Humanitarian Governance

Laura Hammond
Dept of Development Studies, SOAS
SOAS/Mo Ibrahim Foundation Seminar on
Governance and Development
May 2013
Accra, Ghana
Rules, structures and mechanisms for
promoting accountable and effective
humanitarian practice, including prevention,
mitigation, management, response, and
recovery from disasters of all types.
◦ Actors can include states (at all levels) but also
regional bodies, LNGOs, INGOs, etc.
Rapid onset disasters – floods, storms,
earthquakes, communicable disease
Slow onset disaster – drought, climate change
effects, chronic disease at epidemic levels
Complex emergencies – conflict, state failure
- Usually these three are interrelated
what is their reputation?
what kind of relationship do they have with
the state?
with local people?
Do they engage directly –including
channelling funds through government?
Does the state facilitate or constrain
humanitarian action?
1970s-80s: donors gave through direct
payment to the state, even balance of
payments support (Harvey 2009). INGOs
1990s – shift to support through NGOs, Red
Cross. Assumed states were too weak or
corrupt to handle aid themselves
2000s – resurgence in interest in direct
assistance – recognition of increasing
◦ Emphasis on national ownership
State has the first ‘Responsibility to Protect’ –
Sovereignty has obligations and rights
State ideally should be able to respond to
risks/disasters on its own
Where it requires assistance, it should be able
to coordinate, approve intervention plans, see
and approve budgets, and evaluate (or see
evaluations) of external activities
International norms & legal instruments can
be used to back up national responsibility
Provide protection & live-saving assistance if
state cannot or will not
Under IHL, states must, if they are unable or
unwilling to assist civilians, grant access to
an organisation ‘like the ICRC’.
◦ Doesn’t mean that all NGOs have a right to access
Independence, Neutrality, Impartiality are Key
◦ HOs must choose between capacity building,
service substitution, advocacy (& sometimes
◦ Where states do not uphold social contract, IOs
often see it as their role to speak out
But adherence to principles may result in
distance between HOs and govt
Strong response can provide a political boost
Conditionality regularly used to guide
political policy
Humanitarian assistance used for statebuilding, hearts & minds
Humanitarian principles often used only with
regard to humanitarian action & not
Without regulation/registration, international
organisations are not likely to self regulate
◦ Some accountability mechanisms: Humanitarian
Accountability Partnership, Red Cross Code of
Conduct, Sphere Guidelines, etc.
HOs often resist coordination efforts
But regulation of humanitarian governance
can also be used as a way of maintaining
control over citizens, restricting LNGO
activities, curtailing human rights
Humanitarian (& Development) Governance
part of wider governance debates
Humanitarian space can be a ‘black hole’ of
Effective system comes from leadership as
well as insistence on accountability & service
from below
Contradiction: provide support to
government but preserve independence to be
able to protect those who need it