Fighting and helping? : NGOs and military organizations in complex humanitarian emergencies
Title: Fighting and helping? : NGOs and military organizations in complex humanitarian emergencies
Series/Number: APSA; Toronto Meeting Paper; 2009
During complex humanitarian emergencies, the relations between humanitarian NGOs and military organization vary widely, ranging from hostility to cooperation. In some cases, NGOs and military organizations define forms of coordination to avoid duplication, they cooperate and even launch joint projects. In others, however, even basic coordination has proven problematic, not to mention genuine cooperation. Why? The goal of this article is to explore empirically the challenges of these disputed boundaries and the ways in which humanitarian NGOs and military organizations face them in their areas of operation, during the course of their missions. Specifically, we challenge the two most common responses to the question of the source of coordination problems, namely their identity differences on the one hand, and the characteristics of the mission, particularly its ends and means, on the other. We make two arguments instead. First, irrespective of the ends and means and the threat level on the ground, domestic politics influence the propensity of NGOs and the military of the same country to cooperate. Second, the propensity of NGOs and the military to cooperate is also influenced by the ways in which each type of organization constructs the operational reality it is embedded in. Empirically, using fresh empirical evidence we explore the differences between French and Italian armies’ relations with French and Italian NGOs as well as their interactions with NGOs from other countries during the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan and the UNIFIL II mission in Lebanon in 2007-2008.
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