FEEDBACK – Implementing humanitarian principles on the ground: a case study in South Sudan | October 23, 2015
Since July 2015, Handicap International Foundation has been working in collaboration with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) to produce an operational study on principled humanitarian action. Axelle Velten, Research Associate within the Foundation, tells us more about it. Framework of the research Under the scope of NRC (Norwegian Refugee Council), Handicap International Foundation, on behalf […]
Since July 2015, Handicap International Foundation has been working in collaboration with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) to produce an operational study on principled humanitarian action.
Axelle Velten, Research Associate within the Foundation, tells us more about it.
Framework of the research
Under the scope of NRC (Norwegian Refugee Council), Handicap International Foundation, on behalf of Handicap International, is involved in an operational research on the practical utility of humanitarian principles (humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence) and their implementation on the ground. This study (1) involves a close examination of the relevance and implementation of principles from the perspectives of different actors in Colombia, Syria through Turkey, South Sudan, and Nepal. The case studies were meant to explore challenges faced in the field, perceptions of principles and their application, the role of the private sector in principled humanitarian response, and the influence of states on principled action. To this end, the Foundation conducted one of the case studies included in this research: in Juba, South Sudan from the 8th to 24th of September 2015.
In South Sudan : Challenges to deliver humanitarian aid in a protracted conflict
Juba (South Sudan), September 10, 2015 in the morning. Right out of the airport it is striking. An impressive number of international NGOs, UN agencies or UN peacekeeping mission (UNMISS) white 4x4s jumble together, mixing with the locals’ motorbikes or with military vehicles. It’s in Juba that all these actors intersect, interact, cross in front of each other (often), indicate their way (sometimes), speed up with determination or suddenly backtrack, blocked by an impassable road. Just like they would at a humanitarian coordination meeting, in peace negotiations at national or regional level, or during a meeting set out to agree on the terms and conditions of the delivery of humanitarian assistance and protection of civilians in the country.
In one way or another, all these different actors, both national and international are humanitarian stakeholders in South Sudan. And we went to meet them in order to get their views and perceptions of how humanitarian aid is delivered and to discover what are the main challenges they face in South Sudan when delivering or receiving assistance and protection (2). To do so, we organized two focus groups and sixteen bilateral meetings, during which we interviewed Peace Keeping Operation’s member (PKO), INGOs members, donor’s representatives, Ministry of Health representatives and beneficiaries of Handicap International programs in DVFP (3) (PoC3) (4). We wanted to know how humanitarian actors are perceived, how they coordinate and what is their modality of aid delivery. And we wanted to know how they manage to provide an impartial, neutral and independent humanitarian assistance, in one word: in a principled way.
The main research question was actually articulated around specific sub-questions:
1. What is the perception of humanitarian principles and the definition that is given to them?
2. What is challenging humanitarian actors in their willing to be principled in the delivery of humanitarian assistance and protection in crisis environment?
3. What could humanitarian actors do in order to use principles for better impact?
The conclusions of these interviews, to be published soon, are edifying. They reveal the complexity to lead a principled humanitarian action in a conflictual context in which humanitarian actors are pressured by the warring parties and might be exploited by both political actors and donors’ political agenda. In South Sudan, humanitarian coordination is challenged on an almost daily basis, given the growing number of actors and the diversity of their mandates; the logistical constraints due to a lack of infrastructures; and security issues as well as political concerns raised by the current conflict.
Prior to the publication of the final report (December 2015), in which the cross-cutting issues common to the four case studies will be highlighted, one can learn more about this operational research thanks to a webinar organized in October 2015 by Handicap International Foundation and NRC with the support of PHAP. “PHAP Special Event Series: Realities of being principled in today’s field operations” had very much the same objectives as the research: to gather perspectives on questions including if humanitarian action is possible without humanitarian principles, if the humanitarian aid environment has become more or less politicized over the last ten years, if commercial entities can be principled and if any actions need to be taken to strengthen the more consistent application of principles. Yet, here, they are first delivered directly by some of the consultants having just returned from the field and second discussed by experts in the field of principled humanitarian action.
(1) The research paper officially named “Principles and Pragmatism in Conflict Settings: Field Perspectives” has been commissioned by NRC with the support of OFDA/USAID (forthcoming February 2016 ).
(2) In South Sudan, the humanitarian situation has continued to deteriorate since the crisis of 2013. As for today, tens millions of people have been killed and 2.2 are internally displaced persons. Peace agreements since 2014 have resulted in the signing of several cease-fires quickly broken by the warring parties. And in the states of Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile in the north of the country, access is denied in entire areas controlled by independent armed groups, while we know that the worst abuses are committed on civilians.
(3) Disability & Vulnerability Focal Point is a specific modality of intervention, elaborated by HI.
(4) Handicap International is present in South Sudan since 2010, setting up development projects. In Juba, HI teams intervene in IDP’s camps called Protection of Civilians ( PoC3) on the UNMISS military basis.