Humanitarian Aid 101

Humanitarian Aid 101

The course outline for an imaginary class in “Humanitarian Principles and Practice.”

1) Humanitarian aid cannot and will not fix anything.

  • It is important to understand the difference between “making things better” and “making things less awful”
  • One of the hardest things is balancing the needs of NGOs against the need for NGOs.

2) Aid is never simple. Even if it seems like it is or ought to be. Aid is always more complicated than you think.

3) Getting the lowest price or running the least expensive program is not the same things as “being efficient.”

  • “Profit margin” thinking does not work in humanitarian operations.

4) Accept that some good ideas cannot be implemented.

  • Disaster survivors (“the poor” in development programs) very often have very good reasons for preferring supposedly inferior products.
  • Single-purpose, niche technologies may be very cool, but they are almost never good investments in humanitarian operations.

5)The information paradox” – there is always both too much and also too little information for good decision-making.

6)Background Noise” (media coverage, public opinion, social media commentary, etc.) is as much a part of the humanitarian context as, say, collapsed buildings or armed bandits.

7) There is always more work to do. It is never the right time to shut down your computer for the day.

8 ) Disaster survivors will often take advantage of relief aid if they can. (That’s nothing against them… Just a statement of fact.)

9) Humanitarian aid is always, always, always political. (Even if your employer claims “impartiality” and/or “neutrality”)

10) You have to tell people what’s going on. Even if you can’t help them.

11 Responses to “Humanitarian Aid 101”

  1. Elliott Verreault 1 July, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

    Interesting post! You might want to share that on The Humanitarian Social Network: http://www.itsonehumanity.org

    All my best!

    Ellliott

  2. shanleyknox 1 July, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

    Thank you for this! I lived in Haiti for a period time, and then started my own initiative in Uganda after being there twice. This type of thing is so needed to spread awareness about the complications involved with working on the ground! Well said.

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