In the past decade the humanitarian system has had to respond to natural disasters and complex emergencies of increasing severity. In 2005, as an attempt to increase coordination amongst humanitarian actors and improve coherence in humanitarian response, the United Nations implemented a coordination mechanism called the Cluster Approach. The aim of this paper is to present common challenges of the Cluster Approach raised since its implementation and to provide lessons learned, based on the findings of a meta-analysis of 18 existing case studies, evaluations, and literature. The paper assesses progress the Cluster Approach has made toward meeting its intended goals, exposing different stakeholder perspectives and aggregating findings from various clusters and country contexts.
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.
The last two decades have witnessed an increasing blurring of mandates and agendas between humanitarian actors, foreign troops and donor states. Many observers point out that this trend is spiking violence against aid workers and provoking loss of access to humanitarian agencies in several complex emergencies. This study is an effort to quantify its actual impact in humanitarian operations.
Although strongly agency-specific, available data suggests that the blurring of lines is indeed a key driver of both violent incidents and lack of access in Afghanistan. However, in other contexts such as Somalia and Sudan, its impact may not be so evident; in these two countries, the blur also seems determinant in hindering access, whereas it has less explanatory power interpreting trends on security incidents faced by aid workers. Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan account for half of the total number of violent cases hitting humanitarians worldwide.