Fiona Terry - Reasserting the neutrality of humanitarian action

While it remains a cornerstone of our modus operandi worldwide, the neutrality principle was in recent years roundly rejected by most aid actors operating in Afghanistan, a context where one party to the conflict commandeered assistance and aid organizations into a counter-insurgency campaign while the other rejected Western aid groups as agents of an imperialist West. 

Author Fiona Terry wrote about neutrality and how strict adherence to it has enabled the ICRC to expand its operational surface in the latest issue of the International Review of the Red Cross.

She was in town last week for a lecture at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs and spoke to me about the need, ten years after 9/11, for aid organizations to embrace neutrality as a guiding principle if they are to assist victims of conflict across frontlines and political divides.

Ms. Terry is an independent researcher who recently completed studies for the ICRC in Sudan and Afghanistan. She is the author of Condemned to Repeat? The Paradox of Humanitarian Action (Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London, 2002).