Humanitarianism and the International Liberal Hierarchy

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In studying the human perception towards systemic morality, Strijdom (2015) asserted that the human brain views systems into two different classes based on the associated political features. Firstly, the human mind may perceive a system as hierarchical whereby conservative’s strict and disciplinary principles are used to maintain order. Secondly, the system might be regarded as egalitarian which supports the liberal’s nurturing approach. The two perceptions are in line with the contrasting approaches that international humanitarian institutions have embraced in maintaining peace, order and equality-based developments since the Second World War (Waltz, 2010), that is, liberal hierarchy and institutional liberalism. Institutional liberalism, similar to the egalitarian system, is a modern method in which all states are considered to be equal and sovereign parties that interact freely in a global political system. On the other hand, the liberal hierarchy and the hierarchical system adopt a notion whereby some states are viewed to be superior to others. Thus, the latter’s views and interests are regarded to be more important than other countries in the same global political system. The policies and ideologies guiding an institution or a course are perceived as either facilitating a liberal hierarchy or an institutional liberalism system.

Humanitarianism was initially considered an act of kindness, purely based on charity, where the people affected by crises such as war, natural disaster, oppressing leadership were assisted while maintaining impartiality, neutrality and independence. However, the humanitarian institutions such as the United Nations, UNICEF, and the World Food Programme have transformed from parties that only fund medical, nutritional and human needs to those that require the agents to campaign for and foster establishment of human rights, democracy, human development and peace (Barnett & Weiss, 2008). As a result, the institutions have ended up being perceived as agents of installing the liberal hierarchy system because conflicts require siding with one side and antagonizing with the other. This essay advances that humanitarianism has facilitated liberal hierarchy because it exalts Western ideologies above perceptions from other nations hence promoting resistances, catalyzing wars, impeding international charity and proposing the adoption of new localized approaches. 

The Structures Supporting Post-Modern Humanitarianism

The first phase of globalization, which begun after the Second World War, was termed as the modern era because of the high rate of industrial revolution in that duration. However, the second phase of globalization that has been largely facilitated by computerization among other technological advancements is called the post-modern era (Beck, 2018). The transition of the two eras has also been associated with change in humanitarian tactics. Barnett and Weiss (2008) assert that unlike in the modern times, the post-modern’s humanitarianism has widened its scape from philanthropy to activism. 

De Lauri (2016) posits that four main elements which sustain humanitarianism have contributed to the change. Firstly, the sympathetic impulse of the Western countries has supported the international humanitarian institutions. In light of this, the Western nations perceive their way of lives as the best. Necessarily, the United States of America and Europe have self-justified their humanitarian projects to transform the non-Western and less developed nations without their consent. Due to this, the humanitarian institutions have abided by the Western values and reduced their regard to the non-Western norms and systems.

The sympathetic impulse of the Western countries has made the globe to perceive the international humanitarianism as a process of distributing the Western culture and values even to the destinations that do not regard them with high esteem. The impulse sympathetic element of the institutions, therefore, can arguably be found to be the source of conflicts between the humanitarian actors and local partakers in highly religious areas such as the Middle East. The international humanitarian actors are perceived as agents who are introducing cultures and religions that are not acceptable in a given region hence resulting to increased conflicts rather than the development of the intended resolutions. For example, the AL Qaeda militant movement was raised to negate the alleged Christian influence of Americans disguised as humanitarian actors in the Islamic states (Rapoport, 2016). 

Secondly, the humanitarian institutions have been promoted by the virtue that they are employment outlets. Humanitarianism has created myriads of employment opportunities to graduates and scholars from the donor countries. The transfer of professional experts in various fields such as medicine, international relationships, Information, communication and technology, and sociology from the developed to the less developed nations has been criticized a method in which the Western countries have expanded the market to their national workforces (De Lauri, 2016). 

Consequently, humanitarianism has not been accounted as a way of using research and shared skills for development. On the contrary, it is considered an exploration of the resources in the countries receiving the donations. The argument herein is that humanitarianism promotes the idea that the Western people have higher intellectual capacity than the rest. The employment outlet dimension of the international humanitarian institution is considered to be an act of partiality depicting humanitarianism to be a scheme of exploiting the less developed states’ employment opportunities and research spaces. Moreover, the increasing number of the relocations of people such as the asylum seekers to the Western countries is perceived as an approach to absorbing the human capital in the countries receiving the donations. The fact that humanitarianism is perceived as partially supporting the globe’s workforce suggests that it is also an agent of liberal hierarchy. For instance, Hassler (2015) critics the UN on waiting for a very long duration before responding to the Ebola outbreak in the Western Africa region. It is reported that the UN only engaged in substantial public health restoration after the greater donors (Western states) providing the human capital. 

Thirdly, the international humanitarian agents have intervened in internal wars arising from resource-based disputes such as oil in the Middle East and diamond in African countries like Sierra Leone to protect the weak and poor in the conflicting society. The conflict resolution mandate of the humanitarian institutions has painted them as political-economy agents (De Lauri, 2016). The international humanitarian institutions have been perceived as agents supporting the Western interest because of the frequent utilization of militaries from countries in the Global North (De Lauri, 2016). The perception has transformed humanitarianism from a neutrality position to an approach that grant the Western nations higher authority than the less develop states to manage global resources, and become the international jury without the consent of other global parties. 

As a result, conflicts have arisen between local groups and the humanitarian actors in the interest of protecting their resources and independence. The increased violence is attributed to humanitarianism because the terrorism incidents and retaliation battles increased when the humanitarian military invade with partiality in matter internal to a country. For example, the invasion of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) soldiers in Somali to reduce the adverse political, economic and social impact of Al Shabaab led to increased terrorist attacks on the Kenyan soil such as the West Gate attack (Cannon & Ruto Pkalya, 2017). Although Kenya is an African country, it was persecuted because of its association with a humanitarian institution (AMISOM) funded by the Western countries. Inevitably, international humanitarianism fosters liberal hierarchy that results in enmity. 

Fourthly, the change of the humanitarianism has been promoted by the virtue that the humanitarian institutions have used force to derive the entitlement of human rights. In this regard, the humanitarian institutions are probed to take sides (De Lauri, 2016). The rivalry either using military or civilization intervention has made the institutions to create enemies. International humanitarianism has thus been ridiculed on the premise of displaying oxymoron signs because it had not dignified and protected the life of all. 

The concept of humanitarianism is founded on honoring humanity but the international agents have killed and jailed many who are not in tandem with the policies that they uphold. Instead of honoring diversity and the independence of different states, they have punished or alienated those who sympathize with systems that counter the Western ideologies. Ergo, the humanitarianism has been declared by some to be the factor that is placing Europe and the United States of America to be the states that decide for the nation who should live, prosper, and be helped. 

The structures that promoted the post-modern scape of humanitarianism have forced the actors to show partiality and independence. Humanitarianism has contributed to the notion that Western countries are superior hence developing the global liberal hierarchy perception. However, the same would not be said if the agents remained as entities that provided the impartial console to the injured and maintained neutrality despite the differing political, cultural and other conflicting inclinations.

The Impact of International Humanitarianism

The fact that international humanitarianism has been depicted to instigate liberal hierarchy does not mean that people, even those opposing these institutions, do not support elementary humanitarian actions in the alleviation of suffering and the compassion attitude. Many people have benefited from the international humanitarianism despite having high criticism. For example, humanitarianism has been classified based on the origin of the donations in Iraq. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has received significant rejection whereas other humanitarian actors such the local non-governmental organizations have been widely embraced (McGoldrick, 2015). Therefore, the world has categorized humanitarianism into two namely political humanitarianism and pure good charity. Apart from Al Qaeda and few other Islamic extremists, the good charity has been deeply accepted in Iraq and other Islamic states. Even in Sri Lanka, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) receive relief from the international humanitarian agencies that show no interest of quarrelling (Webber et al., 2017). Therefore, the issue that has caused the international humanitarian organizations to be perceived as enhancing the Western domination is brought about by engagement of the firms in dispute resolutions to install the European and American requirements. Humanitarianism has not supported liberalism but the fact that it has enhanced the same based on policies that only favor certain parties. 

In Iraq, for example, the people are not reluctant to receive relief because they are against humanitarianism but majorly due to the attached association. The Iraqi citizens are afraid of being persecuted by the rebellions because the international humanitarian institutions are funded by their enemies (Stoddard et al., 2017). Ergo, humanitarianism is not rejected because it is negatively viewed. The central issue is that the beneficiaries are required to submit to exterior policies rather than their own. Since these policies are viewed to be developed by the Western countries, the image of international humanitarianism is automatically transformed to one that is invoking Western supremacy. Correspondingly, the effectiveness of humanitarianism has been affected by the political ideologies associated with it (Stoddard et al., 2017). This shows that humanitarianism has been used as an agent of liberal hierarchy rather than institutional liberalism which grant people the freedom to human rights despite their diversified opinions and interest.

The perception of humanitarianism to support liberal hierarchy is also confirmed by the increasing level of war between locals and the international actors. For instance, in Syria the seriousness of the war between the locals and the UN and the American militaries is increasing. The war has tainted the humanitarianism as a system that adversely affects those against the Americans (Duncombe & Dunne, 2018). Due to the escalating Syrian war, development has been stagnated. The people are experiencing poverty, displacement and experiencing death and injuries until the US policies are enforced in the country. The consistent sufferings of the innocent Syrians have made the majority of them to conclude that humanitarianism is not focused on alleviating them from poverty but punishing them for not agreeing with the American ideologies. 

Moreover, some of the extremists have spread the propaganda that humanitarian organizations do not value them because they are funded by a Christian based regimes. Consequently, some of the people have believed that humanitarianism is a method that the US is using to claim the supremacy of Christianity over Islam. The paper is not focused on determining the truthfulness of the acquired sentiments but rather the capacity of humanitarianism to support such allegations. The increasing number of extremists’ recruits shows that the humanitarianism has been unintentionally succeeded the promotion of divisive beliefs in Syria and other Islam nation (Sommerfelt & Taylor, 2015). 

Moreover, the proposition by the international humanitarian institution to change tactic from international scope to localized methods shows that they have accepted the significant part they have played in creation of liberal hierarchy (Humanitarian Law and Policy, 2018). Otherwise, there would be no need for the proposed reforms. The reforms suppose that the rejection of international humanitarianism make localized humanitarian institutions as the best alternative. It is explained that international agents have limited access in aiding the affected people because of the rejection they accrue from people who are not necessarily enemies but just have different ideologies in the realms of religion and politics. For example, many innocent Syrians would not associate or assist the international humanitarian agents on the ground because of the religious prejudice (Humanitarian Law and Policy, 2018). The humanitarian agencies have been labeled as Christian sympathizers because of the funding they received from Christian dominated countries. As a result, they fear that the humanitarian firms would influence them to convert to the Western religion before they assistance is provided.  This is probably not true, but the point derived from the observation of the Syrian attitudes is that humanitarianism supports the Christian ideas and forcefully invoke them on the Islam by denying relief to those with contrasting beliefs.

Institutionalization of Humanitarianism

Reus-Smit (2005) questions the authority of humanitarian organization to use military force in sovereign countries. He asserts that the utmost depiction of liberal hierarchy in the 21st century humanitarianism is portrayed by the militarization of the humanitarian institutions. It is argued that the use of force is admissible in the events of self-defense and upholding international peace and security. Issues of internal security do not call for the use of military force by the humanitarian institutions. However, the UN soldiers have marched in many countries encountering internal conflicts and sided with one political party through the use of force. Instead of remaining or a reconciling agent, humanitarianism has shifted to drive the interest of one and forfeit of another. 

Duly, the choice of sides requires the organizations to embrace a certain set of guiding precepts. The Western policies have been consistently considered in settlement of the conflicts thus making the people feel that the European and American ideologies are regarded to be superior to the cultures and interests of other nations. Therefore, humanitarianism has supported liberal hierarchy by lowering the standards that other people found to be important. For example, same-gender sexual relationships are not accepted in some religions and cultures. Humanitarian efforts to support the LGBT group in such background show that they present the Western civilization to be better than the local’s conservative culture. Sharing in the same sentiments, Van Engeland (2016) found that cultural diversity is the one of the main reasons impeding the humanitarian’s rules to be converted to global human rights laws. 

Strijdom (2015) reckons that like any other institution, humanitarian activities are dictated by set aid policies, field’s modus operandi, codes of conduct and resolution procedures. Arguably, the international humanitarian institutions act on behalf of those who set or assist in developing the rules (Strijdom, 2015). Therefore, only those who are in line with these regulations can receive aid. For example, Slim (2010) discloses that many civilians get injured and die in wars between rebellious associations and humanitarians militaries. Interestingly, the humanitarian militaries have also injured and killed numerous civilians who were not necessarily waging war against them.  One of the reasons given is that the humanitarian soldiers assume that everybody in the war zone is an enemy. The regulations demand them to reduce the risk and maximize the opportunity of eliminating the actual enemies, the innocent civilians living among them are also victimized. Although living with the enemy might be considered wrong by the Western culture, it does not make the civilians who live in areas invaded by the insurgent group to be justified targets. Such policies show that the humanitarian organizations exalt the Western country ideologies above the perceptions and cultures of the less developed countries, a form of liberal hierarchy.


The inclination of humanitarian institutions around the globe towards politics, culture, economic and so on depends on the policies that have been embraced and implemented. The ideologies hence by these institutions determine the view of people towards humanitarianism. It has been established that the international institutions have developed humanitarianism approaches that favor the liberal hierarchy because of contributing not only through philanthropy but also in policymaking. Argument shows that the post-modern humanitarianism has partially supported the Western ideologies. Humanitarianism has made people perceive the Western countries as superior in all aspects by invoking their perspectives to other countries. The escalating conflicts between the humanitarian military and the locals are the dominant and clear example of how humanitarian bodies have used force to succeed Western interests in other countries. Humanitarianism has supported the liberal hierarchy system by choosing the Western countries as the global pacesetters hence demeaning the value of religion, political philosophies, culture and intellect from the less developed and non-Western nations. In conclusion, humanitarianism facilitated liberal hierarchy because it exalts Western ideologies above perceptions of other nations hence promoting resistances, catalyzing militarized wars, impeding international charity and proposing to adopt new localized approaches.

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