Mélange du Mercredi/The Ironic Spectator

Welcome to Mélange du Mercredi (Wednesday Mix). Each week, we highlight one of the latest and greatest in reading, film and other scholarly resources, focusing on a variety of issues pertaining to international humanitarian law. As always, if you have suggestions, or would like to submit a post on something you feel our readers will also enjoy, we're happy to include them. Just email Editor Niki Clark

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The Ironic Spectator by Lilie Chouliaraki

This review was written by Jean-Yves Clémenzo, the ICRC Spokesperson for Eastern Africa. His review was originally published in The International Review: Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict

Humanitarian organizations and media are closely intertwined. As early as 1899, Gustave Moynier, the first president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), attributed the success of emerging humanitarian work to the new technology of his time – the telegraph – that revolutionized the speed of information. For Moynier, the telegraph allowed everyday spectators to know every detail of any event of war at the speed of light.

More than 100 years later, the Internet and social media have brought the speed of information to a level that Gustave Moynier could hardly have imagined. Humanitarian agencies have embraced innovation and new technologies, finetuning their communication strategies in order to better pass on their messages regarding the plights of those who suffer from armed conflicts or natural disasters, to convince important stakeholders and public opinion, or increasingly, to get funding. Over the last four decades, especially since the end of the Cold War, so as to attract money and the attention of the public, humanitarian organizations have developed increasingly sophisticated communication strategies using new techniques of marketing, advertising and branding, targeted appeals, and missions of Goodwill Ambassadors. 

The Ironic Spectator by Lilie Chouliaraki provides a deep insight into this process of the “marketization” of communications of humanitarian agencies.

To download the full review, click here