Global Policy Forum

NGOs in the Field

NGOs increasingly work "in the field," providing humanitarian relief and development assistance in countries around the world. As they carry out their work, they face many serious problems. Governments or rebel groups deny them access to those in need, corrupt officials or warlords demand payoffs, and local violence threatens the safety and even the lives of field personnel. Donors also subject these NGOs to political pressure, diminishing their neutrality. Military forces increasingly distribute humanitarian assistance to civilians in countries they occupy, blurring the traditional military/humanitarian distinction and making civilian humanitarian workers targets for resistance fighters. In the 1990s, a problematic new doctrine of "humanitarian intervention" arose, giving a humanitarian rationale for armed conflict. Some NGOs have uncritically embraced this doctrine, which further erodes humanitarian neutrality and blurs the longtime distinction between humanitarian action and the anti–humanitarian nature of warfare and organized violence, as carried out by the most powerful states.


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Giving Communities a Voice in Resilience (March 5, 2013)

The way international aid agencies design disaster intervention programs is criticized for largely ignoring the most valuable source of expertise-affected rural communities. Since interventions are often ad-hoc and information dissemination to isolated communities is poor, communities are unable to plan for the long term. The Partners for Resilience coalition, however, works specifically with local stakeholders to create a set of minimal standards for disaster risk reduction, enabling them to forge relationships with meteorological agencies, interpret early warning signals and communicate needs with their local governments. Meanwhile, the “ACCRA” partnership works to strengthen knowledge dissemination on climate forecasts and related shocks like food prices and population growth to local communities. These NGOs act as a model for more needs-based adaptation programs and community empowerment in future adaptation efforts. (IRIN)


Mali: Negotiating Humanitarian Access in the North (May 1, 2012)

Humanitarian aid agencies in northern Mali face a dilemma: should they negotiate with the rebel groups in power to deliver aid, or should they maintain independence and impartiality. Some US agencies like Catholic Relief Services operate only through local partners because they cannot negotiate with terrorist-affiliated groups. Cri du Coeur has decided to having armed escorts and allow National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and Ansar Dine to supervise the aid distribution. Although impartiality is valuable for the long term operation in Mali, humanitarian aid agencies feel they are forced to compromise these principles in an effort to gain aid access. (IRIN)


Médecins sans Frontiéres Book Reveals Aid Agencies’ Ugly Compromises (November 20, 2011)

A new book by Medecins Sans Frontieres reveals that aid agencies have sometimes negotiated and made deals with armed groups and governments accused of violating human rights in order to deliver aid. The book sheds light on the difficulties of working in a conflict zone and putting humanitarian aid before global politics. (Guardian)

The Politics of Humanitarian Principle (October 28, 2011)

This IRIN article examines the ethical dilemma NGOs working in conflict areas face when it is necessary for them to negotiate with armed forces in order to effectively deliver aid to vulnerable communities. While many NGOs claim to be “above politics,” several feel they must adapt to the political and economic situation on the ground and engage in dialogue with all parties involved. (IRIN)

Aid Agencies Take a Stand Against Forced IDP Returns (October 27, 2011)

A group of NGOs are urging the government of Cote D’Ivoire to reconsider a plan that would force more than 18,000 internally displaced people (IDP) back to their homes. The government plans to close centers for displaced persons, while NGOs fear residents will be left without shelter if they are not able to return to a safe and secure living situation. This article points to a growing trend where governments try to find cheap, short-term fixes to address ongoing systemic problems. (IRIN)

Counter-Terrorism Laws Taking Their Toll on Humanitarian Action (October 17, 2011)

As states increase their counterterrorism laws, NGOs working in Afghanistan,  Somalia and the Gaza Strip fear prosecution and loss of funding. These counter terrorism laws penalize any interaction with groups that have been labelled as terrorist organizations, and NGOs fear these “overzealous” laws will deter relief groups from providing relevant aid to areas run by terrorist organizations, undermining the independence and neutrality of many legitimate NGO operations. (Guardian)

US NGOs Still in the Dark over Terrorism Law in Somalia (October 5, 2011)

Although the US is currently negotiating with al-Shabab to allow western food aid into famine-affected parts of Somalia, US NGOs are hesitant to take part in aid operations in al-Shabab controlled areas. Currently, al-Shabab is listed as a US Terrorist Organization and any US citizens contacting al-Shabab can be sentenced to fifteen years in jail. NGOs in the US are currently applying for exemption licenses, but are meanwhile unable to provide crucial assistance. US NGOs provide the majority amount of aid and humanitarian assistance to Somalia, and each bureaucratic delay prevents millions of famine-victims from getting the necessary assistance. (IRIN)

Is Yemen on the Brink of Humanitarian Disaster? (October 5, 2011)

Aid workers in Yemen are reporting that aid delivery is becoming increasingly difficult as Yemen verges on a humanitarian disaster. Due to political insecurity and coordination difficulties, donors are hesitant to provide aid money. Consequently, chronic problems, like malnutrition, have increasingly becoming “acute crises.” (Alternet)

Development NGOs Face “Existential Challenge” (Aug 13, 2011)

This IPS Terraviva article shows how the increased number of foreign funding restrictions and “philanthropic protectionism” laws are shrinking the “space” for NGO work. Whereas previously NGOs had the freedom to create large scale projects, such as Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus’ Grameen Bank, NGOs today are unable to start new initiatives without facing severe government restrictions. This is particularly troubling as foreign funding has become increasingly hard to secure due to the global financial crisis. While it is important to regulate NGO actions, laws should not prevent humanitarian assistance from being delivered and should not be allowed to be used as a political mechanism to suppress opposition voices. (IPS Terraviva)

Piracy Hampers Delivery of Aid to Somalia (August 11, 2011)

Somali  pirates are obstructing emergency aid delivery efforts to the Horn of Africa.  Currently 80% to 90% of food aid arrives by sea, and aid organizations are being forced to deliver food by air at a much greater expense, or to ship food to ports that are further away.  Though piracy has long been a problem, it is only one of a myriad of factors contributing to the famine. In considering long-term food security strategies, aid organizations must look at preventative measures for piracy, as well as at the larger ecological and geopolitical influences that have led to this hunger crisis. (Guardian)

Aid Agencies Complain Lack of Funding to Battle Africa Famine (August 5, 2011)

Though the Horn of Africa famine is one of the worst humanitarian disasters in over 60 years, aid organizations are lamenting the lack of aid being donated to address the crisis. While other international crises, like the Japanese Tsunami and the Haitian earthquake, immediately generated significantly larger amounts of aid donations, Caryl Stern, the CEO of the US Fund for UNICEF, states that because the famine is not a “sudden” crisis, but rather one that “slowly [got] worse,” there has been not been sustained media attention. As a result, Stern asserts people and governments have been less willing to donate the necessary amounts for such an ongoing crisis.  (IPS Terraviva)

Behind the Closed Doors of Port-Au-Prince “Reconstruction” (June 14, 2011)

A report released by Haiti Grassroot Watch examines why 800,000 people live in make-shift tents despite the highly publicized reconstruction efforts by the UN, the Haitian authorities and numerous foreign humanitarian agencies. The study asserts that reconstruction efforts are failing due to disagreement, rivalry and a lack of coordination between the different governmental bodies and aid organizations. Bureaucratic or structural issues should not prevent the timely delivery of humanitarian assistance.  (IPS Service)

Why Western Aid Workers are Coming under Threat (May 27, 2011)

As more western aid workers become targets of attack, western aid organizations are increasing security measures and halting specific aid operations. This Guardian article asserts that these attacks are the result of a larger problem where western aid is seen as having political, rather than humanitarian, motivations.  Unless western aid organizations acknowledge the ‘false’ neutrality of aid, these attacks are likely to continue or worse, increase.

Aid Work Delayed by Barriers (May 10, 2011)

Israeli operated checkpoints in the West Bank and Gaza are obstructing the delivery of humanitarian aid to Palestinian communities in need. Aid workers for national and international NGOs, and the UN, face long delays or denials at checkpoints.  In addition to creating bottlenecks in the supply of aid, humanitarian organizations also face increased costs – at least $4.5 million annually – as a result of Israel’s extensive security measures, threatening the sustainability of aid operations. (IRIN)

Lack of justice "entrenching impunity" in Darfur (April 18, 2011)

Darfur is one of the most dangerous locations in the world for humanitarian work.  The risks faced by aid workers have meant that humanitarian organizations have had to limit their operations to only essential activities.  This article argues that a culture of impunity is, at least partly, responsible for creating this dangerous environment.  At present, there is no credible threat of prosecution to deter kidnapping and violence against aid workers.  The government of Sudan must institute more effective justice mechanisms in the region and remove immunity for officials. (IRIN)

Aid Policy: Staff Security - "Bunkerization" Versus Acceptance (April 13, 2011)

Aid workers operate in the most dangerous parts of the world and increasingly find themselves under attack.  Aid policy must change to ensure that humanitarian assistance can still reach those in need.  The UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has responded by releasing a report called To Stay and Deliver: Good practice for humanitarians in complex security environments.  The report recommends that aid workers should re-open channels of communication with parties to conflicts and local people, rather than isolating themselves in high-security compounds and armored vehicles – referred to as “bunkerization.” (IRIN)

Kosovo: Local Media Accuse NGOs of Protest Plans (March 16, 2011)

As civil society protests in the Middle East and North Africa continue, local media sources in Kosovo claim to have uncovered NGO plans to overturn that region's government.  Early parliamentary elections were held in Kosovo in December 2010.  The election was marred by claims of electoral fraud and mistakes in vote counting, which required partial re-polling.  The release of a Council of Europe report, implicating Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi in organ trafficking, added further controversy.  Large scale protests were to be held in March, but the plan ultimately appears to have collapsed after some NGOs withdrew, stating it was not in line with their missions. (Balkan Insight)

The Militarization of Aid and its Perils (February 22, 2011)

Humanitarian aid work has become increasingly dangerous in recent years. Aid workers are now often the target of attacks, rather than merely bystanders caught in the crossfire. This is a symptom of the militarization and politicization of aid, whereby assistance is used as a means to achieve non-humanitarian objectives. Pierre Krahenbuhl, director of operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross, says that humanitarian organizations have been complicit by working closely with military forces. Krahenbuhl argues organizations should be neutral and independent to ensure they can effectively carry out their operations. (International Committee of the Red Cross)

Aid and Corruption: Cleaning Up (February 17, 2011)

In January 2011, an Associated Press story detailed misappropriation of Global Fund to Fight AIDS monies. The story was based in part on an internal investigation by the Fund, the results of which were made public. In the weeks following the AP story there has been significant backlash against the Fund.  Donors, including Germany, Spain, Sweden and the EU plan to freeze their contributions, and others may follow suit. The Fund is, by no means, the only international aid organization that must deal with corruption however. Punishing the Fund for its transparency is not an effective response. (Economist)

Sudan Governor Expels French Aid Group from Darfur (February 14, 2011)

Médecins du Monde, a French humanitarian NGO, has been expelled from Darfur and 12 of its workers have been arrested.  Sudanese authorities accuse the group of undermining the government and providing support to rebels.  Médecins du Monde was one of the last groups operating in a region of Darfur under rebel control.  The crackdown demonstrates the difficulty faced by organizations giving humanitarian aid to people living under the control of anti-government forces.  Governments often equate aid to direct support of these forces, putting NGO operations in jeopardy. (Reuters Africa)

Fraud Plagues Global Health Fund (January 23, 2011)

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS has been a key player in many countries struggling to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.  Yet an investigation by the fund's inspector general, John Parsons, has uncovered significant misappropriation of grant monies by recipients.  The organization will withhold grants in response to evidence of corruption - as it did with Papua New Guinea in 2010 - and will also seek the return of misappropriated funds.  While anti-corruption measures are essential for effective distribution of aid, one must question how this strategy will affect people dependent on the Global Fund's assistance.(The Associated Press)

NGOs Have Failed Haiti (January 13, 2011)

Haiti has one of the world’s highest concentrations of NGOs. Yet the sheer volume of groups active in the country has not translated into effectiveness. This article attributes the inertia of NGOs to the disenfranchisement of the Haitian people. Haitians do not have a representative government and have had no input into the rebuilding efforts or the distribution of aid funds.  Also, many NGOs are controlled by foreign funders and foreign governments - sources that may not favor Haitian democracy. (The Nation)

Dangerous Aid in Afghanistan (January 12, 2011)

The line between aid work, military operations and nation building is becoming increasingly blurred in Afghanistan, and other conflicts.  Military forces often provide so called "humanitarian aid," while some NGOs adopt the agenda of one party to the conflict - compromising their independence.  Those who suffer are the people these groups are, ostensibly, trying to help; accepting aid becomes a loaded decision, aligning them with one side in the war, and putting them at risk of retaliation. (Foreign Policy)
As the world tensely awaits any fallout from the South Sudan referendum, a collaboration between NGOs, Google and the UN will utilize satellite technology to monitor developments in the region.  Satellite technology has, until relatively recently, been only within the reach of states.  However, with increasing numbers of private satellites, this technology is now being used by NGOs to monitor - and potentially deter - humanitarian crises.  States will also face greater pressure to act, should evidence of pending violence emerge. (Radio Free Europe)

Palestinian Red Crescent Accuses Israel of Blocking Access (January 4, 2011)

The Palestinian Red Crescent has accused Israel of violating international humanitarian law by blocking the relief organization’s access to Palestinians in need of assistance. The accusations are based on 161 events in 2010. The Red Crescent claims that these violations were calculated by Israel to worsen the already terrible living conditions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. (AlertNet)


Save the Children Breaks with Soda Tax Effort (December 15, 2010)

Save the Children is no longer campaigning for a tax on sugary drinks to combat childhood obesity. Carolyn Miles, chief operating officer, says that the issue is "too controversial" but the organization may have been influenced by grants from Coca-Cola and PepsiCo Foundation.  NGOs are often affected by money which can take them away from their missions. It seems as though this is what happened at Save the Children. (New York Times)

How NGOs Became Pawns in the War on Terrorism (August 3, 2010)

In this article, policy analyst David Rieff calls attention to the identification of humanitarian work with military action. This is an increasingly important issue in the conflict regions that are a part of the ongoing War on Terror where some NGOs are furthering US military counterinsurgency aims and the US military itself is engaged in a number of quick-impact development projects. The Obama administration has strengthened the linkage between aid work and national security, specifically in the case of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where development priorities closely follow the locations of greatest conflict and tension. (The New Republic)

Afghanistan Aid Groups Say NATO Threatens Their Neutrality (April 21, 2010)

The increasing involvement of military forces on humanitarian aid and development not only blurs the lines between military and humanitarian aid, it also places the safety of NGO aid workers in jeopardy. NATO has actively participated in Afghan development and humanitarian aid through its "civilian-military provincial reconstruction teams" which consist of military staff, reconstruction experts and diplomats. Such efforts could be seen as a bid to foster friendly relations with the local community, and to benefit NATO's military strategy. This raises serious concerns among NGOs, such as French aid group Solidarités, who argue that humanitarian aid should be "independent, neutral and impartial." (PANOS London)

Why Haiti should Beware Professional Do-Gooders (January 31, 2010)

2010 is an important year for the Peacebuilding Commission - it marks half a decade since its inception, and it is also a year of extra scrutiny in the form of reviews by the General Assembly and Security Council. The Commission got off to a rocky start. Its initial engagements with Sierra Leone and Burundi were "fraught with challenges and confusion." While critics regard the body's functioning and achievements thus far as outcomes by accident - rather than design - many remain optimistic. (All Africa)


Playing with Principles in an Era of Securitized Aid (2009)

The Afghanistan "reconstruction" has brought military and private corporations more fully into the humanitarian sphere. This paper discusses "politicization and securitization of aid" in Afghanistan, which challenges NGO neutrality, legitimacy and independence. Further, it explores how Afghan NGOs have responded and adapted to various constraints. (Sage Publications)

Re-assessing the Aid Footprint (December 7, 2009)

According to a French think tank, the local population in Chad has a growing hostility towards foreign humanitarian NGOs. Abéché in Chad is the region with one of the highest crime rates ever against aid agencies in 2009. The presence of the NGOs has put pressure on prices in housing and food, due to high spending of expat staff. But aid workers answer that increased security and employment in the area far outweigh these drawbacks. (IRIN)

Mutual Accountability and Transparency in Development Cooperation (November 2009)

ECOSOC urges NGOs to be accountable for their development assistance. The Council argues that an insufficient involvement of Southern governments, parliamentarians and civil society weakens the effectiveness of development cooperation programs. Humanitarian NGO's must be held accountable for the quality and volume of their assistance and they must work with program country governments in order to make aid more effective. (ECOSOC)

Civil Society and Peacebuilding (2009)

Though civil society plays an important supportive role in peacebuilding, it cannot replace political action. These are the results from a report by The Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding (CCDP) examining the role of civil society based on 13 case studies. The findings showed high effectiveness by civil society in activities during war such as protection, monitoring and advocacy. Whereas they showed low effectiveness in post-conflict activities such as socialization and conflict resolution between opposing groups. (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies)

Rising Threat to Aid Agencies in Afghanistan (September 18, 2009)

Blurring of the civil-military line results in rising threat to aid agencies in Afghanistan. UN discussions on the creation of a Civil-Military Fusion Centre - an Afghan war "information and knowledge sharing" platform - further complicates the already ambiguous distinction between aid and combat. The use of the term "civil-military fusion" has already upsetted many in the NGO community, since it implies a connection between humanitarianism and the military. With impartiality at stake, and given the Taliban's growing contention that humanitarian workers represent "an arm of the war effort against them,"  NGOs are increasingly under the risk of attack in Afghanistan. (Truthout)

Closing the Door on Aid (August 2009)

Authoritarian governments and their legal restrictions create obstacles for the funding of NGOs in several different regions of the world. These restrictions prevent developing countries from receiving aid from foreign donors and impede their economic development. To change this development, donor states must seek to influence a change in the law policies of the aid-receiving countries.  (The International Journal of Not-for-Profit Law)

NGOs fear law will hobble their activities (August 26, 2009)

Human rights activist fear that the Zambian Government is using a new NGO law to silence critics and weaken civil society. The law obliges NGOs to re-register every five years and submit information every year on their activities and funds. This may lead to a decrease in the small civil society organisations. Development experts claim that the law will have a negative impact on development work in Zambia. (irinnews)

UNFPA Partners With Faith-Based Groups (August 13, 2009)

UNFPA sees partnerships with faith-based groups in developing countries as important for the development work of the UN. Faith-based organisations provide 30 to 60 percent of the basic health care in developing countries, and in addition, they have a central position in communities. They can therefore provide UNFPA with valuable assistance in reducing maternal deaths and ending violence against women. (terraviva)

Have NGOs Contributed to Development? (August 9, 2009)

In Africa, the civil society sector tends to grow more rapidly in countries recovering from war. This was seen in Uganda after the country had suffered from a severe dictatorship in the 1970's. Due to lack of resources, the new government granted NGOs the permission to assist them in rebuilding the country. Since then the role of NGOs in development has increased tremendously. However, there is still a need for better cooperation between civil society and the authorities in Africa, to improve the work of both sectors in development assistance. (Allafrica)

Providing Aid in Insecure Environments: 2009 Update

The number of killings, kidnappings and serious injuries against humanitarian aid workers has risen sharply since 2006. In fact, more humanitarian aid workers than UN peacekeeping soldiers were killed in 2008. Attackers target international staff and increasingly employ tactics such as kidnappings, which suggest that the attackers have political motives. Many aid organizations try to demonstrate their neutrality by distancing themselves from Western political actors. This approach does not work because aid organizations are viewed as a part of the Western agenda, not merely as cooperating with Western political forces. (Center on International Cooperation and Overseas Development Institute)


NGOs and the Victim Industry (November 2008)

This article in Le Monde diplomatique questions the legitimacy of some international NGOs and claims that poor countries perceive their interventions as "political interference" based on western interests. The author argues that NGOs weaken their neutrality by working side-by-side with governments, the military and international peacekeeping forces in conflict zones. In Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, armed groups have kidnapped and killed humanitarian aid workers from international NGOs.

NGOs Withering Under Foreign Currency Shortages (April 24, 2008)

NGOs in Zimbabwe face collapse because they cannot withdraw funds from the Zimbabwe Reserve Bank (ZRB), where the government requires they hold all currency. Many NGO staff have not received wages since 2007 and healthcare charities cannot buy antiretroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS relief. Some fear that if the government-controlled ZRB continues to "financially throttle" NGOs, they will close en masse by the second half of 2008 amidst a humanitarian disaster. (Plus News)

ANSO Quarterly Data Report (Q.1 – 2008) (April 2008)

NGOs in Afghanistan have experienced more frequent and fatal attacks by Armed Opposition Groups (AOGs) than in previous years. Abduction and murder by AOG-contracted criminals remains the primary threat to NGO workers, with 12 people kidnapped in the first quarter of 2008. This report argues that attacks have increased because armed groups have lost respect for NGO political neutrality. As the conflict has escalated, Coalition Forces have increased their reach and made insurgents distrustful of any foreign presence in Afghanistan. (Afghanistan NGO Safety Office)

Is NGO Aid not so Different after all? (March 2008)

Experts often assume that NGOs provide aid better targeted to developing countries because they are less influenced by commercial and political self-interest. A comparison of Swiss NGO aid and official aid shows that it depends on the source of NGO funding and the targets of the official aid. The study illustrates that NGOs may choose to follow official aid strategies to get easier access to public funds. (Kiel Institute for the World Economy)


Afghanistan: NGOs Question New Government Directive on Armed Escorts (August 2, 2007)

This Integrated Regional Information Networks article argues that "humanitarian space" is "diminishing" in Afghanistan, as foreign aid workers face increasing danger. The Afghani Ministry of Interior now demands that armed escorts accompany NGO personnel outside of Kabul, but NGOs fear that the security measures will make them a "legitimate target" for insurgent groups who will associate them with the government.

Darfur Advocacy Group Undergoes a Shake-Up (June 2, 2007)

Save Darfur, the most prominent advocacy group speaking out on the conflict in Sudan, has aggravated many aid groups working in the region. Aid workers suggest that Save Darfur's conspicuous ad campaigns, which often call for intervention, occasionally bend the truth and make negotiation with Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir more difficult. Save Darfur is beginning to respond to these criticisms by reorganizing and changing their tactics. (New York Times)

Delivery of Aid Still a Problem Four Years after US Invasion (March 21, 2007)

After four years of US occupation, the vulnerable groups in Iraq still do not have access to humanitarian assistance due to the fragile security situation and the killing of aid workers, which has caused many NGOs to flee the country. According to the NGO Coordinating Committee in Iraq (NCCI), the number of aid workers killed since 2003 has reached 83 – the highest in any single country worldwide. Iraq's humanitarian emergency has reached a crisis level, but the international relief system has not been able to respond accordingly. (Integrated Regional Information Network)

Iraq: Fighters Fill Humanitarian Vacuum (February 14, 2007)

In the face of continued violence and the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Iraq, many international aid agencies scaled down – or even abandoned – their operations in the country, leaving militias and insurgents to provide humanitarian assistance to civilians. However, due to deep sectarian divisions in Iraq, armed groups only offer aid to their supporters. The catastrophe in Iraq illustrates the need to ensure the neutrality of humanitarian action. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)

Impact Measurement and Accountability in Emergencies: The "Good Enough" Guide (February 9, 2007)

Drawing from the experiences of a number of international aid agencies, this guide outlines how NGOs can assess the effectiveness of their responses to humanitarian crises. This report emphasizes the need for an assessment system to enable the people affected by emergencies – as well as donors and host governments – to hold relief workers to account for their activities. Further, with evaluations that more accurately reflect the impact of their work, NGOs can improve existing field operations and better prepare for future unforeseen disasters. (Oxfam UK)

Increasing Risks to Aid Workers? Part II (January 11, 2007)

This Globalist piece outlines the second part of a joint study by the Center on International Cooperation and the Humanitarian Policy Group on the safety of aid workers. The study disputes the notion that local humanitarian workers in violent settings face lower risk than international staff "because they are of the place." According to the research results, national aid workers constitute 80 percent of victims of violence in the world's major trouble spots. The author calls on NGOs to adopt equitable security policies that assure the safety of all their personnel – local and foreign.

Increasing Risks to Aid Workers? Part I (January 10, 2007)

This Globalist article summarizes the findings of a two-part study which contests the widespread public perception that violence increasingly disrupts the operations of NGOs in crisis zones. While recognizing the perils of aid work, the report argues in favor of "a far less dramatic" rise in the number of attacks relative to the number of relief workers. Furthermore, the report finds a 77 percent growth in the world's number of humanitarian personnel between 1997 and 2005.


Iraqi Red Crescent: US Is Biggest Humanitarian Threat (December 16, 2006)

Dr. Jamal al- Karbouli vice president of the Iraqi Red Crescent has said that harassment from the US-led military poses a greater problem to its relief operations than attacks by Iraqi insurgents. Dr. al Karbouli further stated that Red Crescent offices had been "repeatedly attacked" by US-led forces. The Geneva Conventions on warfare – that protect the Red Crescent as an international humanitarian organization – prohibit such acts and consider them illegal. (Associated Press)

Humanitarian Work is the Task of Aid Workers, Not Soldiers, Security Council Team Told (November 16, 2006)

Alarmed at how military forces increasingly encroach upon their working space, local NGOs in Afghanistan have called for "a clear line between [NATO] soldiers and aid workers." Critics argue that military involvement often impedes, rather than complements, the work of aid agencies. The army's use of aid as a tool to generate negativity towards insurgents actually increases the security risks of aid workers and ultimately harms those who need help the most. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)

International Aid Work a Deadly Profession (November 10, 2006)

While trying to help those recovering from dire humanitarian disasters, aid workers often encounter potentially life-threatening situations involving physical attacks, kidnappings or harassment. Furthermore, in some cases, local governments aggravate these security risks by restricting NGOs' access to the civilians needing assistance or by denying the workers their rights to protection, as stipulated by international conventions. This Inter Press Service piece highlights some of the safety challenges facing humanitarian personnel in the field.

Aid Train Runs Off The Rails (September 25, 2006)

After the December 2004 Asian tsunami, NGOs, private donors and aid agencies responded promptly to the ensuing humanitarian crisis by providing food, health supplies and financial assistance as well as rebuilding homes. Yet nearly two years later, poor planning and "simple incompetence" have undermined relief and reconstruction efforts, reports this Associated Press article. Learning from this failure, NGOs should increase coordination amongst each other and with local governments to avoid delivering low-quality aid or engaging in projects that exceed their capacity.

Aid Workers Threatened by Sectarian Violence (August 16, 2006)

As international aid agencies increasingly withdrew their staff from Iraq for security reasons, local NGOs assumed a greater role in helping sick, displaced and hungry Iraqis. But now these local humanitarian groups "also have become victims" of sectarian violence, with volunteers under personal threat. The dire situation highlights the need for greater security so that Iraqi NGOs can deliver aid to those who need it most. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)

Turf Wars "Mar Disaster Effort" (August 14, 2006)

Medical relief groups such as Medecins Sans Frontieres seek to provide immediate health aid in emergency situations, whereas development agencies, NGOs and governments aim to develop long-term, sustainable healthcare systems. Health Action Network, a group of leading medical charities, has called for integration of these conflicting goals as well as better communication among health development groups. While their priorities may differ, relief providers and development agencies "meet the need of reducing poverty and suffering." (BBC)

Global Aid Workers Walking a Tightrope (August 9, 2006)

AlertNet examines the killing of 17 NGO humanitarian workers in Sri Lanka in light of the larger process of aid politicization. With governments increasingly moving into the humanitarian sphere, NGOs constantly have to "negotiate simply to have the space in which to operate." In Sri Lanka, foreign donors have favored working through NGOs rather than directly with the government, giving rise to the anti-NGO sentiment. The massacre of the Action Against Hunger workers illustrates the difficulties of balancing humanitarian work with local politics.

Role of NGOs in Conflict Prevention Crucial (May 2, 2006)

This Kenya Times opinion piece discusses the important role of NGOs in defusing conflicts, addressing human rights violations and post conflict reconstruction. The author reports that NGOs have developed monitoring skills and opened dialogue between adversarial parties. Many NGOs have field operations and local contacts that give groups access to information not available to governments. But the author warns that NGOs must not "institutionalize these ties" with national policy makers.

Darfur: Humanitarian Aid Under Seige (May 2006)

This extensive Human Rights Watch report details how the Sudanese government and rebel groups have prevented humanitarian aid organizations from reaching hundreds of thousands of civilians in Darfur. Workers have faced harassment, arbitrary detentions, intimidation by officials, administrative regulations and armed attacks. In late 2005 an increase of armed clashes and criminal activity also caused organizations to evacuate many locations. Although special procedures for aid work were introduced in 2004 in Darfur, the Sudanese government has since rolled back these gains.

Fighting "NGOism" (January 13, 2006)

NGOs and aid workers in Afghanistan have unfairly found themselves a target of anti-NGO political rhetoric. Misconceptions concerning donor money and equating NGOs with the slow reconstruction process has fuelled these opinions. Furthermore, targeted attacks on NGOs have resulted in workers leading an "insulated" life, preventing integration with the local population and hence causing anti-foreigner attitudes. (Hindu Business Line)


Humanitarianism Sacrificed: Integration's False Promise (Fall 2004)

Recent efforts to integrate humanitarian aid with conflict resolution goals such as peace, justice, development and political representation compromise the ideals of humanitarian aid, says Carnegie Council's Ethics and International Affairs. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the US military's political motivations have increased targeted attacks on aid workers and caused several agencies to leave these conflict zones completely. This article believes humanitarian aid must be unconditional and impartial, as it is "ethically untenable" to put unknown future benefits before saving lives.

Building Peace from the Ground Up: A Call to the UN for Stronger Collaboration with Civil Society (August 2002)

This report examines peace-building efforts throughout the world, highlighting the unique role civil society organizations can play in achieving peace. It also provides recommendations to the UN on improving collaboration with civil society groups at UN Headquarters and in the field. (Conflict Transformation Working Group)

The New Humanitarianisms: A Review of Trends in Global Humanitarian Action (April 2002)

This comprehensive report by the Overseas Development Institute covers a wide range of humanitarian aid issues, including financing of aid, trends in EU and US aid policy as well as topics within the UN humanitarian system.

Regarding "The Responsibility to Protect" (February 15, 2002)

On launching of the report "The Responsibility to Protect," Médecins Sans Frontières Delegate to the UN Catherine Dumait-Harper draws attention to the increasingly "blurring lines" of humanitarian and military interventions. While the report is important in addressing this confusion, concerns about the protection of populations are still "less important than other concerns like 'national interest.'" And, unless the international community shows political interest to respect and carry "human protection interventions," these concerns will remain unaddressed.


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