Humanitarian Exchange articles tagged:Private Sector

A striking feature of the 2012 Sahel food crisis, as compared to 2010, has been the situation of markets across the region, with a number of indicators reaching worrying levels. Among these indicators and possible market stress factors were the unusual price increase of cereals at harvest period, the opening of new market routes, the limited export capacity in coastal countries and scattered areas of production deficit, even in countries where such ‘shocks’ are not usually felt. Overall, the substantial rise in coarse grain prices led to price levels 20% to 90% higher compared to the five-year average throughout the…
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…
The use of businesses connected to armed groups and trafficking networks to transport humanitarian aid is a problem long privately acknowledged by aid workers in complex political emergencies and disaster relief operations. Until recently, it was largely seen as one of the inevitable compromises that have to be made in order to get aid through in high-risk conflict and disaster zones where few reputable commercial companies are prepared to venture. However, new draft procurement guidelines[1] published by the Humanitarian Aid department of the European Commission (ECHO) call for greater due diligence in contracting transport services. The ECHO guidelines focus particular…
The Haiti earthquake ushered in a new humanitarian information environment: one with unprecedented availability of raw data, the growing usage of new information communication technology (ICT), and the emergence of three loosely-connected communities of interest centred around the US government, the United Nations and the international community and a new group (ICT Volunteers) comprised of virtually-connected academics, humanitarians, corporate foundations and ICT professionals. All three communities collected, shared and acted upon enormous amounts of digital information made available on a variety of web portals, platforms and new social networking media, such as Short Message Service (SMS) feeds, Twitter and Facebook.…
On 29 October 2008, a vehicle loaded with explosives forced its way into the UN compound in Hargeisa, the capital of the breakaway republic of Somaliland. The detonation killed two employees of the UN Development Programme (UNDP). Across town, further bombs targeted the presidential palace and Ethiopia’s diplomatic representation. Another two bombs exploded in the semi-autonomous Puntland region. The attacks occurred as leaders from Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti and Ethiopia met in Nairobi to discuss the Somali issue. Islamist groups with links to Al-Qaeda are believed to have been responsible. The events made headlines around the world. Images of broken windows,…
In the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, there were reports of violence breaking out during handouts of foreign aid. In December 2009, a suicide bombing took place in an area of Kabul that was home to several aid agencies. According to OCHA, there were at least 12 incidents targeting humanitarian organisations in North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in January 2010.[1] These are just some examples showing that insecurity remains a major challenge to international humanitarian operations. In response, aid agencies have adopted several different measures and approaches, including contracting private companies to provide…
Understanding the political economy of armed conflicts can contribute greatly to enhancing the security of humanitarian operations. Since the mid-1990s, the body of literature on war economies has grown steadily. Following a political economy approach, scholars and practitioners started looking at how armed conflicts redistribute wealth and power within war-torn societies.[1] This article discusses how this approach can assist humanitarian organisations in improving the security of their staff and operations. In the aftermath of the Cold War, academics and policy-makers had difficulty grasping and dealing with the so-called ‘new wars’ afflicting weak and collapsed states such as Liberia, Sierra Leone…
Malawi has faced repeated food crises since 2003, and vulnerability to food insecurity is increasing. Many households are unable to meet their food needs, and are highly susceptible to volatility in the price of staple foods, especially maize. In the 2005–2006 agricultural season, final food estimates indicated that Malawi would face a food gap of around 400,000 tonnes. In response, the government secured additional supplies of maize at a capped price from South Africa via an options contract based on the South Africa Futures Exchange (SAFEX) white maize prices. As a way of ensuring the availability of food at acceptable…
In 2001, I wrote an article for Humanitarian Exchange about the first year of the Humanitarian Community Information Centre (HCIC) in Kosovo. The HCIC was the start of a trend, as information management has become increasingly important for the humanitarian community, supported by new developments in information and communications technology (ICT). Five years later, it seems appropriate to revisit some of the themes that article raised to see how much progress has been made. As the article predicted, the concept of field-based information centres is now mainstream, with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) establishing Humanitarian Information…
The Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004 was one of the most powerful in recorded history. With an official human toll of 10,881 and material losses of over $1bn, India was one of the most severely affected countries. Over three-quarters of India’s disaster-affected people belong to Tamil Nadu’s coastal fishing communities. Of the 154,000 houses damaged or destroyed by the tsunami, 80% belonged to fishers. Whether these disaster-affected communities will be able to restore their livelihoods and recover materially and psychologically from their traumatic experience depends, among other factors, on whether external aid is culturally sensitive, and can build on…
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