Humanitarian aid represents a commitment to support vulnerable host populations that have experienced a sudden emergency and/or require ongoing assistance to improve quality of life. Over the past fifteen years humanitarian agencies, private organisations, governments, corporations, individuals and other stakeholders have proliferated, along with differing values, goals, strategies, actors and activities. Despite good intentions and successes this complex field with diverse mandates, people, time lines, funding and absence of clear definitions to describe specific identities, presents a chaotic and confusing image to the public, host governments, recipients and ongoing challenges for agencies and aid workers. Weak coordination, erratic funding and differing roles often lead to expensive duplication of services, wasted resources and present serious credibility and survival issues to agencies that depend on donor funding to save and improve the lives of the vulnerable. Hence this paper deconstructs the roles of and linkages between emergency, relief, rehabilitation and development aid, identifies problems that impact on effectiveness and sustainability and points to progress and achievements over the past fifty years.
Religious organizations are increasingly visible in development and humanitarian aid, something which has been reflected in the emergence of a new strand of research, focusing on these organizations and their involvement in the provision of development and humanitarian aid. However, most of this literature centers on individual organizations, and there is a lack of systematic information about larger numbers of organizations: What distinguishes them from other organizations? What characterises them as a group? And does it even make sense to consider them as a group?
In the milieu of chronic conflict and political instability, such as the Liberian case, there is a continuous flux of peaks and valleys in conflict intensity. Both relief and development are needed, and they are not mutually exclusive. A linear model is not possible. In lieu of the relief-development continuum, a more recent concept embraced by humanitarian and development practitioners, is that of developmental relief. Developmental relief is rooted in the concept of supporting livelihoods rather than simply providing basic relief. Through the use of a case study, this article is intended to challenge the way we think about humanitarian assistance during protracted political instability. This field report focuses on how one organization, the Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development Initiative (SARDI) of the United Methodist Church, has used the Integrated Pest Management-Farmer Field School format to provide developmental relief to four villages in Nimba County, Liberia.
By definition, virtually all development interventions contain a welfare element. This welfare element involves the subsidized provision to a marginalized group or community by an external agency, physical, human, and/or social capital. Where marginalization is compounded by some type of natural disaster or civil conflict, the welfare element is justifiably high. Where impoverishment is less acute and more chronic, it is generally held that the welfare element should be minimized to avoid dependency and attack underlying structural constraints. However, it is clear that even mature southern nongovernmental organization’s development interventions involve some welfare element (see, Lovell, 1992). Indeed, the widely adopted micro-credit approach generally requires some external subsidy (Yaron, 1994). As the distinction between relief and development intervention becomes blurred, a more helpful way to type responses to impoverishment is needed. This paper suggests a continuum is more useful way of understanding various humanitarian responses: ranging from welfare-dominant, including material assistance for immediate need (e.g., provision of food), material assistance for intermediate need (e.g., provision of seed), through provision of social services (e.g., primary health-care education), single component interventions (e.g., micro-credit), integrated interventions (e.g., sub-sector promotion or microenterprise credit), to development- or self-reliance-dominant, via capacity building of new community networks and norms (i.e., building new forms of social capital). Then the paper sets out to analyse these approaches in terms of poverty and gender reach, operational costs, direct impact, secondary impact through growth linkages, and institutional sustainability.