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Humanitarian Assistance Webcast: New Warfare Technologies, New Protection Challenges

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Recent scientific and technological advances have given rise to unprecedented means and methods of warfare. Some of these new technologies — such as observation and combat drones — are already in use, while others — for example, nanotechnologies, combat robots, and laser weapons — are still in experimental stages.

These developments have, and will continue to, profoundly change the ways that modern actors engage in armed conflict. On the one hand, these technologies can not only limit civilian losses but also can spare the lives of combatants. On the other hand, certain features of these new technologies raise unprecedented issues that make the legality of an attack more difficult to ascertain and the attribution of responsibility more complex.

This Humanitarian Action Webcast, produced in partnership with the International Review of the Red Cross, will explore contemporary technological developments and will discuss the resulting challenges that emerge for more...



Health Delivery in Armed Conflict

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

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The delivery of health services in contemporary armed conflicts is becoming increasingly complex, as the nature of these conflicts is continually changing. While the response to specific health needs of vulnerable populations may be found in specialized literature, the practical challenges of access to victims and the response to major disruptions of health care systems in conflict are rarely discussed in global health arenas. This is an issue of particular relevance to the Harvard community, as well as the global humanitarian community of professionals, designing an effective humanitarian response in these environments.

In...



Interview: Peter Singer

Monday, April 14, 2014

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On April 15, 2014, for the Advanced Training Program on Humanitarian Action (ATHA), Rob Grace interviewed Dr. Peter Singer about the impact of new technologies on the evolution of warfare. Dr. Singer is the director of the Center for 21st Century Security Intelligence at the Brookings Institution and is the author of several books on the topic, including his most recent book, co-authored with Allan Friedman, Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know.

Highlights from this interview were featured on a Humanitarian...



Humanitarian Assistance Webcast: Yemen in Transition

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Presented in partnership with Médecins Sans Frontières Despite the Yemeni Government’s commitment to the 2014 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan and ongoing efforts toward a sustainable political transition, the country’s humanitarian situation remains dire. As Yemen struggles to sustain a series of ceasefires, strengthen its central authority, and provide humanitarian assistance to its population, violence between Yemen’s armed forces and various armed groups threatens to destabilize an already fragile transition. According to Mr. Ismail Ould Cheick Ahmed, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, “the scale of current needs makes Yemen one of the largest humanitarian emergencies globally. In 2014, more than half of Yemen’s population will need some form of humanitarian assistance.” Over recent weeks, violence has escalated with reports of indiscriminate and more...



Engaging Violent Cities: Operational Challenges for Humanitarian Action in Urban Areas (HAW 17)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

In the year 2008, for the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population was living in urban areas. Cities have become more numerous, more populous, and denser. The complexity and density of urban environments significantly alter the viability of certain humanitarian protection strategies that might work well in rural, more sparsely populated areas. In addition, it has become difficult to draw the line between acute and chronic vulnerability and therefore, the identification of beneficiaries. This blur in distinction between chronic and acute vulnerability has raised a number of important questions for humanitarian organizations regarding if and how they should intervene. While many such organizations are equipped with the appropriate skills to mitigate overwhelming public health challenges is such contexts, the absence of a crisis point - such as armed conflict or natural disaster - brings the mandate of humanitarian agencies into question. Despite challenges, more...



Lessons Learned? The Role of Humanitarians in Protection Response (Humanitarian Assistance Webcast 16)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The performance of the international humanitarian system has been under the scrutiny of a number of evaluative reports in recent months – particularly in relation to its actions and inactions in Sri Lanka, 2009. Notably, the reports present a steadfast recognition that lessons must be learned within and across organizations. However, how such conclusions will be integrated in practice still remains unclear. Faced with a state apparatus determined to dictate the parameters of access while simultaneously unable or unwilling to protect the population, the international humanitarian community has often been unable to act in a strategic, coordinated manner. Fingers have been pointed at staff that “had insufficient political expertise and experience in armed conflicts and in human rights,” and were “not given sufficient policy and political support.” Ensuring that field-based staff has the necessary skills and support to make tough choices is, of course, of great importance. However, more...



The Challenges of Engagement: DRR and Civil Society (Humanitarian Assistance Webcast 15)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Humanitarian actors have increasingly recognized that successful disaster risk reduction (DRR) projects must be conceived as long-term, holistic initiatives geared toward enhancing the ways that states and societies approach resilience. Additionally, the humanitarian sector has learned that the success of long-term projects hinges on the participation of an actively engaged local community. In fact, this notion — that humanitarian action should be centered on the active participation of beneficiaries— underpins the professional standards of the humanitarian sector.

However, in actuality, international actors often treat civil society as an obstacle, and local actors tend to serve merely as minor players in DRR projects. Additionally, governments are not always keen to see the growth of a strong civil society, particularly if this development might generate organized criticism of those who hold governmental power. Such attitudes might not only hinder the implementation of a more...



On the Basis of Humanitarian Need? The Confounding of Operational Decision Making. (Hum. Assistance Webcast 14)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A central tenet of international humanitarian assistance is to fulfill the needs of a population unmet by the state in time of crisis. As such, a great deal of importance is placed upon how this need is calculated, how the collection of information might be standardized, and how the gathered information might be better shared. Despite this emphasis, it is unclear to what extent this information is used by operational decision makers.

Indeed, action on the basis of need is seen as the hallmark of professionalism in the humanitarian community. According to the Humanitarian Charter, “… assistance must be provided according to the principle of impartiality, which requires that it be provided solely on the basis of need and in proportion to need.” Similarly the General Principles of the Good Humanitarian Donorship state that the allocation of funding should be in proportion to needs and on the basis of needs assessment. The ultimate aim of such efforts is most efficient and more...



Follow the Money: How Has Aid Measured Up in 2012? (Humanitarian Assistance Webcast 13)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

As the Global Humanitarian Assistance (GHA) 2012 Report notes, humanitarian needs in 2011 decreased from those of the previous year. Financing requests dropped by 21% and the overall funding response decreased by 9% from 2010 to 2011. However, despite this shift, the gap in unmet financing widened. According to the GHA report, "the proportion of humanitarian financing needs within the UN CAP [United Nations Consolidated Appeals Process] appeal that remained unmet in 2011 was greater, at 38%, than in any year since 2001, despite overall reduced requirements." This trend is not exclusive to the past two years. In the past half decade, the gap between met and unmet needs in UN CAP appeals widened by 10%, despite large increases to financing. Further complicating the ability of international agencies to meet humanitarian needs, the year 2012 has seen crises emerge in environments that have been highly politicized increasingly dangerous for international workers. According to the Aid more...



DRR, Inc.: Can the Private Sector Revive Resilience? (Humanitarian Assistance Webcast 12)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

As the planet warms, the vulnerability of communities in less developed countries rises. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in 2008, 20 million people were displaced by climate-related sudden onset disasters. Additionally, as AlertNet reports, in 2011, floods, typhoons, and earthquakes caused over $274 billion of economic losses in Asia alone. Without appropriate mitigation strategies, extreme weather and rising tides are likely to lead to greater losses of life and development investments in the coming decades.

While professionals in the humanitarian and development sectors recognize the importance of countering the negative impact of climate change and weather-related disasters, pathways to implementation remain difficult to navigate. In particular, an incongruity exists between the recognized importance of disaster risk reduction (DRR) and the funding allocated to resilience building efforts. According to a recent study by the think tank, more...



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