Peer-Reviewed Journal Details
Mandatory Fields
O'Sullivan, K
Journal of Global History
Civil War in El Salvador and the Origins of Rights-Based Humanitarianism
Optional Fields
Cold War Human Rights Humanitarianism El Salvador Non-governmental organisations
This article traces the global humanitarian sector’s late twentieth-century embrace of human rights to the brutal civil conflict in El Salvador in the 1980s. Drawing on evidence from NGOs in three Anglophone states (Britain, Canada, and Ireland), it examines the moral and political debates that accompanied the breakthrough for human rights activism in that period, and how they conditioned contemporaneous understandings of ‘aid’. From that foundation, the article makes two claims. First, it argues that the ‘triumph’ of human rights in the late twentieth century was the product of a complex set of diplomatic, intellectual, and ideological factors that were of global, rather than simply of Western, origin. Second, by tracing what could and could not be done in the name of humanitarianism, the article brings us closer to understanding how even the most outwardly progressive vision of intervention was produced within a very specific – hierarchical and paternalistic – imagining of the Global South.
Grant Details
Publication Themes
Humanities in Context