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close this bookDisaster Management Ethics (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - United Nations Development Programme , 1997, 70 p.)
close this folderTOPIC 2 Providing humanitarian assistance to displaced populations and refugees
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe nature of the working environment in contemporary emergencies
View the documentEthical dilemmas and humanitarian relief
View the documentStrategies for the negotiation of rights
View the documentIdentifying and understanding the limits to available policy instruments
View the documentLabeling and counting beneficiaries
View the documentProviding relief versus securing rights: ethical assistance strategies
View the documentDilemmas in participation
View the documentDisplaced people, refugees and local hosts
View the documentAddressing the needs of women
View the documentObligations to staff
View the documentConclusion
View the documentResponse by Phil Anderson
View the documentResponse by Jacques Cuenod
View the documentResponse by Arthur E. Dewey

Providing relief versus securing rights: ethical assistance strategies

Mass distribution of relief items is facilitated by concentrating beneficiaries into camps or their equivalents. Encampment is often justified by security and political concerns about keeping migrants separated from the host society and economy. Such policies of separation may even be pursued with internally displaced populations despite their rights as citizens. People may be encamped who have sought refuge with relatives and friends in the host community, or who have settled themselves with support from local institutions, such as churches.

Encampment and dependency on relief systems, justified in the emergency phase, may become permanent because people are denied the rights to move, work and integrate themselves in the local community. Consequently, they cannot become self-sufficient. Since relief is rarely adequate and will usually be reduced when donor political attention shifts, hardship can persist unnecessarily in camps. Where refugees illegally engage in economic activities or enter the labor market in order to survive, rights are often abused. Corruption of host country officials and police may be encouraged. Epidemics are more likely in crowded conditions. More ethical and effective policies would involve efforts to secure for beneficiaries the rights to a livelihood and to self-sufficiency. Host institutions and service structures need donor support to facilitate integration with minimal negative consequences.