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Public Health and Humanitarian Crisis (Humanitarian Assistance Webcast 10)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Despite improvements in the coordination and delivery of humanitarian assistance in recent decades, armed conflict remains a leading public health concern. Mortality rates have declined in camps for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDP), but overcrowding in camps, limited supplies of potable water, and poor sanitation have still contributed to some of the worst outbreaks of communicable diseases in history.

Furthermore, some humanitarian professionals have expressed concern that health-care provision in conflict is based on an outmoded model of humanitarian relief. Changes in geopolitics, global economic growth, and demographics have altered the profile of contexts in which armed conflict occurs. Conflict-affected countries increasingly have higher incomes, higher life expectancy, and a higher burden of non-communicable diseases. Violence occurs more frequently against a backdrop of urbanization and ageing more...

Peace Building and Humanitarian Engagement (Humanitarian Assistance Webcast 9)

Monday, June 11, 2012

The scope and character of peace-building and stabilization missions significantly affect the work of humanitarian actors. Across a range of contexts, humanitarian actors must balance principled action alongside considerations of peace. An operational format that gained traction in Boutros-Ghali’s 1992 “Agenda for Peace,” peace-building encompasses dimensions of peace-making, peacekeeping, and development. Despite the emergence of “stabilisation” frameworks post-9/11, which were aimed at limiting peace-building’s expansive definition, peace-building continues to cover a multitude of possible activities designed for positive peace.

The United Nations Department of Peace Keeping Operations is currently conducting 15 missions on four continents with the service of more than 120,000 men and women. Whether the objective of a specific format is a “positive peace” (in which violence ceases and justice is secured, alongside more...

Human Rights and Humanitarian Action (Humanitarian Assistance Webcast 8)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Human rights norms are playing an increasingly important role in humanitarian action. Yet there seems to be a growing confusion on the distinct origins and nuances of these bodies of law among practitioners engaged in humanitarian protection. This conflation has sometimes weakened arguments for compliance especially in situations involving intermittent bouts of conflict interspersed with periods of relative peace.

At its core, international humanitarian law (IHL) — the laws and customs of war — was developed to apply only during armed conflict and to provide a minimum level of humanity during such tumult. For its part, human rights law (HRL) — which emerged after IHL — governs the relationship between the state and the people within its jurisdiction, providing a framework to ensure that the state promotes and protects fundamental and indivisible values. While both HRL and IHL aim to recognize human more...

Empowering beneficiaries: Humanitarian professionals at a crossroads? (Humanitarian Assistance Webcast 7)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Humanitarian organizations face an inevitable tension that arises from two separate accountability structures. One framework, established by Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, holds organizations accountable to host states and donor states. A second framework, the human rights based approach, calls for accountability to individuals affected by hostilities. These two accountability structures create a multiplicity of obligations for humanitarian operators, who must simultaneously respond to the expectations of host state authorities, maintain accountability to donors, and respond to the needs of beneficiaries.

Additionally, efforts to professionalize humanitarian action have led to a new set of accountability measures to ensure the implementation of particular professional standards — from assessing humanitarian needs to implementing and evaluating humanitarian programs. This more...

The Integration of Humanitarian Action in Political and Security Missions (Humanitarian Assistance Webcast 6)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In 2000, the Brahimi Report on United Nations (UN) Peace Operations proposed a set of sweeping reforms geared toward building integrated UN peacekeeping missions. These proposals ushered in a series of structural changes — such as creating Special Representatives to the Secretary General (SRSG) and Humanitarian and Resident Coordinators — designed to enhance the strategic impact of UN missions. Over the course of the past decade, integrated peacekeeping missions have become the standard of operations.

But integration has raised new complexities and tensions for humanitarian professionals. As recognized under international humanitarian law (IHL), humanitarian assistance must be provided in accordance with the principles of independence, impartiality, and neutrality. Integrating humanitarian more...

Status of Humanitarian Reform (Humanitarian Assistance Webcast 5)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The humanitarian reform process, initiated by the United Nations in 2005, aimed to remedy gaps in humanitarian operations and improve the timeliness, effectiveness, and predictability of aid delivery. The reform process sought to achieve these goals through three separate but complementary approaches: (1) the introduction of the cluster system; (2) the Central Emergency Response Fund; and (3) a strengthened humanitarian coordinator system.

While greater synchronicity between humanitarian actors may be essential to improvement, the reform process thus far has been met with mixed results. To date, according to many observers, clusters tend to be more process than action oriented and largely exclude national and local actors. Much work still needs to be done to improve inter-cluster coordination and the direct funding of clusters rather than bilateral support has caused delays in operations. The cluster more...

NGOs’ Rights and Responsibilities for Humanitarian Access (Humanitarian Assistance Webcast 4)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

If the audio player above does not load, you can listen to the podcast here.

In recent years, humanitarian organizations have seen a rise in constraints on their access to vulnerable populations in times of conflict or internal disturbance. While international law provides important bases for humanitarian NGOs to obtain access to populations in need, it also imposes clear responsibilities on humanitarian organizations in terms of the maintenance of a neutral, independent and impartial approach to such situations. States remain primarily responsible for the provision of emergency assistance to their populations. However, in countries such as Pakistan or the Sudan governments are engaged in counter-insurgency more...

Mitigation to Prevention and Rehabilitation: The Changing Scope of Hum. Action (Hum. Assistance Webcast 3)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Humanitarians are continually charged with the reevaluation of their work based on the evolution of conflicts and disasters. No longer satisfied with simply providing relief in times of crisis, the frontier of humanitarian action has expanded to include not only life-saving assistance but also prevention and rehabilitation activities. However, this change in scope calls into question the classical distinction between relief and development programs, the core principles of humanitarianism, and how professionals conduct operations in the field.

From Mitigation to Prevention and Rehabilitation The Changing Scope of Humanitarian Action (Humanitarian Assistance Webcast 3) from ATHA on Vimeo.

This Humanitarian Assistance Webcast considered the following questions:

How do the core principles of humanitarianism apply to this changing more...

The Challenges of Professionalizing Humanitarian Action (Humanitarian Assistance Webcast 2)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Challenges of Professionalizing Humanitarian Action Held on Wednesday, October 5, 2011. According to ALNAP there are currently over 200,000 individuals working in humanitarian assistance and protection globally. Growing at a pace of 6% per year, this workforce is expected to double in size by 2020. Members of the workforce are composed in majority of professionals from the Global South with their specific needs in terms of professional development and limited access to traditional educational opportunities. This need for professional training that is at once specialized and universal presents the humanitarian sector with a number of challenges. Building from conversations from a survey conducted by the Harvard Program, this Humanitarian Assistance Webcast reviewed the type of challenges of providing professional development opportunities to these workers as part of efforts to professionalize the more...

ATHA Community Participation in Humanitarian Relief and Protection: From Principle to Reality

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

According to the Sphere Standards, disaster-affected populations should actively participate into the design, implementation and evaluation of humanitarian programs. Necessitating the involvement of beneficiaries is viewed as a way to lessen the inherent dependency in the aid relationship and inform the decisions of humanitarian planners and managers. However, from a practitioner's perspective, such participation of beneficiaries may become problematic in both the immediate delivery of assistance as well as the design of longer-term programs, particularly in terms of the independence of humanitarian action in times of armed conflict. Furthermore, arguments have been made that such participation in times of crises is for the most part subject to limited options and actual choices. Finally, one may wonder the extent to which leaders of communities, as compared to individual beneficiaries, should be engaged as the traditional representatives of communities' interests and expectations more...


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