FEEDBACK – The Foundation’s Talks and Debates : Is the principle of impartiality standing the test of humanitarian triage ?

Posted by: on Aug 5, 2016 | No Comments

On June 28th, 2016 Dr. Marion Péchayre animated the latest edition of the Foundation’s Talks and Debates. Her presentation aimed at shedding light on the principle of impartiality, a principle, which is generally well-accepted among humanitarians, but sometimes not so easy to comply with.


 

The principle of impartiality …

At first glance, the principle of impartiality, which combines the fundamental principle of non-discrimination to the one of equity, appears less contested and problematic than the principle of neutrality, for instance. Few people indeed do not believe aid should be provided without any distinction of race, gender, age, etc. and / or in accordance with one’s needs.

However, according to Dr. Marion Péchayre, even those who want to abide by the principle of impartiality, sometimes have a hard time doing so. In practice, complying with this humanitarian principle can indeed be more challenging than first expected.

VIDEO

This standpoint was at the heart of Dr. Péchayre’s work, who had recently received her Ph.D. in anthropology after studying the practice of three international NGOs (MSF, Save the Children and Solidarités International) in Pakistan.

 

At present, Handicap International's activity in Pakistan are essentially dedicated to disaster risk reduction. © Philippe Pascal / Handicap International

At present, Handicap International’s activity in Pakistan are essentially dedicated to disaster risk reduction. © Philippe Pascal / Handicap International

 

… at the heart of Dr. Péchayre’s work

During her presentation, Marion provided the audience with a brief overview of the evolution of anthropology, especially in relation with humanitarian action, before moving on to presenting her work.

The time she spent in Pakistan allowed her to make a series of observations.

For instance, one of the hospitals she observed for a couple of months had been set up by one of the NGOs to assist, most particularly, victims of the war on terror, who needed medical assistance in the Tribal Zones. In practice, only 2% of the patients treated in this hospital were war victims, according to the NGOs statistics, and most of the humanitarians’ work consisted in child deliveries and providing pre- and post-natal care. Hence, even if the NGO wanted to treat war victims, maybe to counter-balance the rest of its activities in the country or elsewhere in the region, it ended up assisting who needed them most in the area, namely expecting mothers and their families.

 

Dr. Marion Péchayre during her intervention at the Foundation's Talks and Debates © Sonia Zdorovtzoff / Handicap International

Dr. Marion Péchayre during her intervention at the Foundation’s Talks and Debates © Sonia Zdorovtzoff / Handicap International

To learn more about the other two set of observations made by Dr. Marion Péchayre in Pakistan, please, watch the recording of her presentation at the Foundation’s Talks and Debates.