CONFLICT-SENSITIVE HUMANITARIAN ACTION

Aall, P. 2000. NGOs, conflict management and peacekeeping. International Peacekeeping 7 (1): 121-141.

The article focuses on non-government organizations (NGOs) and their capacity for international conflict management and changes in the nature of peacekeeping. During the 1990s, changes in the nature of conflict and in the international response to inter- state and intra-state wars have changed views on how the military instrument can be used for political ends. The political ends for which military force was deployed centered on such issues as national expansion, territorial security, competition for resources, and ideological clashes. Force was an important tool of state making and an essential component of state maintenance. The creation of the United Nations (UN) as a collective security organization and the recognition in the UN Charter that its member states could employ many tools including peacekeeping to prevent or stop fighting opened the door to a whole series of collective efforts to guarantee or impose peace. There are three major types of NGOs, namely, humanitarian, human rights, and conflict resolution, operating in conflict. This paper explores their strengths and weaknesses in conflict management. The challenge for international community is to identify, mobilize and support individuals who can bring coherence to peacekeeping, peacemaking, and peace-building in messy and often devastating conflicts.

 

Abiew, F.K. 2012. Humanitarian Action under Fire: Reflections on the Role of NGOs in Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations. International Peacekeeping 19 (2): 203-216.

The spate of attacks against humanitarian NGOs since 2003 has raised a series of fundamental questions for humanitarian operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflict and post-conflict situations. This article reflects on the ‘new humanitarianism’ and how increasingly, this humanitarianism is under attack in violation of the Geneva Conventions on the Laws and Customs of War. It argues that humanitarian action is under attack because of efforts by Western governments (particularly the United States) to make humanitarian NGOs an extension of their military and political agendas. In circumstances of the politicization of humanitarian aid, it becomes difficult for combatants to distinguish between Western governments’ agendas and those of NGOs. The article concludes by calling for the insulation of humanitarian aid from politics. This separation of politics and humanitarianism can only be realized by returning to traditional principles that have guided humanitarian action.

 

Arai, T. 2012. Rebuilding Pakistan in the Aftermath of the Floods: Disaster Relief as Conflict Prevention. Journal of Peacebuilding and Development 7 (1): 51-65.

In July and August 2010, Pakistan faced floods on an unprecedented scale that affected some 20 million people. Focus group interviews conducted in severely affected communities demonstrated a decline in the availability of accessible renewable resources to the point of increasing the potential for civil violence. These manifestations of environmental scarcity included strained landlord-tenant relations and other forms of structural inequity that magnified the devastating socio-economic effects of the floods. The article concludes with recommendations for conflict-sensitive measures to facilitate post-disaster recovery and defines humanitarian relief as an integral part of national security and conflict prevention in Pakistan.

 

Barakat, S., S. Deely, S.A. Zyck. 2010. ‘A tradition of forgetting’: stabilisation and humanitarian action in historical perspective. Disasters 34 (Supplement 3): S297-S319.

While subject to increasing articulation and institutionalisation, stabilisation is a long- standing concept and practice that has consistently engaged with and, at times, conflicted with varied understandings of humanitarianism and humanitarian action. Reviewing selected historical experiences, including the Philippines (1898–1902), Algeria (1956–62), Vietnam (1967–75) and El Salvador (1980–92), this paper argues that contemporary models of stabilisation build on and repeat mistakes of the past, particularly the overt securitisation of aid and the perception that humanitarian and development actors are able to purchase security effectively. Where current stabilisation differs from its earlier incarnations, as in the introduction of the private sector and incorporation of humanitarian action into war-fighting strategies, the implications are shown to be troubling if not outright disastrous. This examination of historical experience, which includes many failures and few, if any, successes, raises the likelihood that it is not solely the design or implementation of individual stability operations that require modification but perhaps the entire concept of stabilisation itself.

 

Bornstein, L. 2010. Peace and Conflict Impact Assessment (PCIA) in Community Development: A Case Study from Mozambique. Evaluation 16 (2): 165-176.

Peace and conflict impact assessment (PCIA) is a tool that potentially can improve the quality of development work in conflict zones. PCIA’s conceptual strengths and weaknesses are much debated but few studies to date have examined its use in practice. For this article, PCIA was used to structure research on conflict and peace dynamics in post-war Mozambique. The findings address both local peace-building outcomes and the usefulness of PCIA. PCIA functioned well as a tool for situational analysis, richly documenting sources of conflicts, competing claims over resources and rights, and problematic policies on the part of development organisations, government and private actors. Difficulties associated with the gathering of information stemmed from systemic power differentials between ‘researchers’ and ‘respondents’, and intensive demands on time and resources. The article concludes that PCIA, if used flexibly and in dialogue with local people, could prove a valuable complement to existing assessment tools in conflict areas.

 

De la Haye, J. and K. Denayer. 2003. PCIA: A Tool to Move from Conflict-Ignorance to Conflict Sensitivity within Development, Humanitarian Aid and Peacebuilding Work. Journal of Peacebuilding & Development 1 (2): 49-62.

This article looks into one way of assessing the conflict impact of a development, humanitarian or peacebuilding activity or intervention in a conflict area. Following an explanation of the origins and purpose of Peace and Conflict Impact Assessment, the practical consequences are examined with reference to examples and experiences in Angola. This article illustrates the importance of being sensitive to the conflict environment in which one is operating. The ‘conflict sensitive’ concept was triggered by the authors’ observation – from field missions and evaluation methodologies – that there is a high level of conflict ignorance among many development, humanitarian and peacebuilding workers.

 

Harpviken, K. B. and B.A. Skara. 2003. Humanitarian mine actions and peace building: Exploring the relationship. Third World Quarterly 24 (5): 809-822.

Focusing on the humanitarian mine action (hma) sector, this article argues that rooting peace building in concrete activities carries considerable promise, diversifying the repertoire and enhancing the robustness of peace building. However, the assumption that mine action necessarily contributes to building peace is problematic and permits the neglect of harmful effects and a failure to capitalise fully on the potential for positive ones. If peace building is seen in terms of three major domains–security, development and politics–the current tendency is to emphasise security primarily, development secondarily, and the political only marginally when addressing the impact of hma on peace building. Several examples indicate that mine action may have a significant impact on the political aspects of peace building, including confidence building, conflict resolution and reconciliation. At the same time, linking mine action to peace building creates certain dilemmas, and a rigid subordination of mine action initiatives to a centrally directed peace.

 

Kent, R. 2003. Humanitarian dilemmas in peace and war. Conflict, Security & Development 3 (3): 437-446.

Humanitarian assistance is becoming more complex and the environment in which it operates more competitive. Nevertheless, humanitarianism is shielded from such pressures by a set of principles that are reflected in International Humanitarian Law (IHL) which all governments ostensibly accept. The issue for the wider international community as well as for donor and recipi ent governments and humanitarian organizations is whether such principles can endure in light of the dilemmas posed in times of conflict and post-conflict. Humanitarian Dilemmas in War and Peace explores the dilemmas that humanitarianism not only confronts but also creates in seeking to protect and preserve life of the disaster and emergency-affected. In so doing, it views humanitarianism from three perspectives: (i) humanitarian principles in times of conflict; (ii) humanitarian principles from the perspective of many within the Group of 77; and (iii) humanitarianism from the perspective of institutional survival. The opinion piece concludes that, despite the dilemmas suggested by these perspectives, humanitarian principles can be upheld even amidst the complex and competitive aid environment. It would require inter alia a more focused definition of humanitarian action, mechanisms that hold humanitarian organizations to higher standards of accountability, a commitment to more consistent and coherent advocacy and greater strategic perspectives to anticipate and respond to factors creating large-scale human vulnerability.

 

Lang, H. and A. Knudsen. 2009. ‘Your subject of protection is a dangerous one’: Protracted internal conflict and the challenges for humanitarian agencies. Norwegian Journal of Geography 63 (1): 35-45.

Internal displacement in Sri Lanka exists in the context of a protracted condition of insecurity produced by intractable war and polarization of society along ethno-political lines. People remain exposed to risks and threats to their security over prolonged periods of time and the mobilization of inter- and intra-ethnic tensions exacerbates the breakdown of trust and protection at community level. Humanitarian agencies seeking to assist displaced civilians are compelled to grapple with challenges about how to engage in the most skilful and effective way in a risky and difficult environment. Drawing on field interviews in Trincomalee District, the article examines humanitarian agency approaches to protection in this politically challenging context. It is divided into six sections: international policy discussion on protracted internal displacement situations; the intractability of war in Sri Lanka; humanitarian approaches to protection; the political contours of the conflict in Trincomalee; the specific protection challenges confronting humanitarian agencies as they work in this highly politicized and militarized arena; and finally, the lessons and creative strategies crafted by agencies to negotiate these challenges.

 

Lautze, S. and A. Raven Roberts. 2006. Violence and complex humanitarian emergencies: implications for livelihoods models. Disasters 30 (4): 383-401.

This paper explores the nature of the violence that characterises complex humanitarian emergencies and the related implications for modelling livelihoods systems. While noting the importance of livelihoods approaches in complex humanitarian emergencies, it deliberates the limitations of sustainable livelihoods frameworks when applied in environments marked by protracted instability. Adaptations to the model are discussed, with a particular focus on the relationships among violence, assets and liabilities within livelihoods systems. Political economy of violence theories intimate that the assets on which livelihoods systems are constructed in peaceful times may instead become life- and livelihood-threatening liabilities in periods of conflict. Adaptations to livelihood systems in violent settings require that analysts consider violence from policy, institutional and process perspectives. It is suggested that vulnerability should be re- conceptualised as endogenous to livelihoods systems in violent settings. Building on the work of others, a livelihoods model adapted for complex humanitarian emergencies is presented.

 

Leander, S.S. 2009. Perpetual Peacekeeping? Lessons from Rwanda on Structural Conflict Prevention in the New Aid Environment. Journal of Peacebuilding and Development 5 (1): 9-21.

This paper reviews the history of development assistance to Rwanda since the genocide of 1994 in the light of the lessons learnt from the pre-war experience. The study highlights the continued lack of analysis and understanding among donors of the impact of development assistance on structural causes of conflict. Where analysis exists, it is rarely linked to aid allocation decisions, and where actions are taken in this direction, they are rarely consistent across donors. The paper argues that the United Nations could play a role in bridging the gap between development and conflict prevention by extending some key political monitoring functions currently carried out as part of peacekeeping missions to post-conflict and fragile states that are not currently in crisis.

 

Lischer, S.K. 2007. Causes and Consequences of Conflict Induced Displacement. Civil Wars 9 (2): 142-155.

Violent conflict causes millions of people to flee their homes every year. The resulting displacement crises not only create logistical and humanitarian nightmares, these crises threaten international security and risk the lives of displaced people, aid workers, and peacekeepers. Despite the dangers posed by conflict-induced displacement, scholars, policy makers and international organizations usually have only a partial understanding of these crises. Conflict-induced displacement consists of two main factors: 1) The violence that caused the displacement and 2) The characteristics of the resulting displacement crisis. Many observers fail to disaggregate each factor; rather lumping all types of violence together or viewing displaced people as an undifferentiated mass. This paper demonstrates that disaggregation of both concepts-causes of conflict-induced displacement and characteristics of a crisis – is necessary to understand fully the importance of displacement in international politics. The paper develops typologies to analyze those concepts and discusses the implications for future research on conflict- induced displacement.

 

Monshipouri, M. 2003. NGOs and Peacebuilding in Afghanistan. International Peacekeeping 10 (1): 138-155.

The article focuses on peacebuilding operations of nongovernmental organizations in Afghanistan. Post-conflict societies face a bewildering array of economic, social and political difficulties. In the absence of international support and commitment, successful recovery from civil war, lawlessness and displacement is virtually impossible. Attempts to simultaneously reconstruct the country and build the capacity of people to provide for their basic needs are crucial. Consequently, confronting sources of insecurity affecting people and communities on the one hand and promoting nation building on the other are central to building peace in Afghanistan. In fact, these tasks are not entirely unrelated. It has become increasingly evident that coping with humanitarian crises in post-conflict societies requires a multi-track approach, combining efforts that aim at achieving relief, development and governance. In post-Taliban Afghanistan, tasks of nation building and refugee repatriation must be juxtaposed. The study centres particularly on three key themes: order and security are crucial to nation building in Afghanistan; peacebuilding is inextricably intertwined with the larger context of reconstruction; and conflict resolution must be seen as a main goal of development policy.

 

Narang, N. 2014. Humanitarian Assistance and the Duration of Peace after Civil War. Journal of Politics 76 (2): 446-460.

The principles of humanitarian assistance dictate that aid be distributed in accordance with need while remaining neutral with respect to the political stakes. However, these principles have unique implications in the postconflict context, where need is often correlated with opponents’ performance in the previous contest. In these cases, humanitarian assistance is likely to be biased towards the conflict loser. Using a crisis- bargaining framework, this article describes a simple logic for how humanitarian aid can inadvertently undermine peace by creating a revisionist party with the incentive to renegotiate the postwar settlement. The empirical expectations of the theory are tested using a panel dataset of cross-national humanitarian aid expenditures in civil conflicts since the end of the Cold War. As the theory predicts, postconflict states treated with higher levels of humanitarian assistance exhibit shorter spells of peace; however, this effect only occurs after conflicts that ended with a decisive victory.

 

Okumu, W. 2003. Humanitarian NGOs and African Conflicts. International Peacekeeping 10 (1): 120-137.

The article focuses on the humanitarian nongovernmental organizations (HINGO) and African conflicts. As the number of collapsing African states increases, HINGO, alongside the United Nations agencies and sub-regional organizations are increasingly being called upon to play more and significant roles in complex emergencies. Besides mitigating the social and economic consequences of collapsing states, HINGO are also implementing peace accords, promoting democratic and economic reforms, protecting human rights and encouraging the settlement of conflicts. Although scrutiny of humanitarian assistance was mainly focused on criticism of its delivery, analysis of its guiding principles and the evaluation of its position in the humanitarian-development continuum, there is now increasing concern over its adverse effects on its beneficiaries and on its role in prolonging or solving conflicts that produced them. There are now widespread indications that humanitarian assistance that is being delivered through HINGO may actually be prolonging conflicts. A humanitarian international NGO is a private, not-for-profit organization that engages in transnational activities to relieve human suffering wrought by human activities such as wars and by natural disasters, such as floods and earthquakes.

 

Paul, H. 2013. International humanitarian actors and governments in areas of conflict: challenges, obligations, and opportunities. Disasters 37 (Supplement 2): S151-S170

For too long international humanitarian aid has neglected the primary responsibility of the state to assist and protect its citizens in times of disaster. A focus on the role of the state in contexts where governments are active parties to a conflict and are failing to live up to these responsibilities is difficult and underpins many of the recurring dilemmas of humanitarian action. The fundamental principles of humanitarian action should offer a framework for principled engagement with governments in situations of conflict but too often they are still interpreted as shorthand for ignoring governments. Using principles to inform engagement with both states and other international actors engaged in crises could provide a way forward. However, this would need to be a humanitarian agenda that engages with developing country governments, with non- OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) donors, and with the stabilisation and security agendas of Western governments, and not one that attempts to ring-fence an ever-shrinking isolationist humanitarian space.

 

Pouligny, B. 2005. Civil Society and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding: Ambiguities of International Programmes Aimed at Building ‘New’ Societies. Security Dialogue 36 (4): 495-510.

This article offers a critical analysis of aid programmes aimed at supporting local civil societies in post-conflict peacebuilding (PCPB). Such programmes are often seen to carry the best hopes for a genuine democratic counterweight to existing power-brokers and to hold the key to the building of a ‘new’ society. But, in their interventions, outsiders tend to forget the large diversity of local civil societies, creating many counter-effects in the way international programmes purport to support or empower local people. The resulting consequences affect the ways in which international and local actors interact in post-conflict contexts and, accordingly, the ways in which actual ‘civil society’ may contribute to PCPB. A close analysis of these elements reveals larger political ambiguities present in PCPB strategies and actions. The article ends with a series of recommendations to support a better understanding and acknowledgment of local processes and resources in any aid programme, as well as greater accountability on the part of outsiders.

 

Schloms, M. 2003. Humanitarian NGOs in Peace Processes. International Peacekeeping 10 (1): 40-55.

The article focuses on the role of humanitarian nongovernmental organizations (NGO) in peace processes. The ambiguity experienced by aid agencies in intrastate conflicts in the 1990s triggered much criticism and debate. Discussions focused on two main issues: the necessity of linking aid to peacebuilding and the understanding and standards of humanitarian action. The peacebuilding debate stems from the aftermath of aid missions, when critics claimed aid-supported war instead of peace. As a reaction to the criticism it was claimed that if aid agencies wished to ‘do no harm’, they would have to strengthen a society’s capacities for peace. Supporting those forces that bring peace thus offered humanitarian NGOs a new moral banner to march behind that serves to re- legitimise an arena of aid that has been blamed for fuelling conflicts, prolonging wars and standing neutral in the face of genocide. Basically, the argument states that the new world clearly needs a new humanitarianism. The assumption that aid agencies, especially NGO dispose of comparative advantages in peace processes further supports the idea of coordinating aid and peace efforts. Through their work, aid agencies gather local expertise, develop links to local actors, get direct access to war-torn populations and are often respected by all parties as an impartial and neutral actor. building strategy is unlikely to be productive. Ultimately, a focus on the peace building role of mine action carries a dual promise for the sector: it documents impacts that are currently unacknowledged, while encouraging new and refined practices.

 

Stoddard, A. and A. Harmer 2006. Little Room to Maneuver: The Challenges to Humanitarian Action in the New Global Security Environment. Journal of Human Development 7 (1): 23-41.

The current global politico-security environment poses challenges to principled humanitarian action on three levels. Humanitarian actors are at pains to preserve a neutral stance in contested political environments, specifically those of occupation and counter-insurgency operations within the US-led Global War on Terror — a particularly difficult proposition when the major donor for humanitarian activities is also the occupying power. Their second challenge is to maintain operational independence in environments of post-conflict transition and other contexts where the life-saving work is over and political pressure increases for all international actors to operate under a unified, politically coherent peace-building strategy. Finally, humanitarians perceive a greater threat than ever before to the physical security of their own workers, as incidents of violence against aid workers appear to be on the rise.

 

Walton. O. 2008. Conflict, peacebuilding and NGO legitimacy: National NGOs in Sri Lanka. Conflict, Security & Development 8 (1): 133-167.

This paper explores the growing role of national NGOs in the interventions of western governments in conflict-affected regions. Using three case studies of national NGOs working in Sri Lanka, it focuses on the complex relationships between national NGOs, donors and a range of domestic stakeholders. These relationships involved competing demands, interests and expectations and were characterised by tensions, reversals and trade-offs. The paper argues that although donors have increasingly favoured national NGOs in their peacebuilding interventions, these organisations have been particularly vulnerable to crises of legitimacy. This tendency has disrupted NGO programmes and limited the capacity for donors to meet stated objectives.

 

Welling, J.J. 2007. Non-governmental Organizations, Prevention, and Intervention in internal Conflict: Through the Lens of Darfur. Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 14 (1): 147 – 179.

This Note argues that cases like the humanitarian crisis and the conflict in Darfur, Sudan, present an intrastate collective action problem that has not been satisfactorily addressed by a traditional multilateral approach. Instead, the Darfur crisis demonstrates the need for an expanded view of modern international law in the face of intrastate conflict that includes systematic intervention procedures and preventive aid, as well as a multifaceted approach that recognizes and integrates NGOs and NGO alliances. This note asserts that the Sudan crisis has posed a collective action problem requiring not only multilateral state collective action, but also multifaceted, coordinated action between states and the proliferation of nonstate actors that have emerged from globalization. Part I provides background on the genocide in Sudan and demonstrates that this conflict is one of a number of recent intrastate conflicts. It argues that intrastate conflicts and humanitarian crises are collective action problems. Part II argues that humanitarian crises and internal wars require new international law that encourages collective, preventive aid and systemized preemptive intervention procedures. Part III argues that these newer “collective actions” under international law should involve coordinated action between states and NGOs.

 

Zeccola, P. 2011. Dividing disasters in Aceh, Indonesia: separatist conflict and tsunami, human rights and humanitarianism. Disasters 35 (2): 308-328.

This paper examines the interface between human rights and humanitarian action in the context of the conflict and tsunami in Aceh, Indonesia, between 1998 and 2007. It looks at the challenges international humanitarian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) faced as they engaged in human rights work in the conflict period and in conflict-related activities in the post-tsunami period. The paper argues that many large NGOs may have compromised what some would hold to be essential principles for humanitarian action because of domestic political concerns, donor restrictions and resistance among certain NGO chiefs. In contrast with the pre-tsunami period, in which NGOs worked for years amid military operations, in the post-tsunami period NGOs were decidedly apolitical, neglecting the conflict in their tsunami response-despite significant developments that permitted greater political engagement in Aceh’s post-conflict transformation. The evidence suggests that NGOs are challenged in contextualising humanitarian responses and that there is a need to underscore donor flexibility and independence in humanitarian action.