This research paper explores the challenges of applying current legal protection frameworks, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, to the changing nature and patterns of contemporary armed violence. The research will focus on two case studies: civil unrest, examining the Arab Uprisings and protracted violence in Syria; and urban violence. It [...]
Providing aid to people in crisis is never enough—it must meet their most urgent needs and be grounded in sound science. Aid agencies have a responsibility to determine the effectiveness of their response and use evidence-based approaches. This article describes the history of Médecins Sans Frontières’ move towards professionalization in response to the challenges [...]
The paper explores the security incidents affecting medical humanitarian work in Yemen and the ways MSF as well as other health practitioners try to securitize their staff, facilities, patients. This reflection was born out of the high number of security incidents affecting MSF in the past three years, as much as a shared analysis [...]
In 2013, a climate of insecurity persists in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), despite the presence of the United Nations’ (UN) largest peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO.[i] DRC’s recent past saw armed groups mushrooming and successively challenging the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC). In vast, contested areas, [...]
In today’s multi-faceted responses in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, and elsewhere in the future, the EU and its member states face a growing challenge to reconcile existing commitments to humanitarian principles with the ambition of comprehensive crisis management. This article examines the tensions between the EU’s commitment to humanitarian principles and current approaches to foreign policy at a time when the EU comprehensive approach is evolving rapidly at the levels of policy, debate and practice. Drawing on field perspectives from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the authors argue that co-existence of various EU crisis management tools in the field, in a context aimed at policy coherence, risks EU-funded humanitarian aid becoming, or being perceived as, a foreign policy tool. The very real consequences can include lack of humanitarian access to people in need, beneficiaries’ lack of access to assistance and biased provision of aid to different populations. The article concludes with specific recommendations for the EU and its member states to ensure a safe, distinct working space for humanitarian aid and thus the effectiveness of EU humanitarian responses to emergencies.
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.
In chronically food-insecure areas, long-term provision of food aid is often attributed to a dependency syndrome: peoples’ unwillingness to initiate activities on their own to improve wellbeing. This discourse is strong in Ethiopia; the country has been dependent on food aid for over three decades. This study explores this discussion by analyzing local peoples’ behaviors in a chronically food-insecure district where food aid has been central for more than two decades. Based on ethnographic fieldwork undertaken for approximately 18 months, the paper analyzes a group of 112 food aid beneficiary households. Results show that food aid constitutes a small proportion of overall household food needs, and that food aid is only one of several components of the livelihood portfolio poor people use to cover household food gaps. The paper thus argues that the dependency syndrome is largely a construct of outsiders, rather than an existing risk among food aid beneficiary households that receive a limited amount of aid that cannot cover entire household food gaps.
A simple economic model was used to compare the aid costs of two approaches to supporting pastoralist households during drought in Ethiopia. One approach was the use of timely commercial destocking, enabling households to acquire cash through modest livestock sales to private traders, and use of this cash to buy food, and inputs to protect key livestock assets. The other approach was the provision of food aid, meeting household-level food security requirements but with loss of key livestock assets. Post drought, the food aid provision was continued along with restocking. The results showed that the aid cost of commercial destocking was 125 times less expensive than the food aid-restocking option when local food aid was used, and 137 less expensive than imported food aid. Further use and adaptation of the model is proposed to allow analysis of the aid cost of safety net provision.