Author Archive

Hugo Slim

Dr Hugo Slim is a leading scholar in humanitarian studies with particular expertise in humanitarian ethics, the protection of civilians, conflict resolution, and business ethics. From 1983-1994 he worked as a frontline humanitarian worker for Save the Children UK and the United Nations in Morocco, Sudan and Ethiopia, the Palestinian Territories and Bangladesh. In 1994 he was appointed Reader in International Humanitarianism at Oxford Brookes University where he co-founded an award winning Masters programme for international humanitarian workers. From 2003-2007 he was Chief Scholar at the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva, leading policy work on civilian protection and political mediation.

Hugo is an ELAC Associate Director and Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Politics and International Relations. He is currently leading research on Humanitarian Ethics that will deliver the first major practical text on humanitarian ethics in war and disaster, and develop professional ethics in humanitarian organizations to new standards of care and accountability. He has also established The Oxford Humanitarian Group (OHG) within ELAC, a new inter-disciplinary discussion group for humanitarian studies that brings together the University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes University and Oxfam.

It feels wrong to watch the news about Syria and the Central African Republic night after night without seeing any effective international action being taken to stop the killing, displacement and rape. After millions of civilians were killed in the Second World War, the United Nations was set up specifically “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. So why doesn’t it? Hugo Slim investigates the current state of international politics regarding the legitimacy of humanitarian intervention and the responsibility to protect.

If humanitarian agencies have been preoccupied with intra-state wars in the last twenty-five years, might they now have to refocus and respond to humanitarian needs around mass demonstrations? The rise in mass protests against dictators, mining companies and western media suggests they might. Mass demonstrations have been a significant part of political life for centuries. In France, eyewitness accounts of the protests supporting the Paris Commune in 1871 describe “waves of people” overpowering military positions. In Britain, some years later, the suffragettes brought 500,000 people to a mass protest in Hyde Park in 1908. Mass demonstrations were an essential part of the Indian independence movement against British imperialism in the first half of the twentieth century. In the second half …

Even the most zealous ideologues have been challenged approaching Damascus. Thrown from their horse, they have been left dazed and partially sighted, forced to re-examine their norms. Damascus has presented such a challenge once again in recent months. This time, it is the new norm in international relations known as R2P—the responsibility to protect—that has been temporarily unseated. It is a simple formula. This important new norm contends that it is the international community’s responsibility to protect civilians when a state fails in its responsibility to do so. R2P has made swift progress in the international community since its adoption (in a watered-down form) at the United Nations Summit in 2005, gaining acceptance at the same time as the rise …