by Prof. Sir Mike Aaronson, Co-Director of the Centre for International Intervention

People sometimes find it hard to grasp the difference between the concepts of impartiality and neutrality, as used in a humanitarian context. The current crisis in Syria shows the importance of distinguishing between the two.

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What is happening in Greece?

The economy is collapsing. Society is also under great strain, as many people are becoming too poor to look after their families. Unemployment is now more than 20%. Many parents are taking their children to orphanages because they can no longer afford to feed them. The numbers of homeless people are growing day by day. Many of these are people who used to have good jobs and seemingly solid incomes before they lost everything in the recent crisis. Many observers are comparing this situation to the Great Depression of the 1920s/1930s.

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David Cameron formally announced last week that he will recruit a Special (woman) Adviser to carry out a gender impact assessment of Government policy. This announcement is on the back of reports in the press at the end of 2011 that he was seeking a woman’s perspective on key Government policies. So, is this a sign that the Government has taken on board the criticisms put forward by the Women’s Budget Group and the Fawcett Society over the last two years about the impact of the emergency budget and cuts?

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Reading the open letter in the Telegraph today, from Tory backbenchers to David Cameron on opting-out of assorted European agreements, I was struck by the thought that much of this comes down to perception.  In particular, my eye was drawn to a comment by one of the letter’s organisers:

“Euro crimes, Euro police and Euro prosecutors are not right for the UK because our criminal system is so different. The pragmatic thing would be to opt out of the lot. We can always opt in at a later date because it is the right thing to do for Britain.”

Let’s leave aside the logical inconsistency of fundamental difference becoming resolvable because of pragmatic need and focus on the perception here.

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