledge. It is also not a question of some forms of knowledge emerging from their prehistoric forms into the light of reason, but rather what changed was 'knowledge itself' in the form of 'new knowable objects' on the one hand and 'new concepts and new methods' of knowing on the other (Foucault, 1970: 252). What makes knowledge legitimate (and powerful) in the modern era is not tradition or divine authority but a particular scientific mode of validation (Foucault, 1980). According to Edkins (2000), in 'westernised modernity' what counts as true is what scientific research can demonstrate (i.e. what is scientifically measurable, calculable, generalised and objective).
Foucault emphasises the importance of power over the biological existence of populations for modernity. Since the late seventeenth century a new form of power (i.e. the power over life) emerged and developed. He calls this form of power bio-power and the politics associated with it bio-politics (Foucault, 1979: 139-140). Foucault argues that with these shifts, power becomes concerned with the biological existence of the 11
'species body'. Bio-power sees the body as a machine and is concerned with the disciplining and the optimisation of its capabilities and its integration into systems of efficiency and economic control (ibid.). Bio-power is also concerned with the maintenance of life, the categorisation of populations and the allocation of goods and services to them on the basis of who deserves what. According to Foucauldians, unlike pre-seventeenth-century politics, in modern bio-politics power is exercised differently and at a different level. Foucault gives numerous examples of the fundamental ways 'modern' bio-power differs from non-modern power and the way it operates. For example, he argues that 'the ancient right to take life or let live was replaced by a power to foster life or disallow it to the point of death' (ibid: 138).11Bio-politics has also fundamentally transformed the way politics works. For example, rather than governing territories, the state governs populations (Foucault, 1979).
11 Author's emphasis. 12 The SPHERE Project, 1998, Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standard on Disaster Response, which sets the minimum standards of what keeps a person alive, is a good example. 13 Author's emphasis.
Following the Foucauldian thesis on bio-power, Agamben (1998) highlights the implications of bio-power and calls the form of life to which the individual is reduced, by bio-politics, a barelife. He argues that 'barelife' (i.e. the biological existence and conditions of populations) has become central to the calculations of 'modern' power. According to him, in modern times, power has become concerned with the 'barelife' of populations rather than a politically qualified life (ibid.). For example, in modern humanitarian operations for affected populations such as IDPs, the concern for the barelife of populations is clearly expressed in the detailed calculation of the precise nutritional requirements (relief food, water etc) necessary to keep a person alive. 12
Policies based on bio-power give more emphasis to 'births and mortality, the level of health, life expectancy and longevity, with all the conditions that can cause these to vary' (Foucault, 1979: 139). These forms of power and the intervention to regulate and control are central to the work of most humanitarian agencies working with IDPs. In bio-politics what is at stake is the control over the biological existence of populations, not their political organisations. As noted by Foucault, 'the disciplines of the body and the regulations of the population constituted the two poles around which the organization of power over life was deployed' (ibid: 139).13For Foucault, power over life displaces political participation and debate (ibid.). The adoption of such policies by aid agencies makes them incapable of understanding the real politics that generates and sustains displacement.
Foucault argues that the incorporation of famine into modern science in the late eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth, with man as its object, led to particular technical forms of solutions (Foucault, 1970). Humanitarian crises such as famine, internal displacement and conflicts are depoliticised, 'modernised' and seen as disasters with scientific causes (See Raikes, 1988). Addressing 12
these crises is seen as a question of acquiring the appropriate knowledge of their causes and 'developing the techniques needed to apply that knowledge to produce a cure' (Edkins, 2000: 01).
Generally, in modern discourse, 'political issues are translated into biological terms' (i.e. they become a question of resources). Thus, in displacement with conflict situations, displacement is seen as an unfortunate by product of combat that an integral part of the conflict, and the 'conflict becomes a contest between man and nature' rather than a question of resolving political issues or a matter concerning how society should be organised (Edkins, 2000: 37).
1.5 International Humanitarianism and Bio-Politics
The evolution and development of the study of population as a science has made populations and their natural means of subsistence the prime concern of most researchers and policy makers. Policies informed by Malthusian analysis have become concerned with the regulation and control of populations and the increase in food availability through the use of technology and incentives, rather than with the socioeconomic and political conditions of individuals and communities (Agamben, 1998; Foucault, 1979). Bio-politics as illustrated in the work of Foucault and further developed by recent scholars provides a useful framework for analysing the politics of 'numbers' and 'life-saving' dominating the perception and operations of international humanitarianism. It also helps us understand many of the recent 'humanitarian crises' in Africa and the actions and inaction of the key actors involved.
The influence of modern 'bio-politics' on humanitarianism is immense. Humanitarian crises are seen as a failure of modernity, rather than a reflection of its ambivalence (See Bauman, 1989, 2002). The policy implications of the bio-politics of population are often misleading. For example, under the influence of neo-Malthusianism, humanitarians working in IDP camps and war zones are concerned with numbers more than anything else (Hendrie, 1997). Their concern is with the collection of indicators such as life expectancy, death rate, the number of the newly arrived (in camps) and their gender, age and health status. The highly bureaucratic procedures and organisation associated with this obscure any awareness of the 'victims' own social and political conditions and aspirations. Bio-politics de-politicises humanitarian crises and sees people afflicted by them as vulnerable 'victims' who need help rather than distinct individuals who require power and justice (Edkins, 2000). Both the aggregate categorisation of afflicted populations in categories such as poor, below the poverty line, victims, IDPs, refugees and beneficiaries, and the dis-aggregation of these categories into 'the poorest of the poor', 'the asset-less individuals', the 'female headed households', the 'severely malnourished children', the 'under-weight' and the 'under 5 years old', the 'newly arrived IDPs', 'lactating mothers' and so on - though they serve crucial operational aspects - also contribute to the marginalisation of 'victims' and the de-politicisation of 'humanitarian crises'. 13
The bio-politics informing humanitarianism is a form of politics that is concerned with the discipline and the preservation of life (as opposed to death) rather than a specific way of life (ibid.). Knowing about the biological existence and the biological conditions of population is both based on and legitimised by modernity's ways of knowing. Thus for most aid agencies working with the IDPs, what matters most is the scientifically measurable and calculable and generalised indicators that inform them about the biological existence of the afflicted populations. In humanitarian operations it is often the number of lives saved (or lost) that matters (and is frequently exaggerated). Data is collected on ambiguous categories such as IDPs or refugees rather than specific social groups and individuals. The aim is to preserve and foster lives rather than distinct ways of life. Humanitarian crises are thought to be preventable by using appropriate means to gather information on the number of food items available - or needed - and the number of people in any specific area, particularly those at risk of starvation. In cases of internal displacement, the main concern becomes gathering data on the reproductive behaviour of the IDPs, household assets holding, coping strategies and abilities to survive, gaps in household budgets and amounts and types of humanitarian assistance needed. Cultures, identities, social and political aspirations, and the distinct characters of the IDPs are therefore overlooked and undermined. Furthermore, through the conceptualisation of development and aid as a technology for governing populations and its associated de-politicisation of humanitarian crises, victims of 'humanitarian crises' such as internal displacement become 'economic actors known through their position on the scale of scarcity and abundance through which aid policy understands the world' (Duffield, 2002: 11).
The work of the Nobel Prize winner and development economist Amartya Sen has had a profound effect on the discourses of western aid agencies and their depiction of internal displacement as a humanitarian crisis and an 'economic failure'. The following section examines the impact of his work on understanding internal displacement.
1.6 Sen's Impact on Understanding Displacement
Although Sen deals with the issues of food, hunger and conventional famines rather than internal displacement, his work has influenced the way internal displacement is perceived and responded to. For example, Sen's work has had a profound influence in the perception of internal displacement as a manifestation of poverty rather than an independent political process. Within this context, internal displacement becomes a 'failure' in the economic system of the society in question and an economic problem that 'development' can solve, rather than a process that serves specific functions and generates benefits. According to Drèze and Sen the remedy lies in appropriate public policies that provide welfare and undertake actions to correct market failure and protect entitlement (Drèze and Sen, 1989). These perceived roles of the state reflect a liberal view of the state 'in which the failure to act in the public 14
interest is perceived as a failure of public policy' (Keen, 1994: 05). Such liberal views also overlook the possibility that the state can actively promote internal displacement through deliberate actions or inaction. Sen's approach also tends to focus on economic entitlements (specifically entitlements to food). Despite the importance of these entitlements, the experiences of victims of displacement encompass more than just economic deprivations. De Waal notes that the Darfurians who were hit by famine and displacement in the mid 1980s worried more about dislocation and disruptions to their way of life than to the immediate hardship of their loss of assets (de Waal, 1989).
Sen's approach operates on the basis of voluntary and peaceful exchange, and has no place for violence (de Waal, 1989, 1990; Keen, 1994). Sen also assumes that market forces always dominate economic transactions between people. In many areas in the war zone, however, rather than market forces, economic transactions were dominated by what Keen called a 'forced market' where many people were denied even access to the market place (Keen, 1994).
Sen's analysis also shares many of the characteristics of the Malthusian theses he is supposedly contesting. Edkins argues that Sen's thesis remains within the main 'modern' discourse in many ways (Edkins, 2000). For example, he adopts causal explanations and attempts to draw direct causal relationships between famine, food and populations. Moreover, Sen endorses modernity's view of scarcity, and adopts its view of the relationship between man and nature. Analyses based on Sen's work therefore tend to view crises such as internal displacement as something imposed on society and fail to understand that such crises can occur in the 'normal' rather than the 'exceptional' run of things (ibid.). Therefore, the politics involved in the creation and sustenance of internal displacement is often marginalised in all the analyses that adopt Sen's work. Such analyses often produce technical and managerial measures to address problems that are political in nature.
1.7 Re-politicising Humanitarian Crises
Following a recognition of the limitations of the attempts by Sen and other scholars to challenge the de-politicisation of 'humanitarian crises' in the mainstream literature, a new framework of analysis has emerged and developed. This alternative framework, which transcends the rigidity of the boundaries of academic disciplines, not only diagnoses crises such as population displacement and famine but analyses the politics of 'humanitarian crises', its policy response and the wider power relations, systems, structures and strategies with which it integrates. Although often inspired by Sen's work, most of these political analyses are very critical of his Entitlements Approach. These political explanations are an attempt to challenge the technical explanations in the mainstream literature and re-politicise humanitarian crises, to see them as a product of specific systems and power relations, and to investigate the functions they serve 15
and the systems and structure they are integrated into. These aspects, and the interrelationship between civil conflicts and 'humanitarian crises' such as internal displacement, are absent in mainstream analyses.
Although there are different themes within the attempts to re-politicise 'humanitarian crises', one of the key elements incorporated in the analysis of humanitarianism within this framework is the examination of humanitarian assistance and aid agencies in general and the impact of humanitarian intervention in violent conflict situations in particular. For many advocates of this alternative approach, humanitarian crises are a result of power relations within and between different groups in the affected society and at an international level. In other words, humanitarian crises are an outcome of specific relations of governance and a product of various market and non-market (peaceful and forceful) processes of appropriation of the socioeconomic assets of the politically powerless by more powerful groups (Bush, 1985, 1996; Raikes, 1988; Keen, 1994, 1998; Macrae and Zwi, 1994; Duffield, 2001a, 2002). Crises such as internal displacement should, therefore, be seen as 'processes where relationships between people have produced unacceptable results and transgressed limits of humanity' (Edkins, 2000: 150).14Moreover, within this alternative framework the politics of defining the situations referred to in the discourse of aid agencies as humanitarian crises is brought under analysis. This enables us to understand that crisis situations are often viewed differently by different actors. For example, the way people define crises such as internal displacement is influenced by a number of factors including who they are, where they stand in relation to the crisis (i.e. victims, beneficiaries, government, aid agencies etc), and what implications the definition will have for their role and their position. For example, for their own advantages and peace of mind, governments and aid agencies tend to define 'humanitarian crises' as unique events and choose to blame nature or population growth. Such a definition would mean that the occurrence of the crisis is out of their control and imply that the reproductive behaviour of 'victims' may be to blame (Gamal Eldin, 2005). Moreover, defining a humanitarian crisis as a 'transient event' gives a hope that this 'event' can be overcome in a short time; this, it is hoped, will deflect or absorb the anger of the afflicted populations. Many aid agencies find their relief operations easier and their relations with host governments less stressful when they choose to blame nature rather than inequalities and government or rebel policies (Cf Keen, 1994; de Waal, 1997; African Rights, 1997). Governments with a fragile power base may choose to conceal crises such as famine and displacement, while aid agencies tend to favour defining them technically, as they can only respond technically. In other words, actors define 'humanitarian crises' in a manner that spares them from blame and in ways through which they are able to respond to them.
14 Edkins actually made this argument in relation to famine rather than displacement. 15 The work of de Waal, Keen and Duffield originated in Sudan.
The work of Edkins, Keen, Duffield, and de Waal represents the core of recent attempts to re-politicise what aid agencies refer to as 'humanitarian crises'. 15 Although the focus of some of their studies is famine 16
rather than internal displacement, the essence of their work provides an alternative framework for understanding and responding to 'humanitarian crises' such as internal displacement.16Edkins' work, for example, is useful in explaining how modern discourse itself becomes implicated in the politics of crises such as internal displacement. Edkins also emphasises the limitations of the causal inferences and her work encourages us to question the characterisation of internal displacement as a disaster and a failure (Edkins, 2000). Keen's work on the other hand, explores the functions and the benefits of crisis situations (Keen, 1994, 1998). De Waal's work encourages us to incorporate into the analysis the different perceptions of actors on phenomena such as internal displacement and famine. He also encourages us to see such phenomena as experiences of social destitution and disruption rather than simply focus the analysis on the loss of assets and on economic deprivation. De Waal also explores the functions of food aid, the use of food as a weapon, and the relationship between food, food aid and domestic politics (de Waal, 1989,1990, 1997, 2000; African Rights, 1997). Among the wide areas covered by Duffield's work are understanding the complexities of CPEs, the interrelationship between modernity and recent conflicts, the organic link between conflict and humanitarian crisis, the political economy of internal wars, the limitations of international humanitarianism, development and humanitarian interventions, the changing conceptions of development, and development and security (Duffield, 1994, 1996, 2001a, 2001b, 2002).
16 It should be noted that despite their many shared grounds, the main emphases and focuses of the work of Edkins, Keen, Duffield and de Waal are often different and the policy implications of their work vary significantly. 17 de Waal's intensive research on humanitarianism, especially in Sudan, has also provided ample evidence on the multiple functions and benefits generated by starving populations and by their displacement and dislocation.
1.7.1 Key Aspects of the Re-Politicisation of Humanitarian Crises
Edkins, Keen and Duffield adopt a Foucauldian approach and emphasise certain aspects crucial to our understanding of the real politics of 'humanitarian crises' such as internal displacement. Chief among these is the challenge to the modernity-influenced views that see 'humanitarian crises' as disasters and failures of policy and the exploration of the functions that 'humanitarian crises' serve and the benefits they generate.17Thus addressing the question 'for whom are crises such as internal displacement a problem?' is at the heart of the attempts to re-politicise displacement.
Keen notes that in crisis situations, not everyone suffers and there are always winners and losers. However, those who benefit or lose do not necessarily share common interests (Keen, 1994, 1998). Keen also challenges Sen's emphasis on poverty and underdevelopment, arguing that the loss of political power is much more important for creating crisis situations than the loss of economic entitlements. Duffield emphasises the important dimensions of the functions of humanitarian crises and population displacement in conflict situations through processes of resource depletion, assets transfer and cultural repression (Duffield, 1994; 2001a, 2002). For him, rather than being the underlying causes of famine, displacement or 17
conflict, ethnicity, nationalism and religious sectarianism are often mobilised to justify the extra-legal activities associated with those processes (ibid.). He also emphasises the ambivalence of humanitarian crises and conflicts (Duffield, 2001b) and suggests that humanitarian crises may be used to serve important political functions such as the political and cultural repression of certain populations (Duffield, 1994, 2002). Therefore, in conflict situations, social disruption and displacement should be seen as an organic part of the conflict rather than one of its consequences. Edkins' work encourages us to go beyond the manifestations of crises such as internal displacement and investigate the form of politics that makes displacement possible and the strategies in which the displaced populations are integrated (Edkins, 2000, 2003).
1.7.2 The Ambivalence of Crisis Situations
Crises are ambivalent processes that have contradictory potentials and capabilities. Edkins, Keen and Duffield suggest that viewing 'humanitarian crises' as a disaster and a failure obscures the reality that many people benefit from situations associated with crises, such as population displacement, famine and violent conflicts, including the humanitarian intervention to address these situations (Keen, 1994, 1998; Duffield, 1994, 2002; Edkins, 2000). Hence, whilst crises such as population dislocation and displacement and their associated abuses may pose a real danger and a threat to some, they are also equally capable of creating ample opportunities for others. These opportunities may emerge as a direct outcome of the crisis, through its association with other processes or through the response generated by the crisis. In Sudan, for example, while providing humanitarian aid for IDPs has an important role and generates many benefits (not least for IDPs), withholding it also serves many crucial functions (Karim et al., 1996; Keen, 1994). It helps accelerate the process of assets transfer (Duffield, 2002) and disrupts normal survival strategies (de Waal, 1989; Human Rights Watch, 1999). Withholding aid from IDPs can also reduce labour costs and facilitates the creation of a cheap national labour market (O' Brien, 1983; Duffield, 1981, 2002). Warring factions often manipulate humanitarian resources and use relief aid to feed their armies, and they withhold it from their opponents and their civilian supporters and sympathisers (de Waal, 1997; African Rights, 1997). Influential traders and commercial farmers often encourage the government to stop humanitarian relief reaching the IDPs (known as the naziheen) in order to boost grain prices (African Rights, 1997; Keen, 1994). In Khartoum, urban lobbies and commercial farmers often call for the withholding of humanitarian aid from the naziheen in order to make Khartoum unattractive to the naziheen, compel them to relocate in commercial agriculture areas and help minimise the perceived health and security threats posed by the naziheen (Gamal Eldin, 2005). The distribution of free relief aid is also seen by many as discouraging the naziheen from taking urban casual or domestic work or joining the seasonal labour force (ibid.). Withholding assistance is often used as a mechanism to facilitate the management of aid agencies. For 18
example, denying access and refusing to co-operate is sometimes used by government to show discontent and express protest against a perceived bias by aid agencies towards the rebel groups (Gamal Eldin, 2005). Although Sudan is a classic example of the ambivalence of 'crises' and their responses, the use of situations of 'humanitarian crisis' such as population displacement and the relief aid it attracts in order to achieve wider socioeconomic and political objectives are not confined to the contemporary crisis in Sudan. Crises such as violent conflicts, famines and population displacement have been deliberately created or manipulated throughout history in order to create or stabilise specific power relations (Arnold, 1988: 126-137).
The mainstream literature on displacement often links internal displacement to poverty and famine and portrays it as a 'humanitarian' crisis. Humanitarian discourses, which are shaped and informed by the 'modern episteme', in particular tend to depict humanitarian crises as disasters and failures of modernity that can simply be addressed through technical/technological interventions in which humanitarian assistants are essential. This depiction de-politicises crises such as internal displacement and disassociates them from the systems and structures that create displacement in the first place. In conflict situations, as in the case of many African countries, famine, war and population displacement serve important functions not only for the people promoting or afflicted by them, but also for some of the humanitarian interventions to ameliorate their conditions. Therefore, it is imperative that internal displacement should be analysed as an organic part of the overall dynamic political process within which it occurs and with which it interacts. Central to this analysis is the understanding of the 'modern' forms of bio-power and its capability (by the same means and in equal measures) not simply to generate winners and create losers in situations of population displacement, but also to foster certain forms of life and 'disallow others to the point of death'.
Despite the importance of highlighting and analysing the causes of crises such as internal displacement, emphasis on prime causes could be misleading. It could impede the understanding of the complexity of the 'current' situation of displacement, especially within the context of protracted civil conflicts such as in Sudan. Whatever their fundamental or prime causes, through time civil conflicts and their associated displacements develop their own complex and dynamic structure, which may develop in such a way that it has little direct causal relation to the initial factors from which the situation has arisen.
An alternative perspective to seeing internal displacement as a disaster and a failure is to try and find answers to 'What use is [it], what functions does it assure, in what strategies is it integrated', (Foucault, 1980: 136) and, what system produces it and what opportunities does it provide? (Cf Edkins, 2000; Keen, 1994) More importantly, what is it in the context of the economics and politics of the afflicted areas that 19
could have made population displacement and dislocation possible and even continues to justify it? (Cf Edkins, 2000:66) As Edkins notes, 'What matters is not the search for the origins of [internal displacement], but understanding its function in the here and now, in a particular narrative and specific relations of power and conflict' (ibid.).18 Thus, a better understanding for internal displacement may be provided by studying its forms of organisation and mobilisation, rather than searching for its initial and prime causes. If internal displacement is understood as a product of power relations between various populations in a society and not a population, natural, economic or political disaster and failure, then what matters most is understanding the dynamic of these power relations and how these relations shape and inform the actions and inaction of the various actors involved. Therefore, understanding the socioeconomic and political functions of population displacement and the systems, structures and strategies that generate the IDPs is imperative. Exploring the strategies adopted by different actors and the ways these actors operate and interact with each other as well as with the situation is most important if internal displacement is to be appropriately understood and effectively addressed.