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Insecure environments the missing piece

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Insecure environments the missing piece

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									20   HUMANItARIAN REfORM: fUlfIllINg ItS PROMISE?                                                                              fMR 29

     to assist IDPs but rather promoting       than as impartial neutral actors           and the prioritising of increased
     the alignment of aid with UN and          working to help those most in need.        coordination over immediate
     donor political objectives. The                                                      response represent an indirect
     natural tension which exists between      MSF made the decision not to               impact of lost potential to assist
     short-term, life-saving activities for    participate in the clusters at the         the most vulnerable populations.
     humanitarian response and longer-         ‘global’ level because of our principles   These reforms are still a work in
     term objectives of achieving peace        of independence and neutrality. In         progress and must be challenged
     and state building are continually        response to complex field realities and    and questioned by all humanitarian
     jeopardised by efforts to bring           pragmatic needs, information sharing       actors. By further expanding the
     humanitarian issues into line with        and practical operational exchanges        logic of coherence and integration,
     political aims. The need for an           may lead MSF to participate in certain     the UN humanitarian reforms pose
     immediate humanitarian response           clusters as observers at the capital and   a threat to the independence of
     today cannot and should not be            field levels. For MSF, independence        humanitarian actors and the crucial
     driven by the objective of bringing       and neutrality cannot mean isolation       diversity of approaches that MSF
     political benefits tomorrow.              and MSF must maintain key bilateral        believes are key to effective and
                                               contacts with UN coordination              meaningful humanitarian assistance.
     In the often volatile and dangerous       structures. Yet, in the end, the UN-
     areas where humanitarian agencies         led clusters’ insistence on joint          Eric Stobbaerts (eric.stobbaerts@
     try to deliver aid, neutrality or,        analysis and response is incompatible      london.msf.org) is Senior Researcher at
     more importantly, the perception of       with independent, diverse and              Médecins Sans Frontières, UK, Sarah
     neutrality facilitates access and acts    innovative humanitarian response,          Martin (sarah.martin@amsterdam.
     as a guarantee of security for both for   and represents the limits of MSF           msf.org) is the Humanitarian Affairs
     those providing and receiving aid.        interaction with these or any other        Specialist at Médecins Sans Frontières,
     While access and security problems        coordination structure. MSF teams          The Netherlands, and Katharine
     for humanitarians pre-date and are        must continually monitor how our           Derderian (katharine.derderian@
     not necessarily linked with the UN        interaction with other actors, including   brussels.msf.org) the Humanitarian
     reforms, it is still an urgent concern    the UN-led clusters, impacts on the        Advisor for Policy Issues at Médecins
     for Médecins Sans Frontières. The         perception of our independence,            Sans Frontières, Belgium.
     increasingly invasive politicised         impartiality and neutrality.
                                                                                          1. www.un.org/peace/reports/peace_operations
     concepts of integration and coherence                                                2. The inter-sectional study includes the MSF sections
     will further erode the already fragile    No definitive conclusions can be           in Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK, as well as the
                                                                                          MSF-Brazil office. The study is not an institutional MSF
     local perceptions of the neutrality       drawn at this stage as to how the UN       position on the UN humanitarian reforms. For more
     and independence of humanitarian          humanitarian reforms are impacting         information on this study, please note our upcoming
                                                                                          article in ODI/HPG.
     actors. Nowhere is this clearer than      humanitarian space, either positively
                                                                                          3. www.regjeringen.no/upload/UD/Vedlegg/missions/
     in contexts like Iraq, Somalia or         or negatively. While there is no           sgnote.pdf
     Darfur where populations perceive         evidence that the reforms directly         4. http://cerf.un.org
     humanitarians as pursuing political       impact the populations we serve, the       5. See Blog by Toby Porter (SCF) on http://blogs.odi.org.
                                                                                          uk/blogs/exchange/archive/2007/01/18/1591.aspx
     goals through partial and politicised     enormous time, energy and funding
     or regionally biased assistance, rather   dedicated to the reform process




     Insecure environments:
     the missing piece?
                                                                                                                  by Matthew Benson

     While current reforms address a number of key issues                                 In today’s globalised world,
     affecting civilians in conflict, they do not address other,                          poorly practised humanitarianism
                                                                                          risks becoming a liability to all
     arguably more pressing, issues facing the humanitarian                               humanitarian actors. Humanitarians
     community – such as the provision of humanitarian                                    ought collectively to take the
     assistance in insecure environments.                                                 necessary steps to allow for the
                                                                                          continued provision of principled
     The perceived politicisation              the targeting of national and              humanitarian assistance to intended
     of humanitarian assistance                international humanitarian personnel       beneficiaries in even the most
     – resulting from deterioration            and their local partners and may           insecure of environments.
     of the humanitarian principles            also be contributing to physical
     of impartiality, neutrality and           insecurity for the very beneficiaries      Humanitarian action is often
     independence – has led to                 that humanitarians seek to assist.         synonymous with conflict
fMR 29                                  HUMANItARIAN REfORM: fUlfIllINg ItS PROMISE?                                                        21

environments involving some degree      are exposed to greater risk than            and collaboration on advocacy
of personal risk for humanitarian       their international counterparts.           campaigns in insecure areas
staff. Today the stakes may be higher
than they have been. Attacks on         The concern voiced by some              n consider the ethics of transferring
local and international staff and       humanitarian actors, particularly         security risks from expatriate
partners of humanitarian actors         those from outside the UN, that           staff to national staff or local
have increased. Since 1997 the          current approaches to enhanced            NGOs and provide them with
number of major acts of violence        coordination and leadership               more security training
(killings, kidnappings and armed        may lead to the politicisation of
attacks resulting in serious injury)    humanitarian assistance must also       n consider the human resource
committed against aid workers           be addressed in the context of            implications of dependence on
has nearly doubled.1 Risks may in       insecure environments. This may           remote management: care must
certain instances be extending to       require a collective re-examination       be taken to ensure that national
the beneficiaries of assistance. In     of the shared utility of approaches       staff have the leadership skills
Iraq analysts have voiced concerns      such as the Cluster Approach and          and acquire the necessary training
that intended beneficiaries’            Integrated Missions, which some           and self-reliance to make difficult
association with humanitarian           humanitarian agencies fear may            decisions in response to the
actors may increase their physical      serve to intensify the politicisation     rapidly changing operational
insecurity and/or lead to their         of aid and compound threats               realities in insecure environments
refusal of humanitarian assistance.     to safe humanitarian action.
                                                                                n consult closely with donors
A common response to the lack of        We need a collective examination          and beneficiaries to ensure
access is the adoption of Remote        of threats to principled                  they understand the challenges
Management Operations (RMOs).           humanitarianism in insecure               associated with implementation of
These are hardly new. RMOs have         environments and to begin searching       RMOs in insecure environments
been implemented by humanitarians       for innovative solutions. In insecure
under different guises – ‘long arm      environments no individual UN           n relentlessly negotiate and
programming’, ‘remote control’,         agency or local/international NGO         maintain humanitarian space:
‘remote support’, ‘partnership’,        is an island and the conduct of           this may require a collective
‘cross-border’, ‘one-off operations’,   some humanitarian actors may have         examination of the relationships
‘hit and run operations’, ‘aid on       unavoidable repercussions for all         humanitarians establish and
the run’, ‘give and go operations’      ‘humanitarian’ agencies in the area       maintain with non-state actors,
or ‘windows of opportunity’             of operation. Every humanitarian          state authorities, military actors
– in Afghanistan, Biafra, Chechnya,     actor has a responsibility to the         and peacekeeping operations.
Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan and             beneficiaries they seek to assist
elsewhere. Typically ad hoc,            to search for common solutions          The diversity that enhances the
RMOs involve the relocation of          to shared challenges. The recent        humanitarian sector must not
international staff to safe areas       departure of ICRC and MSF from          be allowed to lead to rancorous
away from the area of operation,        the humanitarian reform discussion      divisions. The humanitarian reform
leaving operational responsibilities    table is a cause for concern.           process is taking place in a troubled
to national staff or local partners                                             international context. The loud calls
(who are perceived – often without      Those engaged in shaping the            for a more robust UN engagement
evidence – to enjoy more local          humanitarian reform process must:       in Iraq, the world’s most insecure
acceptance than expatriates). As                                                environment, highlight the urgent
the article by UNHCR’s Andrew           n examine how to extend protection      need for humanitarian reformers
Harper and José Riera in FMR’s Iraq       to intended beneficiaries as well     to take proactive steps towards the
special issue makes clear,2 RMOs          as national and international staff   collective development of innovative
are not a panacea to the challenges                                             approaches to coordination and
faced in insecure environments.         n draft contingency plans for remote    leadership in insecure environments.
Nevertheless, plausible alternatives      management in countries such as
to RMOs may include the adoption          Pakistan and Zimbabwe which are       Matthew Benson (bensonm@unhcr.
of what some might call a ‘bunker         likely to suffer chronic turbulence   org or matthew.benson@alumni.tufts.
mentality’, where security                                                      edu) is a research intern working
restrictions hamper humanitarians       n address the concern voiced by         with UNHCR’s Policy Development
from implementing the work                some non-UN humanitarian              and Evaluation Service (PDES www.
the public expects them to do.            actors that the Cluster Approach      unhcr.org/research/3b850c744.html).
                                          and integrated missions may
                                                                                1. Adele Harmer, Katherine Haver and Abby Stoddard,
While remote management allows            politicise humanitarian assistance3   ‘Providing Aid in Insecure Environments: Trends in
for continued service provision,                                                Policy and Operations’, Humanitarian Policy Group
                                                                                Report 23, September 2006. www.odi.org.uk/hpg/
the ability to remain accountable to    n take care before embarking on         aid_insecure_environments.html See id21 summary at:
                                                                                www.id21.org/zinter/id21zinter.exe?a=0&i=s10bas1g1&
intended beneficiaries and donors         high-profile activities which         u=46fa287e
is in many instances compromised.         could jeopardise the security of      2. ‘Iraq’s displacement crisis: the search for solutions’
Dangers for national staff and            all humanitarian actors – such        www.fmreview.org/FMRpdfs/Iraq/04.pdf
local partners are great and they         as branding of humanitarian           3. See preceding article by Eric Stobbaerts, Sarah Martin
                                                                                and Katherine Derderian.
                                          operations in combat zones

								
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