Not Breaking the Rules, Not Playing the Game

International Assistance to Countries at War

April 2006 9781850658139 266pp
Temporarily out of stock


Why do humanitarian principles, human rights and other ‘rules’ espoused by aid organisations apparently fail to influence the reality of assistance delivery, while reality does not influence these objectives? Zoe Marriage’s book investigates the international assistance given to countries at war. Presenting evidence from Sierra Leone, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Southern Sudan, she finds that appealing to a morality based on rights and principles allows aid staff to justify their operational weaknesses by blaming or discrediting others. The terminology used labels political and military activity as illegitimate, pre-empting dialogue, limiting aid organisations’ perception of the contexts in which they work, and ultimately questioning the sincerity behind the assistance. The book concludes that people in countries at war are not ‘breaking the rules’ of assistance – as assistance is not meaningfully ‘ruled’ by rights or principles – they are more fundamentally ‘not playing the game’.


‘Excellent … truly original, unusually thoughtful, and intellectually courageous … makes a significant contribution in trying to understand the gap between the principles and practice of humanitarian assistance in terms of how psychological or psychosocial factors interact with politics and political economy.’ — Christopher Cramer, SOAS


Zoe Marriage is Lecturer in Development Studies, SOAS.

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