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François Grünewald

The challenges facing the new United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator

Valérie Amos has recently taken up her position in New York, as the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator. With a reputation for courage and experience of diversity, she takes on the role at a crucial time for humanitarian aid.
NATO and the European Union are increasingly trying to integrate humanitarian aid into their strategic agendas. UN integrated missions are going in the same direction. Humanitarian aid is being “bunkerised”, militarised and politicised and is becoming a crisis management tool. As such, it runs the risk of losing the characteristics which allow victims to gain access to aid and protection. Defending this humanitarian space will be Mrs Amos’ first major challenge.
Though the UN plays an important role in the humanitarian sector, it needs to be “de-UNified”. National actors, NGOs and the International Red Cross Movement are often neglected and sometimes even used by the UN and its agencies As president of the Inter Agency Standing Committee, Mrs Amos will have to show great sensitivity to avoid tension and splits. As soon as there are security problems, the UN becomes paralysed while NGOs and the ICRC continue to work in the front line! Respecting and preserving the diversity of the humanitarian sector will be her second major challenge.
It will also be important to get out of the dead end of standardised approaches and get back to the complexity of the world. There is no such thing as “best” practice, only “good” practice linked to specific contexts. Mrs Amos will have to think “out of the box”. Groupe URD has been actively engaged with these major challenges for a long time and we will do what we can to help.

François Grünewald