Human Rights Essays – Refugee Crises

Are Refugee Crises inevitable in today’s world? Discuss by reference to UK examples? Human Rights.
Refugee crises have increasingly become a problem in today’s modern day society. There are several reasons that have contributed to this situation namely global inequalities, people fleeing persecution and regimes, people fleeing from violence and outbreak of wars. Recent examples include the Kosovan refugees who were forced from their homes by the conflict with the Balkans; Columbian refugees on exile due to drug syndicates; genocide in Rwanda; Afghan, Iraq and Iran refugees fleeing regimes etcetera. The results of these are that many and thousands of refugees will seek protection from the Western society and their neighbouring countries. International aid efforts by individual countries and International voluntary organizations have been at the forefront in attempting to provide assistance. These efforts have sometimes been compromised and conditions for refugees have been seen to deteriorate as resources available sometimes exceed demand. The aim of most international Communities has been to ensure that they deliver effective protection and relief to all refugees. The role of the Red Cross as a voluntary relief organisation is to offer shelter and food to people who would otherwise be homeless.

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The United Kingdom saw an unexpected infiltration of Kosovan refugees, especially illegal immigrants and asylum seekers during the 1990s. Thousands of refugees were drawn to the Calais Port in France through to the Channel tunnel through the Euro tunnel and eventually to Britain. The renowned Sangatte camp was commandeered by the French Government to deal with the increasing number of Kosovan refugees arriving at Calais. Before the Sangatte camp was opened, refugees were sleeping on beaches, parks and on the streets. The sangatte camp was previously a warehouse for equipments during the construction of the Eurotunnel which was later converted into a camp to hold refugees. The effect of this was that many began to target the tunnel itself hiding and boarding trains heading for Britain and other European Countries. Mass illegal immigration began to the United Kingdom of which the Eurotunnel prevented 18, 500 of them from reaching Britain between January 2001 to June 2001. In January 2001, gangs of Romanians were detained for tampering with railway signals to stop trains so that they and other asylum seekers could climb aboard the trains.
A main consequence of the refugee situation which has aggravated a crises is the resultant clashes between ethnic groups amongst refugees example Afghan and Kurdish refugees. In April 2001, an Iraqi Kurd was stabbed and left to die when he was involved in a fight with other Kurds. In May 2002, a riot broke out at Sangatte Camp following announcements to tighten security due to problems caused by refugees at the Channel tunnel. The Red cross who were there to help refugees and provide assistance were eventually forced to withdraw from Sangatte and the Camp was eventually closed down by March 2003.
Macaedonia and Albania were countries which have had to deal with an influx of refugees at some stage from Kosovo. Refugees continued to leave Kosovo for Macedonia, where there were received by host families. Relief efforts were made such provisions for camps etcetera. Lack of co-ordination and coherence caused by excessive numbers of refugees in Macedonia and Albania led to desperate overcrowding, unpleasant conditions, threats of diseases, and threats for the welfare of the refugees. Relocation and evacuation to neighbouring countries became inevitable.
According to Mr Guy Goodwin-Gill, “refugees have come to be seen as objects or problems rather than individuals with rights”. The result of the refugee crises is that many countries particularly wealthy western societies seek to deter asylum seekers and migrants. Detention camps are becoming increasingly adopted. Similarly, Rachael Reilly conceded that “European Countries, as well as North America and Australia have systematically diluted their responsibilities towards refugees over the past ten to fifteen years”. Many also argue that the rights of refugees are being compromised and encroached upon due to factors, some of which include “offshore-processing” of refugees- a process in which foreign governments geographically closer to States with refugee crises take in those fleeing to Great Britain in exchange for financial compensation; imposition of visa requirements; refusal of entry of asylum seekers in cases of generalizes civil conflict such as Columbia; the transfer of the responsibility for protection of refugees onto poorer States in Europe where less protection can be afforded.
In June 2000, the UK proposed a major overhaul of the 1951 Refugee Convention. Measures and actions such as these lead to nationals of European Countries becoming increasingly xenophobic and hostile. Governments have also shown that they are more concerned with protecting their territories from the influx of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees rather than human rights of those people.
Some have argued that global economic systems and international debt creates a world where many are poor; conflict arises and human rights abuse is predominant. Globalisation increases the gap between the rich and the poor. Others argue that the problems are due in large part to the actions of developed states such as unethical foreign policy and arms trade.
An innovative move by the United Nations is on the agenda for implementation. It will seek to respond to criticism on the slow reaction to refuge crises. The United Nations plan rapid reaction aid which will involve aid workers who will be deployed to attend refugee emergencies. The purpose of this is to provide some initial protection for civilians fleeing internal conflicts who are susceptible to violent attacks and killings. This move is being supported by the united Kingdom, United States of America and some Scandinavian countries. These countries are prepared to finance the project and get it up and running. The idea behind the project is to deter violence from the perpetrators who will know that their actions are being watched through the mere presence of the deployed workers. It is anticipated that a list of workers will be made available in ninety-six hours in these times of emergencies.
The 1951 United Nation Convention on refugees is the key legal document in defining who is a refugee, explaining their rights and defining the legal obligation of states. The United Nations High Commisioner for refugees mandate is to provide international protection to refugees and facilitate solutions to the problems of refugees. This encompasses supervision and the application of the above-mentioned 1951 Convention.
In conclusion, the trend for refugees seeking protection away from their homes is seen as a dilemma in some western states including Britain. There is a conscious effort to protect rights of these individuals but the difficulty arises where this has to be balanced with the right to protect its territory. Measures have been introduced which arguably encourage xenophobia and hostility to these refugees. Poorer neighbouring states, which were initially quite welcoming of refugees, are now being squeezed beyond capacity and their citizens are becoming increasingly xenophobic. National states and governments including international communities that aim to address the current trend of refugee crises are drawing up measures that are innovative. It has now been recognised that root causes such as poverty and global inequalities should be identified and corrected where possible prior to escalation to emergency situations leading to people fleeing their countries. Richer Countries in the West are seeking to address poverty in third world countries and summits on the topic are being held in order to come up with a long standing solution that will fundamentally serve to potentially benefit all nations as a whole.
Ager, A, Refugees: Perspectives on the experience of forced migration: London (1999) Cassell Academic
Danieli, Y., Rodley, N. & Weisaeth, L. (Eds.) (1996). International responses to traumatic stress: Humanitarian, human rights, justice, peace and development contributions, collaborative actions and future initiatives. New York: Baywood Publishing Company.

Media Effectiveness of Humanitarian Responses to Crises

Is the media an impediment to or a catalyst for mobilizing appropriate external responses to crises?

 In this globalised world, the role of media in the humanitarian sector has been a popular topic for debate and research. Many articles and books have argued the importance of media as an actor in enabling humanitarian response and that media has the assumed power to influence and drive local and international government, humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organisation (NGOs) to formulate responses to crises, such as policy responses, delivery of aid and interventions, to save lives and/or reduce suffering through meeting humanitarian needs. However, there are also many scholarly works that have begged to differ and justified that media may just be an instrument that communicates and validates responses and that media may not always have the direct power to shape the decision to launch an intervention in humanitarian situations due to other factors that has nothing to do with humanitarian needs. In my opinion, both points of views are rather convincing; however, for this essay, I am leaning towards the latter. Therefore, in this paper, I will discuss the factors that influence media coverage and how the media can cause an impeding effect on the effectiveness of humanitarian response and intervention in crises.

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 In media, perhaps the biggest factor influencing their coverage on humanitarian situations is the power of humanitarian imagery. Since the 20th century, media has been using images of violence, suffering and trauma to engage with the general public to generate emotion and demand that something needs to be done to alleviate suffering of those in crisis (Neuman, 2017). This is because people’s “emotion are fundamentally genetically determined, so facial expressions of emotions are interpreted in the same away across most cultures or nations” (Ekman 1972, as cited in Lim 2016). I believe suffering and distress are both very strong emotions, and when coupled with the fact that we live in a media environment in which the competition is determined by its readership, ratings and revenue (Cottle and Nolan 2009), this explains why such images are often sought after by the media in order to create a “community of interest” as a form of solidary (Arendt, 1973, as cited in Orgad 2013). This is with hope that it would in turn generate a large public interest which would subsequently spark a CNN effect.

By definition, According to Robinson (1999, 2013), the CNN effect is the concept whereby “mainstream news media in general, not just CNN, were having an increased effect upon foreign policy formulation” through the use of shocking images and real-time television. This means that media is seemingly the driving force for external intervention and response to a natural disaster or crisis by pressuring governments, NGOs and aid agencies to take action through the use of negative images of suffering. But the media coverage and its intensity on crises has very little, if any, to do with humanitarian needs and it is decided based on other aspects such as “geographic proximity to Western countries, costs, logistics, legal impediments (e.g. visa requirements), risk to journalists, relevance to national interest, and news attention cycles” (Jakobsen 2000). More importantly, media is critically selective on which crisis they want to cover and it is predominately determined by the level of drama and suffering it entails for a good, eye-catching story (Jakobsen 2000).

In Western conflict management, although media has the power to pressure governments to intervene militarily, the coverage and impact of media is very minimal during pre- and post-violence (because there are not of enough interest to the media and the foreign government tend to ignore calls) and it is only at its peak during the actual violence (Jakobsen 2000). For example, in the Iraq 1991, Somalia 1992 and Rwanda 1994 cases, the CNN effect was limited and despite the initial calls for intervention, they were rejected. This was the case until the media allegedly led the British Prime Minister John Major to counter the rejection by his advisors and to initiate an intervention in Iraq (Gowing 1994; as cited in Jakobsen 2000). Similarly, the Bush Administration also fell to the media’s pressure to mobilise an intervention when the “television tipped it ‘over the top’” (Gowing 1994; as cited in Jakobsen 2000). Here, we can see that media coverage in both print and television is essential in initiating a foreign intervention but, in my opinion, they were not directly because of humanitarian needs but more towards the interest of a potential political scandal. Although the governments responded to the second call due to public pressure and the hypothesis that it could have lower risk of losses, the role of the media here has limited impact on preventing and sustaining the response. If it were a catalyst to mobilising a response, I believe it should have been during the preventive call, however, this is problematic as it is highly subjected to the severity of the crisis at stake a that time. 

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, news headlines and television coverage went off the charts as the media aired and published graphic sights of death and suffering which were heavily exaggerated and irrational and as a consequence, there was an overestimation of death toll (Rodriguez and Dynes 2006). Similarly, when the world’s deadliest tsunami disaster hit the shores of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar on 26th December 2004, killing approximately 230,000 lives (Brauman 2004), images and videos of people being swept away by the waves were posted online by the Western tourists creating a “tourist effect” while these were also broadcasted and printed on every television channel and worldwide due to the scale and timeliness of the disaster. Therefore, the media as a whole generated a lot of emotional response, especially since it coincided with the Christmas holidays. Although a significant number of Western tourists were killed in this disaster, they only comprised of less than 15 per cent of the total victims yet they occupied 40 per cent of media coverage collectively (CARMA International 2006). As a result, this had created a worldwide mobilisation of humanitarian relief with financial aid of $13 billion which broke all records by the National Red Cross organisations, NGOs and national governments (Brauman 2004) because of its unambiguous nature and the presence of Western tourists (CARMA International 2006).

On the surface level, it does seem like media was a catalyst for mobilising humanitarian aid to the affected countries following the tsunami. However, the problem lies when aid arrives at its destination. Firstly, according to Brauman (2004), natural disasters do not produce the same type of consequences as armed conflicts; they do not have the same number of wounded, duration nor the same sort of displacement of population which means that the amount of   that went out to the 2004 disaster was a waste. Secondly, just like the case with Hurricane Katrina, Brauman (2004) also discussed the impulsive decisions of  needing to have “mass graves, set up a system for prevention and detection of infectious diseases and to undertake mass immunisation campaigns” in fear of an epidemic, which was also deemed as a waste of effort due to the fact that epidemics has never happened in such situations in history and that the bodies do not pose a threat to public health. To make things worse, legal and financial problems may arise since mass burial means that family and friends do not get to honour the dead and there are no death certificates (de Ville de Goyet 2000, as cited in Brauman 2004). Lastly, although aid workers are essential to helping the injured, the oversupply of this resource as a result of pressure from mass media coverage (both traditional and new) can act as a hindrance to the efficiency of a humanitarian response. When thousands of relief workers, doctors and nurses were deployed to scene, Brauman (2004) reported that they were not as useful as they thought since local doctors and nurses who are familiar with the environment and language were already systematically operational, effectively becoming a burden instead of an aid.

Because of the way the disaster gained the media’s attention and got the amount of coverage it did, I believe the external response and funding would have been weaker if it had not affected the elites as much, such as in other crises, thus creating an anchor of biased coverage. This brings me back to the above war conflict; this would explain the reason why humanitarian NGOs and external government did not respond to the initial call for intervention in the above war conflict – it was due to conflict fatigue and that it was not geographically close to Western countries or in this case, the elites.

In terms of resources, it is evident that the overwhelming media coverage and the trap of the imagery can do more harm than good. Well publicised crisis are often well funded while the less publicised ones received much less. Although the media has the power to generate funding, the selective nature of media’s interest in the crisis and preference for the elites affects the sustainability of the resources. In the case with Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans got the most attention even though it was not as badly affected compared to Louisiana and Mississippi simply because the media was drawn to the state of chaos and anarchy since the city was heavily populated by poor African Americans. Hence, the media’s assumption that New Orleans probably had the most social chaos became the centre of the coverage because the lens go where the drama is. Simply put, the way in which media works does not produce significant humanitarian impact in the long run, especially in long-term crises, and may indeed be hindering the appropriate external response in locations that need it the most due to its preference in coverage.

Speaking of the trap of imagery, NGOs are also guilty of using negative images to related to the wider public and spur money donations (Orgad and Vella 2012). Although it can create a sense of solidarity and compassion to want to donate, it is interesting to note that audiences could also feel manipulated into donating through the feelings of guilt and cause them to be resistant (Orgad and Vella 2012). Similarly,  Johannes Paulmann’s findings showed that such images can spark a desire for revenge and that visual campaigns can also lead to compassion fatigue and consequently, be counterproductive since audience would fail respond, leading to lack of donation (Paulmann, n.d.).

 Sometimes, it is understandable why there are less coverage in certain areas of conflict due to accessibility and safety reasons. To go around this, the media would rely on alternative sources for information such as the NGOs on the ground, especially if they deemed official sources unreliable or have been manipulated for their political benefit (Meyer, Sangar, and Michaels 2018). In return, NGOs could get good publicity and the media could use the information to create public pressure and challenge official sources for an intervention. But it gets problematic especially if the NGO is in no position to comment but did so anyway or if they spoke outside of their expertise since this would create a misinformation and be counterproductive. In the Cotte and Nolan’s reading, it discussed a number of mediated scandals stunned the humanitarian aid sector which led to the humanitarian NGOs to become more sensitive towards the media in recent years. Whether it was a wrongdoing or misinterpretation of information, the claims can cause massive damage to the public reputation of agencies and organisations. As a response to this media logic, some agencies had to come up with communication plans in order to safeguard their reputation and reduce the risk of poor publicity (Cottle and Nolan 2009). Yet, some NGOs would withdraw entirely from getting involved in the response to avoid the risks thus potentially leading to insufficient aid.

As a conclusion, it is evident that although print media and electronic media work differently in their delivery of information where the former involves more analysis while the latter is very much emotionally driven (Brauman 2004), they both lack critical analytical assessment of information which led to error in judgement and subsequently the inappropriate response to aid. The amount of effort and resources mobilised by the sensationalism of the imagery and excessive coverage by the media could have been coordinated better, channelled and used to aid other aspects of the disaster or even other crises which are neglected such as the Kashmir earthquake, the Typhoon Doksuri in Vietnam, ongoing conflicts in Africa, all of which had poor coverage. Therefore, although both traditional and new media are instrumental to quickly spread information and news about humanitarian emergencies and put pressure on officials to respond and act appropriately, it inevitably does more harm than good. It requires a joint responsibility of government, aid agencies and the media to provide the appropriate response otherwise, the media hinders the humanitarian response as a whole.


Brauman, Rony. 2004. “Global Media and the Myths of Humanitarian Relief : The Case of the 2004 Tsunami Rony Brauman,” 108–17.

CARMA International. 2006. “The CARMA Report: Western Media Coverage of Humanitarian Disasters.” Political Quarterly 77 (2): 281–84.

Cottle, Simon, and David Nolan. 2009. “How the Media ’ s Codes and Rules Influence the Way NGOs Work We Do Want to Get Awareness of the Organization out There as Much as Possible , We Want to Get Brand Awareness … ( Communications Manager , MSF Australia ) As Far as I ’ m Concerned , That ’,” 4–6.

Lim, Nangyeon. 2016. “Cultural Differences in Emotion: Differences in Emotional Arousal Level between the East and the West.” Integrative Medicine Research 5 (2): 105–9.

Orgad, Shani. 2013. “Visualizers of Solidarity: Organizational Politics in Humanitarian and International Development NGOs.” Visual Communication 12 (3): 295–314.

Orgad, Shani, and Corinne Vella. 2012. “Who Cares? Challenges and Opportunities in Communicating Distant Suffering: A View from the Development and Humanitarian Sector,” no. June. cares (published).pdf.

Paulmann, Johannes. n.d. “Humanitarianism and Media.”

Neuman, Michaël. 2017. Dying for humanitarian ideas: Using images and statistics to manufacture humanitarian martyrdom.

Robinson, Piers. 1999. “The CNN Effect: Can the News Media Drive Foreign Policy?” Review of International Studies 25 (02): 301–9.

———. 2013. “Media as a Driving Force in International Politics : The CNN Effect and Related Debates.” Www.E-Ir.Info, 1–7.

Rodriguez, Havidan, and Russell Dynes. 2006. “Finding and Framing Katrina: The Social Construction of Disaster | Understanding Katrina: Perspectives from the Social Sciences,” 1–6.

Q3: Have social imaginaries of humanitarianism and emergency prevented appropriate responses by the humanitarian community?

What are social imaginaries? According to Charles Taylor (2004), social imaginary is “people imagine their social existence, how they fit together with others, how things go on between them and their fellows, the expectations that are normally met, and the deeper normative notions and images that underlie these expectations”. This imaginary allows us others to identify and learn about its local characteristics and distinctiveness, where they belong and about their community (Kirakosyan  2018) and analyse “how people are being encouraged to imagine the reality of their world, but also to examine the symbolic portrayal of imaginable possibilities” (Wilkinson 2013)(Wilkinson 2013). In the humanitarian sector, the concept of emergency is used to make reference to any disaster, catastrophe, conflict and human suffering while humanitarianism is “an ethical response to emergencies” as a good way of responding to those who are suffering or in need of aid (Calhoun 2004). Together, these concepts provide an idea of the necessity of providing immediate response to the sudden and unpredictable event with the aim to alleviate human suffering. Even though crises are caused by both natural and human agency, the ideas of emergency, crises and humanitarianism are indeed socially constructed (Calhoun 2004). In this essay, I will discuss the significance of the humanitarian and emergency imaginaries in shaping responses and how they have distorted and prevented proper humanitarian responses in crises.

 According to Cannon (2008), disasters is a result of material conditions, whether natural or social factors, that affects a vulnerable community and that people’s vulnerability, which is also socially constructed by the economic, political and social factors, determines the emergency. This construction of emergency imaginary is essential as it forms the moral definition and expression of the disaster from the way it is exists and recognised which in turn shapes and supports the humanitarian response. Thus, people’s vulnerability depends on how some disasters affect them; whether it is due to their own willingness to expose themselves to risk or caused by political and economic processes (Cannon 2008).

 In the 2004 tsunami, many people who lived on the coastline were affected by the disaster and this was mainly because they need to make a living and not because of an exploitative, political or a differentiating economic system (Cannon 2008). Although the phenomenon in itself is a natural one, the disaster is not as it is a social imaginary and it affected people due to their choice of living in a high risk location for reasons of livelihood (Cannon 2008). This sort of disaster is considered an “innocent” one because there was not an obvious actor that can be blamed for their suffering and that their inequality of race or class had nothing to do with their vulnerability. Thus, this could explain the equal relief the victims received when humanitarian aid arrived.

On the other hand, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the deaths and suffering were mostly determined by social, economic and political factors of inequality, exploitation and corruption which are actors to be blamed (Cannon 2008). There was significant loss of lives, severe destruction of property and the source of livelihood was lost. It was appalling to see that there was no proper evacuation plan, lack of coordinated response and aid from all levels of the government (Rodriguez and Dynes 2006). During the immediate aftermath of the disaster, television reported that there was a tremendous confusion about the responsibility of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Homeland Security and the local officials. As a consequence, there was lack of response and performance which led to the lack of help before the situation escalated into a dramatic social chaos. Here, it is evident how political dysfunction and racial inequality resulted in the inadequate response from officials. As the city was predominately populated by poor African Americans, this gave the press the opportunity to pursue stories of racial stereotypes in the area, making it the spotlight of the disaster and neglecting other affected cities (Rodriguez and Dynes 2006). Such reports created a social imaginary which created a public fear that even some emergency medical services refused to carry out their duties at the site. As a result, some groups were much more affected than the other and aid was not equally reached out to the marginalised victims.

Similarly, Pradeep Kumar Parida (2016) also highlighted how Sri Lankan women of different social backgrounds are in itself a social, economic and political actor that had placed them in a vulnerable position following the tsunami. The study (Parida 2016) revealed that the severity of impact the of disaster on different groups of people was determined by the people’s level of  vulnerability to hazard; woman from the upper class had less difficulties dealing with the disaster compared to those from the poor or working class. Although a massive aid had arrived to help the victims, he highlighted the foreign humanitarian workers were not able to help the victims, particularly the marginalised women because there was inadequate knowledge about their political ecology and gender implication of the crisis. Thus, this proves that the social construct of gender discrimination and social class pre-disaster can have a severe impact on this group of people during and post-disaster. Without well-thought out evaluation materials and understanding of the actors involved in this historical and cultural social imaginary, foreign aid workers and officials will not be able to reach out to this group efficiently or even come up with the appropriate preventive measures of this disaster.

Another social actor worth looking into is the caste-based discrimination which the in the UN terminology, it is defined as “discrimination based on work and descent” (IDSN 2013). Although it is extensive in South Asia, this form of discrimination is also present in other countries in Africa and East Asia with approximately 260 million people affected worldwide (IDSN 2013). The Dalits, also known as the untouchables, are the ones who are worst effected by both natural and man-made disasters compared to other social groups due to their marginalised social status and have limited human rights (IDSN 2013). The case study revealed how neglect in understanding caste systems and the way they work affected the kind of emergency relief they receive. For example, when they were hit by the deadly tsunami, they are deprived of access to resources such as water, food, housing, counselling and social protection due to the deep-rooted discrimination (IDSN 2013). Not only that, their predicament went underreported and, in many cases, they were subjected to take on the immediate clean-up efforts without pay or recognition (IDSN 2013). Although not as badly affected, there were also displacements among Sri Lakans where the low caste groups were refused of food rations and were deprived of certain resources (IDSN 2013).

From these case studies, we can see that the humanitarian response is as following the traditional definition of being “free from long-term political or economic entanglements” and focused on “actions deemed right in themselves and the necessary moral response to emergencies” (Fassin & Pandolfi 2010). This means that the humanitarian space is only limited to material aid and assistance through food distribution, medical care and funding as long as they are socially constructed emergencies and require urgent intervention and not focused on livelihood. If this is the case, it could be an explanation why the victims had not received appropriate response from the officials and humanitarian agencies. But then again, if emergencies are sudden, unpredictable and urgent and suppose to draw people and resources into humanitarian action, and if the fundamental value of humanitarian work is to relief human suffering including loss of dignity and dehumanisation with impartiality and neutrality, humanitarian workers are effectively going against their principles and contradicting their work by neglecting to consider the abovementioned social imaginaries.

In order to mobilise appropriate humanitarian response, humanitarian NGOs and agencies, officials and the media need to work together in order to thoroughly consider the social imaginaries of the groups of people they are sending aid to. Since media is instrumental in engaging with the general public to generate emotion and demand that something needs to be done to alleviate suffering of those in crisis (Neuman, 2017), humanitarian agencies and officials should work closely with the media to prevent rumours and misconception of information from being broadcasted and educating the public so to achieve a better understanding of the community at hand. This is with hope that through better understanding of the social imaginaries, the public will be able to come up with better policies and measures to aid those who are suffering in an effective manner.

Speaking of policies, it is evident that without the consideration of the abovementioned actors in its respective disasters, humanitarian and foreign aid workers will not be able to fully understand the way the community live their lives and thus will not be able to come up with the best practices to ensure that everyone has equal accessibility to aid. This will also reduce the waste of resources. For instance, although foreign aid workers had prepared reports, surveys and evaluation materials to help with their assistance in Sri Lanka, it was not enough for them to provide the necessary aid to the marginalised women. By understanding the characteristics of this group of women, the additional information would greatly facilitate policy planners to come up with sound policies related to gender and social class in context. Besides that, officials should also consider involving women in policymaking as their knowledge can potentially aid and reduce risk of disaster impact among the marginalised women.

Similarly, negligence in understanding caste systems and its implications in crises can result in further discrimination among groups such as the Dalits and other disregarded communities. The ignorance to their vulnerabilities and the lack of focus on these communities or excluding them entirely from the response assessment and management can have detrimental effect and lead further discrimination and boarding of the social gap. In this case, human rights officials should work together with humanitarian NGOs and agencies, officials and the media to ensure that humanitarian intervention and/or aid meets the ethics and standards they serve to achieve. This would in turn contribute to new policies and other statutory measures to tackle discrimination in humanitarian efforts.

Therefore, all parties such as humanitarian NGOs, government officials, researchers, advisors, media and the general public should work together and gain more knowledge on the subject of crises and its implication on those who are constantly in a vulnerable position in order to provide adequate aid and at the same time promote humanitarian responsibility and ethics. Otherwise, social imaginaries will continue to hinder and prevent appropriate humanitarian response which subsequently lead to a waste of time, effort and resources.


Calhoun, Craig. 2004. A world of emergencies: Fear, intervention, and the limits of cosmopolitan order. Canadian Review of Sociology 41(4): 373–395.

Cannon, Terry. 2008. Vulnerability, “innocent” disasters and the imperative of cultural undersanding. University of Greenwich, London. UK.

Fassin, Didier and Pandolfi, Mariella. 2010. Contemporary states of emergency: The politics of Miltary and Humanitarian Interventions. Zone Books. New York.

IDSN. 2013. “Equality in Aid.” Idsn, no. September 2013: 1–20.

Kirakosyan, Lyusyena. 2018. “Social Imaginaries, Shared Citizen Action, and the Meanings of ‘Community.’” Community Change 1 (1): 1.

Parida, Pradeep Kumar. 2016. “The Social Construction of Gendered Vulnerability to Tsunami Disaster: The Case of Coastal Sri Lanka.” Journal of Social and Economic Development 17 (2): 200–222.

Neuman, Michaël. 2017. Dying for humanitarian ideas: Using images and statistics to manufacture humanitarian martyrdom.

Rodriguez, Havidan, and Russell Dynes. 2006. “Finding and Framing Katrina: The Social Construction of Disaster | Understanding Katrina: Perspectives from the Social Sciences,” 1–6.

Taylor, Charles. 2004. Modern Social Imaginaries. Durham: Duke University Press.

Wilkinson, Iain. 2013. “The Provocation of the Humanitarian Social Imaginary.” Visual Communication 12 (3): 261–76.


Coca-Cola’s Struggles with Ethical Crises

“Coca-Cola has the most valuable brand name in the world and, as one of the most visible companies worldwide, has a tremendous opportunity to excel in all dimensions of business performance” (Ferrell, Fraedrich, & Ferrell, 2008). However, as proven in this case study, Coke has a lot on their plate as the biggest brand name in the world. Ethical issues throughout different aspects of the company, and with multiple leadership changes in the last ten years, Coke has some catching up to do. The company has been involved in racial discrimination, misrepresenting market tests, manipulating earning and disrupting long-term contractual arrangements with distributors. Neville Isdell, the new president of Coke is currently working to improve their reputation cause by some of the problems presented next.

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Coca-Cola History
Coca-Cola is the world’s largest beverage company that operates the largest distribution system in the world. This allows Coca-Cola companies to serve more than 1 billion of its products to customers each day. The marketing strategy for Coca-Cola promotes products from four out of the five top selling soft drinks to earn sales such as Coke, Diet Coke, Fanta and Sprite. This process builds strong customer relationships, which gives the opportunity for these businesses to be identified and satisfied. With that being said, customers will be more willing to help Coca-Cola produce and grow.
“Pepsi and Coca-Cola, between them, hold the dominant share of the world market” (soft drink market 2008). Even though Coca-Cola produces and sells big across the United States, in order for the company to expand and grow, they had to build their global soft drink market by selling to customers internationally. For example, both companies continued to target international markets focusing on traditional soft drinks, new-age drinks and expanding into the snack-food businesses. With these new changes, Pepsi has 60% of the U.S. Snack-food market while Coca-Cola contributes 85% of its sales outside of the United States. According to the late Roberto Goizueta, “Coca-Cola used to be an American company with a large international business. Now we are a large international company with a sizable American business” (Ferrell, 2008).
Increasing market share is one of the most vital goals for a business such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Competitions between other soft drink companies, false market share reports and other business conducts can cause certain obstacles if the top selling companies allow them too. However, Coca Cola’s strategy, from the early and late 1800s, of achieving goals such as the international mergers, big market shares, snack food production and overall performance allowed them to strive then and continue to succeed today. Today, most of coke sales are spread throughout the world in the 2004 Annual Report, “Coca Cola had gallon sales distributed as follows: 28% in the United States, 26% in Mexico, Brazil, Japan and China and 46% in spread throughout the world” (Coca cola, 2007). This means that Coca Cola makes 70% of its profits from other countries. Coca-Cola must remain vigilant to keep their brand untarnished and their ethical issues to a minimum; their brand is their main key to success.
Coca-Cola’s Reputation
Coca-Cola is admired and known for its strength of brand. It is the most well recognized logo and brand across the world. Coca-Cola retains a commitment and plan to attract, satisfy, and keep customers for the long run. The company has a reputation of having the most loyal customers of the industry. It is this reason that has made Coca-Cola the market leader in the beverage industry year after year.
Coca-Cola is extremely active in all aspects of society and environmental issues. Coca-Cola has made numerous steps to prevent harm to the environment in its production of products. Some of these steps include eco friendly facilities and equipment. Coke has been a leader when it comes to environmental issues throughout the years with a major goal of being water neutral, which means every drop of water used by the company will be replenished by 2020. Coca Cola also has a commitment to helping the local aspect by collaborating with different groups and organizations to help with many local and health issues. An example of this would be Coca Cola’s collaborating with UNAIDS to help with the HIV/Aids epidemic throughout the world. Coca Cola has also had a vast impact on improving education. They have had many programs over the years, which include a scholarship program that has given out over 22 million dollars in grants.
Coca-Colas strong emphasis on reputation they have created loyalty, trust among their customers, and the strongest brand recognition of all time. Coca-Cola continues to earn numerous awards including Responsible CEO of the year (2010), most socially responsible company (2008), Worlds most accountable companies (2007), and top 50 most admired companies (2010). Coca-Cola has sought not only to be the world’s largest beverage company but also to improve the quality of life of the communities they serve.
Social Responsibility Focus
Many companies do not realize the importance of having a connection with the community and to be seen in their eyes as a very strong ethical company. Coca-Cola has taken up a few different social projects that have given them a good amount of support from the public. For example, they have done a philanthropy known as “Education On Wheels,” in which children are placed into a classroom that history is brought to life, giving them a very rich learning environment. They do different activities that really get the children thinking and force them to develop critical thinking methods. This is a huge thing for Coca-Cola and in our opinion for companies as a whole. The first thing that you must engage in a customer is their emotions, the strongest buying point that people act on. If people start recognizing that a company is doing community based activities for children, they are going to be very prone and likely to want to support and buy the products from the company.
The second thing that Coca-Cola has done is setup multiple scholarship funds available for high-school seniors as they make their way into college and the real world. “In addition to grants, Coca-Cola provides scholarships to more than 170 colleges, and this number is expected to grow to 287 over the next four years” (Ricci, 2010). Coca-Cola was very smart when they went about setting up these different funds for students. There is a huge market with kids graduating high school and those who are currently in college, appealing to these kids will grow a strong interest in their company and will build up their brand image more than ever. It states in the book that it is beneficial to the shareholders by doing this. This is so true with every company because shareholders and people who are invested in the company want to make sure that they are involved in a company that is making ethical decisions and who are giving back to the community in some way, shape or form.
As long as Coca-Cola keeps being persistent with how they give back into the community and monitor what they are doing on an ethical standpoint, they will keep their customers and stakeholders happy.
Crisis Situations
Coca-Cola has not always been a squeaky-clean company that never had problems. The stock price of the company is the same price as it was 10 years ago, and this is due to the ethical and legal issues that were associated with the company. A small problem occurred in Belgium in 1999 when a few children fell ill after drinking a product with the Coca-Cola brand on it. They had a recall on the product there in Belgium, but soon after, every item Coca-Cola made was pulled off the shelves in every store. This caused a loss of reputation, which, in turn, made people lose respect for the company and investors started selling their stocks in Coca-Cola. Neighboring countries, such as Luxembourg and the Netherlands, soon followed suit and recalled all products throughout both countries.
After Coca-Cola found the root of the problem, that being a bad batch of carbon dioxide, they made an announcement regarding the situation. Being a few days after all this happened was a little too slow for the media, and they ate up the story making Coca-Cola look worse than what was said about them. However, this was not the only occurrence. France supposedly had about one hundred people become sick due to mold in the products they consumed. Every single product was banned throughout France until the problem was resolved, but Coca-Cola had yet another slow response to the problem and their reputation was further diminished.
During this crisis, Coca-Cola started to run into different problems with their marketing in European countries with anti-trust laws. They wanted to create a merger with themselves and Orangina, a French company, but their overaggressive style turned off the other companies in the deal, which became a problem. Their strong-arm tactics proved to be too much for the foreign countries, and creating a competitive advantage seemed to cross the line of the anti-trust laws in which they were sued for the by the country of Italy. Italy won the court-case, which caused investigations of the company’s competitive practices, which is never a good thing for business.
Racial Discrimination Allegations
Coca-Cola faced a lawsuit in the spring of 1999. Fifteen hundred African American employees sued Coca-Cola for racial discrimination. Later, the number grew to 2,000 current and former employees. The company was being charged because they put African Americans at the bottom of the pay scale. An African American could have the same job as a Caucasian, but the African American would make $26,000 less each year. This is a huge difference in pay especially if it is only based on the color of a person’s skin. In the lawsuit, it states that the top management of Coca-Cola knew about the discrimination for four years and did nothing to stop it. The company denied the accusations, but the public had strong reactions to the case. To rebuild their image, Coca-Cola created a diversity council and paid $193 million to settle the racial discrimination lawsuit.
Problems with the Burger King Market Test
Just three years after the racial discrimination lawsuit, Coca-Cola found themselves in another allegation. Matthew Whitley, a mid-level Coca-Cola executive filed a whistle-blowing suit. Whitley revealed fraud in a market study that Coca-Cola did on behalf of Burger King. In 2002, Coca-Cola wanted to increase sales so they paired up with Burger King to launch a frozen Coke as a child’s snack. Before launching nationally, Burger King wanted to test the product out in the market. Burger King launched a three-week trial run in Richmond, Virginia to see if it was worth the investment. Customers received a coupon for a free frozen Coke when they purchased a Value Meal. When the test first started, sales of the frozen Coke were not looking good. Therefore, Coca-Cola decided to pay at least one individual $10,000 to take hundreds of children to Burger King to purchase Value Meals including the frozen Coke. U.S. attorney general for the North District of Georgia discovered and investigated the fraud. Coca-Cola had to pay Burger King $21 million, the whistle-blower $540,000, and a $9 million pretax write off had to be taken. Coca-Cola disputed the claim; however, it was extremely costly for the company. Not only did they lose millions of dollars, but also the case attracted a lot of negative publicity. In addition, it ruined any relationship that they had with Burger King.
Inflated Earnings Related to Channel Stuffing
Along with the other ethical dilemmas Coca-Cola was faced with, the company was accused of practicing channel stuffing. According to the textbook, Business Ethics, channel stuffing is “the practice of shipping extra inventory to wholesalers and retailers at an excessive rate, typically before the end of a quarter” (Ferrell, 2008). The use of channel stuffing is deceptive and a company utilizes it to inflate their sales and earnings figures. When a company ships out their product to a distributor, it is counted as a sale. However, when a company participates in channel stuffing, they count the sale and usually the product is returned or it remains in a warehouse. The company sends their retailers more than they can sell, falsely demonstrating that there is a high demand for the product. It can also be used to hide when the demand of a product declines.
The benefit the company would receive from channel stuffing is more earnings on their financial statements and misinforming their investors. In Coca Cola’s situation, they were accused of sending extra concentrate to Japanese bottlers from 1997 to 1999 to dishonestly inflate their profits. Even though Coca-Cola settled the accusation, the Securities and Exchange Commission concluded that channel stuffing did occur. The company then pressured bottlers into purchasing extra concentrate in return for extended credit.
Coca-Cola promised the SEC to avoid engaging in channel stuffing in the future. At this time, the company created an ethics and compliance office, who verifies each financial quarter that they have not altered the terms of payment or extended special credit. Coca-Cola agreed to try to reduce the amount of concentrate held by the international bottlers. Even though they settled the predicament with the SEC, Coca-Cola still faces a lawsuit with shareholders for channel stuffing in Japan, North America, Europe, and South Africa.
Trouble with Distributors
Coca-Cola also faced serious issues with their distributors beginning in 2006. The company had deliveries of Powerade sent to Wal-Mart in a small Texas test area. When they tried to expand the delivery of Powerade directly to Wal-Mart warehouses all over the US, fifty-four of their bottlers filed lawsuits. The textbook says that Coca-Cola had an agreement regarding Powerade bottlers and that it was a breach of the agreement to provide warehouse delivery to Wal-Mart, even with the use of a subsidiary agent for warehouse delivery. The subsidiary agent, CCE, and Coca-Cola claim that they were trying to meet a request from Wal-Mart for warehouse delivery, just how PepsiCo distributes Gatorade. CCE proposed making payments to some other bottlers in return for taking over the distribution of Powerade. The bottlers were concerned that the proposed arrangement would violate antitrust laws. In addition, they believed that moving forward with their warehouse delivery would deteriorate the value of the bottlers’ businesses.
This dilemma had a serious impact on the reputation of the company. When one firm in a channel structure suffers, all the firms in the supply chain suffer in some way as well. Coca-Cola adopted a new enterprise resource system that made their classified information available to a group of partners. Since there is a lack of integrity between Coca-Cola and their partners, the partners assume a greater risk when forming a partnership with the company. These problems with their distributors took a toll on their partner companies, their stakeholders, and finally, their bottom lines.
Problems with Unions and Coke Trade Secrets
Amongst other international problems faced by Coca-Cola, they ran into trouble related to labor unions as well. The major cause of these problems occurred in Columbia where there were unfortunate deaths of Coca-Cola workers as well as forty-eight who went into hiding and another sixty-five who received death threats. The labor unions claimed that Coca-Cola chose to be involved with illegal dealings surrounding these deaths, death threats and disappearances. Coca-Cola denied any of the allegations and claimed that only one of the deaths was on the premises of the bottling plant that Coke worked with while the other ones were located off the premises where Coke had no involvement. Rather than take swift action Coca-Cola made itself look bad by not offering to help to any of the workers or their families. The further denial along with not providing any aid or action caused animosity with labor unions regarding the case and put another black mark on Coca-Cola’s currently sliding ethical reputation. Sure there may have been other circumstances behind the problems in Columbia but Coca-Cola did nothing to help anyone else or themselves in the situation.
Another problem Coca-Cola faced came a little closer to home. Coca-Cola had three employees get arrested in 2006 for fraudulently and unlawfully stealing and selling trade secrets from Coca-Cola. One of the people accused in the case contacted Pepsi and told them he was a high level employee with Coca-Cola. He then offered them very confidential and detailed information regarding the Coca-Cola Company. Coca-Cola then received a letter from Pepsi about the offer and contacted the FBI. The FBI found out the informant’s name was Ibrahim Dimson from Bronx, NY. He provided the FBI with fourteen pages worth of confidential information marked classified as well as top secret products from the Coca-Cola company. Ibrahim got his information from Joya Williams who was an executive administrative assistant for Coca-Cola’s global brand in Atlanta . She had access to all of the information given to the FBI by Dimson who is known in the case as “Dirk”. This is a big problem for Coca-Cola because not only are the actions of employees a direct responsibility of the company but it also makes the company look bad if there is internal problems. Any company that has people who are willing to give trade secrets to the direct competition need to evaluate the people who are in charge and make a change if the employees feel that disloyal towards a company that is very well known and successful globally. The company should have a system in place to protect it’s secrets because otherwise any person on the street can go take the syrup formula from Coke and give it to its competitors. This is another ethical situation where the right leadership and system in place could have resolved the issue before it started. Because of poor leadership now Coca-Cola’s reputation is once again tarnished ethically and 3 company employees are being charged with serious crimes.
Ethical Recovery?
Even after all of these problems presents, the customers in Europe said that they still feel like coke would behave correctly during these times of crises. Even after all of this they are still ranked third in a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of the most respected companies in the world. Coke then donated $50 million to a foundation to support programs in minority programs, and hired an ombudsman who reports directly to the CEO in order to settle the racial discrimination lawsuit shown above. Coke is taking the initiative to fix their problems and the international community is seeing that. It seems that since they are taking these precautions to prevent further problems in the future, the European nations, in addition to the United States will be more trusting of Coke in their decisions in the future.
Coca-Cola is one of the most successful and recognized brand in the world. These ethical problems that have been presented in this paper were not just minor problems for the company, but it seems that they have been able to keep the Coke name relatively untarnished. Coke today strives to reduce their ethical issues to a minimum in order to focus on reaching all around the world. The issues presented to us were all problems that could be fixed and while we gave examples of how they could have handled the problem differently, Coke seems to have handled it in the way that they see fit, and their name still stands as one of the top companies in the world. A company this big has to be very careful with what they do in the public eye, one fatal mistake can be the end of a very successful business.