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Friday, 11 March 2011

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Civil unrest and role of migrant workers

What started on December 17, 2010 with an act of self immolation by Mohammed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old man trying to support his family by selling fruits and vegetables in the central town of Sidi Bouzid in Tunisia, led to massive protests in the country, resulting in the overthrow of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the country's President on January 14, 2011. First part of this article was published yesterday

The final dimension, without which relief flights would lose their purpose, is the dissemination of relief which forms the final consideration of relief by air. It could well be that, although medical and food supplies arrived at the airport there is no infrastructure to distribute them to those in need. The coordination of relief in armed conflicts or natural or manmade disasters raises very real problems.

In many instances, the lack of coordination in relief operations often results in an imbalance in consignments, foodstuffs perishing in large warehouses and the lack of adequate transport to provide relief in areas which need assistance. Paragraph five of Article 70 of Protocol One to the Geneva Convention lays down the principle of effective international coordination of relief. This provision lays down obligations of all parties concerned ie donors, transit countries and beneficiaries.

Armed conflict

In 1969, the XXIst International Conference of the Red Cross adopted a Resolution whereby States were requested to exercise their sovereign and legal rights so as to facilitate the transit, admission and distribution of relief supplies provided by impartial international humanitarian organizations for the benefit of civilian populations in disaster areas when disaster situations imperil the life and welfare of such populations. The United Nations subsequently announced that this Resolution would also apply to situations arising from armed conflict. The above discussion is not intended to obfuscate the fact that the provisions of the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Charter do not admit of the operation of relief flights at the will and pleasure of the benefactor, without the permission of the recipient State. It is also not intended to circumvent the fact that States are primarily responsible for organizing relief. Relief societies such as the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Organizations are merely called upon to play a supplementary role by assisting the authorities of the States concerned in their task.

State sovereignty

Since it is clear that the intervention of the United Nations Security Council in a matter lying within the domestic jurisdiction of a State can only be justified in instances where there is a threat to international peace and security, a breach of the peace within a State or an act of aggression, a question which arises when a relief flight is operated as a part of a humanitarian project is whether the operation of such a flight could be considered a legitimate unilateral action by States.

The Question would essentially be ground in a legal analysis of the principles of humanitarian law and State sovereignty. On the one hand, everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person and the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care.

On the other, there is overall recognition of the fact that every State has complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory. Except for the Paris Convention of 1956, which provides for civil aircraft registered in a member State of the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) to fly freely into member States for the purposes of discharging or taking on traffic where such aircraft are engaged inter alia in non-scheduled flights for the purpose of meeting humanitarian or emergency needs, there is no multilateral or bilateral agreement that admits of unilateral intervention of a State in another for humanitarian purposes, where the intervening State does not obtain permission of the recipient State.

In fact, Resolution 46/182 explicitly provides in the Annex to the Resolution that the sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity of States must be fully respected in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and that in this context, humanitarian assistance should be provided with the consent of the affected country and in principal on the basis of an appeal by the affected country.

These conflicting principles, although not bestowing legal authority on the United Nations to intervene in a State with relief flights, at least give some degree of justification to the United Nations' efforts to mediate with States concerned in the promotion of relief operations and to seek the support of other States, with the concurrence of affected States. The author subscribes to the view that if humans are dying, one has got to help at all costs.

Concluded

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Damro
 
 
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