Groupe URD - Humanitarian Aid on the move
Newsletter # 9 March 2012
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“Resilience” – buzzword or useful concept?

When we spoke of resilience in 1999, in our report on the famine in Bar El Ghazal, it was not understood by some. This concept from the field of psychology, which describes the capacity of individuals to absorb and survive stress and adversity, was being applied to the living conditions of the inhabitants of the great wetlands of the Nilotic depression in Southern Sudan, one of the harshest environments imaginable. The concept of resilience could also be applied to humanitarian operations in Southern Sudan, which are very fragile as they are dependent on the presence of expatriates, the security situation and flight authorizations from Khartoum [...]


François Grunewald

Humanitarian space

The shared interests which make humanitarianism possible 

Is humanitarian space shrinking? Are humanitarian organisations less capable than before of providing those affected by war, epidemics and natural disasters with assistance? In a new publication, Humanitarian Negotiations Revealed – The MSF Experience, MSF looks at the difficulties encountered by aid organisations from a different angle. Based on the association’s recent experience, it argues that relief activities are not in any way linked to the existence of a humanitarian space which simply needs to be defended on ethical terms against attempts to instrumentalise it. The authors explain that the central question in terms of aid organizations gaining access to a space in which to work is their ability to reach a compromise between their interests and those of the powers in place. Thus, the question is: what is an acceptable compromise in the eyes of a humanitarian organization like MSF?


How do Sri Lankan aid workers in Vavuniya understand the term 'humanitarian' and to what extent do they identify with it?

Following the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka in 2009, the phase of emergency humanitarian aid is coming to a close.  The focus is now on moving towards longer-term development goals.  The number of international staff in organisations is being reduced as programmes are increasingly managed by local staff.  Against this backdrop of transition, the purpose of this qualitative research is to focus on Sri Lankan aid workers in Vavuniya, to better understand what the term ‘humanitarian’ means to them, how it shapes their identity and guides the programmes they manage.  The interviewees are part of a group who will increasingly determine how aid will be provided in the future. 



Environment and conflict in Latin America

Environmental conflicts in Latin America are an important and often overlooked problem in the region. There are varying types of environmental conflicts, but their impacts on local communities are consistently negative. It is vital for the international humanitarian and development aid community to understand these conflicts and recognize how they, as relevant actors, can play a positive role in addressing and transforming them.


Does humanitarian coordination exclude local actors and weaken their capacity?

Many reasons have been given to justify the exclusion of local actors from the humanitarian response in Haiti, such as the weakness of local institutions, human losses caused by the earthquake, the Presidential election, the cholera crisis and the partisan nature of Haitian organisations. The idea here is not to deny the importance of these factors, but there is a danger that, by concentrating on these, other essential issues are being overlooked which could explain why Haitians were marginalized during the emergency phase and why there have been difficulties in making the transition to reconstruction.


Aid & Quality

Haiti: The limits of the “Aid System”

The present article looks at the 2010 aid efforts in Haiti, a year in which 2 events resulted in massive humanitarian crisis. The first, the January 2010 earthquake, triggered overwhelming mobilization of aid: hundreds of actors poured into the country, deploying large scale emergency assistance. The second event, a cholera epidemic, started in October and received much media attention, but met with an overstretched aid community. The now traditional UN coordinated efforts aimed to organize aid mobilization for both crisis.
In the article MSF exposes an analytic review of the 2010 aid reality in Haiti as well reflections that emerge from the experience: despite the undeniable effort invested into the coordination of aid, the current “aid system” does not seem to have improved emergency assistance; worse, the system itself appears to generate “roadblocks” for an effective response. Various reasons can be evoked for this, notably the much advocated shift to early recovery, while actual immediate needs of the affected population are far from being addressed.


Humanitarian crises and sustainability sanitation: lessons from Eastern Chad  

How important is sanitation during a humanitarian crisis? Why is it important to explore ecological and sustainable sanitation?
This article looks at the case of Eastern Chad, an example of a major long-term crisis. From an acute emergency in 2003, the crisis has gone through a number of phases. The appropriateness of aid mechanisms is currently being questioned, with a particular focus on sanitation.
Sustainable sanitation can help to improve the quality of life of refugees and IDPs as well as local populations. From this perspective, what lessons from Eastern Chad could be useful in other contexts?



Training courses organised by Groupe URD
The World Water Forum, 12 - 17 March 2012, Marseille
AFD-EUDN Conference 2012: "Malaise dans l’évaluation : quelles leçons tirer de l’expérience du Développement", 26 March 2012, Paris
9th edition of the DIHAD, 1-3 April, Dubai
6th edition of the "Salon des Solidarités", 1-3 June, Paris
Point of view

From UNDRO to the Transformative Agenda: 40 years of challenges for the coordination of humanitarian action



* Post-crisis food security