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A Bed for the Night

A Bed for the Night

Humanitarianism in Crisis

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Timely and controversial, A Bed for the Night reveals how humanitarian organizations are often betrayed and misused, and have increasingly lost sight of their purpose. Drawing on firsthand reporting from war zones around the world, David Rieff shows us what aid workers do in the field and the growing gap between their noble ambitions and their actual capabilities for alleviating suffering. He describes how many humanitarian organizations have moved from their founding principle of neutrality, which gave them access to victims, to encouraging the international community to take action to stop civil wars and ethnic cleansing. By calling for intervention, humanitarian organizations risk being seen as taking sides in a conflict and thus jeopardizing their access to victims. And by overreaching, the humanitarian movement has allowed itself to be hijacked by the major powers. Rieff concludes that if humanitarian organizations are to do what they do best -- alleviate suffering -- they must reclaim their independence.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 400 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743252119 | 
  • October 2003
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Chapter 1: The Humanitarian Paradox

You are the prosperous citizen of a prosperous country. In practice, this means you are almost certainly a citizen of the United States, Canada, Japan, or one of the countries of the European Union. It also means that, in global terms, you belong to a minority group, at most no more than a tenth of the world's population, and probably a good deal less. Of course, it is a minority of privilege, not of oppression. You, or, to be more accurate, we (I belong to this group too), have the habit of spending at least part of your mornings reading a decent broadsheet newspaper and part of most evenings watching... see more

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