Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1996-1997 index

Distributed May 14, 1997
Contact: Mark Nickel

The Humanitarianism and War Project

Nagorno-Karabakh study details role of politics in aid response

"Humanitarian Action and Politics: The Case of Nagorno-Karabakh" is a timely study issued by the Watson Institute's Humanitarianism and War Project. The study examines sources of the nine-year-old conflict and the international community's responses, which may actually have hampered a negotiated resolution.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- As Armenia and Azerbaijan renew their fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, a new study from the Watson Institute's Humanitarianism and War Project examines the sources of the conflict its politicization by the international community.

S. Neil MacFarlane and Larry Minear, the authors of Humanitarian Action and Politics: The Case of Nagorno-Karabakh, conclude that political factors in each of the three jurisdictions involved - Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia and Azerbaijan - as well as politics at regional and international levels have undercut effective humanitarian action by the United Nations, the United States and other governments, and private relief groups.

The recent eruption of hostilities interrupts a "no war but no peace" situation that had existed since a cease-fire agreement in May 1994. It also underscores the need flagged by the study to give greater priority internationally to finding durable political solutions.

"Armenia and Azerbaijan were reported to have been involved in the most intense fighting in three years," stated news dispatches from the Caucasus. "The two former Soviet republics are locked in a nine-year-old dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous enclave inside Azerbaijan but populated mostly by ethnic Armenians."

The new study was based on interviews conducted last year with more than 100 persons in the Caucasus, Europe and North America by MacFarlane, the Lester B. Pearson Professor of International Relations at Oxford University, and Minear, co-director and principal researcher of the Humanitarianism and War Project.

"The outbreak of new violence raises the potential for substantial new movements of people and a major new humanitarian crisis," MacFarlane said of recent developments.

The study concludes that the imbalance in the world's humanitarian response in favor of the Armenian side of the conflict has slowed efforts to reach a negotiated solution to establish a durable peace. The authors recommend strategies for protecting the integrity of humanitarian principles and encouraging effective humanitarian and diplomatic activities in this highly politicized arena.

The study, which includes a chronology, maps, tables and a list of interviewees, can be read on the Internet at, and will be released as Watson Institute Occasional Paper #25 in printed form by the end of May.