Humanitarian Exchange articles tagged:Innovation

The dire humanitarian consequences of the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones) in conflict have become all too familiar. In contrast, there has been much less public discussion about the potential humanitarian uses of drones. So-called ‘disaster drones’ offer humanitarian agencies a range of possibilities in relation to crisis mapping, search and rescue and (some way off in the future) cargo transport and relief drops. How can the humanitarian community benefit from the technological advances that UAVs and other unmanned or automated platforms offer without giving further legitimacy to a UAV industry looking for civilian applications for drones…
‘Principles of humanitarian aid have been turned on their head. Never before has politics had so much to say about humanitarian affairs’ Interview, diplomat, Belgrade, February 2000 The combined effects of three wars, economic transition and sanctions have caused massive political and economic upheaval in Serbia over the past decade, leaving an estimated two million people below the poverty line. Focussing on the energy sector, this article analyses how humanitarian responses to the country’s multiple crises have been shaped by international politics, and how the boundaries between humanitarian and political action have become increasingly blurred. Hot and Cold Wars: the problem of energy Maintaining energy supplies is a necessity in any country, particularly one which is urban and…
This section offers members the opportunity to comment on previous Network publications and Newsletters. Relevant comments will usually be communicated to the authors and will be taken into account by the editors in future mailings. Comments received since the last mailing came from World Vision Canada, Frank Riely at Tulane University and from one of our ‘southern’ NGO members in Burkina Faso. Linda Tripp, Vice President of International and Government Relations at World Vision Canada, wrote to let us know that she would be sending Network Paper 5, Advancing Preventive Diplomacy in a Post-Cold War Era: Suggested Roles for Government…
Rapid-onset emergencies are not contexts where one would expect to see innovation. The scale of devastation requires focused and fast action. Emergency professionals apply standard operating procedures and proven methodologies from previous humanitarian responses, and there is no time to develop and test innovative solutions effectively. Yet it could also be argued that crisis situations open up opportunities that make lasting change possible. Considering non-traditional solutions is easier because the disaster highlights that business as usual is no longer an option. The introduction of ‘mobile money’ following the devastating earthquake in Haiti in January 2010 is an important example of…
Information and communication technology is evolving at an extraordinary pace, changing the way we live and work. In recent years, advances in mobile phone penetration and other new technologies in low-income and disaster-affected countries mean that there is growing interest from donors, practitioners and governments as to how technology can serve humanitarian responses. This article summarises the findings of a study commissioned by the Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP) to review the current use of new technology in humanitarian cash and voucher programming, and the broader implications for humanitarian practice[1]. It explores three different areas of technology (electronic payments, mobile communications…
When the 2010 Haiti earthquake struck, text messages sent by trapped survivors became crucial catalysts for aid delivery. When the 2009 Gaza conflict broke out, cell phones were the only medium of communication left largely unaffected by bombings. Landline wires and web servers are often the first to fail during a natural disaster, but cell phone towers are typically more reliable, built to withstand extreme weather events and harsh climate conditions. This method of  communication can therefore play a pivotal role in coordinating aid distribution when crisis hits – conveying information to communities, and even mitigating conflict by providing updates…
Cash transfers have often been described as key recent innovation in humanitarian response. Providing cash or vouchers in the aftermath of a crisis can be an appropriate alternative or complement to in-kind assistance, such as food aid. Many aid agencies and donors highlight their use of cash transfers as evidence that they are providing flexible, and even potentially empowering, assistance. There is also an undertone of caution. What if cash transfers cause inflation? What if the money is not spent on the ‘right’ things? Many studies and guidelines have looked at what we know about cash transfers and how we…
The Haitian earthquake in 2010 displaced thousands of people, forcing them into overcrowded spontaneous settlements. Women and girls in particular are at risk of violence in the camps, including sexual violence. This is a huge problem.In the first two months after the earthquake, the Commission of Women Victims for Victims (KOFAVIV)[1] logged 230 incidents of rape in just 15 camps in Port‐au‐Prince. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reported 68 cases of rape in one month (April) at just one of its clinics in Port‐au‐Prince. The actual figures are likely to be substantially higher given significant under-reporting. A lack of adequate lighting…
The Consortium of British Humanitarian Agencies (CBHA) was founded in 2010 in response to a proposal by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) to form a consortium to address some of the challenges facing the humanitarian system, especially around speed, coordination and efficiency. Comprising 15 of the leading UK-based humanitarian agencies, the CBHA’s mandate is to ‘pioneer new approaches to funding and resourcing humanitarian responses which strengthen the coordination and capacity of the “third pillar” – the NGO sector – to deliver appropriate, higher quality, more effective and quicker humanitarian responses over the current decade 2010–2020’.[1] Formation and first…
Recent crises have highlighted the role of private sector actors in humanitarian action, as donors and partners to humanitarian agencies, and as for-profit operators in their own right. The growing number, scale and complexity of humanitarian crises is placing increasing strain on the established international system for crisis response, prompting questions about the adequacy of donor funding, the capacities of humanitarian agencies and the continued relevance of the current humanitarian ‘business model’. Together with growing recognition of the opportunities presented by new technologies and new ways of working, this is causing many to reappraise the potential role of the commercial…
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