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The Golden Fleece delves into questions that are rarely asked and seldom answered. It examines the impact of manipulation on the effectiveness of humanitarian action. The tension between fundamental humanitarian values – the prioritization of life-saving over all other considerations – and political or economic agendas is not new. Relief work has long been subject to manipulation by governments, warlords, public opinion, disembodied realpolitik, and to the calculations of humanitarians themselves. As Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire notes in his foreward, “the sacrosanct principles of neutrality and humanitarian space have been used and abused by many in ways which ultimately benefit killers rather than the victims of armed conflict.”
This book takes a long view, starting with the origins of organized humanitarianism in the mid-19th century and zeroes in on the twenty-plus years since the end of the Cold War. It examines whether instrumentalization has achieved its desired objectives, whether political manipulation is greater today than before, and whether the recent dramatic growth of relief work has opened up humanitarian action to greater manipulation.
Antonio Donini, Background
Donini works on issues relating to the future of humanitarian action. From 2002 to 2004 he was a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University. He has worked for 26 years in the United Nations in research, evaluation, and humanitarian capacities. His last post was as Director of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan (1999-2002). Before going to Afghanistan he was chief of the Lessons Learned Unit at OCHA, where he managed a program of independent studies on the effectiveness of relief efforts in complex emergencies. He has published widely on evaluation, humanitarian, and UN reform issues. In 2004 he co-edited the volume Nation-Building Unraveled? Aid, Peace, and Justice in Afghanistan (Kumarian Press) as well as several articles exploring the implications of the crises in Afghanistan and Iraq for the future of humanitarian action.
Recorded on January 2013