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Aid and war: a response to Linda Polman's critique of humanitarianism

Written by Matthew Foley


In a rare joint Opinion, the Humanitarian Policy Group at ODI examines criticisms of humanitarian aid in a new book by Dutch journalist Linda Polman. While agreeing that humanitarian aid has had perverse effects, the Opinion argues that the picture is no longer as bleak as suggested. Humanitarian agencies have learned the lessons of the past, and now work in a more professional, coordinated and monitored way than in previous decades. While acknowledging the continuing problems and challenges facing humanitarian agencies, the Opinion upholds the principle of aid agency neutrality, and suggests that larger failures may, arguably lie with others, not least donor governments and the political and security organs of the United Nations.