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The three pillars of humanitarian space in Chad
Olivia Collins and François Grünewald

It is essential that humanitarian workers are able to access populations in the areas affected by a crisis, with an acceptable level of freedom in order to evaluate assistance and protection needs, and to respond to those needs without the aid being subverted or used for other ends. Populations themselves must also have the space to develop their own survival strategies and coping mechanisms. Humanitarian space, for both populations and aid workers, is defined by the interplay of these related issues. In Eastern Chad, this humanitarian space continues to be threatened and destabilized by a series of different factors.

Groupe URD has conducted a study of humanitarian space in Chad, with the objective of better understanding how it has been reduced, ensuring that it is better respected in the future, so that aid agencies can continue to access affected populations. The study was commissioned by the Inter Agency Standing Committee (IASC) and was carried out between June and October 2009. Through numerous field visits and interviews with humanitarian actors, both Chadian and international, a three-pillar framework was developed, forming the foundation for humanitarian space:

  • The Legal Pillar: which defines the responsibilities of different stakeholders, particularly the Chadian authorities and MINURCAT [1] ;
  • The Principles Pillar: which defines the modes of interaction for humanitarian workers, in the complex context in which they work;
  • The Security Pillar: which depends on the legal pillar and principles pillar both being respected, and defines the real physical limits of humanitarian space on the ground.

This framework has been constructed so as to take into account the network of different stakeholders; the Chadian state (at both national and local level), a wide variety of humanitarian actors (with their respective mandates), and the specific role played by the United Nations Mission in Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT). In May 2010, following a series of complex and difficult negotiations, Resolution 1923 was signed, laying down the steps for progressive withdrawal of MINURCAT by the end of 2010. Since May, the security situation in eastern Chad has further deteriorated, with a number of kidnappings and attempted kidnappings, attacks on convoys, attacks on the DIS [2] (the police force set up by MINURCAT), etc. Despite the security mechanisms put in place by the Chadian government to protect civilians and humanitarian workers in the east, there is increasing concern about humanitarian space in this area. How can a space be re-created to access affected populations? How can the protection of populations and humanitarians alike be improved? More than ever before, these questions need to be discussed. The debate should be open and inclusive, involving all the major stakeholders, especially the Chadian authorities.

[1] United Nations Mission in Central African Republic and Chad

[2] Détachement Intégré de Sécurité or Integrated Security Detachment