Global South to the Rescue: Emerging Humanitarian
Superpowers and Globalizing Rescue Industries
The volume edited by Paul Amar critically analyzes the role that the Global South is thought to play (or not play) in the humanitarian domain. The contributors bring in examples from different parts of the world to criticize two sets of approaches: (i) the conventional Eurocentric approach that portrays the Global South only at the receiving end of the humanitarian missions and; (ii) the more critical approach that sees the increasing involvement of the Global South in humanitarian missions as a testament of how the problems embedded in liberal global governance are slowly being erased. Instead, the contributors first illustrate that changing the ethnic, racial or gender composition of humanitarian missions does not necessarily result in overcoming the problems embedded in these missions or in the general working of global governance. Second, the volume also highlights that while it is important to take the Global South’s agency seriously in the humanitarian domain, such agency should be analyzed critically with an eye on the dynamics and intentions of these countries’ involvements rather than romanticizing them.
The first section of the book, “Globalizing Peacekeeper Industries” is composed of three chapters and focuses on how the change in national and gender composition of humanitarian missions as well as the mercenary sector affect the overall functioning and the effectiveness of these sectors. While the mercenary sector has always been approached with a considerable level of criticism, putting the UN missions’ practices under the spotlight for problems embedded in their structure and misconducts is relatively new. As a result of increasing concerns regarding the allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse conducted by UN forces, a number of steps were taken both to have a stricter oversight of the personnel as well as to change the gender composition of the missions. The chapters in this section raise concerns about such steps: Henry argues that all-female UN peacekeeping mission units neither marks emancipation for female soldiers nor increases the dialogue between the local communities and the missions. Higate takes a look at the mercenary sector and argues that the increasing role of soldiers from the Global South within the sector is a reflection of the colonial notions of these nations as warriors and does not indicate a rising equality between countries. In the last chapter of this section Christie critically evaluates the incorporation of a development component to missions as it leads to militarization of development rather than creating more effective military operations. These three chapters are important in illustrating the importance of not just pinpointing the problems in these sectors but also of critically evaluating efforts to reform them.
The chapters in the second and the third section of the book bring in examples from Turkey, Nigeria, Indonesia, Kenya, Bolivarian Alliance, Brazil and Egypt to discuss the dynamics that are peculiar to each instance in shaping these actors’ decisions to take an active, in some cases leading, role in humanitarian operations. The contribution that these analyses make is two-fold. On the one hand, they illustrate how domestic calculations can be critical in shaping these countries involvement. In doing so, the most important insight is the emphasis the chapters put on highlighting multiplicity of the factors that shape these countries’ choices. Agensky and Barker discuss how political changes within Indonesia led the country to take part in the humanitarian domain both as an agent and also as a target. Bachmann, discusses how the seemingly contradictory behavior of Kenya can only be explained by looking at the contradictory security agendas, economic self-interest and international counterterrorism interests. Nieto, similarly, looks at the dynamics of politics within Brazil and Amar looks at Egypt from a historical perspective to understand their involvement in peacekeeping missions. Muhr analyzes the Bolivarian Bloc and argues that rather than being an active part of the existing “liberal-imperialist agenda,” the Bloc aims to create an alternative framework to replace it.
On the other hand, the chapters engage in such analyses without romanticizing either the intentions of these countries in taking an active role in humanitarian missions or what such involvement means for the overall position and power of these actors within the broader global structure. Bayer and Keyman discuss how Turkey’s contradictory aspirations for European integration and Islamic solidarity both encourages Turkey to take an active role as a regional humanitarian actor but also raises concerns about Turkey assuming such a role. Hills similarly tries to stay away from romanticizing the involvement of the Global South by highlighting the mismatch between the Nigerian police forces’ international and national practices.
The puzzling aspect of the volume is the lack of focus and conceptual common ground that would better bind the chapters together. The lack of such a structure limits the broader contribution of these chapters mainly to the descriptive level and curtails the chapters’ ability to provide insights into the theoretical and empirical commonalities and contrasts that arise between different cases. Overall, the volume would be an interesting starting point for a reader who wants to raise questions about the orthodox approaches to humanitarian operations and the rescue industries and the role of the Global South in them, but the reader will have to look for other sources to get answers to their questions.