Humanitarianism and Politics

Humanitarian intervention is an essential safety net for the most vulnerable.

Whether assistance is provided by international agencies, governments, civil society organizations, or communities themselves, it needs to be nurtured and protected. However, politics and power always define the context in which humanitarian action takes place.

Research on the fraught humanitarian-political relationship has been a core activity at the Center since its inception. Through case studies in Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, we are analyzing the relevance of the humanitarian principles on neutrality, impartiality, and independence in a more complex, globalized but also potentially more polarized world.

Winning Hearts and Minds? Understanding the Relationship Between Aid and Security

While considerable time, effort and resources have been devoted to assessing the effectiveness of aid in achieving humanitarian and development objectives, surprisingly few resources have been devoted to assessing the effectiveness of aid in achieving stabilization and security objectives.

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Sovereignty, Globalization, and the Future of Humanitarian Action

What is the future of the time-tested universalist principles around which humanitarian action is organized (neutrality, impartiality, independence) in a more complex, globalized but also potentially more polarized world?

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Humanitarianism and Politics: Briefing Note Series

Building on earlier work in Afghanistan and our briefing note on “Humanitarianism Unraveled?” published in mid- 2010, we have issued similar briefing notes on the relationship between humanitarian action and politics in Sri Lanka, Darfur, Pakistan, and Somalia.

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Crisis and Social Transformation in Nepal

How does the work of aid agencies during and after conflict affect people’s perceptions of change? What can we learn from recent experience? Our work in Nepal has uncovered a number of interesting issues around the humanitarian-development relationship and the challenges of social transformation in a (hopefully) post-conflict environment that we feel are important to research both because they are largely unexplored and because of their potential policy implications.

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Humanitarian Agenda 2015 Principles, Power, and Perceptions

Over the past three years, Tufts/FIC has conducted 12 country case studies on local perceptions of the work of humanitarian agencies. The objective was to understand, from the perspective of those most affected by crisis and conflict, whether humanitarian action was seen as responding to a universal imperative or as an externally-driven approach linked to Northern and Western agendas.

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From post-conflict recovery and state building to a renewed humanitarian emergency: A brief reflection on South Sudan
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By Daniel Maxwell, Martina Santschi | August 2014

Since December 2013 – only two and a half years after becoming an independent country – South Sudan has been mired in a deep political, military, and humanitarian crisis. This…

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Another Humanitarian Crisis in Somalia? Learning from the 2011 Famine
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By Daniel Maxwell, Nisar Majid | August 2014

After two reasonably good years of recovery, 2014 appears to be shaping up as a difficult year for Somalia. Donors and agencies are ringing alarm bells about deteriorating conditions. There…

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Lessons Learned from the Somalia Famine and the Greater Horn of Africa Crisis 2011-2012 Desk Review of Literature
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On July 20, 2011, the UN declared a famine in South Central Somalia, which killed some 260,000 people (Checchi and Robinson 2013). Though Somalia was the worst affected country, the…

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Experiences of National Governments in Expanding Their Role in Humanitarian Preparedness and Response
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By Jeremy Harkey | January 2014

Many countries’ governments are slow to assume leadership of their disaster management system. Reasons for slow assumption of national leadership include a lack of government prioritization of disaster management, minimal…

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The Use of Evidence in Humanitarian Decision Making ACAPS Operational Learning Paper
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This paper reports the results of a study undertaken during 2012 by Tufts University for the Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS), as part of the latter’s “Operational Learning” strand of work….

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Afghanistan: Humanitarianism in Uncertain Times
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The Afghan crisis, now well into its fourth decade, has many layers. The military and political dimensions of the crisis grab the headlines. But the structural violence and poor governance…

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Winning Hearts and Minds in Uruzgan Province
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By Paul Fishstein | August 2012

Research in Uruzgan suggests that insecurity is largely the result of the failure of governance, which has exacerbated traditional tribal rivalries. While respondents within the international military did report some…

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Climate Change as a Driver of Humanitarian Crises and Response
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This paper explores the relationships between climate change, humanitarian crises and humanitarian response through a review of published and grey literature. We examine the historical evidence for associations between climate…

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Winning Hearts and Minds? Examing the Relationship between Aid and Security in Afghanistan
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By Paul Fishstein, Andrew Wilder | January 2012

This paper by Paul Fishstein and Andrew Wilder presents findings from research conducted by FIC in five provinces of Afghanistan between July 2008 and January 2010 on the relationship between…

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Winning Hearts and Minds? Examining the Relationship between Aid and Security in Afghanistan's Helmand Province
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By Stuart Gordon | April 2011

Afghanistan has been a testing ground for a key aspect of counterinsurgency doctrine, namely that humanitarian and development projects can help to bring or maintain security in strategically important environments,…

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Conflict in the Somali Region of Ethiopia Can Education Promote Peace-Building?
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By Simon Richards, Gezu Bekele | March 2011

How can improved primary education contribute to peace and security in the troubled Somali Region of Ethiopia? The BRIDGES project is implemented by Save the Children UK, Mercy Corps and…

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Humanitarian Action in Pakistan 2005-2010 Challenges, Principles, and Politics
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By Marion Péchayre | January 2011

Over the past five years, Pakistan has witnessed three major crises affecting up to 18 million people. The nature and scale of these crises were different. Two were disasters caused…

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Winning Hearts and Minds? Examining the Relationship between Aid and Security in Afghanistan’s Faryab Province
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By Geert Gompelman | January 2011

Afghanistan has been a testing ground for a key aspect of counterinsurgency doctrine, namely that humanitarian and development projects can help to bring or maintain security in strategically important environments,…

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Winning Hearts and Minds? Examining the Relationship between Aid and Security in Afghanistan's Balkh Province
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By Paul Fishstein | November 2010

Afghanistan has been a testing ground for a key aspect of counterinsurgency doctrine, namely that humanitarian and development projects can help to bring or maintain security in strategically important environments,…

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State-building, Counterterrorism, and Licensing Humanitarianism in Somalia
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By Mark Bradbury | September 2010

The people of Somalia have experienced two decades of humanitarian crisis. In 1992, in the wake of the collapse of the Somali state, Somalia set a benchmark for humanitarian crises…

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Humanitarianism in Sri Lanka: Lessons Learned?
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By Simon Harris | June 2010

Researchers at the Feinstein International Center (FIC) at Tufts University have embarked on a major two-year research project on Humanitarian Action and Politics. This project builds upon and expands on…

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Afghanistan: Humanitarianism Unraveled?
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By Antonio Donini | May 2010

Researchers at the Feinstein International Center (FIC) at Tufts University have embarked on a major two-year research project on Humanitarian Action and Politics. This project builds upon and expands on…

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Professionalising the Humanitarian Sector A Scoping Study
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By Peter Walker, Catherine Russ | April 2010

This study, commissioned by the UK’s Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance project (ELRHA) and carried out by the Feinstein International Center in collaboration with RedR, comes after a…

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Winning Hearts and Minds? Examining the Relationship between Aid and Security in Kenya
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By Mark Bradbury, Michael Kleinman | April 2010

This case study on Kenya, researched and written by Mark Bradbury and Michael Kleinman, is the first in a series of publications presenting the findings of a two-year FIC comparative…

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Humanitarian Horizons: A Practitioners’ Guide to the Future
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By Feinstein Center | January 2010

This Practitioners’ Guide to the Future serves as the culmination of the Humanitarian Horizons project, commissioned by the members of the Inter-Agency Working Group and implemented jointly by the Feinstein…

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Politics and Humanitarian Action in the Georgia Conflicts Humanitarian Agenda 2015
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By Greg Hansen | November 2009

Drawing upon extensive field research in the region and informed by additional field study dating back to the mid-1990s, the study calls renewed attention to the politicization and instrumentalization of…

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Aid and Violence Development Policies and Conflict in Nepal
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The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) launched its “People’s War” in 1996. The Maoists’ rise to power was impressive by any standard. After a successful showing at the polls for…

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One for All and All for One Intra-Organizational Dynamics in Humanitarian Action
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By Mackinnon Webster, Peter Walker | April 2009

A significant proportion of humanitarian assistance is now delivered by NGOs which have in effect become federated trans-national organizations, alliances of members from different countries, all seeking to provide assistance…

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One for All and All for One Intra-Organizational Dynamics in Humanitarian Action
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By Mackinnon Webster, Peter Walker | April 2009

A significant proportion of humanitarian assistance is now delivered by NGOs which have in effect become federated trans-national organizations, alliances of members from different countries, all seeking to provide assistance…

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Afghanistan: Humanitarianism under Threat
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By Antonio Donini | March 2009

Based on extensive field interviews in Afghanistan, this briefing paper is an update of a 2006 study on perceptions of humanitarian action in Afghanistan, which was part of the Humanitarian…

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The Humanitarian Costs of Climate Change
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Using existing international databases that track disaster occurrence and humanitarian costs, this research attempts to improve understanding of how climate change may affect international humanitarian spending. Employing four distinct methodological…

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Humanitarian Agenda 2015: Nepal Country Study
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By Antonio Donini, Jeevan Raj Sharma | August 2008

This study is the twelfth and final country case study of the “Humanitarian Agenda 2015: Principles, Power and perceptions” (HA2015) research project. As with the other case studies it attempts…

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Preventing Corruption in Humanitarian Assistance
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Leaders in the humanitarian community have resolved to do more to address the risks of corruption in relief efforts. Preventing Corruption in Humanitarian Assistance documents perceptions of corruption in humanitarian…

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Humanitarian Agenda 2015: Perceptions of the Pakistan Earthquake Response
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By Andrew Wilder | February 2008

The devastating earthquake that struck northern Pakistan and the disputed territory of Kashmir in October 2005 killed approximately 75,000 people, injured 70,000 more, and left an estimated 3.5 million people…

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Iraq — more challenges ahead for a fractured humanitarian enterprise
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By Greg Hansen | January 2008

Based on extensive field interviews in Iraq and neighboring Jordan, this briefing paper is an update of an earlier study on perceptions of humanitarian action in Iraq, which was part…

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Angering Akuju Survival and Suffering in Karamoja
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Karamoja is the poorest and least developed region of Uganda. The population experiences chronic food insecurity, little access to basic services, the weakening of traditional livelihood systems, ongoing insecurity, human…

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Responding to Violence in Ikotos County, South Sudan Government and Local Efforts to Restore Order
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By Clement Ochan | December 2007

This report from an understudied area details the effects of and responses to violence in Ikotos County in Eastern Equatoria in Southern Sudan. The author, from Southern Sudan himself, draws…

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The Scramble for Cattle, Power and Guns in Karamoja
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This new report on the Karamoja Cluster of Uganda, Sudan, Kenya, and Ethiopia is the result of several years of field work by a respected Teso elder from the region…

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Humanitarian Agenda 2015: Democratic Republic of Congo Case Study
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By Tasneem Mowjee | October 2007

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), formerly Zaire, is the second largest country in Africa and rich in gold, diamonds and minerals in the East of the country. It…

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Humanitarian Agenda 2015: Sri Lanka Country Study
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By Simon Harris | October 2007

This study contributes to the Humanitarian Agenda 2015 (HA2015) country paper series by examining the issues of universality, terrorism, coherence and security in relation to the humanitarian enterprise in Sri…

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The U.S. Citizen-Soldier and the Global War on Terror The National Guard Experience
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By Larry Minear | September 2007

This study provides a composite view of reflections by U.S. veterans from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq on their experiences in the Global War on Terror. It draws on…

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Strategies for Economic Recovery and Peace In Darfur Why a wider livelihoods approach is imperative and inclusion of the Abbala (camel herding) Arabs is a priority
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Competing livelihoods in the absence of good local governance has led to localized and ultimately devastating conflict over natural resources in Darfur. The lack of comprehensive livelihoods analysis in international…

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Follow the Money A Review and Analysis of the State of Humanitarian Funding
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By Peter Walker, Kevin Pepper | June 2007

This briefing paper is about the financing of humanitarian action. In the paper, and in the forthcoming workshop, we want to ask some basic questions: Is the pot of humanitarian…

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Taking Sides or Saving Lives: Existential Choices for the Humanitarian Enterprise in Iraq Humanitarian Agenda 2015: Iraq Country Study
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By Greg Hansen | June 2007

Iraq places the frailties and fault-lines of the humanitarian enterprise in stark relief. Perhaps more than any other highly politicized context, Iraq has fueled a defensiveness and sense of existential…

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Coming to Terms with the Humanitarian Imperative in Iraq
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By Greg Hansen | January 2007

Highlighting major changes in the context in Iraq and rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation, this brief report summarizes an Iraq country study to be issued in final form as…

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Humanitarian Agenda 2015: Occupied Palestinian Territory case study
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By Larissa Fast | November 2006

This study of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) is part of Phase II of HA2015 which includes a larger set of case studies. As with the other case studies, the…

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Humanitarian Agenda 2015: Principles, Power, and Perceptions Preliminary Report
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This report summarizes the findings of the first phase of a major research project on the challenges and compromises that are likely to affect humanitarian action in the next decade….

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Humanitarian Agenda 2015: Burundi and Liberia Country Studies
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By Xavier Zeebroek | July 2006

Three of the four topics addressed by the Humanitarian Agenda 2015 research seem pertinent in the case of Burundi – coherence, security and, to a lesser extent, terrorism. Many comparisons…

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Humanitarian Agenda 2015 Colombia Country Study
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By Larry Minear | July 2006

The experience of Colombia sheds light on all four themes of the HA 2015 research. First, with respect to universality, Colombia sees itself as part and parcel of the western…

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Humanitarian Agenda 2015: Sudan Country Study
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By Tasneem Mowjee | July 2006

Sudan has been torn by conflict and political strife throughout its history. As a result of the various conflicts, the political and economic situation in different parts of Sudan is…

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Humanitarian Agenda 2015: Northern Uganda Country Study
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By Elizabeth Stites | June 2006

The HA2015 study examines the effects of four broad challenges on the humanitarian enterprise: universality, terrorism, coherence and security. Each of these has resonance in the context of northern Uganda….

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Humanitarian Agenda 2015 : Afghanistan Country Study
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By Antonio Donini | June 2006

The four themes of the HA 2015 research come together in Afghanistan with clear-cut relevance. The externality of the aid enterprise and the baggage that comes with it—values, lifestyle, attitude,…

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Disaster globalization Evaluating the impact of tsunami aid
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By Peter Walker | July 2005

The tsunami and earthquakes that hit the Indian Ocean 26th December 2004 caused a disaster so extreme and so unusual that it pushed all our models of response to the…

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Mapping the Security Environment Understanding the perceptions of local communities, peace support operations, and assistance agencies
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The data presented and analyzed by the study in three cases-Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Sierra Leone-offers intriguing and provocative look at the wide-ranging security needs of local communities and the uneven…

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One for All and All for One: Support and Assistance Models for an Effective IFRC
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By Peter Walker, Larry Minear | August 2004

In recent years and for a variety of reasons, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has been buffeted by an array of forces. In one…

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Ambiguity and Change Humanitarian NGOs Prepare for the Future
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This study provides international NGOs with a rudimentary framework for strategic planning in the light of the likely challenges of ambiguity and change awaiting them during the next decade. It…

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Human Security and Livelihoods of Rural Afghans, 2002-2003
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This report documents and analyzes recent countrywide trends in the relationship between human security and livelihoods throughout rural Afghanistan from 2002-2003. All countrywide information is generated by analyses of 2003…

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