International Food Aid ‘Refashions Sovereign Relations And Reshapes Politics,’ No Matter How ‘Neutral’

Washington Post: Why international food aid can actually make conditions worse for starving Syrians
José Ciro Martínez, Ph.D. candidate in politics and Gates Cambridge Scholar at the University of Cambridge, and Brent Eng, independent analyst

“…[P]roceeding as if emergency food aid has no impact on political or military dynamics has had grave consequences in Syria. … Through their ability to create the categories of people in need of aid and their (in)capacity to move supplies to certain places — swayed as they may be by international law, on-the-ground constraints, and individual organizational mandates — humanitarian organizations take part in decisions over human survival. … Most foreign actors are beginning to realize a crucial fact that the Assad regime has long known and that aid organizations continue to misunderstand: In times of conflict, food is not neutral, nor can it ever be. Humanitarian organizations have undoubtedly alleviated suffering and saved countless lives in Syria. However, when they frame their interventions in terms of neutrality, emergency food distributors attempt to carve out a space for their work above the messy world of politics … As a result, they overlook the precise ways emergency food aid refashions sovereign relations and reshapes politics…” (1/26).

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