Conflict and humanitarian assistance

[Individual articles from the Fall 2019 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog each week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website.]

Alberto Mosquera, traveling by boat in this March 2018 photo, is a farmer in the Lower San Juan region of Choc, Colombia. Mosquera is a participant in a cacao project run by MCC partner Weaving Hope Agricultural Foundation (FAGROTES/Fundacin Agropecuaria Tejiendo Esperanza). Through the project, Mosquera received technical assistance in cultivating and processing cacao. MCC supports this sustainable cacao production project in Choc through Growing Hope Globally (formerly Foods Resource Bank). Participating farmers gain technical skills related to producing, processing and commercializing cacao. The project aims for sustainability, both in specific farming practices and as a long-term livelihood option. Growing Hope Globally photo/Alex Morse

Each year, MCC responds to dozens of disasters and crises around the world that displace tens of thousands of people. In many cases, those in need of assistance have been displaced by conflict. In its most recent global trends report on forced displacement, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported a record number of persons displaced from their homes at the end of 2018 as a result of persecution, conflict, violence and human rights violations, including 25.9 million refugees and 41.3 million internally displaced, with 37,000 new displacements each day. This context of violence informs not only the type of response that MCC supports, but also the way in which the response is undertaken.

MCC’s relief work adheres to the Core Humanitarian Standard (2014) on quality and accountability that seeks to keep communities and people affected by crisis at the center of any response. Based on the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence, the CHS sets out nine commitments that agencies carrying out humanitarian responses should follow to improve the assistance they provide:

  1. Communities and people affected by crisis receive assistance appropriate and relevant to their needs.
  2. Communities and people affected by crisis have access to the humanitarian assistance they need at the right time.
  3. Communities and people affected by crisis are not negatively affected and are more prepared, resilient and less at-risk as a result of humanitarian action.
  4. Communities and people affected by crisis know their rights and entitlements, have access to information and participate in decisions that affect them.
  5. Communities and people affected by crisis have access to safe and responsive mechanisms to handle complaints.
  6. Communities and people affected by crisis receive coordinated, complementary assistance.
  7. Communities and people affected by crisis can expect delivery of improved assistance as organizations learn from experience and reflection.
  8. Communities and people affected by crisis receive the assistance they require from competent and well-managed staff and volunteers.
  9. Communities and people affected by crisis can expect that the organizations assisting them are managing resources effectively, efficiently and ethically.

It is not enough simply to distribute sufficient food or ship the needed number of blankets. Authentic consultation with affected communities is essential to ensuring that humanitarian response is appropriate and relevant, effective and timely, strengthens local capacities and accounts for community feedback. MCC’s response in situations of conflict must consider the physical safety and security of participants and staff and access to affected populations. Projects not only respond to tangible needs such as food and shelter but also address the very real psychosocial needs that arise from the trauma of displacement, violence and destruction of homes and communities. Humanitarian assistance in these contexts requires good conflict analysis to ensure that the provision of assistance does not exacerbate conflict and cause more harm than good.

The articles in this issue of Intersections explore the ways in which MCC, together with its local partners, has been navigating these complexities in providing humanitarian assistance amid conflict in contexts as varied as Colombia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Lebanon and Syria. Each case examined in these articles contributes to MCC’s ongoing learning for the sake of improving its future work, offering lessons about maintaining the impartiality of humanitarian response, analyzing different types of diversion of humanitarian assistance, garnering support from men for humanitarian interventions aimed at women, integrating conflict sensitivity into humanitarian response, building on local capacities for peace and strengthening the sustainability of humanitarian assistance projects.

Stephanie Dyck is MCC Lebanon and Syria’s external grants program coordinator.

Core Humanitarian Standard:

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