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Title: The relationship between humanitarian international non-governmental organisations and states in periods of civil war : case study of Médecins Sans Frontières-Holland and the Government of Sri Lanka
Author: Cunningham, Andrew John
ISNI:       0000 0004 5921 2753
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2016
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This research examines the relationship between a humanitarian international non-governmental organisation (INGO) and a state against the background of civil war. This relationship is established as two sets of norms in tension: The moral as represented and made operational by humanitarian INGOs and the political as articulated and practised by states, mediated through the discourse of identity. Specifically the study investigates the constructed relationship between the humanitarian INGO Médecins Sans Frontières-Holland (MSF-H) and the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) during two periods of the Sri Lankan civil war (2006 and 2008-2009). A negotiation structure is proposed where an external actor—a humanitarian INGO—attempts to operate within the internal environment of a state. For a state, civil war is a ‘state of exception’, where a government’s prerogative to act outside ‘normal’ legal and moral boundaries may be taken up and where international actors are securitised. For a humanitarian organisation a civil war is defined as a humanitarian crisis which must be responded to using humanitarian principles in a non-political manner. This case study relationship is viewed from both MSF-Holland’s and the GoSL’s perspectives. On the side of the GoSL the study describes and analyses the government’s decision-making when faced by international criticism, a humanitarian crisis, and international organisations attempting to work on its territory. The background for the GoSL’s actions is extensively explored. MSF-Holland’s response to the thinking and actions by the GoSL is also closely examined, as is its internal discussions concerning its role in the context as a humanitarian actor. A discourse analysis methodology is used to analyse the primary source material. It was found that when securitised MSF-H had various options in responding: Accommodation to the demands of the GoSL; withdrawal from the country; counter-attacking the government; or concealment—hiding itself from attention. Rejecting these MSF-H chose desecuritisation. In the 2006 period engagement between the actors was possible albeit difficult; the securitisation process was manageable through desecuritisation. However, in the 2008-2009 period securitisation prohibited action and speech, and desecuritisation was not effective. The thesis proposes a theoretical framework—a negotiation structure, within which to understand these interactions, based on the case study findings. The conclusion points to further research needs and discusses the usefulness of the proposed negotiation structure to other contexts.
Supervisor: Berdal, Mats Ragnar ; Tansey, Oisin Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available