Making Clients out of Citizens? Humanitarian Aid in Transitional Justice and Post-Conflict Interventions

Friday, 20 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Lucy FISKE, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Australia
Rita SHACKEL, University of Sydney, School of Law, Australia
Post conflict interventions are dominated by legal, security and development discourses. There is an emerging standardized ‘set’ of international responses to conflict including internationally mediated peace negotiations, prosecutions, truth commissions and an influx of aid and development International Non-Government Organisations (INGOs). After sustained efforts from women’s movements and civil society, international actors are broadening their concerns to include the impacts of conflict on women. Many high status interventions deal primarily with elites from within conflict communities and seek to rebuild on a western neoliberal democratic model with little accommodation of local practices or involvement of those most adversely impacted by the conflict. This model often reinforces pre-existing structural inequalities, further privileging those most able to access power, and further marginalising those with least access to political, economic and cultural power. Meanwhile, INGO development interventions are fraught with tensions, often emerging from and operating within colonial charitable paradigms which paradoxically reinforce dependency and powerlessness. In this paper we draw on fieldwork conducted with women affected by violence in Kenya, eastern DRC and northern Uganda to examine the effects of humanitarian interventions on women’s agency and their self-identification as citizens. We question whether large scale INGO service provision might be both relieving governments of their responsibilities to their citizens’ needs and rights, and, shifting women’s identities away from citizenship and towards the less autonomous and more passive role of ‘client’.