From 2014-2018 I am conducting doctoral research on the ‘humanitarian civilian’. This project is informed by previous experience as an aid worker (e.g. in Darfur, Sudan) and field research conducted in South Sudan as well as at civil-military trainings in West Africa, Sweden, Germany and Italy.
This project interrogates the relationship between the lines drawn by humanitarian actors and the principle of distinction in International Humanitarian Law (IHL). The principle of distinction is one of the central tenets of IHL. It requires warring parties to distinguish between combatants and civilians; only military objectives may be legitimately targeted in armed conflict. Humanitarian actors are, generally speaking, protected from attack by virtue of falling into the ‘civilian’ category.
Grounded in the socio-legal tradition, this project embarks on a rich exploration of how humanitarian actors follow, ignore, breach, compete, or even play with the law in their encounters with other actors. Do the lines humanitarian actors draw in their efforts toward distinction align with law, or perhaps stretch it to its breaking point?