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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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 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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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 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)
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)
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)
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 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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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.
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)
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)
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.
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.
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)
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)
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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)
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.
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.