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UN integration and humanitarian space

Research report

Written by Victoria Metcalfe-Hough

Research report

For over two decades, the United Nations has sought to create greater coherence within the UN system. UN integration is part of this push - an attempt to maximise the impact of UN efforts to consolidate peace in conflict and post-conflict states. 

The benefits and risks of UN integration for humanitarian action have been subject to intense debate. Some UN humanitarian staff, and many staff in non-UN humanitarian organisations, remain sceptical that UN integration can benefit humanitarian action. Many NGOs are opposed to UN integration, arguing that it blurs the distinction between humanitarian, military and political action and subordinates humanitarian priorities to political prerogatives. Conversely, many in the UN political and peacekeeping community stress the need for enhanced coherence and highlight the positive experiences of UN integration and the significant progress made in policy development and practice in recent years.

This independent study, carried out jointly by the Humanitarian Policy Group and the Stimson Center, was commissioned by the UN Integration Steering Group to look in detail at the impacts of UN integration on humanitarian action. The study focused on three main case studies (Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia), and was complemented by a desk review of the Central African Republic, Darfur (Sudan) and Liberia. The study looked at the impact of UN integration arrangements on five areas of key humanitarian concern: humanitarian aid worker security, access to beneficiaries, engagement with non-state armed actors, perceptions of humanitarian actors and humanitarian advocacy.

Victoria Metcalfe, Alison Giffen and Samir Elhawary