The need to reassess practices and build real partnerships
More than a billion people have already been affected by the financial, economic, social and environmental crises. Rights, obligations and values are in decline at every level – individual, collective, local and global. In such a context, international solidarity is more important than ever.
And yet, the truth is that the humanitarian sector I learned about in school, which swapped its rucksack for a big 4-wheel drive and tonnes of UN rice, has not lived up to expectations. Instead, it seems to be becoming an auxiliary of its donors, who are themselves dependent on politicians and strategic international choices. There is therefore a need to reassess the practices that NGOs from the North adopt in the South and the policies that underlie these.
To not do so, is to run the risk of seeing what confidence remains in civil society in the North and the South crumble away. It is no coincidence that, as doubts have grown, the concept of Quality in humanitarian action has attracted more and more interest. A Quality approach is a way for humanitarian actors to look at the mistakes of the past and address the gap which exists between their values and their practices.
But before we can properly assess humanitarian practices, we need to invite actors from the South to join us at the table. They have essential knowledge of concrete situations and views on how aid should be provided. We need to establish real partnerships with civil society in the South to fight vulnerability and poverty. It seems clear that working with civil society in the South is both ethical and will improve the service we provide. And working with civil society in the South will give our arguments greater weight with politicians.