Challenges in the humanitarian community: cohesive action

…there are already enormous efforts being put into achieving greater coordination and coherence in responses through new UN structures and NGO consortia.  However, fundamental differences of ideology, outlook, institutional cultures, and working practices make this difficult…

With no single authority governing humanitarian action, it will be impossible to get a critical mass of agencies to cede their independence of action by simply setting aspirational goals not least because of the enormous institutional changes required…

…it is not clear how setting goals can help with collective accountability…in theory this sounds appealing…but in practice who decides what these goals should be and whether a particular aid agency has met them?  How are they to be monitored and measured, and what happens if they are not met?  Where is the threshold between meeting and missing the goal to be set?

– Sara Pantuliano, David Miliband’s aid goals ignore evolution of humanitarian industry, The Guardian

Still, cohesion and coordination between and among humanitarian actors continue to be a burning issue within the community given that “independence of action” has resulted to costly replication of efforts, contradicting the community’s ideal of significant change based on humanitarian actions of scale as opposed to bits of efforts here and there that don’t as a whole leave significant dent on the landscape.

The way I see it, emergencies and disasters provide humanitarian actors the opportunity to suspend their “fundamental differences of ideology, outlook, institutional cultures, and working practices” in the name of effective collective action.  Local governments, particularly politicians, are called upon to suspend their political differences during emergencies in order to address collectively the needs of the affected population.  It’s the same call made to the humanitarian community.  If we say it can’t be done, then that’s when world peace that the same community has been campaigning for ends and chaos begins. Aid agencies are part of the NGO community and the founding ideology of this community is, it is the better alternative to existing systems and practices that are not working.


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