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Volunteer caucasian woman giving grain to starving Indian children. Poor Indian children keeping their hands up and asking for support.

Humanitarian dilemmas

Today, aid workers face an increasingly complex environment fraught with controversy, political battles and multiple organisations operating under an array of mandates. As conflicts and disasters become more frequent and increasingly geopolitical, adherence to the principles becomes ever more important.

Can these humanitarian principles be applied effectively at all times? Acting with humanity and impartiality are key goals of humanitarian action. Achieving equality means we need to consider what is fair in terms of the provision of humanitarian aid. Achieving equality means we need to make decisions about how much might be appropriate, given limited time, resources and access to those affected.

Other principles of neutrality and independence may seem to be the obvious and necessary approach to humanitarian response, but in reality, their achievement is a political minefield. The interpretation of the principles of humanity and independence can be problematic at times. In certain cases, seeking and applying for donor funds in a conflict zone without appearing politically or economically invested can be a challenge. It can also be a challenge to realistically act in a ‘neutral’ manner at all times. The humanitarian sector often faces this challenge within response operations.

Over the next few steps, you are going to think about what you would do when faced with some of these challenges, by considering a series of dilemmas.

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This article is from the free online course:

Humanitarian Action, Response and Relief

Coventry University