Originally Published at Peace and Conflict Monitor on: 03/26/2004
Conflict, Humanitarian Assistance and Peacebuilding: Meeting the Challenges
By Maria Lange and Mick Quinn, December 2003, International Alert
To the authors of this 28 pamphlet Do No Harm as a peg to hang humanitarian intervention is not exactly satisfactory. They are convinced that it is possible to do good. This is possible, they say, “by incorporating a ‘conflict sensitive’ approach in planning and programming. They further define what they mean by conflict sensitive as understanding the conflict context in which it operates, understand the interaction between its intervention and the (conflict) context, and act upon the understanding of this interaction in order to avoid negative impacts and maximize positive impacts on the (conflict) context and the intervention.
The short pamphlet is not short of prescriptions. The authors see political obstacles as being the most difficult problems associated with turning humanitarian aid into a significant part of the peacebuilding process. In addition they want donors to do much more: better coordination; more staff and resources; more downward accountability; mainstrem conflict strategies in intervention strategies. Escape from humanitarian intervention as a strategy in itself and ensure that humanitarian intervention is part of a very much wider strategy to develop a genuine peacebuilding outcome; to increase locally owned solutions to conflict that accompany humanitarian crises.
Certainly the recognition that humanitarian intervention can do more harm than good, and that at least humanitarian aid should be aimed at least at Doing No Harm is a little on the defeatist side. It is heartening to note that at least International Alert are convinced that through what they call “conflict sensitivity’ it is definitely possible to Do Good.
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About International Alert
International Alert is a non-governmental organisation based in the UK. The organisation was set up in 1985 by human rights advocates including Martin Ennals, former Secretary General of Amnesty International. A committed defender of human rights, Martin Ennals was the founding Secretary General of International Alert.
The creation of the organisation was a response to the rise in violent conflict within countries and the subsequent abuse of individual and collective human rights in conflict situations. Today there is an ever more pressing need for conflict resolution and peacebuilding efforts. International Alert has a multi-national team of 63 staff including volunteers and interns. The organisation is headed by a Secretary General, Dan Smith.