Politicizing humanitarian aid: the European Union's aid program and its role in the Kosovo Crisis




Solterbeck, Melanie

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As the field of humanitarian aid continues to grow exponentially, the politicization of humanitarian aid is an increasing concern. The European Union's humanitarian aid office (ECHO) is the world's second largest aid donor and widely understood to be unpoliticized due to its multilateral nature, relative institutional isolation, needs-based mandate and use of standardized assessment indicators. Using primary and secondary literature and interview sources, this thesis takes a critical look at the EU's aid program and ECHO's work with operating partners using a framework of four degrees of politicization. These degrees are applied throughout the thesis and in a short case study of the EU's aid programs during the Kosovo crisis of 1999. It finds that while ECHO offers an outstanding example of official policy commitments to unpoliticized aid, in practice, it too is subject to the influences of politicization. The thesis concludes with an assessment of how ECHO might address the politicization of aid to improve future aid programs.



Kosovo (Serbia), History, Civil War 1998-1999, humanitarian assistance, European Union