Humanitarian Aid 101
The course outline for an imaginary class in “Humanitarian Principles and Practice.”
- 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.
- “Profit margin” thinking does not work in humanitarian operations.
- 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.