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Monitoring trends 2003–2004 Beyond the continuum: the changing role of aid policy in protracted crises


Hero image description: Distribution of food and cash Lesotho Image credit:Rachel Slater and Rebecca Holmes Image license:ODI given rights

This report, the third in HPG’s annual series looking at trends in the international humanitarian system, focuses on the increasing engagement of the international development aid system in situations which have traditionally been seen as the preserve of the humanitarian community. The report reviews the changing relationship between the ideas, instruments and financing of the humanitarian system and of mainstream development cooperation in situations of protracted crisis.

The report looks in particular at four key areas:

  • the evolution of the UN’s capacity to respond to situations of protracted crisis;
  • the evolving role of the international financial institutions (IFIs), the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF);
  • the role of the US as the major donor and dominant geopolitical actor in situations of political crisis;
  • The trends in financing aid responses to situations of protracted crisis

Additional research reviewed European Union (EU) policy.

The report argues that the expansion of interest by the development community in protracted crises presents both opportunities and challenges for humanitarian action. On the one hand, greater attention and resources may go to supporting the basic welfare needs of populations living in difficult environments, who have historically not received a proportionate level of aid. On the other hand, as the aid landscape in crisis countries becomes increasingly crowded, it may be difficult to distinguish between the different forms of aid and security being offered by the international community.

This implies that humanitarian actors will have to become much more active in communicating the rationale for engagement across the relief–development divide. Given that many agencies are multi-mandated, reaching a common position within and between organisations responding to crises will be crucial. In this dialogue, it will be particularly important to develop a shared understanding of protection, and the roles and responsibilities of international aid actors under international humanitarian law.