Browse by Theme: Humanitarian

People have a certain image of what constitutes an emergency. To someone you ask in the street they would probably imagine panic, chaos and people desperately trying to save their families. And that is true but not always the case, as emergencies get more drawn out due to long-standing conflict, like in Syria, or are slow-burning crises such as Ethiopia’s drought brought on by the climate impacts of El Nino. In these situations, emergency is embedded in everyday life – thinking about the safest route to go to the market or children dropping out of school becomes a part of daily life. And this is when it is not so easy to differentiate humanitarian and development approaches as short-term creeps into long-term.

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A week ago, MSF announced that they are pulling out of the World Humanitarian Summit, slamming the process for its failure to tackle the major challenges facing efforts to protect and assist people in times of crisis. Indeed they went so far as to state that the Summit process was part of the problem – by its agenda blurring the lines between development, political and humanitarian action.

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With humanitarian crises in the Middle East, Africa and Asia having reached the shores of Europe, political attention is finally fixed at what is perhaps the greatest challenge of our time: reversing the trend of ever greater numbers of people deprived and displaced by war or natural disasters, and the failure to provide them with the dignified assistance they need. The World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on May 23 and 24 is an historic opportunity to kick-start that effort. Unfortunately, despite years of preparation and a very thorough process of consultation by the UN, I fear this opportunity is going to be missed.

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Two recent CARE workshops have helped frame for me the resilience discussion that has come to dominate development discourse over the last five years. In fragile contexts, can we afford to be ambitious with our programming goals to encompass both gender transformative action and crisis adaptation? And more to the point, can we afford not to?

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50 per cent of DFID’s budget is now allocated to conflict-affected and fragile states. The UK government is also demonstrating a leading role on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda with ambitious commitments made at the High-Level Review of UNSCR 1325. But is political commitment to WPS stuck at the global level? What is being done to improve the situation for women and girls on the ground?

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After disasters many international agencies, including CARE, undertake a whole range of projects to help affected people recover, including the construction of houses. These may be described as all sorts of things, including temporary shelter, transitional shelter, durable shelter, semi-permanent shelter, core houses or permanent houses. Which description is used often seems almost arbitrary, decided by a mixture of assumptions about people’s recovery, donor mandates and priorities, government policy and the level of expertise available in agencies. The description rarely matches reality.

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CARE has been working in India for over 65 years, and over that time a large part of its work has been responding to and supporting recovery from disasters. Many of these humanitarian projects have involved emergency shelter and housing reconstruction. Indeed, since 2000, CARE has built over 8,000 houses for some of the most vulnerable people who have lost their homes in disasters. A number of other agencies have undertaken similar construction programmes over the years. So what has the long-term effect of these projects been? Is the approach right, and given both the scale of typical disasters in India and the increasing quality and reach of government response, is the approach still relevant and appropriate?

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