Why Building Back Better Means More than Structural Safety
This paper explores the importance of house and home for survivors of natural disaster: it protects from hazards and contributes to health, well-being and economic security. It examines the reconstruction of homes after a disaster as an opportunity to Build Back Better, re-defining ‘better’ as an holistic and people-centred improvement in housing. It questions the humanitarian shelter sector’s emphasis on structural safety while poor sanitation, inadequate vector control and smoke inhalation are responsible for many more deaths worldwide than earthquakes and storms. The paper extends this discussion by arguing that promoting ‘safer’ for a substantial number of families is better than insisting on ‘safe’ for fewer. The overall benefit in terms of lives saved, injuries avoided and reduced economic loss is greater when safer is prioritised over safe, and it frees resources for wider consideration of a ‘good home’ and the pursuance of ‘self-recovery’. The paper is informed by field research conducted in 2017 and 2018. Finally, implications for humanitarian shelter practice are outlined, with particular reference to self-recovery. It highlights a need for adaptive programming, knowledge exchange and close accompaniment so that families and communities can make informed choices with respect to their own recovery pathways.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) has been a recipient of international humanitarian aid from international organisations (IOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) since 1995. In recent years, multilateral and unilateral sanctions in response to the DPRK’s nuclear programme have created a new layer of difficulty for humanitarians looking to engage with the authoritarian state. This paper explores how sanctions are affecting humanitarian work in practice, utilising interviews with practitioners. The research first surveys documentation, particularly from IOs, to establish how humanitarians understand contemporary need inside the country. Next, this paper examines the impacts of sanctions on aid efforts, with a particular focus on multilateral United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions and unilateral American measures. Unpacking humanitarian challenges and potential ways to navigate the sanctions regime provides a foundation for academics and humanitarian practitioners to better understand both the DPRK and possible avenues for principled, effective aid.
This essay critically addresses ten prevailing assumptions about violence: (1) violence is natural; (2) violence comes easily to humans; (3) violence attacks a juridical life; (4) violence is the result of underdevelopment; (5) violence is the result of difference; (6) violence is a sign of absolute power; (7) violence is associated with some death drive; (8) violence can be intelligent through a mastery of technology; (9) the opposite of violence is a just peace; and (10) violence is an assault on the sacred meaning of life. In doing so, it opens up a conversation on the meaning of political violence and makes an impassioned call to free ourselves from sacred myths that bind us to a problem that still appears insurmountable.
Lessons Learned for Engagement in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States
South Sudan is one the largest recipients of official development assistance. Given the complexity of the operational environment, there is a need to learn from the lessons gained to-date. This article seeks to enable better-informed decision making based on a synthesis from humanitarian and development evaluation reports, which offer insight for engagement in other fragile and conflict-affected states. Experimental methods were utilised to identify evaluation reports. The synthesis finds that projects would be better designed if they allocated time and resources to obtain additional information, integrated systems thinking to account for the broader context, and engaged with the gendered nature of activities and impacts. Implementation can be strengthened if seasonality is taken into account, if modalities are more flexible, and if a greater degree of communication and collaboration between partners develops. Sustainability and long-term impact require that there is a higher degree of alignment with the government, longer-term commitments in programming, a recognition of trade-offs, and a clear vision and strategy for transitioning capacities and responsibilities to national actors. While actors in South Sudan have been slow to act on lessons learned to-date, the lessons drawn from evaluation reports in South Sudan offer direction for new ways forward, many of which have been concurrently learned by a diverse set of donors and organisations.
Humanitarian innovation has rapidly emerged to become central to discussions
about the future of humanitarianism. Innovation practices are framed as a means
by which the humanitarian community can identify the paradigm shift that it
needs to survive in a rapidly changing world. However, this framing is based on
a misunderstanding of economic theories of innovation and particularly of the
nature of humanitarian economics. The lack of both a true market and a profit
mechanism in the humanitarian industry means that innovations can be generated
but will never be sustained. Unless this obstacle is addressed – perhaps
through emerging networked approaches to economic activity – humanitarian
innovation will continue to be a dead end.
Matthew Hunt, Sharon O’Brien, Patrick Cadwell, and Dónal P. O’Mathúna
Language and its translation are important operational concerns in humanitarian
crisis response. Information sharing, coordination, collaboration and
relationship-building all revolve around the ability to communicate effectively.
However, doing so is hampered in many humanitarian crises by linguistic
differences and a lack of access to adequate translation. Various innovative
practices and products are being developed and deployed with the goal of
addressing these concerns. In this theoretical paper, we critically appraise the
ethical terrain of crisis translation and humanitarian innovation. We identify
ethical issues related to three broad themes. First, we foreground questions of
justice in access to translation and its prioritisation in contexts of
widespread and pressing needs. Second, we consider the relationship between
humanitarian ethics and the ethics of crisis translation. We argue for the
importance of attending to epistemic justice in humanitarian crisis response,
and consider how Ricoeur’s conception of linguistic hospitality provides
insights into how relationships in humanitarian settings can be understood
through the lens of an ethics of exchange while also acknowledging the steep
asymmetries that often exist in these contexts. Finally, we identify issues
related to how translation innovations intersect with humanitarian values and
humanitarians’ ethical commitments.
This is an initial exploration of an emergent type of humanitarian goods –
wearables for tracking and protecting the health, safety and nutrition of aid
recipients. Examining the constitutive process of ‘humanitarian
wearables’, the article reflects on the ambiguous position of digital
humanitarian goods developed at the interface of emergency response contexts,
the digitisation of beneficiary bodies and the rise of data and private-sector
involvement in humanitarian aid. The article offers a set of contextual
framings: first, it describes the proliferation and capabilities of various
tracking devices across societal domains; second, it gives a brief account of
the history of wristbands in refugee management and child nutrition; third, an
inventory is given of prototype products and their proposed uses in aid. It is
argued that what needs to be understood is that, in ‘the making’
of humanitarian wearables, the product is the data produced by digitised
beneficiary bodies, not the wearables themselves.