Academic journal article Refuge

Can Aid Switch Gears to Respond to Sudden Forced Displacement? the Case of Haut-Uele, DRC

Academic journal article Refuge

Can Aid Switch Gears to Respond to Sudden Forced Displacement? the Case of Haut-Uele, DRC

Article excerpt

Wherever they occur, forced displacement and the urgent needs that result call for an immediate response. But how does the aid system respond when insecurity and forced displacement occur in what has long since been considered a stable, "development" context? Can longer-term aid interventions adapt when challenged to "shift gears" to address acute needs resulting from sudden, forced displacement?

Much has been debated about how to define humanitarian and development approaches and how to transition between or link up emergency relief and development aid in response to crises. (1) Ideas of linking humanitarian and development paradigms and practices are based on several fundamental assumptions, including: the possibility for aid to treat the root causes of conflict or violence and/or to reinforce security; the nature of emergency as a temporary and transitory state; the desire to avoid "doing harm" (2) and/or creating aid dependency; (3) and the ability to join up humanitarian, development, political, military, and/or other objectives without diminishing the effectiveness and impact of each. Most of these assumptions have been sorely tested in recent years in an increasing number of protracted crises and fragile post-conflict settings--often highlighting the necessity of distinction between coexisting humanitarian and development approaches and challenging the idea of a linear continuum between relief and development. (4)

Indeed, the two approaches are divergent in their scope and aspirations. As a rule, humanitarian aid aims to meet urgent needs resulting from events that represent a rupture from normalcy, such as wars, violence, natural catastrophes, epidemics, and structural crises. Humanitarian aid adopts an immediate, politically unconditioned approach that facilitates the safe provision of assistance to those in need; it aspires to gain acceptance and security for its activities by maintaining strict principles of impartiality and neutrality. (5) By contrast, development approaches privilege ongoing, sustainable advances toward ending poverty and achieving human security. While humanitarian aid focuses on the immediate needs of populations, development aid rather emphasizes support to systems in the longer term. This means that development can align itself with wider political objectives, including peace-building, state-building, and/or reinforcement of human rights and governance. In practice, the two paradigms of humanitarianism and development are often hardly absolutely distinct, with field-level situations often ending up between emergency and development poles, with both paradigms coexisting--depending on varying security, political, and economic conditions, as well as the functioning of basic services. At present, the tensions between the two approaches are thrown into even greater relief in an era when aid aspires to transition smoothly from crisis response to state-building, often in volatile post-conflict settings. (6) Accepting any reversal of development gains and the resurgence of emergency needs defies the conventional logic of a linear transition from humanitarian to development response.

In health and humanitarian assistance, several key issues around humanitarian and development approaches recur regularly in practice. (7) How to reconcile the two approaches and/or manage transition between the two approaches--from humanitarian to development, but also development to emergency, if need be? What is the real practicability and effectiveness of linking humanitarian and development and/ or adopting "early recovery" approaches? How to ensure an immediate response to urgent needs despite the often political demands for sustainability of longer term projects? In areas where humanitarian and development projects coexist, how to ensure respect of the operationally indispensable humanitarian principles that guarantee security and access--while in exactly the same context, development aid may legitimately align with state structures or adopt political objectives? …

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