This book chapter engages with the trend of bunkerized international aid interventions in conflict-torn spaces. In response to insecurity, aid agencies and other organizations that operate in conflict-torn spaces increasingly attempt to protect their staff though ‘hard’ security measures. However, this trend of bunkerization and fortification is at odds with basic values and goals of statebuilding, peacebuilding and the delivery of humanitarian aid. In particular, the trend draws new ‘hard’ borders between ‘locals’ and ‘expatriate’ staff, isolates foreign staff and creates new security risks, particularly for local staff. In order to illustrate these dynamics, the chapter draws on interviews conducted with people in Afghanistan and on a survey conducted with aid workers in various conflict zones around the world.
Institutionalized Intervention: The ‘Bunker Politics’ of International Aid in Afghanistan
with Ruben Andersson; 2019, Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 13(4), pp.503-523
Afghanistan has come to be seen as emblematic of the security threats besetting peace and security operations, and in this article we consider the response to such threats via the ‘bunkering’ of international staff. Drawing on an in-depth qualitative survey with aid and peacebuilding officials in Kabul, we illustrate how seemingly mundane risk management procedures have negative consequences for intervening institutions; for the relation between interveners and national actors; and for the purpose of intervention itself. Bunkering, we argue, is deeply political – ‘imprisoning’ staff behind ramparts while generating an illusion of presence and control for ill-conceived modes of international intervention.
Intervention at Risk: The Vicious Cycle of Distance and Danger in Mali and Afghanistan
with Ruben Andersson; 2015, Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 9(4), pp.519–541
In crisis-hit countries, intensive risk management increasingly characterizes the presence of international interveners, with measures ranging from fortified compounds to ‘remote programming’. This article investigates the global drive for ‘security’ from an ethnographic perspective, focusing on Afghanistan and Mali. By deploying the concepts of distance and proximity, the article shows how frontline ‘outsourcing’ and bunkering have generated an unequal ‘risk economy’ while distancing interveners from local society in a trend that itself generates novel risks. To conclude, the article asks whether alternative forms of proximity may help to break the vicious cycle of danger and distance at work in today’s crisis zones.