Rob Grace - November 20, 2017

What is essential for humanitarian practitioners to know about the relevance of the art of negotiation to their work? This blog post answers this question, drawing from the findings of a study that I conducted as part of ATHA’s ongoing research on humanitarian negotiation. This research project entailed 53 interviews conducted with humanitarian professionals working in a wide array of contexts across the globe, including armed conflicts, natural disasters, health emergencies, and urban development settings. As this research has shown, humanitarian negotiation is a complex process yielding a multitude of vexing challenges and dilemmas. I highlight five key issues below.

1. Negotiation is a key aspect of humanitarian action.

In the words of one humanitarian practitioner interviewed more...

Valerie Dobiesz & Julia Brooks - October 25, 2017

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The recent exposure of widespread sexual predation in the American media industry, from Harvey Weinstein to Bill O'Reilly, has elicited shock and sparked debate on violence against women in the United States.

Sexual harassment isn’t the exclusive domain of show biz big shots. It remains alarmingly prevalent nationwide, even as other crimes are generally decreasing nationwide.

In the U.S., a 2006 study found that 27 percent of college women reported some form of forced sexual contact – ranging from kissing to anal intercourse – after enrolling in school. This sexual violence is heavily underreported, with just 20 percent of female student victims reporting the crime to law enforcement.

Nor is sexual harassment more...

Julia Brooks & David Polatty - October 16, 2017

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.  

When humanitarian emergencies flare up, what should prompt the U.S. government to “send in the Marines”?

Disasters like Hurricane Harvey’s floods in Houston and Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico’s roads and power grid can quickly overwhelm civilian authorities and emergency responders. Military support can make a life-or-death difference in those emergencies.

As scholars at the U.S. Naval War College and Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, we have seen that the military can have a profound and positive impact on the immediate response to large-scale disasters such as Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria or the Haiti earthquake in 2010.

But soldiers, sailors, marines and aviators are more...

September 26, 2017

This guest blog comes from Kristin Bergtora Sandvik and Nathaniel A. Raymond. Kristin is a Research Professor in Humanitarian Studies at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) and a professor of  Sociology of Law  at the University of Oslo. Nathaniel is the Director of the Signal Program on Human Security and Technology at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.

Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) are now a standard part of the mass atrocity responder’s toolkit, being employed for evidence collection and research by NGOs, governments, and the private sector. One of the more notable justifications for their use has been to supplement or improve the protection of vulnerable populations. In a new article published in the Genocide Studies and Prevention Journal, we argue that there is little evidence for the more...

Omar Mekky - September 21, 2017

This guest blog comes to us from Omar Mekky. Omar is the Regional Legal Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and a Judge at the Egyptian Primary Courts (on leave). He is a PhD candidate in International Law at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva.

In the early morning of 1 January 2015, I made my way to Sanaa airport to take a flight back to my hometown, Cairo, after a short mission in Yemen. While there, I met Mohamed Al-Hakmi, a colleague and a devoted International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) employee, a man who is most importantly remembered for his dedication to humanitarian work.

That cold Sanaa morning, Al-Hakmi, who was known for his pleasant personality, received me with his usual warm smile as we more...

Hari Krishna Nibanupudi - September 14, 2017

This guest blog comes to us from Hari Krishna Nibanupudi, a disaster resilience and climate change specialist at Safe Citizen International in Hyderabad, India. He has over two decades of experience in humanitarian work in Asia and Africa. He is an award winning Blogger and Short filmmaker on Issues of Climate Migration and Disaster Resilience and has published regularly on the subject in South Asia.

Recently, I was in Malawi to assess flood-affected communities. I noticed two young girls in a displaced perons camp who appeared to be suffering from not only disaster-related injuries but also acute mental illness. One stayed beside me throughout my interaction with the communities there. As we prepared to leave, she held my hand tightly and started crying loudly. As some members of the community took her away, a local told me more...

Special Operations Command Africa hosted its first Women’s Leadership Forum during International Women’s Day in N'Djamena, Chad, Mar. 7, 2017.
Meredith Blake - September 13, 2017

As humanitarian professionals pay greater attention to the differential impacts of disasters and conflicts on women, men, boys, and girls, they increasingly incorporate gender analysis into their preliminary assessments and response plans. These considerations are crucial not only in the emergency response phase—when pre-existing gender inequalities can be greatly exacerbated—but also in the longer-term, post-emergency response phase, when strategic humanitarian programming can play an important role in fostering equitable outcomes and inclusive, sustainable recovery and development. A critical irony facing the sector itself, however, is how often humanitarian organizations struggle internally with some of the same gender-related issues their mandates obligate them to address in beneficiary populations. If humanitarians are truly more...

Molly Doggett - September 8, 2017


This guest blog comes to us from students in Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic. It is based on a previous version written by Carina Bentata Grytin, Molly Doggett, Lan Mei, and Alice Osman which appeared on the Human Rights@Harvard Law blog here.


In December of 2016, the United Nations General Assembly decided in a historic vote to conduct negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons. Momentum for such a treaty had been building for years, with UN member states and civil society participating in a series of humanitarian conferences leading up to the General Assembly vote. The treaty negotiations took place in two separate sessions, the first more...

Julia Brooks - September 4, 2017

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.  

Between the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other government entities, nonprofits large and small, and contributions from concerned individuals, a massive Hurricane Harvey relief effort is taking shape.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s “Help for Houston” drive and countless other community collections illustrate the American impulse to help people whose lives have been upended by catastrophic floods. But like his campaign, these well-intentioned bids to ship goods to distant locales in Texas are perpetuating a common myth of post-disaster charitable giving.

As a researcher with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, an interdisciplinary center at Harvard University dedicated to relieving human suffering in more...

Working Group on Protection of Humanitarian Action - August 18, 2017

World Humanitarian Day, held every year on August 19, pays tribute to those who risk their lives in humanitarian work around the world. Humanitarian aid workers provide life saving and life sustaining assistance and protection to populations affected by conflict, disaster and crisis, and in the process, many risk their lives to help others.

Violence against Aid

During the first six months of 2017, at least 104 aid workers were reportedly killed, at least 72 injured, and 97 reportedly kidnapped around the world, according to the monitoring by Insecurity Insight’s Aid in Danger project. These figures are based on information collected from open sources (Monthly News Brief) and direct submissions from 25 partner agencies to the Security in Numbers Database (SiND), and include incidents from the Aid Worker Security Database more...

Manoocher Deghati / IRIN
Julia Brooks - July 19, 2017

The pattern will be familiar to anyone working in international disaster response. In the immediate aftermath of a large-scale earthquake, hurricane or Tsunami, domestic responders are quickly overwhelmed, and offers of international aid begin pouring in. By filling gaps in local relief efforts, this international assistance can make a critical difference in the lives of disaster-affected people. Yet when aid is needed most, it can also get mired in bureaucratic red tape: foreign disaster relief workers face visa restrictions, delays and fees; relief goods and equipment get stuck in customs; foreign search and rescue dogs are held in quarantine. In other cases, the breakdown of governmental authority makes it hard to filter bad aid out from the good: (however well-meaning) private donors ship ill-suited goods or expired medications to more...

Bonnie Docherty - July 18, 2017

A previous version of this article appeared on the Human Rights@Harvard Law blog here.

Since armed conflict broke out in Ukraine in 2014, the use of explosive weapons has directly damaged hospitals, destroyed ambulances, and killed or injured health workers. It has also indirectly affected the health care system by shutting down infrastructure—causing loss of electricity, heat, water, and communications—and creating travel risks for ambulances, medical personnel, and civilians in need.

These impacts have interfered with the provision of health care to local civilians and forced many to go without.

A recent report, Operating under Fire: The Effects of Explosive Weapons on Health Care in the East of Ukraine, documents the situation, drawing on field research conducted in communities along the front line. more...

Megan Nobert - July 12, 2017

Sexual violence happens all over the world – in and out of conflict settings. Statistics suggest that at least 1 in 3 women will be affected by sexual violence. It is a degrading experience, one that takes away the ability to choose what happens to one’s body, and that affects individuals throughout the globe.

Sexual violence is distinguished from consensual sex by the lack of consent given by one of the parties. This absence of consent creates a power imbalance, makes it more difficult for survivors to report or seek justice, and can be a root cause of the psychosocial impacts of sexual violence, in particular the feelings of shame and worthlessness. In humanitarian settings, these impacts are felt regardless of whether one is a survivor of sexual violence from the local population, or from the humanitarian community – an more...

Lisa Reilly / EISF
Adelicia Fairbanks - July 10, 2017

This guest blog post comes to us from Adelicia Fairbanks. Adelicia is Research Adviser at the European Interagency Security Forum (EISF), where she is responsible for producing original research papers, articles, blogs and guides that help share and promote best practices in security risk management within the humanitarian sector, with the aim of building the capacity of security practitioners. She is currently managing a research project on the security of staff with diverse profiles.

As an aid worker, it is not unusual to travel in remote and insecure locations, driving from one field location to another in clearly marked humanitarian vehicles. Being stopped at checkpoints is also a regular feature of being an aid worker. But imagine you reach a checkpoint where the guards are young and appear tense. They tell everyone to get more...

Blast victims receive treatment at a hospital in Lahore, Pakistan © Abdul Majeed Goraya/IRIN
Julia Brooks - May 15, 2017

It’s been over a year since the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2286 condemning attacks on medical facilities and personnel in conflict, and calling for an end to impunity. Yet as a series of new reports indicate, attacks on healthcare are more prevalent than ever, and accountability remains just as far afield.

Tracking violence against healthcare

In 2016, “the sheer number of countries and the intensity of attacks on health facilities, health workers, ambulances, and patients are staggering,” notes the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition in its newly released report documenting widespread attacks on, and interference with, healthcare in 23 countries in conflict. Collectively, the report emphasized, these attacks “threaten the health, well-being, and the lives of people who may number in the millions.”



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