Encompassing Reality: The International Committee of the Red Cross’s engagement in transnational governmentality, and its subsequent implications regarding neutrality and independence
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This research aims to increase our understanding of a rarely discussed aspect of aid provision in conflict settings: namely, how NGO's and humanitarian organisations have highly changeable (and often convenience-suiting) positions of authority and spatial influence relative to the states they operate in. Such organisations have been known to 'position' themselves in many ways. Sometimes they act as an authority above the state (e.g. asserting authority that goes ‘above’ a state’s authority) or as a local organisation ‘below’ the state, or acting with the state, in place of the state, or entirely externally from it. They can also position themselves as grassroots-focused, national, or international bodies as they choose. Such organisations often encircle and overlap with various state institutions, territories, and groups. This leads to a very complex understanding of the exact level and nature of their control. When an international aid organisation decides to intervene in a developing region, they implement practices and policies that have a significant effect on both the state and citizens of that region, and often consequently make decisions of public interest. This arguably affords the organisation a reasonable level of influence that may even have the potential to affect the spatial control of the state in question over their own territory. Thus, this study will focus on exploring the myriad of ways in which one particular humanitarian organisation, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), engages with, utilises, and protects itself and its work by using various ‘spaces’ and ‘levels’ of authority interchangeably. The study will explore the mechanisms through which the intentional influencing of space and authority is performed, primarily through using Ferguson and Gupta’s Transnational Governmentality theory, and understand how humanitarian organisations are effectively carving out a role in ‘governance’ which was previously only held by the state. It will assess ICRC staff’s opinions on their roles and duties, and relate this information back to two key topics for humanitarian organisations: their claim to neutrality and independence.