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close this bookNew Approaches to New Realities (University of Wisconsin, 1996, 508 p.)
close this folderTheme ONE: Identification and Planning of Emergency Settlement
View the documentTopic 1 - Introduction and Overview: Typology and Causes of Emergency Settlement
View the documentTopic 2 - Planning for Preparedness: Early Warning, Contingencies, and Operations
View the documentTopic 3 - Needs and Resources Assessment
View the documentTopic 4 - Information Management and Communications
View the documentTopic 5 - Interagency Coordination During Emergencies
View the documentTopic 6 - Systemwide Institutional Response to Emergencies

Topic 6 - Systemwide Institutional Response to Emergencies

This paper was prepared by Charles Dufresne of InterWorks. In addition to the resources identified in the paper, the following persons provided significant contributions:

Dr. Sultan Barakat - is the Director of the Post-War Reconstruction and Development Unit (PRDU), Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies, University of York, UK.

Jon Bennett - is with Oxford International Development Consultants and is also a Research Associate with the Refugee Studies Programme, Oxford University, U.K. He is the former Executive Director of ACBAR in Pakistan/Afghanistan from 1990-92, and former Director of ICVA’s NGO Coordination Programme from 1992-1994.

Mpho Makhema - Director of the Botswana Council for Refugees and George Labor - UNHCR-Botswana Office submitted a joint contribution and review.

Larry Minear, Co-director of the Humanitarianism and War Project, at the Thomas J. Watson, Jr., Institute for International Studies, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island.

Patricia Weiss Fagen - is Sr. Research Associate, War-Torn Societies Project, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, Programme for Strategic and International Security Studies.

Professor Roger Zetter - is Deputy Head of School of Planning, Oxford Brookes University, UK.

This paper is a synthesis of the efforts, comments and reviews of all of those cited above and as such does not express the viewpoint of any single resource, contributor or organization.

Introduction

While humanitarian operations have been relatively successful in El Salvador, Cambodia, Haiti and Mozambique, the relief system, as a whole, has disappointed many. Nowhere has this disappointment been greater than in complex emergencies, where countless relief efforts, millions of dollars and goodwill have failed to alleviate long-term suffering, mitigate against future emergencies, reduce civil strife and contribute to durable solutions. Increasingly, emergency relief practitioners and scholars alike are re-examining ways to improve systemwide response and individual institutional and organizational performance, as well as debating the compatibility of the military in humanitarian operations.

The international relief system is made up of a wide range of institutions and agencies which provide relief, humanitarian assistance and/or protection during emergencies. To mitigate against systemwide responses which are ad hoc, inefficient and ineffective, an improved systemwide response will use and build on the strength of each institutional player, while recognizing the distinct nature and limitations of each. By gaining a better understanding of the role and capabilities of other players in the system, each institution or agency can better prepare, plan for, coordinate and implement their emergency response.

While the names and numbers of institutional players are endless, in this paper, they are grouped according to general institutional families. These families are as follows: host government agencies; United Nations agencies; the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC); local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs); and military forces sanctioned by international or regional authorities.

More specifically, this paper aims to identify:

· Characteristics, strengths and limitations of each major family of institutions

· Critical issues, practices and improvements which can guide and enhance systemwide response and institutional performance

· Factors which influence the nature and evolution of a systemwide institutional response

· Resources and case studies on systemwide and institutional response

Institutional Families


Host Government

Description

In most emergency operations, the main counterpart in-country for international organizations is the government, with the exceptions being in countries like Somalia where a national government does not exist. In most countries, the government will establish a special ministry or other entity charged with overall coordination of government humanitarian assistance, and with interacting with international assistance entities. When such a government coordination structure exists, this will be an important counterpart for international humanitarian coordination staff. Host government coordination mechanisms may take different shapes, and in some cases, primary responsibility may rest within the Prime Minister’s office, another line ministry or with a Relief and Rehabilitation Commission.1

1 For an overview of different HOST GOVERNMENT disaster management models see UNDP/DHAs Disaster Management Training Programme, Research Paper No. 3, “Disaster Management Models: Seven Country Case Studies,” prepared by Yasemin Aysan, Andrew Clayton and Ian Davis. Oxford Centre for Disaster Studies, OCDS, UK.

Host government leadership depends on its governing capacity, resources, professional and bureaucratic competence, and control over its territory. Thus, in Cyprus an extremely capable and well trained cadre of civil servants and professionals ensured effective management capability during the Greek-Cypriot refugee crisis in 1974 resulting from the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. (Zetter, 1992). In Malawi, by the time assistance was internationalized in 1987, the government had a well defined operational framework in place which ensured that international agencies would work through this framework and channel their assistance through appropriate ministries (Zetter, 1995).

In other cases, however, the host government may be non-existent, such as in Somalia, or lack the administrative mechanisms and resources to regulate or coordinate them. For example, between August and September, 1994, when more than 130 NGOs arrived in Kigali, Rwanda, the government was totally incapable of receiving them. In the absence of such regulation, many NGOs effectively ignored the government and continued to do so even after the government regained a degree of control months later. In 1995 the Rwandese government issued a series of detailed regulations and procedures for NGOs based on models used in Uganda and Kenya. They were deemed “Draconian” by many NGOs. (See section on pages 10-11, Host Government control and regulation of NGOs)

Strengths

Host government leadership and involvement in assistance efforts can build national pride, strengthen civil institutions, lend credibility to international efforts, ensure long-term sustainability and reduce national fears related to loss of government autonomy. According to Minear (March, 1996) host government leadership can also enhance the likelihood of the appropriateness of the assistance provided. When the host government plays a lead coordinating role, it can also secure the cooperation of regional and local government agencies in the relief effort. Additionally, a centralized host government structure can reduce duplication and control competing interests among external agencies.

While external agencies focus on immediate relief, the host government generally is more interested in longer term solutions and emergency responses which are aligned with their rehabilitation and development efforts. Host governments are also more likely to ensure that international agencies address host’s needs, as well as refugee needs-e.g., schools, medical support, and infrastructure. In many cases, the host government will have administrative structures which are more familiar and accessible to refugees and host populations alike. Similarly, the host government will generally be more familiar and experienced in working with local leadership structures.

Limitations

Host governments may fail to engage the larger humanitarian community for a variety of reasons. In cases where preserving their autonomy is a prime consideration, host governments may downplay the scale of the emergency or exaggerate their capacity in an effort to ward off external interference in their internal affairs. In many other cases, Minear (1996) notes that few governments are fully familiar with the international resources and institutions available to assist. Consequently, international agencies which could have averted, or mitigated, a major humanitarian emergency, may not respond at all, or respond long after the worst of the emergency has passed.

In developing countries, few governments have the resources required to establish and sustain a structure for leading an international relief effort. Where this is the case, they will also lack adequate monitoring and evaluation capacities. As the scale of the crisis and the numbers of external agencies increase, many host governments, either by choice or circumstance, end up ceding control of these functions to external authorities. In Malawi, what started out as an innovative host government model, in the later stages, as the emergency intensified and external aid agencies flooded the country, began to resemble a more conventional, externally dominated, relief model (Zetter, 1995).

Critical issues and practices

a) No government (e.g., Somalia) or populations in disputed territory (e.g., Liberia)

In complex emergencies, host governments may not be viable coordinators, or implementing partners, either because they don’t exists (as in Somalia), or they don’t control or allow access to the areas and populations in need (e.g., Liberia and Sudan). In these situations, humanitarian personnel face increased security risks. In addition, humanitarian assistance is often politically manipulated or forcefully diverted, as witnessed in Sudan, the former Yugoslavia, Ethiopia and Mozambique.

In these cases external agencies have sought and established alternative arrangements for gaining access and ensuring safety of humanitarian personnel. For example, external agencies have conducted cross-border operations, negotiated access with all parties to the conflict, and lobbied for internationally sanctioned military support (e.g., Somalia).

Burden sharing

In most emergencies, host governments and local populations are the first to respond to the humanitarian needs of the affected populations. When the emergency is prolonged and the demand and competition for their resources are great, host governments and their people can grow understandably weary and hostile towards foreign refugees on their soils. Host governments and populations are more likely to support humanitarian assistance when the international community is forthcoming in reimbursing or providing the financial and material resources. During the Gulf Crisis, Jordan initially provided over $55 million in assistance to accommodate over one million evacuees fleeing to Jordan from Iraq (Minear, Chelliah, Crisp, Mackinlay and Weiss, 1992). The international community, however, was not prepared to support or reinforce the lead taken by the Jordanian government.


United Nations

Description

The United Nations system includes a diversity of departments and agencies that are involved in providing and/or coordinating humanitarian assistance and protection during emergencies. Prominent among them are DHA, UNDP, UNICEF, UNHCR and WFP. While all are technically under the same UN “roof”, each of these agencies is governed independently, sets its own objectives and is accountable to different constituencies.

When the United Nations responds to an emergency, the UN Secretary-General often designates a UN Resident Coordinator, a Humanitarian Coordinator of the Secretary-General, a UN Special Representative (SRSG), or a UN agency to provide the leadership for all UN operational agencies during an emergency response. The UN role can include direct operations, as well as coordination of other agencies. Usually many of the NGO operations are under agreement with the UN and thereby also subject to this mechanism.

Strengths

United Nations leadership and involvement in emergencies can lend legitimacy, attract funds and strengthen fledgling relief efforts. The United Nations is capable of consolidating humanitarian appeals on behalf of host governments, UN agencies and their NGO partners. Host government and NGO emergency warnings and appeals for assistance often capture international attention only after the UN has embraced their cause.

The UN system is unique as an organization with the international political stature, resources and managerial capacity required to mount and coordinate a multi-faceted systemwide international relief effort. For example, in October, 1991, UNHCR was invited by the Secretary General to serve as lead agency in the provision of assistance to Sarajevo, in the former Yugoslavia. After accepting the invitation, UNHCR then played a lead role in coordinating a multinational operation, including an airlift of humanitarian assistance to Sarajevo, in the former Yugoslavia.

In addition to coordination, the UN is often regarded as the institution most able to negotiate cease fires and ensure safe access. The successfully UN brokered agreement between the Sudanese Government and the insurgents in the South of Sudan, for example, resulted in UN agencies and NGOs alike gaining access to needy populations on both sides.

Limitations

The UN response often is inadequate in the face of complex emergencies where the state breaks down, as in Somalia, or where significant territories are contested, as in the former Yugoslavia. One reason, of course, is that the UN is a membership of nation states, thus biasing it towards working solely with internationally recognized governments. For example, in Mozambique during the 1980s, the UN channeled assistance to government held territories, while failing to provide for similar needs in RENAMO rebel-held territories, even though RENAMO controlled up to 50% of the country (Bennett, 1995, p 71).

When the UN engages in peacemaking and peacekeeping operations, its humanitarian operations are often infiltrated by political and military considerations. When this happens, foreign policy priorities of member states often take priority over “principles of equity” and the rights and needs of the affected populations. Sanctions imposed during the Gulf Crisis by the Security Council on Jordan and Iraq harmed both their people and the economies, as well as restricted the UN humanitarian operations (Minear et al, 1992). When the UN politicizes the context of humanitarian relief, cooperation with NGOs may also suffer as NGOs seek to distance themselves from the UN.

Critical issues and practices

a) Improved coordination within the United Nations and DHA’s role

UN critics, western donors and NGOs have long called on the UN to increase its early warning and preparedness capacity, improve coordination among its many humanitarian agencies and develop clear system-wide operational strategies and accountability procedures. To address these needs, the UN General Assembly Resolution 46/182 established the Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA). Many UN experts and critics, however, feel that this Resolution did not go far enough. Dewey (1993), for example, argues that DHA’s mission has been stunted by a lack of resources, staff, authority and UN system-wide support.

Since DHA’s authority over other UN humanitarian agencies is limited, Donini and Niland, (1994) propose that it must coordinate by consensus and identify coordinating roles, responsibilities and services which will add value to and improve the effectiveness of other UN system agencies. Some of these value-added services might include:

· Facilitating joint strategic planning sessions where humanitarian agencies can establish common visions, goals, priorities and comparative advantage.

· Organizing and facilitating periodic coordination and information meetings, especially at the outset of an emergency. Part of this role includes reminding all players of the larger environment and long-term consequences of their work.

· Negotiating safe access with government and rebel authorities

· Consolidating and leading funding appeals on behalf of other UN agencies and NGOs

· Compiling and providing information, situation reports on emergency conditions and overall humanitarian response.

· Setting up and staffing a central information, resource and communication center for agencies to use.

· Organizing and facilitating inter-agency meetings, information exchanges, conferences and trainings which serve to develop networks and improve communication, cooperation and coordination among the various humanitarian actors.

· Lobbying at the UN on behalf of humanitarian agencies to overcome political obstacles which hinder or prevent these agencies from mounting a timely and effective response.

· Coordinating the development of policies and procedures for the UN system as a whole which ensures more consistency and humanitarian linkage with human rights, rehabilitation and development efforts.

b) Expand humanitarian advocacy within the Security Council, Secretary General and others within UN system in charge of political and peacekeeping affairs.

With the Security Council increasingly passing resolutions for humanitarian intervention, it is critical that a forum be established, (whether the DHA plays this role or not) “where experts from the humanitarian community can give testimony to the Security Council on matters of humanitarian concern” (Mohonk Criteria, 1994, p 2). Not only should they give testimony, but they should also challenge the inconsistent and selective use of humanitarian intervention-especially as humanitarian principles are subsumed and undermined by political and military objectives. In short, there must be improved coordination of UN humanitarian, political and military operations in complex emergencies.


Non-Governmental Organizations

Description

In the last two decades, there has been a great proliferation of NGOs involved in providing humanitarian assistance. Generalizing about NGOs is made difficult as they vary widely in structure, resources and mission. Some are small church and solidarity based organizations providing food and shelter to refugees in only one particular area of the world. Others, are large international organizations with hundreds of professional staff, multi-million dollar budgets, and operations in several countries at once. (Ferns, 1993). This diversity means that larger global NGOs, such as Save the Children, or CARE International, with large numbers of staffs and programs in several countries, have more in common with UN specialized agencies, than they do with smaller NGOs, such as Project Minnesota-Leon, governed by a volunteer Steering Committee in Minnesota, and directed by one-to-two staff persons in Leon, Nicaragua.

Strengths

The independent and flexible nature of NGOs allows them often to act when other international agencies and host governments cannot. NGOs must rely on donor governments for access, funds and protection, the better they are able to raise public awareness on humanitarian, human rights and other politically charged issues. Moreover, NGOs are often among the first to recognize impending disasters and emergencies, and the first to warn the international community of them.

NGOs are often lauded for their low-overhead costs, flexibility, creativity and innovation. While overhead costs for government and international organizations can range between 20 and 30% of their budget, one study cited in Ferris (1993) estimates these costs for NGOs to be around 5-6%. Ferris (1993) states that NGOs are quick to respond to emergencies because “[t]hey generally have smaller bureaucracies and less cumbersome decision-making procedures” (p. 45). NGOs complement the efforts of larger multilateral agencies by reaching populations and territory not under those agencies’ mandates. Being less constrained politically and administratively than the UN or donor agencies, NGOs have found effective ways to provide relief to insurgent held territories, as evidenced by their cross-border operations in Tigray, Eritrea, Liberia and Sudan.

Limitations

Even though NGOs may be the first to acknowledge the severity of a humanitarian crisis, they often lack the international political stature required for engaging multilateral and bilateral mechanisms on behalf of the afflicted populations. This was the case in both Somalia and Sudan, where NGO early warnings went unheeded for years by the larger donor community.

Many NGOs must rely on host governments, and bilateral and multilateral government mechanisms for access, funds and protection. With U.S. and Western interest in Afghanistan waning, NGOs with more than sufficient funds in previous years, struggled to remain open in 1994 (Bennett, 1995). The relative dearth of NGOs in Bosnia and Somalia, and their ineffectiveness in Angola and Kurdistan, point to their inadequacy in settings where governments break-down and security is lacking (Duffield, Macrae and Zwi, 1994). The few exceptions to this have been larger NGOs, such as Médecins Sans Frontières, Catholic Relief Services and Save the Children, which have the capacity and experience to mount their own operations.

NGO critics believe that increased donor reliance on international NGOs over host government institutions, in many cases, has resulted in these NGOs competing with, weakening and supplanting host government institutions and local NGOs.2 Furthermore, NGO neutrality and impartiality is compromised when the NGO partnership with donor agencies results in these NGOs being used as instruments of foreign policy (Bennett, 1995).

2 See Roger Zetter’s article, “Indigenous NGOs and Refugee Assistance: Some Lessons from Malawi and Zimbabwe”, Development in Practice, 6:1, 1996, pp. 37-49.

Critical issues and practices

a) NGO consortia and standards

The increase in NGO numbers and visibility has led to a closer examination of their activities. While NGOs are praised for their flexibility, innovation and dedication, many now also are criticized for their lack of accountability, mutual competitiveness, poor coordination, “crowding out” of government services and inflated claims of successful skill and technology transfer to local populations (Bennett, 1994).

In an effort to respond to these criticisms, improve their effectiveness and strengthen their political clout, NGOs have been forming and participating in a variety of coordinating mechanisms including NGO consortia, sectoral coordinating bodies, networks and councils.3 Many of these coordination mechanisms, such as the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR), establish standards and codes encourage NGOs to participate in coordinating bodies, improve monitoring and evaluation of their programs, develop their management capacities and skills, commit to strengthen local institutions and people, and develop programs and services based on needs assessments which contribute to peace-making and long-term rehabilitation (Barakat and Strand, 1995).

3 Jon Bennett describes these various coordination mechanisms/fora in “NGO Coordination at Field Level: A Handbook.” ICVA, 1994.

NGO coordination bodies present an opportunity for collective response to an emergency and a sense of NGO community not found elsewhere. Effective NGO coordination bodies serve many functions such as:

1. Facilitating a tripartite division of labour between UN/donors, government and NGOs and in doing so provide a “voice” especially for smaller NGOs.

2. Furthering debate and practice of re-creating a “civil society” by creating a viable, self-defined third sector, especially important where a complex emergency/war has destroyed the fabric of civil structures and, in some cases, continues to threaten freedom of association.

3. Acting as a reference point for indigenous NGOs who often require assistance for access to donors, training, and other support.

4. Assisting government, UN and donors in the identification of suitable NGO partners.

5. Curtailing the excesses of competition between NGOs over resources. In 1991, in Afghanistan, the UNDP made it a precondition of NGOs receiving funds that they must coordinate their action throughout the NGO coordination body, ACBAR. In Ethiopia, throughout the 1980s, the Christian Relief and Development Agency was a channel for money and seeds/tools from the international donor community and was asked to distribute these to its membership according to need. This was useful for donors and also created a “democratic” allocation of resources while bolstering the credibility of CRDA.

NGO coordination requires a policy commitment at the outset of an emergency from the larger international NGOs. When ICVA set up an NGO coordination structure for Rwanda in August 1994, very few financial or resource commitments were forthcoming from NGOs; this, in spite of the fact that less than 12 months later those same NGOs were demanding ever-increasing services from the structure. Interestingly, the various evaluations now being published highlight a common call for “better coordination” in the early days of the emergency. (Bennett, 1996)

NGO coordination bodies are often underfunded because it is an “administrative” mechanism. Funds from members are rarely sufficient to cover the expense of the professional services required to effective support and maintain a coordinating body. In Afghanistan from 1990-92, the collective NGO budget exceeded that of the UN by a factor of 2 to 1, yet the budget for coordination was about 5% that of the UN coordination structures. (Bennett, 1996)

b) Host government regulation and coordination of NGOs

There is a tension between regulation/coordination of NGOs (international as well as national) by host governments and the need for “free association.” Yet the examples of host government “negative” reaction to influxes of NGOs increases. In Sri Lanka, the government has attempted to regulate NGOs, resulting in some expulsions; again, in Pakistan and Kenya. (Personal Correspondence with Jon Bennett, February, 1996.)

Bennett (1996) asserts that NGO coordination is best achieved when it appeals to the essential non-governmental, independent nature of NGOs. NGOs and NGO consortia, can take on an advocacy role that neither governments nor UN can.

c) Northern and Southern NGOs

While many Northern, or international NGOs are committed in principle to support and strengthening local institutional counterparts, Ferris (1993) is skeptical about how often this actually happens. She notes that international NGOs have been increasing their staffs and presence in-country in order to better monitor and control the implementation of their projects.

Even when willing, international and local NGO partnerships may be difficult to establish and sustain. Northern NGOs are better resourced and trained than their local counterparts and require professional and trained personnel to administer and direct their programs in country. While Northern NGOs may be willing to work with and through local partners, local NGOs often are either non-existent or lack the administrative capacity, training and accountability to implement their projects, (Finucane, 1993). Ferris also points out that local NGOs may have different values, priorities and objectives than their northern counterparts causing Northern NGOs to worry about their funds being misappropriated or diverted. Finally, Northern NGOs may shy away from working with local NGOs, if they feel that local NGOs are simply extensions of the government or severely controlled and limited by them.

Southern NGOs can be confused and frustrated by the specialized and compartmentalized approach to assistance by their northern counterparts. In El Salvador, Diaconia, a local NGO, saw their role more holistically seeing the interconnectedness of development, refugee assistance, human rights, repatriation, and internal displaced. (Ferris, 1993). Northern NGOs tend to be much more compartmentalized and working with narrower mandates with very specific objectives.

How do humanitarians bridge the dividen between northern and local NGOs. One approach is partnerships, perhaps based on the church model which searches out sister churches. Perhaps, every NGO should attempt to locate, identify and support a local sister organization. As Northern NGOs may be more respected by the host government than local structures, they may bring an element of legitimacy and protection to the local NGO.


International Committee of the Red Cross

Description

ICRC has a special mandate to provide protection and relief to displaced civilians, prisoners of war and victims of both international and internal conflict. In many emergencies, such as in Somalia, they will work closely with national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. ICRC goes to great lengths to negotiate cease fires and humanitarian access with all factions in a conflict.

Strengths

ICRC is often the only organization operating in insurgent held territory and the only agency which is able to mount operations within a country experiencing civil strife. In the early months of 1991, an already destitute social, economic and political situation in Somalia grew worse. At that time, Somalia was characterized by famine, bitter clan warfare, and a paucity of UN and NGO humanitarian agencies. Amidst this anarchy, deprivation, and near total absence of international humanitarians, ICRC and its most significant local partner, the Somalia Red Crescent Society (SRCS) were able to feed nearly 1.5 million people and flood the country with food (de Waal, 1994, pp. 139-158)

Limitations

While ICRC is able to negotiate on its own behalf, it will only proceed if it gains consent from all parties contesting the territory it must reach. ICRC’s strict adherence to principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence limits its potential as negotiators and coordinators for a wider spectrum of humanitarian agencies (Minear, 1994). Moreover, since the ICRC keeps its distance from the political-military actions of the UN, there are limits on the degree with which it will be associated with other humanitarian actors who are themselves prepared to function under a UN political-military umbrella. (Minear, 1996).


Military Forces in Support of Humanitarian Operations

Description

Since the end of the Cold-War in the late 1980s, use of military force in support of humanitarian operations has been increasing both in number of operations and in their scope of activities. In the absence of an effective host government and in the face of civil conflict, a multi-lateral sanctioned military operation may impose control of strategic links in the assistance logistical chain as well as restores public order. In other cases, their role may be to protect humanitarians, and escort the delivery of relief.

Strengths

The military possesses the resources and organizational capacity to mount and implement an effective emergency response on short notice and can significantly enhance humanitarian emergency responses. In complex emergencies, many humanitarians, politicians and diplomats see internationally sanctioned military intervention as the only way to restore order, establish safe havens for affected populations, ensure the safety of personnel, and secure access for effective and large-scale humanitarian operations.

The military has a logistics capacity that is unequaled in its ability to deliver the supplies and personnel required to mount large-scale relief operations. Gaydos and Luz (1994) recognize that in responding to the displacement of the Kurds and other minority groups during the Gulf Crisis, the military “made many unique contributions to the refugee relief effort, including: rapidly organizing an orderly food and tent distribution system, helping to improve the water and sanitation facilities and providing prevention-oriented, community-based health care” (p. 49).

Limitations

Because the military structure is self contained and most effective when it has clear and narrowly defined objectives, it does not “carve out a niche for itself in the framework of the international humanitarian effort. Inevitably, the military tends to assume full responsibility, substituting a monolithic response for otherwise multifaceted and consequently flexible civilian assistance” (Pan American Health Organization, October 1995, p. 7).

Even when collaboration is attempted, Wolfson and Wright (1994) highlight many of the difficulties that may arise:

“The gamut of humanitarian operations and NGOs-representing a wide spectrum of interests and priorities, being of varying sizes, structures, operational styles and organizational cultures-defies a single definition, and, indeed, can be quite bewildering. Some civilians may be reluctant to cooperate with the international military, being wary of compromising their independence and impartiality. Aid agencies tend to delegate great authority to workers in the field, and may be headed by individuals who are given more responsibility and autonomy at a younger age than their military counterpart, giving rise to the possibility of a ‘generation gap’ between military and civilian players” (p. 23).

There may also arise a “training gap” as military personnel are trained for military and war operations. Military health care personnel trained in surgical procedures appropriate for warfare will lack the experience required to deal with the typical endemic diseases that afflict refugees and displaced populations. In Haiti, for example, the military mobilized “surgical units for mass casualties rather than mobile units for routine essential health care” (Pan American Health Organization, 1995, p. 7).

Military intervention and externally imposed peacekeeping may only temporarily restore order and relieve violence. In some situations, military intervention may make matters worse. In Somalia, Western troops contributed to increased polarization between the warring factions. Furthermore, after the last withdrawal of UN troops from Somalia, Weiss (1995) observed that the factions seemed ready to resume their civil war, only this time they were better armed and rested. In Liberia, the military intervention by the Economic Community of West African States may have prolonged the conflict and caused it to spill over into Sierra Leone by having denied ultimate victory to Charles Taylor and his rebel National Patriotic Front for Liberia-the main rebel faction which controlled most of Liberia outside of Monrovia (Scott, Minear and Weiss, 1995).

Because use of the military engages international and national political structures, the context in which humanitarian aid is provided becomes increasingly politicized. Humanitarian agencies which place themselves under the protective umbrella of the military jeopardize their neutrality and independence. Even those humanitarian agencies which distance themselves from the military may be suspected, denied access and/or threatened by warring factions which fail to distinguish between one type of foreign intervention and another.

Critical issues and practices

a) Appropriate use of the military

In their evaluation and review of the UN’s humanitarian role in the former Yugoslavia, Minear et al (1994b, pp. 83-92) have identified the following valuable contributions that the United Nations Protection Forces (UNPROFOR) have made to the overall humanitarian relief effort:

1. Provided personnel and expertise:

· In Zaghreb, UNPROFOR personnel provided information to UN humanitarian agencies and others on the changing frontlines, the security incidents, and assessment of risk of conducting humanitarian operations.

· UNPROFOR lent personnel to UNHCR with expertise in logistics and security.

2. Supported UN operations in the field:

· Accompanied and escorted UNHCR convoys into insecure areas within Bosnia. This accompaniment “discouraged looting, pillaging, and other harassment of aid operations, random or planned.”

· Rescued aid workers from their captors.

· Secured and occupied Sarajevo airport.

3. Logistical, transportation and infrastructure support

· Flying in over 40 thousand tons of food and providing regular transportation in and out for relief personnel

· Dutch and Belgian engineering battalions graded and repaired roads. Other Troops were used for minesweeping,

· Also somewhat directly involved in direct humanitarian activities such as operating feeding programs, administering inoculations, and constructing shelters.

b) Pursue all non-forceful means to gain access

All non-forceful means of gaining access should be pursued prior to using force in support of humanitarian operations. The Mohonk Criteria (1994) describes various strategies for gaining access which do not involve the use of force. Strategies which involve the consent of all parties include:

· Fact-finding missions
· Initiatives under the auspices of the UN Secretary General
· Diplomatic initiatives of regional organizations and diplomats
· Establishing “safe havens” and “relief corridors”
· Additional appropriate measures in conformity with Chapter VI of the UN Charter;

Strategies which do not necessarily require the consent of all parties include:

· Diplomatic sanctions
· Economic sanctions
· UN General Assembly and Security Council Resolutions
· Cross-border humanitarian assistance operations from neighboring states
· Appropriate use of media.

c) Military-humanitarian interface

1. Guidelines for intervention

During the 1990s, with the end of the Cold War, the Security Council has increasingly been willing to use military force in support of humanitarian operations within war torn societies. Use of the military has generated intense debate and little consensus among agencies in regards to its appropriateness, contributions and overall effectiveness.

Serious questions are introduced for humanitarian organizations and personnel when military operations become part of the assistance effort. Under what conditions might a provider of humanitarian assistance collaborate with military forces to ensure service delivery to an emergency settlement? What forms might this collaboration take? When should an assistance provider refuse to collaborate with military forces? In each context these questions will have to be answered by those who are committed to relieving the suffering of civilian populations.

In analyzing seven cases of military-humanitarian intervention, Weiss (1995) has distilled the following lessons which can guide the appropriate and effective use of force:

1. When parties to the conflict accept the political objectives of peacekeeping operations, autonomy and impartiality are much easier to achieve (e.g., El Salvador, Namibia). Where peacekeeping, or peacemaking is imposed, as in Liberia, Somalia and the former Yugoslavia, tensions will arise between political, military and humanitarian operations and objectives.

2. It is essential that humanitarian agencies maintain their non-political and non-partisan status in all operations and that warring factions also perceive their status as such. When the Security Council approves Chapter VII sanctions, humanitarian agencies should consider distancing themselves from the military as much as possible, or pulling out altogether.

3. When UN security forces are used to protect relief convoys, when soldiers begin to negotiate humanitarian matters, as well as political and military, and when inadequate force is used, military and civilian operations become entangled and freedom of access, impartiality and effectiveness are jeopardized. If belligerents perceive military and humanitarian operations to be linked they may retaliate against civilian humanitarians.

4. Regional military cooperation with the UN, such as in Bosnia and Liberia, highlights many of its shortcomings. Military intervention is successful when it is timely, robust, and backed by the “political strategy and national interests that can sustain the results” (p. 169).

5. Improved coordination and communication is needed at all levels of military, political and humanitarian interface.

2. Guidelines for Cooperation and coordination

During the first year and a half of the UN humanitarian and UNPROFOR response in the former Yugoslavia “there was widespread confusion about the respective roles, authority and accountability of each.” (Minear, 1994b, p. 88) This confusion (coupled with coordination problems within UNPROFOR itself) limited the utility of the humanitarian support role that UNPROFOR could play.

If military and humanitarian operations are to achieve an effective partnership and/or avoid working at cross purposes they must establish effective coordination mechanisms. Wolfson and Wright (1994) have identified the following ten mechanisms for achieving more effective coordination:

1. Central coordination. A central UN coordinating mechanism is required if the UN’s political, humanitarian and military objectives are to be harmonized, or at least are to avoid working at cross-purposes.

2. Agreement on responsibilities and objectives. If coordination problems are to be avoided in the field, military and their civilian counterparts must discuss and agree on their respective responsibilities and objectives. It is also important for agencies to understand their organizational differences and increase their awareness of each other’s role.

3. Delineation of common geographic areas of responsibility. Generally, the military and UN humanitarian agencies should agree on geographic administrative boundaries.

4. Use of compatible communication equipment with shared frequencies.

5. Collocation of offices or their location in close proximity. This facilitates constant contact and communication.

6. Exchanging liaison officers. This measure ensures quick dissemination of information and increased familiarity between the organizations.

7. Regular inter-agency meetings. This increases communication, and cooperation and can avoid duplication of efforts. Where the military’s role also includes providing security to humanitarian operations, these meetings offer an important forum for exchanging security information, conducting security briefings and organizing security trainings.

8. Routine contact between desk officers with complementary responsibilities.

9. Civil-military operations center. These centers provide another focal point where military and civilian actors have access to each other.

10. Assessment or reconnaissance missions. Usually, the humanitarian agencies are on the ground much earlier than the military, and presumably have gathered valuable information and made important contacts. Humanitarian actors have an opportunity during the military’s pre-deployment missions to suggest achievable mission objectives, share their experience and contacts, and establish the nature of the forthcoming military-civil relationship.

Factors Influencing Models of Institutional Response

Several models of systemwide response can be identified based on the types of institutions which lead or are primarily involved in responding to a particular emergency. In some cases one typology may clearly predominate; while in others, two or more may operate concurrently. Thus in Malawi, there was a time when the host government was nominally managing/coordinating the relief program, although UNHCR was providing much of the logistical support and project co-ordination-giving UNHCR considerable power in practice. Similarly, these models may change due to the dynamics of the emergency over time. In Malawi from 1986 to 1989, the model changed from a host government-led model, to a United Nations-led model, and finally to a much looser structure involving many international NGOs not under UN or government coordination leadership.

While it is understood that models are not preordained by a master plan, their emergence and development can be attributed to the confluence of several influencing factors. The following identifies several of these factors.


Size of the influx/displaced populations

Displaced persons and refugees place significant demands on the resources, administrative structures and services of the host country. The ability of the host government to meet these demands decreases as the numbers and needs of the displaced increase. In these situations, governments which lead and coordinate assistance efforts, may, as was the case in Malawi, eventually cede these responsibilities to an international agency such as UNHCR, or to NGOs.


Influx of international relief agencies

The host government’s structures, services and resources not only are strained by the displaced population, but also by the influx and number of international agencies. The more international NGOs on the scene, the less control the host government may be able to exercise over them. During the Gulf Crisis, the Iranian government designated the Iranian Red Crescent Society as in-country coordinator for all international assistance. As more and more NGOs arrived, the Iranian Red Crescent Society was overwhelmed which resulted in many NGOs circumventing the IRC in favor of establishing their own direct links with local officials and needy populations (Minear et al, 1992).


In-country presence of international organizations

Those international agencies which have experience working with a particular government or population, or working under similar conditions elsewhere, may emerge as the lead coordinators especially during the initial phases of an emergency response. For example, already having a presence in Georgia, in 1993, Save the Children provided orientation and coordination leadership to many recently arrived international agencies. In the Sudan, based on their experience with insurgents and NGOs, UNICEF was designated the lead agency in Operation Lifeline Sudan by the UN Secretary General.

In Malawi, the relative absence of international organizations initially prevented news about the Mozambican refugee influx from reaching an international audience. This also gave the Malawian government time to establish the relief policies and operational framework which would later guide and direct agencies which did arrive.


Geopolitical interests

Almost always the host country and the country of origin of displaced persons have geopolitical interests which determine the degree and scope of international involvement. Thus, in Malawi, for a period of years its pariah status within the region, its abuse of human rights, its client status vis-à-vis South Africa, and its alleged involvement in supporting RENAMO in Mozambique, underpinned a host government management model which prevented the penetration of external inter-governmental agencies and NGOs. Regional political pressure, combined with the scale of the crisis, eventually prompted the Malawian government to internationalize the response.

Host governments may also thwart an international response if they fear that their power will be threatened and/or their developmental objectives undermined. In Cyprus, after 1974, political dictates ensured a host government model to protect the autonomy of the government, and to ensure that the settlement strategy satisfied long-term social and economic objectives and that the government retained control of the political agenda associated with the mass expulsion of the Greek-Cypriot refugees caused by the Turkish invasion.


International relations and politics

When donor-host government relations become strained, donors may prefer to work with and through NGOs rather than through host government or UN agencies. This was the case in Sudan where goodwill and trust established between UN negotiators and Sudanese government authorities eroded quickly with the ascendance of the militaristic Islamic leaning government. Rather than continue to support the UN-led operation, Western donors decided to channel their funds through more accommodating international NGOs-many of which were reaching the needy in southern Sudan’s rebel-held territory (Kelly and Buchanan-Smith, 1994).


Security Council Resolutions and Precedent

Since the end of the Cold War, the Security Council has increasingly set UN humanitarian policy. In Iraq, Somalia and the former Yugoslavia, the Security Council has passed resolutions which favor humanitarian intervention over state sovereignty in cases where the state fails to cooperate in meeting humanitarian needs, violates international humanitarian and human rights laws, or has collapsed. These resolutions have authorized the use of armed forces to make peace, restore order and secure safe environments for the provision of humanitarian assistance.


International attention/publicity

Media coverage plays a significant part in swaying public opinion and mobilizing the international political will required to respond to an emergency de Waal (1994) asserts that the media’s oversimplification of the complex emergency in Somalia was in part directly responsible for the military intervention which followed. Until August 1992, there were few international humanitarian agencies responding to the complex emergency in Somalia, and little political will to address the severe humanitarian needs there. All of this changed rapidly, following U.S. Senator Kassebaum’s highly publicized cross-border visit into Somalia in August. Suddenly, Somalia, became a

“news story...The media descended, led by prominent television correspondents who were largely ignorant of Somalia, but acutely aware of the demands of portraying a famine for the domestic audiences in Europe and North America” (de Waal, 1994, p. 153).

Even though the peak of the famine had passed, this high-profile visit and accompanying media blitz contributed directly to the UN sanctioned military intervention which followed.


Interdependence

UN coordination and/or NGO consortia and networks are established when agencies must achieve common objectives, face similar obstacles and address similar challenges. NGOs whose funding comes from the UN are more likely to be subject to UN coordinating mechanisms than those whose funding sources are independent of the UN.

Improving Systemwide Institutional Response

The best practices and improvements which follow are applicable to each of the institutional families, and if implemented would lead to significant improvements in the systemwide response.


Local capacity building

In their haste to respond, humanitarian agencies often mount relief efforts which overlook creative ways of involving and building on local initiatives and capacities. During Operation Lifeline Sudan, UN specialized agencies and northern NGOs alike failed to build on existing Sudanese NGO humanitarian initiatives (Aboum et al, 1990). During the Gulf Crisis, aid agencies brought in foreign doctors even though there were sufficient numbers of unemployed and equally-qualified Jordanian doctors who could have done the job at a fraction of the cost (Minear et al, 1992).

In most cases, host government entities should be involved in leading or coordinating the provision of humanitarian assistance to affected populations within their territories. Where host governments lack the resources to unilaterally match the magnitude of the need, they can play a lead coordinating role in a joint coordinating body made up of host government, NGOs, UN agencies and leaders of the affected communities. Not only must host governments plan and prepare for this role, but international agencies should identify the needs, opportunities and potential for strengthening host government leadership. Where there is clear evidence of government neglect or hostility towards populations in need, or where governments have collapsed, external humanitarian agencies should seek out and directly work with civilian or community-based leadership and structures. ICRC implemented this strategy effectively in Somalia where they worked with and through the Somali Red Cross.

Similarly, humanitarian agencies should seek to support genuine autonomy and the economic viability of emergency settlements. Local leaders of the affected community can assist in programming, procurement and distribution, as well as help determine types of foods and other commodities that are appropriate, provide guidance in terms of logistics of affected areas, and determine vulnerable groups that need special assistance.

Any capacity building effort must be preceded by a sound assessment of local needs, resources and opportunities. (For a more in-depth discussion of needs and resource assessments see Emergency Settlement Paper 3. For a more in-depth discussion of supporting emergency settlement leadership and participation see Emergency Settlement Paper 20).

Humanitarian organizations must be willing to invest and support training of host country nationals in disaster and emergency assessment, prevention, mitigation, information management, and related topics, to enhance their capacity in dealing with emergencies.


Sectoral coordinating bodies and regional governing bodies

When governments break down, for example as in Liberia or Somalia, there is an urgent need for a coordinating body of UN agencies with their respective expertise in managing different sectors. Also, where no state exists, the international community should include and depend on regional governments to help coordinate relief efforts and resolve conflicts. Examples include the important role Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa played in resolving the conflict in Lesotho, and the regional efforts which resulted in signing a peace accord in Mozambique resulting in the successful resettlement of Mozambican refugees. These regional governments can succeed in these roles only if they carry on good relations with each other, and are trusted, respected and welcomed by the various factions of the state in conflict. Regional governments should not use force as it leads inevitably to their real or perceived role of taking sides, as was the case of ECOWAS in their attempts to resolve the conflict in Liberia.


Regional and international early warning, prevention and preparedness mechanisms

Too often international relief and peacemaking efforts are mounted after the worst stages of a disaster have already transpired. Bosnia, Rwanda and Sudan all are examples where the international community had ample warning but only acted after the worst of the disaster had already occurred. To date, it seems that the public, politicians, the press, donors, and to some extent the humanitarian agencies themselves, “would rather spend huge sums on peacekeeping operations ... than adequately resource early warning, prevention and rehabilitation measures” (Slim and Penrose, 1994, p. 204). The prohibitive costs of these operations, however, may prompt a reassessment and renewed interest in prevention and preparedness measures. As UNHCR learned from their experience in the former Yugoslavia, the establishment of an effective emergency response capacity is dependent on the establishment of effective early warning systems which are linked to prevention and preparedness systems (UNHCR, 1995).

Being prepared for an emergency includes establishing and maintaining early warning systems, continually assessing the emergency and planning for contingencies, mobilizing resources, and preparing emergency response structures and systems. All of these aspects will necessarily be based on a continual cycle of assessment-of who has or needs what, and how problems are being resolved. The larger picture-the vision-of a community transcending the effects of emergency and becoming more productive and less vulnerable to future setbacks must be kept in mind, and planned for from the beginning. While the DHA has been trying to develop such a system, it is currently not operational for lack of adequate funding, political will and institutional support. (For a more in-depth discussion on “Planning for Early Warning, Preparedness, Contingencies and Operations,” see Emergency Settlement Paper 2).


Integrate humanitarian assistance with human rights, conflict resolution, and peacemaking strategies

Duffield, Macrae and Zwi, 1994, have documented many cases where humanitarian assistance contributes to the establishment and maintenance of war economies-often fueling and exacerbating the conflict at hand. Hostile parties may manipulate assistance providers, withhold relief from needy groups, attack food convoys, extort protection money and raid areas where relief is being distributed. According to Duffield (1994), violence has emerged as a strategy to secure economic and political power and survival under these unstable conditions.

Under these conditions, providing humanitarian assistance can never be considered a neutral act. Humanitarians are divided, however, on the proper political or advocacy role of humanitarian agencies in cases where human rights are being violated.

Those who believe that humanitarians must advocate against human rights abuses, call for strategies and approaches which further the cause of human rights, peace and economic justice. To devise such strategies, humanitarian policy makers and practitioners must understand and address the root causes of conflict and the political-economic dynamics of war and humanitarian assistance.

More in-depth discussion of this and related topics is found in Emergency Settlement Papers 7, “Protection, Security, Civil and Human Rights,” and 8, “Provision of Assistance in Complex Emergencies.” In addition, War and Hunger: Rethinking International Response to Complex Emergencies, edited by Macrae and Zwi (1994) offers a compelling critique of the international relief system, provides evidence of how humanitarian action has abetted the development of war economies, and recommends system-wide and institutional changes which will promote human rights and development, protect civilians caught in conflict, and empower conflict-affected communities to have a voice in preventing, mitigating and resolving structural and political violence.


Humanitarian response which addresses developmental as well as emergency needs

Humanitarian assistance must never be considered an end in itself. It must be provided within a relief-to-development framework which supports refugee and host autonomy and addresses the poverty and conditions which contribute to their vulnerability.

If the objective is to create a relief system which is more effective in saving lives and livelihoods, then a more critical look needs to be taken at the economic, political and social structures which perpetuate the underdevelopment which make people vulnerable in the first place. These emergencies are not aberrations on the linear path to development. They are predictably endemic. It is a well established fact that disasters afflicting poorer countries wreak more havoc on poor people than those of similar proportions in wealthier countries. Investment and support for economic, agricultural and social development will go a long way in mitigating and preventing the negative consequences of future disasters (Awoonor, 1993). The Emergency Settlement Paper 21 on “Support for Economic, Agricultural and Social Development” offers a more in-depth discussion.


Humanitarian assistance provided in a consistent, equitable and impartial manner

For humanitarian assistance to be provided equitably and consistently, criteria and rules of engagement must be developed and followed. ICRC, for example, has established criteria which help it to respond in a relatively predictable and consistent manner (Borgen and Kraakaas Rasmusson, 1995).

Since the international humanitarian system is an informal arrangement, made-up of individual agencies with diverse approaches and concerns, it would be difficult, and perhaps futile, to establish a system-wide code of conduct or rules of engagement. However, it is both tenable and desirable for institutions and organizations to establish and clarify their own codes and rules. Minear and Weiss (1993) believe “it is important for the credibility of a given agency to apply, and to be seen as applying, consistent guidelines in charting its involvement across a wide range of conflicts” (p. 87).

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